Olusegun Adeniyi: Gays, lesbians and the rest of us

by Olusegun Adeniyi


Notwithstanding my misgivings, if it comes to taking a stand, I am not a supporter of LGBT rights; because I pray that the day never comes when either of my two daughters would come home with a lady as their marriage partner or my son with a man.

In the course of my stay in the United States during the 2010/2011 academic session, a Nigerian woman (resident in Boston) could not find her son with whom she came to the Galleria Mall in Cambridge, Massachusetts and had to call in the police. It took about three hours before the woman and the police eventually found the boy playing games inside the “Best Buy” shop. So incensed was the woman that when she grabbed the boy she wanted to beat him but she was restrained by the head of the police team, who however told her: “Don’t do that here, when you get home, lock your doors and give him some good spanking.”

Whenever I reflect on that episode, what it tells me is the recognition by the policeman and possibly many other people in the United States, of the wisdom in the Biblical injunction, “spare the rod, spoil the child”, which we imbibe in Africa. But they are constrained from applying such principles based on the laws governing their own society.

It is within that context that I want to situate the controversy that has greeted the signing into law by President Goodluck Jonathan, of the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, 2013 which forbids “a marriage contract or civil union entered into between persons of same sex, and provides penalties for the solemnization and witnessing of same thereof.”
Ordinarily, what consenting adults do behind closed doors should be their business. Interestingly, that is the way it was until gay people brought the discussion about “how they do it” into the open in their attempt to force the world to accept, and probably embrace, their way. And because many of their promoters (even though small in number) are rich, famous and influential, this rather vocal minority is bent on imposing its values on the rest of us without making allowances even for neutrality. They have gone this far because they have a powerful ally in Mr. Barack Obama who can be considered the first American “gay” president in the manner in which Mr. Bill Clinton is considered the first American “black” president.

So supportive of their cause has President Obama been that last year, he directed officials of his administration to provide asylum support to homosexuals from anywhere in the world who is seeking protection. According to Obama’s memo, “the Departments of State, Justice, and Homeland Security shall ensure appropriate training is in place so that relevant Federal Government personnel and key partners can effectively address the protection of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) refugees and asylum seekers, including by providing to them adequate assistance and ensuring that the federal government has the ability to identify and expedite resettlement of highly vulnerable persons with urgent protection needs.”

To the extent that the issue has become a projection of American foreign policy, I do not see why my country should be criminalized because we refuse to toe their line. There is a Yoruba saying that “this is the way we behave in my community” could be a taboo in another. So to that extent, Nigeria should not succumb to the blackmail of countries that would want to tie their imaginary aids and assistance to the recognition of same-sex marriage in our country. However, there are also critical issues with the current anti-gay law which require deep reflection on the part of all fair-minded Nigerians.


While our people are known to be very religious, the fact also remains that Nigeria is not a theocratic state. Yes, many would argue that Sodomy or Lesbianism is an abomination before God. But so are other sins many of us commit on a daily basis. Incidentally, one of the Biblical passages in the “Open Heavens” (the Redeemed Christian Church of God daily devotional) for last Tuesday, January 21, is Proverbs 6: 16 to 19. It reads: “These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood; an heart that deviseth wicked imagination, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among the brethren.”
That homosexuality is not listed among the abominations does not imply that God sanctions it. But it also demonstrates that even if some of us don’t indulge in such practices, it still would not make us any better than those who do. So the self-righteousness that is driving the campaign of hate against gays and lesbians within our society is misplaced. Now, if being a homosexual is a sin against God, as most people agree it is, the question then remains: If God were to mark iniquity who really can stand?

While not making any case for gays and lesbians, we have to weigh the incidental issues relating to the Law in question, as passed. Sodomy, Homosexuality and Lesbianism have always been criminal acts in Nigeria, yet there have also always been rumours about some prominent Nigerian men who in the past have engaged in such practices. In fact, there was a Senior Advocate of Nigeria from Yorubaland, whose sexual orientation was known by many people. It was never an issue, even when the law was there, apparently because he was a big man. This new law would also only be applicable to the poor, as we are beginning to see from stories of the rounding up of transvestites in one state in the North, and a number of ‘homosexuals’ in some states in the South.

