Monday, 11 February 2013

The Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill: How Relevant?

Yes, I am the Great Naija Oracle and I am an embodiment of the Nigerian culture and tradition...I am Nigerian through and through and it would definitely not be out of place or surprising if I shout from the roof-top that I detest homosexualism. But right now, going by the happenings in our nation...I am going to take a rather unpopular stand, which I am used to anyways. I am going to pitch my tent with the gays as against the Nigerian Legislature and Judiciary and this is why.

In 2011, the Nigerian Senate passed a bill called Same Gender Marriage (Prohibition) for an Act to prohibit marriage between persons of same gender, solemnisation of same and for other matters related therewith. As at late 2012, the bill had unanimously passed the second reading in the Nigerian House or Representatives and in no distant time, may become law.

In the light of the above, the international community especially the United States of America and the United Kingdom had threatened to withhold aids from Nigeria and other countries that plan to toe the path of not recognising gay rights. Our lawmakers had however, called their bluff and went ahead, "zealously" to pass the bill from one reading to the other. Please do note the word "zealously".

Nigerians have also reacted to the bill with majority backing it and a few against it. The bill has also been largely blown out of proportion by Nigerians as majority have understood it as criminalising every homosexual act where, in earnest, all it stands against is the 'Solemnisation in matrimony of people of same sex'. In a nutshell, this bill does not seek to criminalise sexual relationships between people of same sex; rather it seeks to make the union in marriage of such persons a crime. You may want to click here for a copy of this bill.

As earlier stated, the Same Gender Marriage (Prohibition) bill is for an Act to Prohibit Marriage Between Persons of Same Gender, Solemnisation of Same and for Other Matters Related Therewith. It is different from the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act of 2006 which was an Act to Make Provisions for the Prohibition of Relationship Between Persons of the Same Sex, Celebration of Marriage by Them and for Other Matters Connected Therewith. The 2006 Act, which sought to criminalise homosexualism in its entirety didn’t see the light of day.

Even though the Same Gender Marriage (Prohibition) bill is yet it become law; Nigerians have already started meting out jungle justice on people of same sex caught in 'the act'; ignorant and overzealous Officers of the Nigerian Police Force have also been seen “enforcing a law” that does not exist.

While it is now clear that the said bill is not as harsh as most Nigerians have made it out to be; I, however, wonder at the essence of such a bill and the reason so much zeal was put into it by our distinguished and honourable lawmakers. I sit back and wonder why the Universal Head of the Goat Kingdom would rule that it has been prohibited for Goats to purchase and don human clothing...do Goats wear human clothes? Why the ban?

Nigerians are predominantly Christians and Muslims with a negligible few as pagans. None of these religious groups embraces homosexualism and since these same groups have been conferred the power to join people in marriage; it is highly unlikely that they would wed people of same sex. Truth be told, the occurrence of same-sex marriage in Nigeria is not anywhere close to being as popular the bill which seeks to halt it. The brouhaha about the bill actually got people talking about a hitherto irrelevant issue.  And this brings me to the nitty-gritty of this divination..."Relevance".

Nigeria has been and is still in penury due to the excesses of corrupt leaders and public office holders who loot our treasuries and public funds dry. We have series of cases where public funds have been blatantly looted and little or nothing was done to the highly-placed criminals.

Do you remember the 2008 probe in the power sector? Have you forgotten what played out? The 'Prober'- Hon. Ndudi Elumelu - got roped in and now the probe, the 'prober' and 'probee' have all disappeared with billions of Naira.

In 2012, there was a probe in the petroleum sector...do you recall what happened? The 'Prober' - Hon. Farouk Lawan- got roped in and the usual shenanigans have been employed by the great cabal in governance. With time, Nigerians would forget, and one day, would wake up to ask "what happened to the probe? Where are the 'Prober' and the 'Probee'? But by then, it would have been too late.

Going ahead, do you recall how our 'Outstanding' judiciary cleared Ex-Deltan Governor- Ibori - of all wrong-doings only for him to be convicted for same criminal charges in the United Kingdom and is presently serving jail term? Please, before you go on reading...pause in silence for a minute in respect to our 'Outstanding' Judiciary. 

Do you remember Chief Bode George who was guilty of an N85 Billion scam, sentenced to just 30 months in prison without the option of fine? He spent his term at the V.I.P section of the Kirikiri Prison, never wore prison clothes and enjoyed meals prepared by family and friends. He was released in 2011 amidst pomp and pageantry...most of the movers-looters-and-shakers of the country were at hand to celebrate with him including the governors and the great Olusegun Obasanjo. Look at the scenario, he was convicted of an N85 billion scam; sent to a hotel-like prison and after 2 years was asked to go and enjoy his loot. Perfect Business!

Do you recall when Andy Uba was caught and indicted by the United States Government for having smuggled in $170,000 dollars aboard the Nigerian Presidential Jet? The United States District Court of Portland seized the said amount which they believed was laundered on behalf of the then President, Olusegun Obasanjo. What happened afterwards? Back in Nigeria, both Obasanjo and Uba walked scot-free.  Uba is presently a member of the Nigerian Senate while Obasanjo is an 'elder statesman'.

