Friday, 31 January 2014

Fuck it!

‘I’m a pan-Africanist. I belong to this continent.’
                                        Binyavanga Wainaina

My friend and brother, Binyavanga Waianaina, recently ‘outed’ himself. He did so partly – or even largely - in response to President Goodluck Jonathan’s anti-gay bill. Bin, as I know him, is a frequent flyer to our shores where, by his own admission, he invariably has ‘lots of fun’. He has vowed to come back as soon as anyone invites him, the occasion of which he said will be an ‘adventure’. Good for him. We stand ready to receive him, only apologetic that he should want to return. His own native Kenya is marginally better only in that it has not made gay marriage a punishable 14 years in prison (or 10 for aiding same), homosexuality being (as in Nigeria) a criminal offence anyway; and Uganda’s President Museveni was only dissuaded from signing a bill that would jail gays for life by the ‘Western’ threat to withhold aid, which might or might not be a good thing, for Uganda no less than for Nigeria – or even Kenya.
And, yet, any discussion of the love that dare not speak its name - in Nigeria, at any rate - must acknowledge the popularity of Jonathan’s latest demonstration of craze. It seems that the majority the president would seek to please find the supposed mechanics of male-on-male sex baffling, if not distasteful, getting our asses fucked being our collective experience in this country, which is why lesbians have been entirely absent from the narrative. This no doubt reflects the patriarchal nature of the society where a senator of the federal republic, i.e. one of the authors of the bill, asserts his right to penetrate 13-year-old girls, early marriage being, in his elevated opinion, ‘the solution of about half our problems’, and this from a Western-trained economist apparently willing to sacrifice his six-year-old daughter ‘if I want to and it’s not your business’. Except that it is my business - and therein lies the problem.
It is unfortunate that the West should have threatened to end their so-called aid if the bill was passed, whereupon our former colonial master promptly did an about-turn by increasing our ‘development’ from £200mn to £270mn (or two days’ crude oil earnings), thereby giving hostage to those much enamoured of our independence from her decadent embrace.  ‘Culture’ was the abstraction most bandied about by legislators who promote the parallel idea that kleptomania is also among our time-hallowed values, hence the travails of a former governor doing time at her colonial majesty’s pleasure (or is it Her Satanic Majesty’s Request?), along with his wife, his mistress, and his wife’s sister, oga and madam having themselves previously done time for shoplifting.
Amid all the brouhaha over what two consenting adults can and cannot do in the privacy of their bedroom, we can safely say that north and south, Moslem and Christian are for once united in an unholy alliance that can hardly bode well for the secular nation we claim to be nurturing. For Jonathan, who can’t but be alive to suspicions of barefoot illegitimacy, playing the religious card also has the cynical advantage of garnering at least a modicum of political capital amongst those who profess themselves so keen on their purity that their state governments sponsor parallel (and unconstitutional) police forces to raid brothels and beer parlours. And yet it is the ‘people’ who betray the supposed sinners in their midst, a case of Neighbourhood Watch run riot. It is also these same ‘people’ who loudly demand for the death sentence for the innocent-until-proven-guilty outside the Area Courts staffed by corrupt old men with little or no knowledge of the laws they casually enforce (chapter and verse supplied on request).
Flogging females, preferably young ones, seems to be something of a cultural value in our bigoted country. We recall the 2000 case of 13-year-old Bariya Ibrahim Magazu who was charged in Zamfara State for engaging in premarital sex and bringing false accusations against three men she claimed had slept with her. She was found guilty and sentenced to 180 lashes. The punishment was administered before her appeal was heard. The men themselves were nowhere to be found because, according to the law, four independent male witnesses were required to testify that they had actually seen the penises of the accused inside her vagina.
From flogging to stoning to death – the prescribed punishment for buggery as well as adultery - is not a big step given our much-touted religiosity, especially with the advantage of the foreign holy books we now swear by. It wasn’t so long ago that two women – Amina Lawal and Safiya Husseini – were sentenced to this medieval notion of justice. As with the Magazu case, the men went scot-free because, according to the judge, a man is not a woman whereby she will have a 'protruding stomach' to show for it. On that occasion the authorities backed down from carrying out the sentence. This time, it seems, the baying crowd might do it for them, which might or might not satisfy our irresponsible legislators seeking to divert attention from their own moral turpitude.
‘Prominent’ Nigerians have deafened us with their silence over this fascistic law, along with our professional associations - ANA, ASUU, NBA, NMA, TUC – who would otherwise have the country’s best interests at heart, but perhaps they are themselves poisoned by the bureaucratic torpor of our indolent civil servants cowed by a system they have given carte blanche to in exchange for their sitting allowances. That being so, they might care to remember the famous quote during the Nazi era about keeping quiet when they came for your neighbours, only to find there was nobody to speak on your behalf when they finally came for you.
So, Bin, my friend and brother, come, we are here. As for Jonathan's new law, you were already a criminal when you came here before, so: Fuck it!
© 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 page:


  1. Well said ,Adewale !!!! Outspoken and brave.

    In standing up for the rights of gay people, you are standing up for the whole nation.

    It seems to me blindingly obvious that the problems the great mass of Nigerian struggle against stem not from colonialism, conspiracies or corruption as such, but from the worship of male power - ie the craving for a 'strong man', for the Oga. (Otherwise known as phallus worship)

    It is this which keeps people backward: the refusal to take responsibility for their own lives. The craving for a daddy figure to take care of it all, even if that means he is allowed to beat them senseless from time to time. After all, what kind of an Oga is it who doesn't throw his (often considerable) weight around ?

    That's why Nigerians are so terrified of Gay Rights and Women's Rights: such ideas challenge patriarchal authority at its root (and as much in the mid-west USA as in Nigeria)

    No nation can live by the values of pre-industrial tribalism and survive in the modern world. (Thus the west had to abolish slavery). Slave-owning, women beating, gay killing, phallus worshiping societies are condemned to perpetual backwardness and failure.


  2. ps It is, of course, this worship of the master, of the Oga, which made colonialism such an easy deal in Nigeria. It doesn't matter what colour the Big Man is, or from where he comes, just so long as he is big, and male, and can shout longer and louder than anyone else.