Long Absence, Nigeria's 3rd Term Fever and Brokeback
As you may have noticed, the state of the Nigerian economy is not my topic, although it would if I could claim a better understanding of how it was run...if it is run or simply watched..nah, my topic today touches on the news in Nigeria regarding the continued rumours of a plot, conspiracy, machination...call it what you will by the country's ruling party, the PDP to amend our constitution to allow President Olusegun Obasanjo and some thirty state governors run for third terms of four years.
My girl friend in furtherance of her ambition to soften my conservative approach to social issues dragged me to the Odeon cinema to watch the movie that is the talk of hollywood, cannes and everyother film festival city in the world, the gay flick, "brokeback mountain". For the sake of clarity and for the benefit of my readers in Nigeria, a strongly conservative and rightly traditional society, I will try to give a blunt assessment of the movie, its message and it's connection with a move by the Nigerian federal cabinet to outlaw gay same-sex marriage and why I think the proposed law is right....without quoting you the Bible, the Koran etc.
There is a certain legal scholar in Nigeria by the name of Professor Ben Nwabueze who in the 1980s wrote a magnificent (i think) text book for Nigerian law students and lawyers titled (something like) "Nigeria's Presidential Constitution." In that book the Prof who was and still is an authority on constitutional law in Nigeria and Africa gave a behind the scenes look at the 1978 constituent assembly that produced the Nigerian Constitution. In the book, Nwabueze said that the drafters sought to introduce an American style system, with more checks and balances and more scrutiny and express limitations on the executive powers of the President, that the Americans of the 1780s or 2000 would have considered too burdensome on the President of the United States. Nwabueze argued that it was necessary to limit the Nigerian President so tightly because of the practical reality of him having vast resources and powers at his disposal.
2006, all those checks and balances have been swept aside by the Olusegun Obasanjo (OBJ) administration. This is not to say that the government has broken the law. No. I for one will not hesitate to say here that in 1999, I prefered the reverred Dr. Alex Ekwueme for the top job, but last minute machinations got OBJ the nomination and ultimately the presidency. In 2003, I thought OBJ had done a good job to deserve a second tenure and also because, the alternative, Muhammadu Buhari was a bigot, not a good idea for a multi-ethnic country like Nigeria. OBJ won re-election and has I believe done a good job. I won't bullshit and say he's the best thing to happen to Nigeria since washing machines or playstation 3, but I sincerely believe he has done enough to deserve my respect and thanks as a citizen.
Unfortunately, OBJ's friends want to spoil all that. They think Nigeria is all about Obasanjo, that Nigerians are too dumb to elect a comparable or even better successor, that Nigerians have to be hynoptised into seeing reason in why we should not change a winning horse. In effect, the argument is that Obasanjo has done so much for Nigeria that he deserves a full constitutional amendment to allow him run for a third term. I have not heard such arrant nonsense .....wait a minute, I have....it was 1998, exactly this time in 1998, that a man who we later found out helped himself to £3 Billion ($6 Billion) of government funds was being urged by "honourable men" to stay for life. General Abacha ran Nigeria like a prison, not as bad as Saddam, but not any less uncomfortable and shameful (internationally). The exact same people who clapped while Abacha locked up OBJ for a crime he didnt commit, and who OBJ felt he had to keep close to him, when he later succeeded to Abacha's job in a free election, those same people are now trying to hoodwink Nigerians into accepting a third term for President Obasanjo.
As if our sensiblities had not been insulted enough, Ambassador Negroponte, the US intelligence czar told the US select intel committee that Nigeria's 2007 elections could be a disaster if OBJ insisted on running...understandably he was more concerned about the inevitable disruption in oil supplies (quite understandable....is he a Nigerian? not his problem if we're busy being stupid). I have so much respect for the person and office of the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and for Olusegun Obasanjo in particular that I have refused to believe that he has any intention of stooping so low and partaking in this leprous plot against the constitution. It is however unfortunate, that he has not taken various opportunities to assure Nigerians that he will keep faith with us and leave next year. Instead, we have been treated to ridiculous statements by his aides, Fani-Kayode and Onyema-Ugochukwu both professional politicians and psychophants, well known for abusing and insulting critics and respected citizens, and who will say anything to justify any government policy.
What do I think? OBJ will go....if not...well there's nothing we can do about it than whine, complain and blog...
BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN....if you're reading this outside Nigeria, then you must either seen the movie or heard or watched a review on television or radio. Fox television in the US, the mouth piece of conservative America declared it a Homosexual Propaganda. Here in the UK and Europe, people can't get enough of it (unsuprising). For my readers in Nigeria, this is one of the films that either won't be sold in Nigeria or won't sell well....except of course among the middle-class, creme da la creme and top totties who try to keep abreast with international matters..
BROKEBACK is a movie about two cowboys, who fall in love...(no it's not pornography)...To say that I saw the movie without a tinge of trepidation would be a lie. I almost got blind with shock when the two main characters played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal (check the spellings) engaged in what appeared to be sexual intercourse...(ok ok sex...anal sex) basically, sodomy. (see Leviticus in the bible). At the end of the movie, to my girl friend's suprise and yes pleasure, I liked the film. It was a gay film, a film about gays, but it was a good film. The cinematograohy, script and backdrop of glorious mountains ( I have to visit Wyoming) was excellent, the dialogue was credible without being cheesy, even the sex scenes seemed unimportant, except to demonstrate the physical nature of the character's affection/intimacy....(readers in Nigeria day yuck here)...I would recommend it to any "straight" guy who knows where he stands on the preference scale, (might be a good idea to go with your girl friend or wife...as protection)...The message was not lost on me, it was a good movie, I would see it again, but that doesn't mean I have to agree with the lifestyle, the same way I wouldn't emulate, Don Corleone from Mario Puzo's the Godfather or Don Clericuzio in the Last Don. It's a movie! Enjoy it !
That brings me to the plight of gays in Nigerian. The concept of gay rights in Nigeria and much of sub-saharan Africa is anathema, except in South Africa, where homosexuals were said to have suffered under Apartheid and managed to win a windfall of civil rights when the 1993/4 interim constitution was negotiated (please verify) so I guess in that case, they "fought" for it and last year their courts moved to allow same-sex marriages.
Men have sex with men in Nigeria, rich, poor, muslim, christian, all sorts....the thing is we don't talk about it....we even deny it... Personally I think that system works, as a catholic I can NEVER accept homosexuality as a natural alternative lifestyle to a normal hetereosexual relationship that culminates in marriage, and the procreation of children. I consider gay relationships "objectively instrinsically disordered".
As a Law student in the UK I have inevitably come into contact with people, students, lecturers and yes, friends who proudly call themselves gay. Many of them are decent, remarkable people who will point out to me that their success and position in life has nothing to with who the "fuck". On that I am in complete agreement. The Nigerian government has proposed a law to outlaw same-sex marriages in Nigeria. If reasonably drafted, the law will pass without resistance in the National Assembly, loudly supported by closeted gay legislators urged on by religious leaders... Before talking about the bill, I want to mention that Nigeria already has laws against "sex against the order of nature"...(meaning gay sex) But the law is not enforced for two reasons, 1. the police has more serious things to worry about, 2. the subject is taboo, and only done in private, usually by people rich and powerful enough to lock up the police detective who would dare.
Personally, I dont think gays in Nigeria or Africa should be denied the full protection and benefit of the rights guaranteed their fellow citizens. Most Nigerians (this writer included) would praise someone doing a good job to the heighest heavens, but get antagonistic if told the person was gay. I am not proud about it, but as a future lawyer, I have change my outlook and believe in the spirit of the law, which is to do right to all manner of people, fairly, without affection or ill-will. I'm not saying I want gays to march down the Marina in Lagos or Shehu Shagari Way, Abuja in pride ceremonies....good heavens No! but I don't think it's the business of government to regulate people's sexual relations. It's not only silly it's also impraticable....(I dont care what any pastor says on that.)
While I have nothing against gay Nigerians living full and secure lives, under the protection of the law, I am implacably opposed to anything thing that would undermine the institution of marriage and the position of the family as the centre of African society. I don't think this is gay-bashing or homophobia, but a responsible effort to protect what is, has been and ought to continue being the basis of our native culture. I dont think I have to start quoting the bible, the koran or various Vatican documents (..I read those, sad ain't it?) to support my view, neither do I have to do what most Nigerian religiousists do, which is to vilify others as godless, unless their every conduct is sanctioned by scripture, I think the good lord gave us enough common sense to be able to discern for ourselves what is fair, good and proper.
Bottom line, dont jugde.........I'm guessing this piece might upset a few people...liberals and my fellow conservatives....