FEATURE ARTICLE

Michael NnebeMonday, January 27, 2014
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I'M ASHAMED OF MY COUNTRY NIGERIA

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very once in a while America and Europe tries to impose their social standards on Africa. I think that they are wrong to do so. As a Nigerian, however, I believe that I have the right to criticize my own country when I believe our government has erred. Recently Nigeria criminalized gay marriage and gay lifestyle. It now carries a 14-year prison sentence if you are arrested as a result of same sex marriage and a 10-year jail term if you are arrested for just living your life as openly gay. Since the law was signed by President Jonathan a few weeks ago many have been rounded up and charged to court. A few days ago seven men were stoned to death in Bauchi state under the Sharia law for being gay. Now, there is a new video making rounds in which two gay men were brutally beaten to death while police men watched. These are the sort of headlines I used to see out of Iran and Saudi Arabia, very barbaric to say the least, especially in 2014. I never in my wildest dreams imagined my country sliding this far behind.

I posted an article back in June titled "Nigeria gay issues…and the hypocrisy of our politicians" I wrote this immediately after the law was passed in the Federal House of Representatives, and I warned Nigerians of the consequences, but like everything else in this country people simply ignored the bill. Today it has been signed by our president and its implementation has finally woken some people. Those who defend this law are quick to point out that it is supported by an overwhelming number of Nigerians. I would readily give it to them, but my question remains; does it make it right or just? Perhaps I need to remind these people that majority of Americans supported the laws that allowed the enslavement of our brothers and sisters in America two hundred years ago and beyond. Majority of South African whites supported the apartheid regimes for nearly a century. Majority of Germans supported Hitler's policy of exterminating the Jews. In spite of the popular support for these policies, it does not make them right or just.

Some have quoted the bible to back-up their support for this law; others have found their refuge in the Koran. I also need to remind you that there were those who used bible verses to justify their enslavement of fellow human beings. The truth is that you can pretty much find anything in the bible to justify your stance. For me, I'd rather stand on the words of Jesus Christ, which says; "love thy neighbor as thyself." If you love your neighbor you would not stone him to death, even if he is a homosexual, you would not even have him imprisoned for being gay. Our problem in Nigeria is that we often try to be more Catholic than the Pope. The Pope responded when asked about homosexual lifestyle, he said, "Who am I to judge." In Nigeria today, we are judging, sending them to prison, and stoning our brothers to death in the name of religion. I am a Christian, and I know that the Christ I serve would not do this. When a woman was caught in adultery and the Pharisees tried to stone her to death, Christ challenged them to cast their stones if they have no sin. Of course, they all dropped their stones and went away.

It is true that the bible condemns homosexuality as a sin, but so did the bible on a barrage of other sins like adultery, fornication, etc. Is there anyone in Nigeria House of Assembly, including our president who is not guilty of these other sins? If so, why have they not found the grace of God within them to grant mercy to other sinners like them? Many countries, including America and Europe have gone this route before, and they have come to regret it. As recent as ten years ago, states like Texas in the US still have anti gay (sodomy) laws in their books until they were struck out by the US Supreme Court. A few decades ago, the UK still had anti gay laws in their books, and today they regret haven done so. I have no doubt that Nigeria will one day regret haven passed these laws, but for now, it is setting us back 50 years, and there may never be any recourse for its victims. Must we make all the mistakes made by others before we learn? I thought that their mistakes were supposed to be a guiding light for us.

Surely, Nigeria is not yet civilized enough for one to contemplate an introduction of gay marriage rights or anything of the sort. I believe that it would amount to a culture shock for our legislators to consider passing laws that recognize gay marriage, and to the best of my knowledge nobody is seeking for such legislation in Nigeria. Why then can't we allow them to live their lives in peace? Why must we send someone to prison in Nigeria just for being homosexual? All I have heard from some defenders of this law is that the bible said this and that. Well, as I recalled it, the bible under the Law of Moses also calls for "an eye for an eye" but Christ came and recommended we turn the other cheek. In my previous article, I said that Nigeria has 99 problems, but homosexuality is not one of them. As I write this article, I am burning up my generator to provide electricity for myself. I'd love to see our National Assembly members and our President spend their valuable times trying to solve the numerous problems that actually hinder Nigeria's progress instead of chasing shadows.

Most Nigerians are simply wallowing in ignorance. They will tell you that homosexuality is a white man's problem, which does not exist in our culture. The truth is that it has always been here. We either don't know how to spot it, or are too afraid to recognize what exists in our midst. Our forefathers used to throw away twins, and considered them evil. In my lifetime I witnessed the throwing away of dead bodies for various nefarious reasons such as (ida ibi, and ito afo) all out of ignorance. Today, we are now sending homosexuals to prison and stoning them to death. Even these shall come to pass, I'm sure, absolutely sure, but I'm filled with shame to see it happening in my country in 2014. Lord have mercy on us.

Michael Nnebe is a former Wall Street Investment Banker and the Author of several novels, including; Every Dream Has A Price, Riverside Park, Blood Covenant, Gloomy Shadows, Passing wishes, Prime Suspect, and others.

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