As I write this, Shell has just admitted that thousands of barrels of oil have spilt in the Bonga oil leak, the worst Nigeria has seen in over a decade. Nigerian universities are currently shut down on an impermanent strike. There have been more than a dozen bomb explosions this year. Schools are still teaching children more about Lord Lugard than of African icons that shaped history. About half of Nigerian women have been beaten by a male partner. Maternal death rates are the second highest in the world,widows are mentally and physically abused and acid bathing affects an increasing number of women across all ages.
Yet instead of questioning how moral it is for a government that upholds such living conditions for its citizens to plan on legalizing homophobia, the hot topic on facebook and several other forums is paradoxically the ‘immorality’ of homosexuality. Apparently it is unAfrican to be gay.
I don’t know whom I respect less; the Nigerian government, or people like this that appoint themselves as gatekeepers of traditional African culture and in so doing defend the obviously incompetent regime. How unenlightened to use the Judaeo-Christian-Islamic canon as proof of the unAfricanness of homosexuality when the historical truth is that homophobia was introduced to Africa through organized religion and Victorian values. Before then there is historical evidence that homosexual practice was accepted and even revered by tribes such as the Dogon, Bangala, Hausa (Yan Daudu), Nzema (Agyale) and others.
Personally, I’m interested neither in glorifying nor condemning homosexuality. It’s like having an opinion on the incident that human beings breathe.
And I’m suspicious of traditionalist fantasies. The truth is few of us would want to return to 19th century Africa just as little as we would like to return to the Europe of those days. The romanticizing of African values is a piously camouflaged reaction against western imperialism. If the west claims pretends it cares about the environment and animals – we are quick to say it is African to kill elephants and wipe out our vegetation since it is man that is made in the image of god. If the west asserts pretends that feminism made women equal to men – we remind ourselves of the ever loving, enduring, protecting African woman who accepts her position as the rib of the African patriarch. When the west alleges pretends it is pro-gay – we decry western decadence on one hand, and then conflate its mythology with African values.
It’s unfortunate that we don’t see that the (pseudo) liberalism in western politics is actually largely a political tactic aiming to position the west as the monitor of the ‘free’ world; of ‘free’ trade; of ‘free’ speech; of a world order where freedom means dominance. Unfortunate, because by reacting defensively against it we only reinforce its supremacist position.
Culture that is born out of defense is just as problematic as that which rises from ignorance and it is ignorance, not culture, which we would be preserving with this legislation.
NOTE: An edited version of this article was originially published on MsAfropolitan.