Lucky Igbenedion was indicted for having looted Edo to a total amount of N44 Billion (N19 Billion was discovered in 2008 and N24 Billion in 2011). After all the rigmarole, the man had to  pay a fine of N3.5 Million and today he walks freely with his loot and would definitely be receiving allowances as an ex-governor of Edo state. The United States found this so appalling that they banned him from stepping into their Country.

Who sigh? With all the money he stole, he can probably afford a vacation to heaven. I no blame them Americans shaa, the man is pretty dangerous and might even steal the White House at the slightest opportunity.

Chief Priest, can you please shut up?!

I’m sorry Great one…Keep speaking, your servant listens.

Most recently; John Yakubu Yusufu, a former Director in the Police Pensions Office was convicted of N32.8 billion fraud but was given the options to pay N750, 000 (0.2% of what he stole) as fine or a 2 year jail term in the VIP section of a certain Prison. His Lawyer paid the fine on the spot. Even if Mr. Yusufu chose a 2 year jail term, he would wish for another opportunity to loot billions and either pay the law 0.2% of it or take a 2 year vacation in a hotel called prison.

The list goes on and on. X-ray both former and presently serving State Governors and you would shudder...but let me ask you? Do you know a certain Blessing Effiong? I would kill myself if you do! She is a 19 year old girl and she spent 4 years in prison for an alleged phone theft.

What about a Mr. Julius Aderoju? He stole a motorcycle valued at N120, 000 and was sentenced to 3 years in prison with hard-labour.

I am not saying that petit thieves shouldn’t be punished...but it baffles me how, in the same country and the same legal system, a petit thief is subjected to greater amount of punishment than a grand-scale thief; I really cannot comprehend it. The only sense I can make out of it is the apparent message that "If you want to be protected by law in Nigeria as a thief, then don't be a small-time thief! Steal really big".

Now who is to blame for all these? The Legislature or the Judiciary? In an apparent answer to these questions; Okey Wali (SAN) - the President of the Nigerian Bar Association - opined that the Judiciary isn't to blame for the mild sentences which corrupt public office holders receive. He suggested that there exist very weak anti-corruption laws in Nigeria. Okey Wali went ahead to point out that the country's penal code was ordained in 1916 and should have been reviewed long before now.

In other words, going by the assertions of Okey Wali, the onus falls back on the legislature whose duty it is to review the country's constitution and laws and this is done by the passage of bills. Even though this makes sense to a very large degree, the Judiciary cannot be without blame. The Ibori-EFCC case is a perfect example of where the Judiciary has been an utter disappointment; so many other instances are abound.

This now brings us back to the essence of this divination...with Nigeria in the shackles of corruption which threatens the very core of our existence as an entity - the shackles of corruption which has made us 'almost-men' who have never really attained expected heights even though the capabilities exist; the shackles of corruption which has seen the elevation and not alleviation of poverty - one should expect that every arm of government, especially the legislature, would work towards tackling corruption and setting Nigeria free from its grip.

Nigerians have suggested death sentence for people found guilty of misusing public funds and I seriously buy that idea; but it is one I know would never be passed into law because of the kindred spirit that exists between the top-office holders and because it would be akin to one shooting himself in the legs. If they are not thieves, why are they scared of bringing about an act that would severely punish anyone found wanting? Instead of "desperately" seeking for a review of constitution especially as it concerns corruption; our Law-makers chose to assiduously work towards a bill that would 'prevent the nonexistent matrimony of homosexuals'.

One popular defence line which our lawmakers have adopted with regards the Same Gender Marriage (Prohibition) bill is that "homosexualism is alien to our culture, so everything humanly possible must be done to make sure it is curbed". Therefore, an enormous 14 year incarceration period is being touted for people found 'guilty' when this bill eventually becomes law. But because corruption is part and parcel of our culture unlike homosexualism, it must be encouraged by asking for just 0.2% of the total money which a corrupt public office holder stole. It is appalling that soonest in Nigeria, being a homosexual would land you a 14 year jail term while stealing billions of public funds would land you 2 with an option of paying a negligible amount as fine.

I must reiterate that I am Nigerian through and through and that I despise homosexualism. It is profane. But realistically speaking, what two adults of same sex do in private has no effects whatsoever on the economy of our Country Nigeria and on the lives of their next door neighbors but the blatant looting of public funds does...so in the words of Hon. Patrick Obahiagbon "Parliament must rise and fix culpability where culpability is".

As much as I despise homosexualism, if I were asked to choose between a corruption-free Nigeria where homosexualism is accepted and a homosexualism-free Nigeria where corruption is accepted, I would pick the former without thinking twice.

Nigerians, please wake up from your slumber and request for relevant laws from your lawmakers. Don’t be fooled by the tricks of a bunch of thieves who are proposing irrelevant laws in order to appear busy while in earnest all they are avoiding are those laws that would ‘negatively’ affect their purses but put Nigeria on the path to glory.

The Oracle Has Spoken!!