By Chioma Gabriel
I thought I heard a voice cry, “Sleep no more! Macbeth is murdering sleep.” Innocent sleep. Sleep that soothes away all our worries. Sleep that puts each day to rest. Sleep that relieves the weary labourer and heals hurt minds. Sleep, the main course in life’s feast, and the most nourishing—William Shakespeare.
Since President Jonathan signed the anti-gay bill into law, neither Jonathan, the international community nor the Nigerian homosexuals have known sleep. The same- sex law has been stirring up a lot of controversies on the international scene which is probably not going to end soon. Not long ago,Nigerian gay rights activist, Bisi Alimi, who made his status public in 2004 was invited by CNN‘s news correspondent, Christiane Amanpour to speak on the issue. Bisi claimed he couldn’t get a job in Nigeria, that his life was threatened and he had to move to the UK for safety.
Ever since the anti-gay law was signed into law, some Nigerians and Western communities have continued to condemn the move. They argue that the law is infringing on the fundamental rights of homosexuals because under the law, gays and lesbians in the country will be jailed for 14 years for being who they are.
As some of them have gone into hiding and some are leaving the country in droves, there are others who have the effrontery to stay back and fight the President on the issue and they plan to stage a protest in Abuja to press home their demands. The gay people under the aegis of ‘The Right Defense’ allegedly said they would hold a demonstration in Abuja to protest against the anti-gay law which took effect on 7 January, 2014, describing it as “undemocratic and unlawful discrimination” against gays, lesbians and trans-genders in Nigeria.
My first encounter with a gay person was during my NYSC duty at Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State,BCOS, Ibadan. I was living inside the premises of BCOS at Orita Bashorun but was producing my programmes in the studio at Mapo Hall. I used to invite a lot of young people during my recordings to air their views on issues of the day.
It was then I noticed this young handsome man who had the mannerisms of a woman. His name was Kunle but some people called him Sam. My flatmate saw him and loved him but was too shy to approach him. So, I decided to ‘toast’ him on her behalf and that was where we got it wrong. Kunle told us he would not have anything to do with my friend because the love of his life was a fellow guy. Well, we recovered from the shock and subsequently, Kunle began to visit us with his gay lovers. We became friends but lost contact after our NYSC.
My second encounter was with a young lawyer who was just called to the bar at the time. His name was Valentine and he used to visit my brother at our Olodi Apapa residence, in Lagos then. He was looking for employment and had attended a seminar where he met a Senior Advocate who offered to help him secure employment. According to the young man , the SAN gave him an address where he went to meet him .
He was made to wait till the last person left the office. The ‘oga’ now asked himto join him in his private office . In what seemed to him like a Nollywood movie, he pulled down his pants and ordered him to suck him!!! The young Valentine never remained the same after that experience and was traumatised for years . He was unable to forgive the SAN even unto his (SAN’s) death. Valentine eventually relocated to UK and never practised his law profession. But thankfully, he didn’t become gay.
Cult of the rich and the powerful
Same-sex relationships are not just practised among the poor or the lowly. They are the cult of the rich and the powerful across the political class, the business class and other professionals in high places. If one were to conduct a check among the political class in Nigeria today, one would be shocked at the number of men who could be wearing pampers because their behinds have been battered through same-sex practice, especially the ‘closet queens’ among them.
With the law against the practice in place today in Nigeria, will the real powerful culprits ever get sanctioned? Will the big men in high places, even in the corridors of power who live the lifestyle of sodomy ever face the consequences? Homosexuality is not the lifestyle of the poor or the lowly. It is the cult of the rich and the powerful and many a poor man believes that the easiest way to make it big in life is to become sodomised! And not just being sodomised but by the rich and the powerful. A ‘miracle’ could happen in the life of such a young man who could become a member of the House of Reps, a Senator, a Special Adviser or even a governor. Such a person could appear from an obscure background and suddenly begin to call the shots in high places.
It is sometimes difficult to point them out because most of these guys are married and have children and therefore are better known as bi-sexuals. Will this law affect them in any way?
