• Saturday, February 24, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Same-Sex Marriage: Nigeria Vs Western Power

businessday-icon

Law it’s said is a reflection of the people who makes it. Civil law, Criminal law, Sharia law, legal practitioners agreed it must protect the interest of the majority of the people of its society. They asserts that law must protect the weak and bring judgment to defaulters. Legal luminaries and philosophers also upheld that, cultural and religious background of an entity; moral values and acceptable social norms in such society are some of the ingredients that oil the wheel of law making machine.

Though, United Nations (U.N) Secretary General, Ban-ki Moon said immediately the news was out in the public domain that President Goodluck Jonathan has assented to the bill prohibiting same-sex union in the country passed towards the last quarters of 2013 by the National Assembly that: the new law would lead to prejudice and fuel violence in the country, the reverse was the case for majority of Nigerians.

Like it was when vast majority of Nigerians stood behind their President when he declared war on insurgency in the North East having exploited all avenues to put an end to the rage of Boko Haram fundamentalism, President Jonathan was again, by signing the anti-gay bill into law seen by over 90 percent of Nigerians as a beloved son. There was jubilation and reconciliation among Nigerians from different religion and cultural background. Muslims went to church for thanksgiving. Christians went to Mosques to celebrate with Muslims. Imams and pastors were on the page on the matter. They hugged and thanked their God for prayers answered. Thought, it has religious colouration, it was however, more of cultural and moral values to many Nigerians. Native Doctors, (Baba lawo, Maye and Idibia) all applauded the President’s decision. Shy Nigerians found courage to stand before television cameras to express their delight. Radio on-air personalities got their hands full as they get busier taken phone calls from excited listeners who salutes the courage of their leaders to do the right thing no matter whose toes is stepped. The political tension in the country died down for a moment as politicians stood behind the President on the matter. But a former Nigerian Ambassador to the U S, Dahiru Suleiman, described homosexuality and lesbianism as “animalistic and degrading to humanity.” Christians in the northern part of Nigeria under the aegis of Christian Association of Nigeria in the 19 northern states in Abuja, hailed President Jonathan for signing into law the anti-gay bill, urging him to ignore criticisms from Western nations, saying all religions in the country are united in their condemnation of same-sex marriage.

But, as Nigerians celebrates the African ancient value of societal decency, tears were rolling down Ban-ki Moon’s chicks.  He wept like a baby and as he became too emotional and ignorantly engaged in inciting statement. Ban-ki Moon ran to the press and told the world that the new Nigeria  law may fuel violence in the country. “I plead with Nigeria to review its recent ban of homosexuals and same-sex marriages. It may lead to prejudice and violence. And also believes that it risks obstructing effective responses to HIV/AIDS”, the U.N Scribe had said through his spokesperson Martin Nesirky. He added that Ban also expressed concern over reports that police in northern Nigeria have arrested individuals believed by the authorities to be homosexuals, and may even have tortured them.

Western powers such as: the United States of America, Canada and England also cried more than the bereaved. They accused Nigeria government of signing discriminating law.The U.S Ambassador to Nigeria,James Entwistle threatened that  his country will scale down its support for HIV/AIDS and anti-malaria programmes in response to the Federal Government’s position on the gay rights issue.

In the same vein, Canadian government cancelled a planned state visit by President Jonathan which had been scheduled for next month; a development seen by Nigerians as insulting. The Canadian government’s action which came within a week after the bill was signed into law was widely believed to be the country’s reaction to the President’s action of assenting to the bill which has so far enjoyed popular support in the country.  Though, the Canadian government later denied the report.

The signing of the same sex Prohibition Act by President Jonathan on January 7, 2014 has provoked negative reactions from member countries of EU, Canada and the United States all of whom have alleged that the law is a violation of the fundamental human rights of Nigerians with same sex orientation.  The President assented to the Act last week, on January 7, 2014. The Senate had passed the bill in November 2011. Lawmakers in Nigeria’s House of Representatives also affirmed the decision by the Senate on May 29, 2013.

