Ordinarily, I should be indebted to Segun ‘Segalink’ Awosanya for vociferously fighting against the SARS scourge and pushing for police reform, but I am of the opinion that the movement wasn’t wholistic. Before the #EndSARS hashtag gained prominence, LGBTQ Nigerians have been systematically tortured and dehumanised and lynched and the police watched on. Where was the outrage?
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Enabled by the draconian anti-gay law cemented into the Constitution in 2014, the police unleashed a wave of raids, harassment and assaults that were ostensibly LGBTQ-targeted. Till date, these activities still flourish. On Saturday night, about 80 allegedly gay persons were rounded up from a hotel party in Egbeda, Lagos. An eyewitness account published on The Rustin Times says four police vans, three danfo buses and a private car stormed the premises and the “suspects” were dispossessed of their phones and money and even assaulted.
Among them is an alleged straight man, who sent an SOS tweet begging for help and brought the raid to Segun Awosanya’s attention. Deciding to elaborate on the situation, Segalink indicated that the man in question didn’t know he was attending a “gay party” and, as put by the anti-SARS activist, “He is straight with a girlfriend to back his claim and void of suspicious mannerism.”
But of course, “suspicious mannerism” here means effeminate behaviour and this has been the trusted signal for male homosexuality, a reductive concept that welcomes prejudice and discrimination and, more extremely, violence. Based on this premise, Segalink’s homophobia further curdled into constitutional and bureaucratic jargon, putting the onus on LGBTQ Nigerians to champion legislative reform.
And then he had the nerve to go there: comparing paedophilia to homosexuality, the homophobic argument staple that never ages. Taken together, Sega’s activism is obnoxiously questionable as it operates outside the universal principle of human rights. Sega is not obligated to put his weight against the continued marginalisation and oppression of LGBTQ Nigerians, but his reasons for not doing so, even if implied, reeks of homophobia. And as such, it makes him complicit and dangerous.
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The Egbeda hotel incident is coming just after another police raid in Abia. And in his blizzard of ignorant tweets, Segalink revealed he has received reports that the LGBTQ community, a vulnerable group, are now harassing the police and asking for flings. Does Sega live on the moon? Not only does this claim sound bogus, it trivialises and obfuscates the everyday horrors and abuse that queer people face in Nigeria. To think he was recently profiled by CNN as a foremost activist against police brutality, but allows the oppression of the LGBTQ Nigerians to persist.
This is what happens when cis-hetero men hold the reins of power, and will swear that the “law of the land” must be obeyed. The laws of the land also protects the rights of adult men to marry girls under the age of 18, and if Segalink’s concerns as evinced by his thread are anything to go by, he knows this is paedophilia but has done nothing to fight against this law.
The Nigerian anti-gay law is enough proof that universal human rights are not universal, and because something is legal or criminalised doesn’t make it right. In the fight for LGBTQ rights and for the movement to achieve a small quantum leap of progress (bodies like The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERs) are still making positive contributions)), the community needs to start realising that no change will occur if it doesn’t make it happen.
And this can start by community members getting involved in politics in all levels of government, and facilitating the change they want to see. Wittingly, Segalink has poisoned his legacy and history won’t be kind. In the words of Albert Einstein, the world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.
This article has been updated.