•Don’t justify sodomy by calling it human right, CAN fires back
By Sam Eyoboka
LAST week’s expression of regret by Prime Minister Theresa May that several former British colonies, including Nigeria, have criminalised same-sex marriage did not come to political watchers as a surprise. The British Prime Minister who, on May 21, 2013, as a member of parliament, voted in favour of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill, which legalised same-sex marriage in England and Wales, had told Commonwealth leaders’ meeting in the United Kingdom: “I am all too aware that these laws were often put in place by my own country”.
According to May, married to Philip May, an investment banker with Capital International, since September 6, 1980 without a child, believes “they (countries criminalising same sex- marriage) were wrong then and they are wrong now.” May added that the UK government would support reform of legislation that discriminates against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in former colonies.
The British PM statement must be a symbolic step towards justice for LGBT people affected by colonial-era “sodomy laws,” which had a wide-ranging impact and still exist in 36 of the 53 Commonwealth countries. According to a Human Rights Watch report, “This Alien Legacy” shows how laws criminalizing consensual same-sex conduct were introduced across Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Pacific, and the Caribbean under British rule, contributing to a climate of hostility against LGBT people. The report said the Human Rights Watch has documented how the laws contribute to violence and discrimination against LGBT people in the Eastern Caribbean, Ghana, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Kenya, Burma, Nigeria, Uganda and Jamaica.
Political watchers believe that the Western countries’ opposition to the re-election of former President Goodluck Jonathan partly stemmed from his insistence on signing into law the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act which criminalizes homosexual clubs, associations and organizations, with penalties of up to 14 years in jail. Despite protests and subtle threats from some of the Western countries, groups and activists, Jonathan signed into law the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, making it illegal for gay people to even hold a meeting. The Act has drawn condemnation from countries such as the United States and Britain.
Then US Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States was “deeply concerned” by a law that “dangerously restricts freedom of assembly, association, and expression for all Nigerians.”
Britain said, “The U.K. opposes any form of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.” The British government also threatened to cut aid to African countries that violate the rights of gay and lesbian citizens. However, British aid remains quite small in oil-rich Nigeria, one of the top crude suppliers to the US.
Washington-based Human Rights First urged then President Barack Obama to “consider all avenues for response,” saying leaders such as Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, will be watching.
“This law threatens the very livelihood of LGBT people and allies in Nigeria, and sets a dangerous precedent for persecution and violence against minorities throughout the region,” said the organization’s Shawn Gaylord.
“In parts of northern Nigeria where Islamic Shariah law is enforced, gays and lesbians can be legally stoned to death.
“Some have suggested the new law in Nigeria and the proposed one in Uganda are a backlash to Western pressure to decriminalize homosexuality. Several African leaders have warned they will not be dictated to on a subject that is anathema to their culture and religion.
Assent to the bill was devoid of usual fanfare to reduce diplomatic tension, which it may likely attract”.
Some foreign embassies were shocked by the development leading to ‘curious’ inquiries from the Federal Government. Despite the inquiries, the Federal Government said there was no going back.
The Senate passed the bill in November 2011 while the House of Representatives affirmed the decision by the Senate on May 29, 2013. The President assented to the Act on January 7, 2014.
Many are of the opinion that, in 2015, the Obama administration moved against the Jonathan administration and queued behind the then All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate on account of what the White House saw as the intransigence of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government as some Nigerian gays had fled the country because of the intolerance of their sexual persuasion and more were considering leaving.
There appeared to be reprieve for some African nations, however, when President Donald Trump of the US assumed office and made some moves against gay rights including a ban on transgender people serving in the military, surprising Pentagon leaders and reversing a year-old Obama administration policy.
The development raised the alarm among gay rights groups.
But a new concern was raised, last week, when the British Prime Minister urged Commonwealth heads of government to reform the laws criminalising same-sex marriage, stressing that the UK government would support organizations that grapple with the alien legacy of criminalization and support activists working at the grassroots to reform discriminatory laws. “As colonial-era sodomy laws fall and organizations like the Commonwealth Equality Network challenge inequality based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Commonwealth leaders should take action to stop human rights abuses against LGBT people”, Theresa May said.
Responding to the statement, National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Rev. Samson Olasupo Ayokunle, said his position aligned with the position of the Bible, saying, “The Old and New Testaments of the Bible are against persons having sexual intercourse with persons of the same sex. That is what we call sodomy in the Bible and no human opinion can change the opinion of God. We cannot justify sin by calling it human right.”
Continuing, in a telephone interview, Ayokunle, who is also the President of the Nigeria Baptist Convention, said: “The divine comes before the human. The divine created the human and not the other way round. Therefore man should not abrogate the position of God or assume the glory of God to himself. Animals in the bush can identify their sexual partners with ease. None of them opts to make love with those of the same sex.
“Even the wildest animal, lion, does not practice sodomy. Same-sex marriage is evil; it is one of the signs of the end time. It’s barbaric and totally out of order.
“If they want to withdraw their aid from us, let them do so. We don’t need help that will make us do what God will not allow us to do. If they do not want to help us, it’s a challenge to our leaders to look inwards and develop ourselves. We would not have been looking unto them if our leaders have used our God-given resources to develop our country instead of laundering our common patrimony in their personal foreign accounts.
“The only reason foreign governments are pushing bitter pills at us is because we have been having clueless politicians in positions of authority whose only preoccupation is to fritter away our resources instead of using same to develop the nation for the betterment of the citizens. That’s why we often go cap in hand after over 55 years of independence. This is nonsense that should not be taken.
“Same-sex marriage under any guise is totally against our culture and tradition. It’s against divine injunction. Human rights cannot supersede the injunctions of God. The Nigerian government must rise up to the challenge and let the world know that Nigeria and her people are different from American and European people. Let the British government legislate laws for its citizens and allow the Nigerian government legislate for the effective development of the nation without undue interference”.
Also opposed to the British Prime Minister’s recommendation for a review of anti-gay laws, the National President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, Rev. Felix Omobude, said Nigerians expect the British or any other European leadership to appreciate that this is an independent country and no “longer a colony of the British with its own constitution and set of rules designed to govern ourselves”.
“President Muhammadu Buhari knows the people he represents because these were the people that voted him into power. We are the Nigerian people and not the British people. So, the President is duty bound to do the will of the Nigerian people without undue interference from the British or any foreign government,” Omobude said, noting that sodomy is alien to the Nigerian culture.
CAN in the 19 Northern States and Abuja, on its part, called on the Federal Government to be weary of the call by the British Prime Minister to end laws against same-sex marriage, arguing that Nigeria currently contends with several social challenges.
The Chairman of the regional CAN, Rev. Yakubu Pan, described the call as an unnecessary diversion that Nigeria can afford at a time like this.
“In Africa, we have our culture which is unique to us and we cannot begin to think of changing our way of life now and practice sodomy,” he said.
He therefore called on all Nigerians, especially civil society organisations, to rise up in opposition to another imperialistic recommendation not suitable for our cultural environment, stressing that Nigerian youths are already inundated with drug-related challenges which the nation is yet to pull out of.