The Same-sex Prohibiting Act says:  the gays, lesbians in Nigeria will risk a 14-year jail term if they do not retrace their steps and renounce such marriage. Also, any person who operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organizations directly or indirectly will earn 10-year imprisonment. Those who administer witness, abet or aid the solemnization of a same sex marriage would bag 10-year jail term. It also dissolves in Nigeria same-sex marriage entered into abroad.

Abdurraheem Ahmad Sayi, the Chief Imam of the Lekki Central Mosque, said he was not aware of any law permitting Western powers to interfere in the way the government makes law in Nigeria; saying even the definition of rights can be also subsided little.

According to him, standard of moralities was not also universal.  “Apart from that, what I also see as the  key here is the issue of autonomy; sovereignty of Nigeria as a nation. I really consider it so insulting for any nation or international body to interfere with our legislative process unduly. We, as a sovereign state reserve the exclusive right to make law for ourselves by our definition not by anybody standard”, said Abdurraheem who is a practicing lawyer.

Jonathan Ikiebe, a Lagos base legal practitioner, said Nigeria is a sovereign nation has a right to make municipal law for the benefit of its people, saying there was nothing under U.N charter that could prevent the country from making laws in the overall interest of its people.

“All the nations that are making noise about it for me; it is just a cheap propaganda because it is a municipal law without international colouration. Some may argue that the world has become a global village but each nation still has its demotic laws which are met for the welfare of its people”, he said.

According to him, if Nigerians feels that the anti gay law is what they wants at this moment was really not anybody’s business to criticize. He said law was an instrument of social engineering.” It’s to give us a definition on which way to go as a people. Law evolves the people that make it. Law is a product of the society where it emanates from. It only shows that Nigeria as a people is against same-sex marriage that was why the bill went so speedily in the National Assembly compare to other bills that have been in the waiting for long; for instance the Petroleum Industry Bill”, he said.

Jonathan Ikiebe said further that, the fact that the bill received urgent attention shows clearly larger percent of Nigerians were oppose to same-sex marriage  compare to the western world where freedom is taken to the extreme and without restrain.

“What they are saying is that: it is against certain minority in the society; but we haven’t seen anybody who has come out to say I am a gay and this offends my rights as oppose to the western world where they even come out  openly to protest. Law indeed it’s a reflection of its maker. The fact that nobody has come to say the law offend their fundamental human rights (I have a right to express myself, I have a right to associate with whomever I chose to) clearly shows this is a law that has mirror the thinking, the believes and the way of life of the people of Nigeria in general.

“Yes, there may be deviance; and those deviances are not going to come out because they know that this law is a mirror of the societal values we hold so dearly. There are no people in Nigeria among all the ethnic groups that would say same-sex should be allow in Nigeria. All religion forbids it. All culture abhours it. Even the civil society, none has come out to say this is not the way we should go at this particular moment in our development as nation. Clearly, it is a law that mirrors the way of life and the believes of the society”, he said.

But surprisingly, Human Rights Lawyer, Femi Falana took a different stand on the Same-sex Prohibiting Act. He described it as a law plan to hurt the poor in the society. “The law is against the poor. The rich has always been sleeping with themselves either for ritual or some other purposes. Did hear of coup against a sitting president in 1990 who was accused of sleeping with men? We should stop been hypocrite”, he said.

He explained that the law was in favour of the rich in that it reduces punishment for sodomy to 14 years jail terms as oppose by the criminal and penal code which stipulates life sentence or death penalty. “We already have against sodomy in the country the problem is implementation. The law is irrelevant. National Assembly was ill advised. Is same-sex offense worst than teenage marriage? Old men marrying children is worst than same-sex. Is Yerima not walking free in the society today? All the Bishops dancing now why are they not speaking against rape? Because they are also engage in rape!” he said.

Femi Falana, who admitted that same-sex marriage was alien to the African society, however said western powers must stop treating Nigeria as a baby who doesn’t know how to decide. He wondered why western powers have not been able to impose sanction on the country’s leadership by refusing to grant visa application to corrupt leaders.

“Western leaders should also impose sanction on IMF ns World Bank for promoting poverty in Africa”, he said.

 NATHANIEL AKHIGBE