The one theme that consistently spans all the facets of the discussions we’ve had on the last six months on sexuality and gender has been the willful ignorance of Nigerians. Despite the access to information online and offline, educated and uneducated Nigerians continue to hold on to inaccurate and in-factual information about what the Nigerian constitution says about sexual minorities, assault on minors and women, emotional and financial coercion. We as a people choose instead to justify our actions with anecdotal evidence and group think, fostered by our religious leaders looking to solidify their influence on government. This is why in 2015, President Goodluck Jonathan, looking to consolidate his hold on power, proposed and passed a bill banning same sex unions.
That law, which only banned same sex marriages (which was never something anyone was agitating for in the first place) and public gathering in support of same sex marriage has been conflated to mean that being homosexual is a crime (it is not under the Nigerian constitution) and an excuse to participate in vigilante justice. But the Nigerian police, the very institution that is supposed to enforce this law have used it instead to enrich their pockets, the same way they used the Nigerian Cybercrime laws as an excuse to harass and extort young men of all ages.
Olumide Makanjuola, the chair of The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERS) has put in perspective how this abuse of power will eventually spill over to all Nigerians, not just the gay ones in his new essay. I could paraphrase it here, but it is something you have to read in full to truly appreciate.
This essay is why we need to speak up for minorities and challenge our police force to do better. It is imperative we do.
As the quote goes, “first they came for the homosexuals…”