Perhaps, parents inadvertently expose their children to same -sex practice when they send their kids to all-girls or all-boys schools. It’s at these formatory schools that the children learn the practice of ‘bone-to-bone’ in the absence of the opposite sex. Seminaries and Convents are also fertile grounds for such practice for which many Catholic priests across the world have been found culpable.
The Vatican’s expose
Just in two years, Pope Benedict XVI removed nearly 400 priests for molesting children, both male and female.
The shocking statistics for 2011-12 represent the first time the Vatican has revealed how many priests have been defrocked. Prior to that, the Catholic Church only revealed the number of alleged sexual abuse cases it had received.
The revelations came after centuries of tradition which saw the Vatican dealing with cases internally, without the involvement of the police. The document was prepared from data the Vatican had been collecting to help the Holy See defend itself before a UN committee in Geneva, Switzerland, recently.
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s UN ambassador in Geneva, referred to just one of the damning statistics during eight hours of criticism and questioning from the UN human rights committee. The rise in the number of defrocking is in stark contrast to 2009, when only 171 priests were removed following allegations.
Changes were brought in by Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, after suggesting bishops around the world were not following church law, while officials used ways to keep the accusations from surfacing.
Prior to that, Bishops routinely moved problem priests to other parishes rather than subject them to trials – or turn them to the police. There has since been a remarkable evolution in the Holy See’s in-house procedures to discipline pedophiles since 2001.
The maximum penalty for a priest convicted by a church tribunal is essentially losing his job: being defrocked, or removed from the clerical state. There are no jail terms and nothing to prevent an offender from raping again.
In 2008, Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI Emeritus, travelled to the scandal-hit United States and was quoted in the annual report as telling reporters en route that he was ‘mortified’ by the scale of abuse and simply couldn’t comprehend ‘how priests could fail in such a way’.
It is not only overseas that it happens. I attended a pentecostal service where I met this guy by name James and we got talking about my Catholic background when he narrated how he was raised by a priest who he claimed sexually abused him.
The priest in his parish somewhere in Kogi State visited his parents and asked them to allow him to live with him (priest).
The priest was highly respected and James was just 13 when he moved into the church parish house to live with the Catholic Priest. According to him, the priest had false teeth which he removed every night before sleeping and most times before going to bed, the priest would walk into his room and wake him up to give him a very deep kiss on the mouth.
James said, the priest always looked like a Dracula without his false teeth which always scared him and he was alway s too afraid to discuss his ordeal with anybody because, this priest was highly respected and he didn’t think anybody would believe his story. So, he suffered this serial abuse under the priest until the priest was eventually transferred out of Kogi State. James is now in his 40s and is married with three kids and has found another life with his wife and children at Sunderland, the United Kingdom. He is now a pentecostal pastor, no more a Catholic.
Knocks across the world
But the world would not let Nigeria be since the anti-gay bill was signed into law. The United States, Britain and Canada condemned the new law, with United States Secretary of State John Kerry saying that it “dangerously restricts freedom” of expression and association of all Nigerians. Nigeria has been widely criticized by human and civil rights organizations as well as the United Nations, for failing to uphold, and even violating, the rights of gay people.
Sexual acts between men are illegal under the Criminal Code that applies to southern Nigeria and carry a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment. Sexual acts between women are not mentioned specifically in the code, although it is arguable that the gender-neutral term “person” in Section 214 of the code includes women.
However, Nigeria’s law is not as draconian as a bill passed last month by legislators in Uganda that is awaiting President Yoweri Museveni’s signature which provides penalties including life imprisonment for “aggravated” homosexual sex. Initially, their legislators had been demanding death sentence for gays.
The Nigerian law provides penalties of up to 14 years in jail for a gay marriage and up to 10 years’ imprisonment for membership or encouragement of gay clubs, societies and organizations. That could include even groups formed to combat AIDS among gays.
Across the world, many have expressed deep concern that access to HIV services for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people will be severely affected by a new law in Nigeria which further criminalizes LGBT people, organizations and activities, as well as people who support them.
It was reported that Nigeria has the second-largest HIV epidemic globally with an estimated 3.4 million people living with the virus. The disease affects more gay men per capita than heterosexuals.