Notwithstanding my misgivings, if it comes to taking a stand, I am not a supporter of LGBT rights; because I pray that the day never comes when either of my two daughters would come home with a lady as their marriage partner or my son with a man. Nevertheless, I worry at the culture of intolerance and hypocrisy that has given birth to the law and the abuse to which it can be subjected.
It is so very easy to stigmatise and condemn others, especially in a country where compassion is in short supply. But since our legal jurisprudence already defines marriage as a union between man and woman, then the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, 2013 is on its face value a redundant law. However, the latent discrimination in its provisions and the draconian nature of the punitive measures for those who are different from us provides the source of danger in a society where jungle justice and impunity remain the order of the day. Surely, each human being (regardless of his/her sexual orientation) is deserving of respect and dignity, as a creature of the Almighty, and under the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
In Memory of Loyola Jesuit 60

“The tragedy of December 10th, 2005 can’t be ignored or forgotten, but if something good like this can be attached to the memory it’ll make the path towards healing easier for everyone to walk”—Kechi Okwuchi

I was the editor of THISDAY on December 10, 2005 when the Sosoliso crash occurred and as to be expected, it was a heartbreaking moment for our nation, especially considering that all but two of the 110 persons on board died. What made the tragedy more poignant was the fact that 61 students of a particular school, the Loyola Jesuit College (LJC), Abuja were on the ill-fated aircraft that crashed in Port Harcourt, almost right in front of their parents. But an LJC student by name Kechi Okwuchi was one of the two survivors.

In the days following the crash, THISDAY followed the story of Kechi and we did updates on her medical journey, first to Johannesburg in South Africa and finally to the United States until we lost the trail. More than eight years later, Kechi is back in my consciousness and it is delightful to know she has not allowed the tragedy to define her as she lends her support to the Memorial Symposium/Cheque Presentation for the “60 Angels Memorial Staff Residence” holding next week Thursday at Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja. It is a project of the Abuja branch of the LJC Parent Teacher Association (PTA).

I was at the LJC premises on the night of December 10 last year to join the students and teachers in marking the 8th anniversary of the crash with a candle light procession. While it was a very sad night for the few parents invited to witness the occasion, it was also a moment that spoke strongly to the debt the living owe the dead. That is the essence of the ceremony of next week Thursday where Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah will share his thoughts on “The Effects of Air Disaster on National Development” as the Abuja PTA seeks to raise N500 million to erect a lasting legacy at LJC premises in memory of the deceased students.

Unfortunately, I understand that there are some people who interpret the project as an attempt to “exploit the dead” even though it is also comforting to know that there are grieving parents who not only endorse the idea but are contemplating establishing some endowments in memory of their lost children. That is the spirit we should encourage.

As a member of the Board of Trustees of the budding advocacy group, “Team Member”, I have learnt a lot from its 24-year old promoter, Miss Member Feese, survivor of the 2010 UN building bomb blast in Abuja who went on to complete her almost truncated Masters in Development Studies from the University of Sussex before returning home to work. Member has every right to be bitter but despite the challenges she faces and the loss she has suffered, she has refused to give up on her dreams and our country, thus becoming an inspiration for many of us with her advocacy for better healthcare delivery.

There are lessons we must imbibe from other societies where tragedies are used not only to memorialize the dead but also to benefit the living and there are hundreds of worthy causes across the globe that sprang up out of the ashes of sad events. There are two points to underscore in the efforts of the Abuja PTA. One, the idea is targeted at having something tangible to remember the deceased students by during the tenth anniversary coming up in December next year as the Abuja PTA Chairperson, Mrs Ochuko Momoh, recently explained in her piece widely published in all newspapers (http://www.vanguardngr.com/2013/12/sosoliso-crash-memory-ljc-60/).Two, beyond paying tuition and other fees for our children and wards, parents must play more active role in the development of education infrastructure in our country.
It is delightful that PTA in our country has gone beyond a gathering of some disgruntled mothers who meet regularly to complain about the schools their children attend. Just last week, the chairperson of the PTA of Queens College, Lagos, Mrs Beatrice Akhetuamen announced that their association has employed additional 21 teaching staff for the school and will be adding another 11 by February. “We are responsible for the payment of their salaries”, said Akhetuamen, who added that they are currently constructing a three-storey hostel and a dining hall in the school.

It is noteworthy that the concept of PTA evolved from the United States where it is so structured that it has a national headquarters (in Chicago) and promotes parent involvement in school communities. Unfortunately, my interactions with many people in Nigeria suggest that most parents believe once they pay the school fees of their wards, they owe no other obligations to their schools. That attitude is wrong. The only way to improve on education in our country is to get the PTA, the alumni associations and everyone involved.

For sure, all the efforts of the Abuja PTA towards building a memorial staff residence will not bring back those precious children nor will it lessen the pain of the parents who lost them in such a tragic manner. We feel for those parents and the grieve they bear but as Kechi rightfully said, erecting a fitting memorial in honour of those students can only help in making the path of healing easier to walk. It is therefore our hope that President Goodluck Jonathan, who is the Special Guest of Honour would find time next Thursday to join Bishop Kukah and Sir Emeka Offor (chief launcher), to speak on the need for the society to rise up to the challenges of the moment both in the education sector and more importantly in the aviation sector. It is also our hope that Nigeria never witnesses tragedies like that of December 10, 2005 again.


 Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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