As President Muhammadu Buhari prepared for his just concluded official visit to the United States, many Nigerians feared for the potential cost.
We murmured against blowing 2.2 billion naira on one single travel. But that was an aside. Our concern stretched beyond what dregs of paper money would remain in our ‘’virtually empty treasury.’’
What we spooked at was the prospect of gaining America’s favor and losing an intangible and unquantifiable asset – our moral currency.
We worried that President Obama might parley his encounter with Buhari into an opportunity to forcefully convert Nigeria to homosexuality. He could make Buhari’s commitment to repeal our harsh anti-gay laws the conditionality for granting us the military assistance we need to conquer Boko Haram. And Buhari would be tempted to succumb.
Our fears were valid. President Obama is different from the virgin candidate who believed in conservative relationships: He now sells gay rights as foreign policy. The Supreme Court of the United States legalized same sex relationship couple of weeks before.
The State Department’s Africa chief, Linda Thomas-Grienfield, would later exacerbate our apprehension. She confirmed to reporters in Washington that the Obama administration was on pushing for the perfection of our unfinished civilization. The United States shall ‘’ continue to press the government of Nigeria, as well as other governments’’ on gay rights.
It turned out our fear of an Obama dictation did not come true. Obama did not discuss the translation of gay rights into human rights with Buhari. Some US senators, however, took President Buhari up on the issue. During their meeting, they asked him when we would sunset our anti-gay laws.
The President’s spokesman, Femi Adesina, relayed his principal’s response. He tweeted that Buhari was ‘’pointblank. Sodomy is against the law in Nigeria, and abhorrent to our culture’’.
Expectedly, the news that Buhari refused to bow before a patronizing neocolonial dictatorship brought us relief. We showed gratitude. We commended him for upholding our dignity. Certain critics of Buhari’s slow start in office implemented a tacit moratorium. Even Femi Fani-Kayode applauded!
Buhari had tapped the vein of our shared prejudice. He got a bounce!
This was big. Admirers began to frame Buhari’s defense of our homophobia as his defining feat. We ought to forgive him if he never does anything extraordinary with the 46 months left on his term. To avert a country’s moral perdition is a notable legacy, all by itself. We would content ourselves with his rejection of the gay-proselytizing America.
Buhari took a hugely popular stand. A Gallup-affiliated polling firm had found last month that 87 percent of Nigerians supported the ban on same sex relationship and 8 in 10 believe gay people should not be permitted equal rights.
Buhari, even before the trip, had a full plate. A stillborn National Assembly. An underwhelming economy. A fuel subsidy regime that is the world’s cruelest parody of the original idea. And millions of Nigerians waiting for him to convince them they had not elected a snail to the Presidency!
He would have added to the burden on his uneasy head, a spontaneous, cataclysmic unrest, an adaptation of Arab Spring, if he had signaled readiness to review Nigeria’s posture against its gay community.
And so Buhari’s visit was a success. He foiled our fear. He took the cup of wanton debauchery away from us.
Time to get rational.
Is it not amazing that we are too blinkered to perceive the irony inherent in the fear that gripped us ahead of Buhari’s US engagement?
The President of our ‘’morally superior’’ Nigeria went to beg a ‘’gay America’’ for military alms and arms.
And why did we have to demean ourselves, groveling before people whose lifestyle is ‘’abhorrent to our culture’’. Why did we covet their gifts and court them while we aggressively loathed them and feared their handshake could pollute us?
This is the answer: Our sense of morality, the one that instinctively snaps at the mention of homosexuality, had not restrained us from… stealing our billion naira defense budgets and starving our troops of weapons.
Clearly, we are possessed of hubris. And we were clever enough to fashion an interpretation of immorality to support the basis of our pride.
In our book, immorality is the kind of sex we don’t have and approve of. It is the sin of the bedroom. The sin of creative perversion. Period.
We would not stretch our lexicon a bit to embrace our outdoor quotidian misdemeanors.
