By Farooq A. Kperogi
Many readers have asked for my opinion on the ongoing debate over the bill that seeks to outlaw gay marriage and criminalize any form of homo-sociality (as same-gender social interaction is now fashionably called in Western academic circles) in Nigeria. My view is that both the unhealthy fixation on the issue by Western governments and the populist grandstanding of the Nigerian Senate mask multiple layers of vexatious, scorn-worthy hypocrisy.
The intrusiveness, arrogance, and downright condescension of Western governments, particularly of the US government, on the issue just make you want to scream. It is hypocritical for Western governments to not realize that the Nigerian anti-gay bill is just as discriminatory as their own anti-polygamy laws are.
In the West, polygamy, a common and culturally accepted practice in over 70 percent of the world’s population, is criminalized. In the United States and Canada, for instance, it’s a felony in the class of murder, arson, etc. for which people are sent to prison for several years.
You can marry and divorce 100 different people in 100 days and you’re perfectly within the bounds of the law. You can also live with multiple sex partners and even have children with them and you’re fine so long as you’re not officially married. But the moment you are discovered to be married to just two wives (or husbands) for one day or for life, you’re toast. How is that for justice and equality? People with this kind of unreasonably discriminatory law want to preach to us about equality.
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The landmark ruling that institutionalized the criminalization of polygamy in the United States is particularly noteworthy for its racist condescension and invidious “othering.”
In turning down the appeal by a man named Reynolds who wanted America to recognize polygamy as a legitimate conjugal union, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1878 disparaged polygamy as “almost exclusively a feature of the life of Asiatic and African people.” Notice the racist particularism of the ruling. Since this ruling hasn’t been overturned, that’s still the official position of the law: that polygamy is bad because it’s an African and Asian peculiarity.
Now, why do Western governments get thin-skinned when Africans also say homosexuality is bad because it’s a Euro-American sexual perversion? Both arguments are, of course, false. According to many accounts, there are as many as 50,000 polygamists in the US, mostly from the Mormon Church. That’s more than two percent of the U.S. population. There are homosexuals in Africa, too.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s subsequent rulings on polygamy uncannily resemble the phraseology that Nigerian critics of gay marriage and homosexual lifestyle in general deploy. In one instance, for example, the Supreme Court described polygamy as “a blot on our civilization.” In another ruling, it disdained it as "a return to barbarism" and likened it to human sacrifice. Yet another Supreme Court ruling dismissed it as "contrary to the spirit of Christianity and of the civilization which Christianity has produced in the Western World."
Of course, these are all lies. As Professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University observed in an October 4, 2004 article in USA Today, “Contrary to the court's statements, the practice of polygamy is actually one of the common threads between Christians, Jews and Muslims.”
So where am I going with this? A part of the world that criminalizes an enduring cultural practice of 78 percent of the world’s population has no moral right to insist that the rest of the world should not criminalize gay marriage and in-your-face homo-sociality, which they themselves, in fact, are only just now coming to terms with.
There is this insufferably haughty presumption that whatever is good for Euro-America must be good for the rest of the world. When Europeans thought homosexuality was a terrible sin, they criminalized it in their societies and extended their laws to other parts of the world that they colonized. Now they’ve had an “epiphany” about homosexuality and they want the rest of the world to just immediately give up all that they believed in and accept the newfangled idea about gay rights—or risk sanctions.
Westerners say homo-sexuality is the business of two consenting adults whose activities don’t hurt anyone. Fair enough. But polygamy is also a consensual union between adults. It also does no harm to anyone. In fact, it guarantees reproductive futurism.
Most importantly, the American government that is making the forced feeding of homosexual orthodoxy on Nigeria a cardinal foreign policy goal is at the same time encouraging our government to increase fuel prices. We know that much from the lavish praise the US ambassador to Nigeria recently showered on the Nigerian government over its plan to increase fuel prices next year, an action that will certainly inflict death and misery to millions of working- and middle-class Nigerians.
Given President Jonathan’s proverbial cluelessness, I won’t be shocked if it comes to light that the whole “subsidy removal” scam is carefully and stealthily dictated by Uncle Sam whose approval Jonathan so desperately and pitifully seeks all the time. (Recall his laughably juvenile gripe about how Nigerians dare criticize him when almighty Obama patted him on the back for the good job he’s doing?).
Anyway, the same American government that pays $20 billion a year in subsidies to its farmers (a reason food is incredibly cheap here), that gives monthly allowances and food stamps to its poor and unemployed, and that has all kinds of social safety nets for its weak is encouraging another country to hike the consumer price of its main economic product! I’m calling attention to this because the homosexual hysteria in Nigeria is happening at the very same time that the National Assembly is about lend its imprimatur to fuel price increases.
America’s—and Britain’s— unbearably arrogant pronouncement on gay rights in Nigeria has created the basis for the National Assembly to flex populist legislative muscles and to numb the Nigerian masses to the real tragedy that awaits them next year when fuel prices will jump higher than they have ever done in Nigeria’s 51-year history.
In almost every Nigeria-centered discursive arena on the Internet, I’ve read people praising the gallantry of the Senate and even suggesting that Senate President David Mark deserves to be Nigeria’s next president for standing up to Western bullies. The National Assembly has never been more popular. But the legislators are going to ride on the crest of the wave of this popularity to strike Nigerians a deadly blow.
The anti-gay bill is absolutely needless and the National Assembly deserves no praise for it, although I understand why Nigerians are united in their support for it. But the truth is that the Nigerian socio-cultural soil is already infinitely infertile for the growth and flowering of the kind of homosexuality that exists in the West. So we don’t need a law to curb something that is not even remotely in danger of happening. The laws we inherited from our British colonial invaders (who have now become aggressive born-again gay rights protagonists) sufficiently criminalize homosexuality.
And most Nigerian languages don’t even have a word for homosexuality because it had never been a part of our experiential and conceptual repertoire.
For me, the whole debate is a conspiracy of the hypocrisies of Western governments and our government. The real goal is to increase fuel prices. Western governments’ provocation and the Senate’s response are probably planned to keep the people distracted from the real issues. I hope I am proved wrong.
Confronting Misconceptions about Homosexuality in Northern Nigeria
Confronting Misconceptions about Homosexuality in Northern Nigeria