Few days ago, President Jonathan gave assent to the bill that criminalises same-sex relationships in the country putting paid to all the hullabaloo about gay legal rights in Nigeria. The activities now attract 14 years in prison. The law also prescribed a ten-year jail term for membership or encouragement of gay clubs and groups. Hitherto, members express their belief in the open with pride. To them, GAY means God Accepts You, God Adores You and God Affirms You; where DIVA means Divinely Inspired Victoriously Anointed.
Just as the National Assembly and indeed the President are receiving pats on the back from Nigerians for tightening laws against homosexuality, there are condemnations by the United Nations’ Ban Ki-moon; U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and British PM David Cameron. They consider the new law as an embarrassment to the European community. The United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon in a statement released by his media aide opined that the development could fuel violence and risks obstructing an effective HIV/AIDS response in the country.
How effective the law would be especially given the fact that other legislations on anti-graft and other vices have a way of being whittled down especially when it involves the big fish around the corridors of power leaves much to the imagination. A few Nigerians who spoke to Saturday Vanguard bared their minds on the development.
Ustaz AbdulWaheed Olowo, an Islamic/Arabic teacher in Ikorodu hailed the President and the National Assembly for doing Nigeria proud on the issue. According to him: “this is one of the decisions our leaders have made rightly. They should be hailed for taking such step to stamp out gay activities in the country. It is against man and God. Gay is one of the things Allah detest. It was evident in the way He dealt with the people of the past who practiced such thing. So, we should use everything we have to exterminate it. The law is a welcome development,” he said.
While reacting to the position of the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon saying the development could spur violence, Ustaz Olowo said Nigeria is not like some of the European countries with a high level of immoralities. “There is a high level of immoralities going on in the world. Nigeria wants to take exception to that , we have our own problems but certainly 98 per cent of people do not want that act and we should avoid it.
“The act would not be of any help for the nation and the society. Marriage ordained by God is between man and woman and not between man and man,” he said.
Also, the Publicity Secretary of the Pan Yoruba cultural group, Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, told Saturday Vanguard that it is a welcome development.
“We are deeply and culturally oriented people, we are not America where same sex marriage is generally accepted. Gay marriage is not allowed, it is not part of our tradition. It is a welcome development for the President to have signed such into law because there are certain things that we as Nigerians can consider as anti-culture. Anybody who feels his right is being infringed upon should go to the countries that encourage such act,” he said.
Although majority of Nigerians seem to be in support of the new law, the scanty minority believe it is inappropriate and unnecessary to jail people because of their sexual orientation. They hinged their claim on the fact that in our society where the law enforcement agents take advantage of every situation for their selfish interest, people could be blackmailed and railroaded into jail on the grounds of homosexuality which according to them is difficult to prove.
The convener of the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), Comrade Dabo Adeniran was however different in his opinion. “Law is not an end to the act itself, but a means to stopping the act. It is just like leaving the leprosy and treating eczema. The truth is that there are so many other areas of immorality and corruption that have not been curbed. If they are trying to curb gay and lesbianism, what are they doing about adultery and fornication that is more dangerous to the society. It leads to unwanted pregnancy which brings about unwanted children and abandonment of children.
“If the government cannot outlaw fornication and adultery that is more dangerous to the society, then prohibiting same sex marriage is just a waste of time. The only thing that can be outlawed is the marriage while the act of same sex still persists because you are not going to get into the room with these couples. It is also difficult to prove a case of rape now because there must be evidence to substantiat the case.
“Also, it will give room for undue blackmailing tendencies. Our law enforcement agencies like the police could use that to harass and blackmail people unnecessarily, because in this part of the world, we have brothers, and friends who share same apartments and when you see them so close, you begin to suspect and blackmail them. With the new anti-gay law, freedom of association and movement of people would be curtailed because people would be afraid to stay even with their younger ones and their relatives in order to avoid suspicion that such thing is happening.”
Basically, it an unjust law that will not serve anybody any good. It a wrong decision for the National Assembly to have passed such worrisome law but unnecessary for the President to have assented it because it would have amounted to shear waste of time. At the end of the day, it is the poor that would suffer the consequencies of the implementation of such unjust law. Like the Chief Justice said sometime ago, it is the rich that gets bail while the poor gets jailed. Any unjust law that are passed are targeted at the poor and such a thing should be resisted by all,” he lamented.