Why the gay lobby failed in Nigeria, By Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú

In the last two decades, I have modified my views on homosexuality; from outright antagonism to polite indifference. I remained in the empty vast land of no bother, until the Nigerian Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act was signed into law on January 7. In this country, it is now a crime to have a meeting of gays, to operate or go to a gay club, society or organization.
Under the new law, “A person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies or organizations, or directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationship in Nigeria commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of 10 years.” Also, anyone convicted of entering into a same-sex marriage contract or civil union faces up to 14-year imprisonment.
Even though I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman, I do not support the violation of human rights under any pretense. This law abrogates the constitutional rights of certain Nigerians to freedom of assembly, association, and expression. It is also a violation of international protocols to which Nigeria is a party. Are we going to look the other way because we loathe their otherness?
Despite the pockets of support the gay lobby enjoys, we must acknowledge that the Nigerian gay lobby overreached itself on the gay agenda. They imported the pressure tactic that worked very well in Europe and America to Nigeria and they deserve the rotten egg thrown on their faces. America did not become tolerant of gays “by fire by force”, it was gradual. America’s intolerance of homosexuality melted away gradually and turned the corner when the 81million strong millennials (children born between 1982-2002) who don’t care a hoot about anyone’s sexual preference started coming of age.
By contrast, Nigerians are deeply religious and very conservative. In this country, Christians and Muslims are given to traditional mores that teaches homosexuality as an evil that should be punishable by death. The Pew Research Center in a survey of 39 nations established that Nigerians are the least tolerant of gays. 98 percent of the respondents surveyed agreed that society must reject homosexuality. Given the disposition of this ultra majority against homosexuality, was it wise to push the gay agenda in such a wholesale imitation of the American gay coalition method? It is prudent to understand history and appreciate how long it took America with all its democratic structures to become more tolerant of gays.
Even as a firm believer in mankind’s inalienable right to free expression, association and belief; I feel “one kind” if I see Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender(LGBT) people holding hands. I confess I haven’t seen them kissing even in the United States except in pictures and movies and I still feel “one kind” when I am confronted with such scenes. In spite of my unresolved emotions, I can no longer be indifferent if homosexuals are getting killed and imprisoned for “crimes” without victims. My earliest views like many others on homosexuality are shaped by religion and inherent repulsiveness in humans when confronted with a remarkable otherness. Nigeria being what it is, we must not fold our hands and watch people get arrested, lynched or killed for being gay while ritual murderers and looters who deserve to be hanged roam free. We must reject the violation of anyone’s right of expression and association and we must not support it. It is an open secret that many influential Nigerians are gay or bisexual. This law will not catch rich people. Those who will suffer the punishments under this law are the poor gays, the unknowns. The big cahunas can have sex in posh hotels, well-appointed apartments in posh neighborhoods without any bother from law enforcement.
Going forward, the gay lobby in Nigeria will be better served using the “little by little” approach and refrain from the argument that homosexuality is an orientation that people are born with like hair and eye colour. It will hold no water for Nigerians. Nigerians do not believe in Darwinian or nebulous scientific logic. Nigerians will tout their holy books far better than any American Christian Right fanatic would. I also believe the genetic line of argument defeats the cause of LGBT people the world over because it embraces the implication that since people are born gay, it is normal and morally acceptable. The problem with using the genetic argument is that whatever tendency we might be born with must be considered normal. This “normal” includes serial murder, stealing, lying, hate, covetousness, pedophilia, addiction, rape and so on. As a consequence, there are two holes in the genetic basis argument. One, if sexual “orientation” is inherited, monozygotic twins (identical twins who share the exact same genetic information) should exhibit the highest correlation for same-sex preference while half siblings and unrelated siblings should have the lowest. Unfortunately the sampled universe of research data has shown no remote significant correlation in several studies that has been undertaken. Instead, studies established that if same-sex erotic preference has a genetic component at all, it is overwhelmed by other factors “in specific and circumscribed social structures.” In like manner, one can argue that since homosexuality does not produce offspring, one would think the homosexual genetic component in the human genome would die off. It hasn’t happened yet.
Second, if being born gay means homosexuality is morally acceptable, one can argue that homophobia must also be morally acceptable as an “orientation”. After all heterosexuality and its accompanying homophobia, where expressed, has more claim to genetic basis because heterosexual behavior produces offspring that transmits the homophobic genetic code while homosexual behavior do not.
Will it be acceptable then if heterosexuals argue in favour of homophobia as an “orientation” that is genetic, if they tout it as normal behavior, insist that it is not subject to disapproval, argue that homophobia must have civil rights protection and given prominence as acceptable behavior in schools and in the media? Will it be okay if straight people label homosexuals who accuse them of being homophobic as heterphobes? Should pedophiles, who consort with young boys, be considered as having a legitimate sexual “orientation” with its accompanying moral propriety? If no, is it not duplicitous to say only homosexual attraction is genetic and morally good while pedophilia is not? If so, why the double standard?
My position is that it is barbaric to imprison or stone anyone to death for his or her sexual preference. It is wrong. It is bad. Where is our humanity? This self-righteous zeal in punishing homosexuals especially in the North where the Sharia law and the penal code has failed to rid the society of Dan Daodu’s who have been openly gay in Northern Nigeria for ages is misplaced.
Some of the lawmakers who voted in favour of the Gay bill are active but closeted homosexuals. They do not want to be seen as part of the LGBT crowd. We must accept that it is not every sexual act that has a reproductive function even among heterosexuals. Why should we care about what consenting adults do within the confines of their bedroom? My opinion is that we as a thinking, feeling and responsible people should appreciate that homosexuality is an otherness that is the reality for some people. We would do well within the confines of our moral imagination not to violate their fundamental rights as human beings because of who they choose to sleep with. Thank you!

Twitter: @olufunmilayo
Email: olufunmilayo @ gmail.com

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