The recent passing of an anti same-sex marriage (etcetera) bill by the Nigerian Senate has both frightened and amused me in equal measure. Partly due to the content of the bill but mainly due to the public reaction it has since generated.
Where were we 3 months ago in Nigeria? Single term/tenure elongation? Fuel subsidy removal? Power reform? Yet all of a sudden, the people, as if by magic, have been totally united behind the Senate’s action in their revulsion for all things gay.
To be clear, gay marriage is a big deal anywhere in the world. Even in the UK where civil partnerships between same sex couples are legally recognised, there remains a constant and steady opposition to it. Presently only about 10 countries – Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden – give full legal recognition to same sex relationships. All other countries either give some recognition to differentiate them from heterosexual marriage (where the UK falls) or only recognise it in some jurisdictions e.g the USA and Mexico.
So why did Nigeria feel so terribly threatened by this ‘western evil practice’? (never mind that Argentina and South Africa are hardly Western nations). Yesterday Sir Richard Branson made the error of commenting on this matter and the comments section of his blog was soon overrun with indignant Nigerians telling him where to get off. Search for any other story on this matter be it Chude Jideonwo’s piece on the CNN website reproduced by Linda Ikeji here or this story on Sahara Reporters yesterday and just marvel at how Nigerians have been totally united over this matter.
And isnt this the point exactly? Nigeria was hardly ever a gay friendly country, indeed there have always been serious risks about being openly gay in Nigeria never mind daring to demand gay marriage.
Regardless, the Senate thought it was a good idea to yank this sleeping tiger by the tail and whip up the people into this religious/righteous frenzy.
Which Senator, Rep or politician campaigned in April on a platform of banning same sex marriages? Was this ever mentioned as a pressing national issue when Nigeria was choosing its leaders 7 months ago? Yet today, we have lawmakers asking for gay people to be killed right inside the Senate chambers.
No one, including yours truly, is asking Nigeria to legalise same sex marriage. It’s a tough issue to deal with even in the west. And the day when it will be openly accepted by all and sundy is still very far off be that in London or New York.
This episode has taught me that I have dangerously underestimated our lawmakers and politicians in the way that you underestimate a madman in possession of a gun. If these same politicians who rob us blind on a per second basis in Nigeria can conjure up this kind of popularity overnight out of nothing, then the future is bleaker than I have imagined.
It is now only a matter of time before a gay person (even an alleged one) is lynched publicly by some righteous person reading from the same Book of National Values that Senator David Mark read from recently. It’s cool to hate gays now and you’d be doing society a favour by killing them.
Our politicians who have not only elevated incompetence into an artform but celebrated mediocrity at every turn while making sure to line their pockets at our expense are apparently also capable of magic. No matter how divided we might be on an issue, they know exactly what buttons to press to get us all in line.
Just like magicians will get you to focus on something else while they set up their props elsewhere to establish an illusion, it will be silly to think that this is about gay marriage especially because gay marriage was never an issue.
The issue now is what next will come out of the magician’s box of tricks.