“Minority can have their say but majority will have their way” is the new anthem of majority homophobic members of the supposedly enlightened Nigerian community on the issue of the draconian ‘Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition)’ bill. The mere thought that some supposedly enlightened people still think a majority has the right to have its way at the expense of the human rights of a minority is really worrisome. What enlightened mind would even support such a proposition in this age?
Many Nigerians eagerly confuse democracy with majority rule, what a shame and how sad for my beloved motherland. There is a big difference between Democracy and Majority rule. According to this ‘ill-perceived’ concept of democracy as ‘minority having their say and majority having their way’, I guess the scenarios below would be deemed democratic:
- Muslims in Nigeria, who according to the census are in the majority, could vote for an Islamic Nigeria. ‘Yeah, we Muslims now vote for the adoption of Islam as the official religion in Nigeria, the majority ‘Yays’ now have it. Gbam! All hail the Federal Republic of Islamic Nigeria!’
- The majority physically-able Nigerians could democratically vote for the gassing of the minority Nigerians living with disability; it’s all about majority votes!
- The majority poor masses could democratically vote to behead the minority rich. Now, that is something to consider; 99% vs. the 1%!
- The majority heterosexuals could vote to put the minority homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals in prison. Oh, wait a minute; they are already doing just that and worse, they can even stone gays and lesbians to death, it is the beauty of majority democracy!
It is an established fact that all human beings have inalienable rights. These rights cannot be taken away from the minority by the majority. The question really goes beyond the elementary ‘What is majority rule?’ It moves towards a deeper debate on whether we should accept majority rule or have a duty to protect the rights of the minority even when we are not in the minority. This debate has already been settled at the UN roundtable in 1948 when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. But again, Nigeria is always lagging behind, but better late than never.
Welcome to the 21st century, the age where democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. This type of freedom, which is connected to human or the capacity to begin anew, sees democracy as ‘not only a political system… [but] an ideal, an aspiration, really, intimately connected to and dependent upon a picture of what it is to be human, of what it is a human should be to be fully human.’
Welcome to the humane world, if you don’t like it, you are free to retreat back into your cave but no; you can’t drag us into the cave with you, the dark ages is not a place for civilized minds.
Many self-righteous, indignant homophobes lament that the minority LGBT community in Nigeria and international LGBT allies are forcing ideas down the throat of the majority homophobic Nigerians. Well, let us not forget that it is a group of lawmakers, in conjunction with clergymen and religiously influenced majority that are forcing their religious beliefs down the throat of an oppressed minority. In fact they want to put that minority in jail for 14 years and put LGBT rights supporters behind bars for 10 years. Some are glad to just stone homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals to death; talk about the Stone Age!
I find it really ridiculous how some Nigerians are quick to scream “If you don’t like the laws of Nigeria, stay away from the country, there is no two ways about it.” Well dear, as it happens there are more than two ways about it. It is my country; I am not leaving it for nincompoops to destroy.
Homophobes are quick to suggest that Nigerian lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals should leave the country and seek asylum abroad if they are not comfortable with the votes of the majority. So, every oppressed person should go and queue up at a foreign embassy for asylum? Are you advocating that the only way out is for people to become refugees and asylum seekers because of discriminatory, oppressive, religious rules in their country? What about fighting for equal rights for all citizens and freedom from discrimination? You could also consider stopping the oppression or is that too much to ask?
Some brave ancestors fought for freedom from slavery, some fought for an independent Nigeria, some of us fought to be free from military regime and to be able to exercise our right to vote in democratic elections. For my humble contributions to oust the military dictators from power and pave the way for a democratic Nigeria, I was tear-gassed and hauled to various police detention centers. It would be a shame if the elected leaders, alongside religious fanatics are now the ones threatening to chase me away from my country. I am going to tell the whole lot of you where to stick your ignorance and religious bigotry, just take it out of my bedroom and the federal constitution I so dearly fought for.
I have no problem if anyone believes in a God, makes sacrifices in a shrine or believes snakes or cows are gods; it is simply not my headache. However, it becomes my business when religion is used to stand in the way of my freedom and obstruct access to my inalienable human rights. The fact that majority of Nigerians believe in the tenets of religion and the ‘sinful’ nature of homosexuality does not mean the minority who do not share these religious beliefs should be duty-bound to adhere to the beliefs of the majority.
If the majority of Nigerians who are Muslims decided that Nigeria should be an Islamic State, would a majority vote in support of this decision makes it a just and fair decision? Would that not be a breach of the human right to freedom of religion? Would the minority be right in opposing this majority vote or would you say the majority has spoken and that is final, especially if you are a Christian?
It is easy to use the majority trump card when you are not personally affected, but a revolutionary activist knows that it is not only when you are affected that you demand a change, but also whenever an injustice is perpetrated. Justice is not about popularity, it is a fight for a just cause, whether by majority or minority.
