I am not the first Nigerian gay man to be in the media, but I think I am the first openly homosexual man to appear in a printed newspaper saying that I am gay and proud. Most times what we read in the papers is the press outing someone who doesn’t want to be outed. In my case it was a matter of speaking out without thinking of the implications.
The reason I decided to go public with my sexuality was because of the increasingly dysfunctional attitude of the Nigerian Anglican Church. I came out as a consequence of the exasperation I felt in the context of the increasingly homophobic attitudes of the Nigerian Anglican Church and its leader, Peter Akinola. Before my coming out, they claimed that there were no homosexuals in Nigeria. Afterwards they could not say this anymore! Archbishop Akinola told the press that the first time he shook hands with a homosexual person was in America where he greeted the founder of Integrity USA. When he found out who he was he withdrew his hand!
The more progress we make in creating awareness and telling our own stories the more we offend the Nigerian religious leaders who have chosen to distant homosexuality from our history and culture. Can all Africans honestly say and prove that we have always had a history and culture free of homosexuality and lesbianism? Before the advent of western missionary and colonial masters to Nigeria, homosexuality was not a taboo.
When former president Good-luck Jonathan signed Nigeria’s Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act into law in January 2014, the leaders of the local Anglican Catholic Church were very much in support of such draconian and antihuman laws. So were the entire Christian Association and their Muslim counter parts.
I knew that both the Nigerian government and the religious leaders expected us, the LGBT Community, to put a strong fight and resistance against the law. They were glad when we did very little. This was not because we were too afraid but because we really didn’t have the resources to face this challenge. We – as a community – have not agreed on a common strategy in challenging the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, and have sometimes blamed each other and our allies instead of focusing on fighting the oppressor.
It’s no surprise to me that the Nigerian religious leaders have changed their position recently after seeing that continuing denying of homosexuality as being a part of the African culture is no longer making headlines. They have now made it clear that they are purely against same sex marriage and not homosexuality. But in the Nigerian case, the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act is only a title while in reality this law criminalizes and persecutes Nigeria’s homosexuals and make them feel unwanted in their own country. Moreover, clauses from that law also affect freedom of association, speech and the rights to access health.
The fundamental problem here is that most of the African governments and religious leaders have created a society of fear and terror for the LGBT people. We want to have a dialogue in an environment where we will be safe. That is why I will keep reminding the Nigerian religious leaders of their promise that we are all equally loved by God and deserve to be protected.