What is basic though is that the anti-gay law is in line with the people’s cultural and religious inclination. So , it is a law that is a reflection of the beliefs and orientation of Nigerian people many of whom are pleased with it.
The rush to Europe
Gay people in Nigeria and even the non gays are now seeking asylum in Europe under the guise that Nigeria has become too hot for them to practice their sex life. In Nigeria, House of Rainbow Fellowship has been grounded and its founder, Rev Jide Macaulay was forced to leave Nigeria for the United Kingdom following alleged threats to his life. Rev Macaulay was Nigeria’s first gay preacher and the founder of House of Rainbow Fellowship, a Christian community for sexual minorities and marginalised people but has been reportedly ordained a Deacon of the Anglican Church in Chelmsford, United Kingdom. The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Right Reverend Stephen Cotterel, held the ordination service at the Chelmsford Cathedral.
Reverend Macaulay reportedly said his ordination is a source of hope for sexual minorities.
According to him, “My ordination into the Anglican Communion is an important continuation of my call to parish ministry, to reach out to all people regardless of who they are. I believe whilst my ordination is not anything new to the church, it is both relevant on the state of persecution and righteous living for sexual minorities. My message to all people especially Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender people of faith is to hold on to their dreams and hopes in the face of hardship, God is a good God and loves all people.”
But how far will the new law go in addressing the issues of same-sex relationships in Nigeria? Will those super rich, super politicians and super professionals who are engaged in the practice get punished if caught in the act? Or will the law further serve to diminish the poor, the lowly and the beggarly? Only time will tell.
Rev Macaulay played the character of “Jesus” in the Newham Millennium Passion Play “A light in the Darkness’ which was staged outdoor throughout the London Borough of Newham in 2000.
“My ordination with the Anglican Communion does not extinguish the passion for inclusive theology and ministry for the marginalized. As an Anglican minister, my duties are carried forward to continue to reach out to people on the margins and that also means an understanding of the aims and objectives of House Of Rainbow and how the universal church may benefit from the extra ordinary work in hostile regions with marginalised people. House Of Rainbow continues to develop independently as a support group with 10 active groups in six countries, managed by 15 Volunteer Local Leaders. (www.houseofrainbow.org).
“ 2008 was a very busy year for House Of Rainbow and the ministry was at the height of its popularity as we have become a household name in Nigeria, particularly well known for its inclusive welcome of marginalised communities. We stood for change, peace and reconciliation, however, violence was thrust upon us as a community and many people, organisations and the media were simply looking for “dirt” about us.
In February, I was ambushed by the media in Abuja at the Africa Sexuality Conference. In March/April the newspapers were filled with sensational headlines, by July we have had many more “undercover reporters” joined us and started to record and take photographs. By August/September, we received unprecedented hostile media coverage, increased violence and numerous death threats.
Those who attacked us used this for their own gains. After the second year anniversary celebration of House Of Rainbow in Lagos, I went to Abuja for several meetings and when I returned to Lagos, the environment became extremely hostile and the Board of House Of Rainbow decided it was time we re-strategise. I was advised to return to London for my own safety and we moved the ministry underground to make it safer for those who attend. House Of Rainbow since 2006 has always remained an active ministry in Nigeria with three active groups.
“ My family like any family first struggled with the knowledge of me being gay, of course it is not about me that they first worry but the prejudice and potential discrimination that both myself and my family had to endure after coming out as gay. The fear of me being gay was superseded by the unconditional love of my parents that held the family in one love. Unfortunately being in public life and religious ministry has not helped in dealing with this privately.
I personally would not have it any other way; I am proud to be gay and of Nigerian descent, with the love of my parents I continue to excel as a son who just happens to be homosexual. For most of my family members I am mostly loved and supported, they are not ashamed of me. My achievements and ordination would be celebrated with my entire family and especially with my dad by my side.”
But how far will the new law go in addressing the issues of same-sex relationship in Nigeria? Will the super rich, the super politician and the super professional who are engaged in the practice get punished if caught in the act? Or will the law further serve to diminish the poor, the lowly and the beggarly? Only time will tell.