Civil rights movements, including Black movements and Women movements had to transgress the existing laws of the lands to bring about progressive change. Progressives should not demand the silence and invisibility of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals. No one who claims to be my ally should demand that I live in a closet.
Is silence a fair tactic of Nigerian socialists?
It is indeed saddening and unfortunate that many Nigerian Progressives are not out supporting the oppressed Nigerian lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals. Many self-professed Nigerian ‘left’ in defense of their non-support of LGBT rights often claim that it is not a majority struggle. Well, majority of Nigerians do not believe in socialism or communism, they would rather have capitalism or a reformist version of capitalism but does this stop the minority, socialist left, from clamoring for a socialist state in Nigeria? No, it has not, so why is this used as an excuse not to demand for LGBT rights?
While socialism is not an inalienable human right but an ideal some of us strive towards, lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals’ rights are already inalienable human rights. LGBTs are humans and already have these inalienable rights. The problem is, because of religion, ignorance and intolerance, those in the majority want to deny sexual minorities their fundamental human rights. We are saying gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals are not sub-citizens; we are not sub-humans, therefore no one should deny us our inalienable human rights. Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and Trans do not gather to debate and vote on the right of heterosexuals to marry another consenting adult, why assume heterosexuals have the right to debate on the right of sexual and gender minorities to marry?
Sometimes, I find it difficult to differentiate between religious fanatics quoting their holy books and some Nigerian socialists quoting and most often misinterpreting Karl Marx. I am indeed relieved to have met other socialists around the world who understand what it really is to be socialist, and also value the tenets of socialism. Socialism is not just about overthrowing capitalism but about creating a better, equitable and fair world for all. It is about having equal access to resources which most definitely include equal right to life, freedom from discrimination and freedom of association. If we do not share the same vision of a world where equality reigns supreme, then we do not share the same vision of a socialist world.
Unfortunately, it seems that some Nigerian ‘true Marxists’ need the support of the majority so much that the oppression of the minority does not matter. To those ‘Marxists’, the minority are dispensable, sacrificial lamb in their vision to rule the world with their scripted Marxism. They lament that if majority is not supporting LGBT rights, it is not worth fighting and dividing the majority for. And of course, they prefer to sacrifice the minority gays and lesbians just so they could dine with the majority.
What I see is not a tactic but a conscious inaction. As Frantz Fanon said, ‘Every onlooker is either a coward or a traitor’. Desmond tutu also said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”. One must therefore ask the question: Whose side is the majority of Nigerian self-acclaimed progressives on?
Vocal gay rights advocates are often told to seek the sympathy of the majority rather than demand for their rights. Well, ‘Sympathy’ is not the word we are after, ‘Recognition’ is!
Rights are not gained based on sympathy; hardly is power relinquished voluntarily. People always had to fight for control of power. In this case, the majority holds the power, and they have chosen to use it tyrannically against the minority, sympathy is not what would take that power away.
We must appeal to logic, protest and take a stand to demand recognition and enforcement of the recognized law that all human beings are born equal in rights and dignity. This is what would give us the recognition we deserve and that is a revolution. Yes, a minority can carry out a revolution; a struggle against oppression is in itself a revolution whether supported by the majority or carried out by the minority.
It is disappointing how some Nigerian socialists now claim that human rights can only be assured to man only when capitalism is overthrown and a socialist society is established. Comrades seem to have forgotten that at various times in the history of Nigeria, many human rights activists, student activists, left progressives and socialists marched and demanded for right to education, opposed hike in school fees, protested for the right to vote in a capitalist state and demanded freedom of association and freedom of expression. How come the idea of achieving a Socialist State before demanding for these rights did not occur then? It seems Nigerian socialists have surmised that since minorities are the ones affected by this draconian bill, they can choose to ignore the minority struggle for human rights in the pursuit of a socialist agenda. The goal of socialism is not just about overthrowing Capitalism, it is about building an egalitarian society. Overthrowing capitalism or any other existing oppressive system is only a means to an end.
You can overthrow capitalism and still not have an egalitarian society. I stand for an egalitarian society, which in my opinion is best achieved through a socialist state. Unfortunately, some Nigerian socialists just stand for an overthrow of capitalism, without any interest in egalitarianism. Equal rights are not equal until everyone has equal rights whether in a Freudian, Capitalist or Socialist state. When the government’s boot is on your throat, whether it is a Left boot or a Right boot, is of no consequence!
LGBT rights are rights, not just any rights but core human rights. No core human right should be above or below the other. The anti-fuel subsidy removal fight is a fight against further impoverishment of the people. ‘The people’ encompasses all sexual orientation.
