According to David Mark, the Senate president, the bill merely reflects ‘the wishes of the generality of Nigerians desirous of living within our cultural bounds,’ which is true enough. In a much-cited opinion poll, over 90 per cent of Nigerians approve the bill, and one only has to read the comments on the few blog sites which have broached the subject to understand the virulence many harbour towards those they regard as indulging in ‘unnatural acts’. But then many Nigerians believe many things. They believe, for instance, that wife-beating is acceptable and even necessary in order to keep women in line, and it’s only a pity that Mark and his fellow senators seem comfortable with a colleague who took a 13-year-old Egyptian as his fourth wife despite the provisions of another bill outlawing child abuse.
In other words, by playing to the gallery, which is what the legislators are doing, they raise the question of just what, exactly, constitutes ‘our cultural bounds’. As I wrote in my last blog, Mark himself was alleged to have pocketed $70m in his previous incarnation as communications’ minister under IBB and now we hear that he’s building a private university, no small undertaking, even with the over-bloated salaries our morally upright legislators voted for themselves, yet another bill they were quick to pass. This is to say nothing of the legislator who was filmed emerging from an oil magnate’s house in the early hours of the morning flush with dollar bills in return for doctoring a report implicating said magnate in dodgy business practices that rip off Nigerians, this being the only way to make serious money in this country. One could go on but to what end? Nigeria did not earn its reputation as one of the most corrupt countries in the world because the world irrationally decided to make it so, but then maybe that’s OK, maybe stealing is one of ‘our cultural bounds’.
As the few brave spokespeople for the gay community have pointed out, targeting a minority which poses no threat to anybody would seem to be a particularly vicious undertaking in a country with so many other pressing bills to be attended to, beginning with a basic social security system in the world’s seventh-largest oil exporter. It is unseemly to want to incarcerate consenting adults for what they do in private while public officials openly accused of gross corruption (complete with the sums involved) throw the kind of lavish parties that has made Nigeria the second-largest importer of champagne in the world, and Nigerians the third highest spenders in London.
But why the hatred of a severe minority of fellow-Nigerians who merely desire to express their sexual preferences outside what is considered the ‘norm’? One needn’t concern oneself with the much-touted argument that such a union is necessarily fruitless and therefore a sin, as the pastors have been queuing up to testify, being themselves politicians under a different guise with an equal penchant for private universities. A childless couple are no less married for that, and Nigeria is awash with abandoned babies in need of good homes that is the price of that champagne. As for homosexuality being un-Nigerian, which some are keen to peddle, why, then, the need for legislation? Besides, I went to boarding school here in Nigeria and we all knew what went on after lights out. Nor can I begin to count the number of times I’ve been groped over the years on long journeys in shared taxis.
In fact, what really obsesses Nigerian homophobes, who are less concerned with lesbians (when they don’t get off on them, if certain rumours are to be believed, but let’s not go there, life being complicated enough as it is), was posed by one Dele Blog: ‘why shld u fuck a fellow man's ass?’ Indeed so, the problem being that this is the condition of the Nigerian male who is daily fucked in the ass, for instance by a man accused of looting $70m who then proceeds to parade himself – is permitted to parade himself - as a guardian of public morality even as we cheer him on. One doesn’t have to look far to unearth the trouble with Nigeria, the leadership being the least of our worries (and all apologies to the recently departed).
As I have argued in previous blogs, the time has come for us to wake up, like the Egyptians did yesterday and as the Brazilians are doing today. With that in mind, let me say it once and for all so that those who would lecture me on what they claim are ‘our cultural bounds’ can come and arrest me: I would be honoured to arrange, enable and support any of my fellow citizens desirous of expressing their fundamental human right to marry whoever they choose. I’m gay for it, you might say. Ten years? Well, fuck you, too, as it were.
© Adewale Maja-Pearce
Adewale Maja-Pearce is the author of several books, including Loyalties
and Other Stories, In My Father's Country, How many miles to Babylon?, A
Mask Dancing, Who's Afraid of Wole Soyinka?, From Khaki to Agbada,
Remembering Ken Saro-Wiwa and Other Essays, A Peculiar Tragedy, and
Counting the Cost, as well as the 1998 and 1999 annual reports on human
rights violations in Nigeria. He also edited The Heinemann Book of African
Poetry in English, Wole Soyinka: An Appraisal, Christopher Okigbo:
Collected Poems, The New Gong Book of New Nigerian Short Stories,
and Dream Chasers.
Click here to see Maja-Pearce's amazon.com page: http://www.amazon.com/Adewale-Maja-Pearce/e/B001HPKIOU