By Denrele Animasaun
“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity.” – Dale Carnegie
Since President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law a ban on same-sex marriage in Africa’s most populous nation, there have been rumblings in some quarters. It is not whether Nigeria did pass ban on same sex marriage into law, it seems it is about the acceptance from certain international quarters.
Depending on whose protest of displeasure you have read or heard, it will seem that now the world and its cousins want to descend and dictate how Nigerians should behave. It cannot be so, after all, as a sovereign nation, Nigeria reserves the right to enable it to act in the benefit of its citizens as it deems fit.
That seems to be the beef. It bad manners that some part of the West has reacted to the announcement that has got the nation riled. For me, I wish that they could have reacted with such speed and conviction on salient issues that adversely affect majority of Nigerians deeply, such as corruption, grinding poverty, the huge gulf between the haves and the majority have nots, gender inequality, misappropriation of the country’s commonwealth.
Now that will be so very apt. Unsurprisingly, various Western nations have jumped at the opportunity to respond to Nigeria’s ruling. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke about the United States’ “deep concern” by asserting that it is wrong to ban same sex marriage. And those gays could face violence or discrimination for who they love”.
I am sure that this same concerns can be said of the states in America that has not approved same sex marriage. It is a fact that, in some states in the US, they have not approved same sex marriage for the very same reason that Nigerian has not due to strong religious and cultural reasons.
Russia has done the very same thing and many of these countries have not registered the same level of indignation and disapproval.
You don’t see them writing and strongly disapproving their democratic rights.
Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the European Union, commented in a release said, “I am, particularly concerned that some provisions of the (Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition) Act appear to be in contradiction with Fundamental (human) rights.” Some media outlets even go as far as to compare Nigeria’s new law to legislation passed in other Western countries, like France’s marriage equality ruling.
The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, has confirmed the US would not cut funding for HIV/AIDS in the country even though he admitted that Nigeria’s anti-gay law was a ‘worrisome precedent.’
Alas, those protests are from the very same countries not in the distance past had enshrined its constitution the very same laws, that they are wagging their fingers at Nigeria.
It is a case of pot calling kettle black. I use this term intentionally and read onto it what you may. I really do not think they expected the level of outcry from the majority of Nigerians to be such as to say” hands off our business”
The truth of the matter is; it is what it is, the culture and the religion of majority of Nigerians is very much conservative and very traditional.
And paternalistic wagging of the finger to make Nigeria a whipping boy does not cut mustard. This is not sound diplomacy, actually it is culturally insensitive to accept that every country will behave similar to other peoples’ expectations or yardstick. There seems to be a level of selective amnesia, as in to so distance future , there was a don’t ask, don’t tell in operation across the US forces and it did not disappear overnight.
So there has been backtracking in terms of those threaten to withdraw funding in light of the new law. When the US ambassador to Nigeria was asked he responded: “Absolutely not. But we have to look at it very carefully and make sure that everything we do is in compliance with the new law.
He went on to say, “As you know, we put millions of dollars in the fight against HIV/AID. And again, I am not a lawyer; I read the law and it seems to me that it may put some restrictions on what we can do to help fight HIV/AIDS in this country. And a consummate diplomat he added that;”These are the issues we are looking at as we look at the law.” The ambassador also spoke on his own country’s anti-gay laws, saying: “The issue of same-sex marriage is very controversial all over the world, including my country where 17 states out of 50 have considered it. Some are saying it is not legal.’
The EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton waded in to condemn Nigeria’s ban on same-sex unions as discriminatory and in contravention of fundamental human rights. She stated that, “I am concerned about the signing into law in Nigeria of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act,” And that “I am therefore particularly concerned that some provisions of the Act appear to be in contradiction with those fundamental rights, which are themselves guaranteed by Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, and to be inconsistent with the legal obligations enshrined in a number of international agreements to which Nigeria is a member”.
At the UN, Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, characterized the law as a “big setback for human rights for all Nigerians.”
Selective amnesia, is at play here as not long ago many of those countries that are protesting were very much on the same constitutional page and then, no one shows concerns for fundermental human rights
While the debate rages on, the Nigeria’s presidency has dismissed concerns about the law, that it reflects public opinion.