Listening to the 90 percent

the people

Depending on which side of the cultural divide you’re on, the Federal Government’s anti-gay bill is bound to stir up cheers or jeers. Thanks to a number of factors – religious, cultural et al, only a few Nigerians are indifferent to the matter of homosexuality. There are no shades of gray, no sitting on the fence and no I-don’t-care opinions on this dicey issue.

Officially the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, the law promises 14 years in prison for anyone who enters into a same sex marriage or civil union. It also ensures jail time for anyone who, let me paraphrase, gets involved, directly or indirectly, in gayish, gay-like or gayesque activities and events. It defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, nothing more, nothing less.

That being said, homosexuality is an ancient but tricky issue in the socially conservative geography of Nigeria. Thus, I would rather not delve into how such an interesting bill was passed in secrecy; how very important bills (e.g. National Health Bill, National Tobacco Control Bill, Petroleum Industry Bill) are still stuck in limbo; how some theorists believe that the law was pass to gain political goodwill; how the Bauchi state police seemingly (and swiftly) produced a list of 168 gay people and, finally, how this law would affect a certain Senator who married a thirteen year old girl (from our definition of marriage, it’s clear that it’s an institution for women, not girls.)

The comments made by President Jonathan’s spin doctor, Dr. Reuben Abati, regarding the anti-gay bill, have given me cause to . . . reflect. The erstwhile Chairman of the Editorial Board, The Guardian Newspapers, was quoted as saying that

“More than 90 percent of Nigerians are opposed to same sex marriage. So the law is in line with our cultural & religious beliefs as a people.”

“And I think that this law is made for a people and what the government has done is consistent with the preference of its environment.”

I wasn’t really sure I understood Dr. Abati correctly. He seemed to be suggesting that in Nigeria, things are done in favour of the majority, the masses, the 90 percent; that the foundation underneath decision-making was the preference of the majority, the 90 percent.

Really!! *eyes open in shock*

Time and time again, past and present, our leaders have demonstrated a gross inability at palpating, talk less of counting, the pulse of the majority. Many actions seem to be taken solely for the benefit of a select few. Corruption in high places is raping the country dry of its resources. The 10 percent keep recycling through the corridors and chambers of power, taking our commonwealth for themselves and their cronies. The Senate is now a resting ground for former governors and party chieftains; people with vested interests keep oppressing those who are attempting to make the country better.

I wonder what goes on in the minds of the elitist 10% those who have come-to-chop and are never tired of chopping.

Airplane travel is unsafe. What the heck? Let’s get customized bullet-proof BMWs. Millions of Nigerians live in poverty. And so? Let’s spend billions of naira on a new banquet hall at Aso Rock. For years, precious litres of Nigerian blood have been spilled on our highways. Hmm interesting; let’s bang some millions of dollars on a new Presidential jet. We flyin’ high, baby. Life expectancy is low and maternal mortality is high. Ah ahn, no wahala; we are going to spend millions of naira on two animals for the Aso Rock Zoo.

I could go on and on.

Therefore, if the anti-gay law signifies the government’s readiness to listen to, and act on, the choices of the majority -the 90 percent; then Oluwa be praised. Excelsior