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In the best interest of Nigerians

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.


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