Let no one make no mistake about it, there will be lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals marching in the rallies against fuel subsidy removal in Nigeria. The big question is whether LGBTs and allies would be allowed to hold banners that read ‘No to Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill’ during a fuel subsidy removal protests. I definitely would be part of such protests; however one side of my protest banner or T-shirt would read ‘Say No to Fuel Subsidy Removal’, while the other reads ‘Say No to Homophobic Bill’. Would my safety be assured in the mass protest or would some ‘comrades’ demand my silence on the anti same-sex bill on the pretext that it is a fuel subsidy removal protest and not an anti-gay bill protest?
As an activist, I have marched alongside people with differing views; I have protested alongside avowed Christians who carried placards that reads “Proudly Christian, Proudly gay”, I didn’t scream: “No, I’m an atheist and all religion is oppression therefore you cannot march in a protest I am organizing!”
Some oppression unites us all especially economic oppression of the masses; however, violation of human rights of any one should unite all progressives. LGBT rights advocates are not saying our demands be prioritized above the fight against economic hardship, we are demanding that our human rights as LGBTs be not subsumed or dismissed.
The Nigerian Progressives’ silence and disregard for the right of Nigerian sexual minorities is very ‘unprogressive’; it is retrogressive! It is however a silence that must be broken and a truth that must be told. Let us remember that when it is uncomfortable, when it is unpopular, even when it is dangerous to speak the truth, is the precise time the truth should be spoken.
It is disheartening that many Nigerian progressives are trying to paint this fight for LGBT rights as a diversionary tactic meant to take attention away from ‘pressing’ economic problems in Nigeria. The politicians who introduced the bill to further criminalize homosexuality are using it as a diversionary tactic from pressing economic issues, but the discrimination sexual minorities are subjected to daily in Nigeria is very real. Therefore the fight against this continued criminalization of Nigerian LGBTs is not a diversionary tactic employed by LGBT rights advocates, it is a fight whose time has come and one that must be won for us to truly be free of all forms of oppression.
I am an Atheist but if there was a bill in the National Assembly propagating that Christians or Muslims be put in jail for 14 years for their religion, I would be at the forefront of a campaign to oppose this flagrant violation of human rights and our constitution, but so also would many so called Socialists because this would be a majority struggle. However, I wouldn’t be opposing the bill because it is a majority struggle but because it would be a human right violation. It matters not the quantity of people involved, an injury to one is an injury to all. As Dr. Martin Luther King said, “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.
I hope we all take the important step forward to be all inclusive in our fight against all forms of discrimination and oppression. I find it totally disappointing that many Nigerian ‘socialists’ cannot understand that this is a human right issue, and therefore paramount. It does not stop anyone from fighting fuel subsidy removal or asking for workers’ rights, after all many lesbians and gays would be the first to have their workers’ rights violated because of their sexual orientation. Let us stand up for LGBT rights as human rights, it does not make you less a socialist but more of a respecter of equality; a major tenet of socialism.
Some Nigerian Socialists once said, “Nigeria has economic problems, we can’t afford to demand for equal rights for women now”. Actually, these excuses were also used by some persons touting themselves as socialists some few years ago when gender rights and affirmative action were put on the progressives’ agenda in Nigeria. Now I see same people using same excuse to justify the oppression of a minority, claiming that violations of human rights of lesbians and gays are not as important as economic development for the majority.
Let us understand that we are all humans first before any other tag, be it Man, Woman, Heterosexual, Homosexual, Socialist, Capitalist, Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Rich, Poor, Bourgeoisie or Proletariat. If you have no respect for inalienable human rights, you have no business touting unrealistic economic package for all especially since your economic package exclude lesbians and gays, or didn’t you know that with this bill, homosexuals do not even have the right to life, shelter or even the right to work and earn a living?
Tell me; if your right to marry or raise a family and freedom from discrimination at work are threatened, would you not be on the street protesting? Well if you said no, you would not protest, maybe I might consider not fighting for these rights for myself and the oppressed minority in Nigeria. But truth be told, whether any other person accepts oppression as normal or not, won’t stop me from fighting against any form of discrimination. Whether it comes from the majority or minority, from the 99% or the 1%, oppression is oppression, there is no other name for it and all oppression must be opposed.
The new tag for vocal gay rights activists in Nigeria is ‘Bullies’. Well, some of us are now called bullies for demanding that our human rights be respected. I am a bully because I am not crawling to the majority to beg for my right? How ridiculous!
Many Nigerians had never even heard the word Sexual orientation or bisexuality before this bill came up. Pointing people to scientific body of knowledge, research and evidence on these issues does not make us a bully; we are sharing information and knowledge, not bullying you.
It is possible to be ignorant about a particular area or subject in life. Ignorance in some aspects of life and subjects is inevitable, but what is inexcusable is self-imposed ignorance. When you are provided with facts, evidence and confronted with superior logic but you still chose to cling to myopic opinions, this is bigotry and self-inflicted ignorance.
Those of us who believe in equal rights and justice for ALL will keep on fighting for human rights for all; it does not matter whether we are a majority or a minority because LGBT rights are human rights and that is the beauty of democracy, not your majority rule!