By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Two notable members of the House of Representatives Friday insisted that gay or same sex marriage was completely alien to the Nigerian culture in particular and the African traditions in general, saying allowing such practice would strongly offend the sensibilities of the people.
The federal lawmakers, Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa who is the majority leader of the House and Hon. Benjamin Kalu, the House Spokesman were reacting to the threats of sanctions issued by the President of the United States of America, Joe Biden on the refusal of countries to enact laws that will accommodate the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI) people across the world.
It will be recalled that Biden recently issued a memo, directing State agencies operating in foreign jurisdictions to expand and protect the rights of LGBTQI people internationally.
“To further repair our moral leadership, I’m also issuing a presidential memo to agencies to reinvigorate our leadership on the LGBTQI issues and do it internationally,” he reportedly announced during a forceful speech at the State Department to rebuild US credibility worldwide.
He also threatened to impose various degrees of sanction on countries that failed to heed the directives.
“When foreign governments move to restrict the rights of LGBTQI+ persons or fail to enforce legal protections in place, thereby contributing to a climate of intolerance, agencies engaged abroad shall consider appropriate responses, including using the full range of diplomatic and assistance tools and, as appropriate, financial sanctions, visa restrictions, and other actions.
“All human beings should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear no matter who they are or whom they love.
“The United States belongs at the forefront of this struggle – speaking out and standing strong for our most dearly held values”, the memo read.
At the moment, Nigeria has legislations prohibiting same-sex marriages.
It will be recalled that in January 2014, the country under former President Goodluck Jonathan enacted and signed the Same-Sex-Marriage (Prohibition) Act, criminalizing any form of gay marriage.
With the law still extant, a jail term of between 10 to 14 years awaits anyone practising gay marriage within the Nigerian jurisdiction.
Essentially, the law prohibits cohabitation between same-sex sexual partners, public show of same-sex relationship, registration, operation or participation in gay clubs, societies and organisations among others.
Speaking exclusively to Saturday Vanguard on the recent US President’s memo, the House Leader, Doguwa said that gay marriage was against the culture of the Nigerian people.
He said that such laws to allow the practice of same sex marriage cannot be contemplated by the national assembly whether now or in the near future.
“It will definitely not work here. It can’t work in Nigeria because as an institution, we must respect the peculiarities of our own setting here. This is Nigeria. This is not America. This is not England. This is Nigeria where we must have to respect some of our traditions. We must also respect some of our religious bodies.
“We have Christians, we have Muslims and I thank God that both Christianity and Islam which are the two major religions are all against the disposition of such kind of legislation. I don’t think that in the near future that the Nigerian legislature as an institution will entertain anything like gay here in country.
“We will not entertain that and it is going to be blasphemous if we can begin to consider such laws. It is against our culture and against basically the provision of the two major religions. I don’t we will begin to contemplate that. It is obnoxious as far as I am concerned”, Doguwa said.
Asked if he was aware of the sanctions, the lawmaker who represents Doguwa/TuneIn Wada federal Constituency of Kano State said that sanctions have limits.
“Sanctions? There are limits to sanctions. They can continue to sanction as long as we know that what we are doing is right within the context of our culture, our religions, within the context of our Institutional expectations. I don’t think that we can be threatened by anything. Sanction or no sanction, we will only stand by what we think is right within the context of our own institutional existence”, he said.
In the same vein, the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Kalu, speaking to the paper also said that foreign countries do not make laws for Nigerians and as such memo cannot be binding on the people.
According to him, Nigerian laws always emanated from the yearnings of the people among which cannot be the gay culture.
He however advised foreign powers to rather lobby than to coarse others in any piece of legislation they may have interest in, but stressing that ultimately, it was incumbent on the people to decide which laws they would enact.
He said: “Foreign sovereignties should not determine the nature of our legislation. The content of our legislation is determined by the people we represent. That’s why if you go to our constitution, when you open the page on preambles, you will see “We the people of Nigeria”. That “We the people” element reflects the principle of democracy which is government of the people by the people and for the people.
“It is not government of a foreign sovereignty for the people of Nigeria. If that definition is used in any democratic clime, it means that the definition and the core essence of democracy has been defeated. Every legislation we make must have the “we the people” element in it. Which means that the desire, ambition, hunger of the people must be sought by their lawmakers and representatives. Their opinions must be harvested by the lawmakers to be able to frame a piece of legislation that will reflect the people’s culture, traditions and other ways of life because the law is meant for the people and not the people for the law.