Soliciting and receiving bribes for duties that come with our job description. Protesting in favor of a rogue government official arraigned for embezzlement. Hiring an adult graduate to make straight A’s for our kids in school.
No. We would not indict ourselves. We could never afford sufficient detachment to judge ourselves harshly. We look in the mirror only to indulge our narcissistic infatuation.
This is hypocrisy.
In our mind, we are ahead of America in virtue. We resoundingly detest the ‘’unnatural’’ sex Americans have come around to legitimizing. We are on a higher moral plane than ‘’God’s Own Country’’. We could never abide such licentiousness. Nor license it.
Of course, our anti-gay posturing draws from the wellspring of holier than thou hubris.
We have the incontestable tag of the most religious society on earth. We most probably have the highest number of religious houses per square meter. So we like to presume that our fondness of religion is piety; that our professed faiths guide us.
If only the blind could see the obvious!
Excuse me. Immorality is at the heart of the paradox of a well endowed Nigeria that is an ever worsening human habitation. We are the way we are because we are immorality.
We have remained a case study in cursed wealth because our immorality has attained immortality.
If we are not delusional liars, we would not be preaching like we are exemplars of the values others lack.
We need some humility to admit that we are languishing in moral snobbery.
We are sold on the grotesque lie that we have a set of values to protect. That we are yet to be deflowered. That we need to preserve our innocence lest we rotten like other countries.
The true picture is less flattering. We actually slumped into the sewer long ago. And evidences of our degenerate inclinations live with us. They are so numerous we can’t namecheck them all.
But we often think it is in our place to feel a proprietary outrage about the abominations of a country on another continent. We chafe at the fact that we share the planet with humans who live below our moral code. We are offended that they are permitted the audacity to shock our sensibilities.
There is no doubt that we have an underground gay community in Nigeria. Our resentment of their sexual orientation has not obliterated them or remodelled them. They are tamped down, confined to the shadows of shame, barred from living authentically. But they are still here.
We feel that we serve a noble purpose by hating them and ostracising them. We presume that if we so much as recognized their difference and their presence in our makeup, we would have contributed to the distortion of cosmic order.
More important, we fear that if we accepted and respected the humanity of the gays around us, Nigeria would turn upside down. We imagine that relaxing our rigidity is an endorsement of the lifestyle and that that will bring us collective damnation.
To reexamine this presumption is to be instantly hit by its awkwardness.
Do we really inhabit a purer moral clime than America? Who calibrated sin and made homosexuality the basest iniquity? Does homophobia cancel out the totality of other crimes a country actively tolerates? Is the soul of a pathologically corrupt Nigeria intact because it is sworn to keeping its gay demographic marooned in their closets?
The lie we tell ourselves is that gay liberal countries are plumbing the depths of a cesspit while we, homophobic Nigeria, are standing up there, at the peak of sanity.
The truth is that our moral position is not at some distant height. We are as plagued by a more virulent strain of immorality than the gay liberal countries we despise. We are not holier than them because they experiment with personal liberties.
We are mere pretenders to circumscribed righteousness. Our demonstration of chastity begins and ends with opposition to deviant sex. In larger spheres where matters are heavier than corporeal pleasure, our depravity transcends anything obtainable in the nations we expect to be sooner consumed like Sodom and Gomorrah.
We, Nigerians, should be invested in nothing else more than resolving our own struggle with morality. We have to start asking ourselves, besides homosexuality, what other thing ‘’is against the law in Nigeria and abhorrent to our culture.’’
In the same week the importation of gay rights agitated us, freshly sacked National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, was found to have corruptly enriched himself. We saw the stolen goods, his collection of armored cars. We read about the driver to his personal assistant eloping with tonnes of taxpayers’ money.
We defended him against ‘’persecution’’. We decried the legally mandated search of his mansions.
We just couldn’t do any better .
We had allocated all our rage to homosexuality and left no iota for stealing and abuse of office!
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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