By Reno Omokri
The criticism President Goodluck Jonathan has faced in some quarters for signing the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill 2011 into law is in my opinion clearly misplaced. For one, these critics have to understand that the way and manner democracy works, at least in Nigeria, is that the Legislature makes the laws, the Executive implements it and the Judiciary interprets it.
But be that as it may, in Nigeria, the President at any time is both a Head of State as well as the Head of Government, this is one reason why the President is called an Executive President.
As Head of State, President Jonathan is duty bound to epitomize the culture of Nigeria. As the late Afrobeat Maestro, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, sang in his hit song, ‘Teacher Don’t Teach me Nonsense’, the government’s teachers are culture and tradition. In fact, to quote Fela, he said ‘who be government teacher, culture and tradition’. You go France, Germany, Italy, na them culture for there be teacher for them’.
Many of those now criticizing the President danced with glee and agreement to that tune because as Jesus Christ said in John 8:32 “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”. What Christ did not add, but which we have come to find out ourselves is that before the truth sets you free, it may first make you angry!
Nigeria has its culture and it is the duty of governments to protect their culture.
It is quite unfortunate that critics who praise foreign human right agencies for calling for sanctions against Nigeria have not realized that Nigeria has cultures that many foreign nations would not tolerate.
For instance, Amy Chua, popularly known as ‘The Tiger Mom’ has an upcoming book entitled ‘The Triple Package’ in which she lists Nigerians as one of 8 Super Races who raise excellent children. One of the reasons which Chua lists for the successes of Nigerian parenting is the fact that many if not all Nigerian parents would not think twice about spanking a child who misbehaves as a way of correcting their behavior.
Many of my readers will agree that the fear of a spanking is a great motivator to behave well. In fact, some Nigerian parents will even spank their children if they have bad grades at school. Chua notes that the fear of such a spanking greatly motivates Nigerian children to do better than children of other nationalities. It is worth noting that Amy Chua is of Asian origin.
As a result, wherever they go, but especially in the United States, Nigerians are the immigrant community with the highest educational qualifications bar none!
However, it is actually illegal to spank children in many US states and in much of Europe and Nigerian parents have been arrested for motivating their children via spanking.
Now, if foreign domains would not tolerate something that is part of our own culture and which has been used to positive effects by generations of Nigerians, why should we accept something that is not in our own culture in order to please others?
In the modern world in which we live in, male and female sexuality have been flashed very powerfully and provocatively by the media on youths approaching puberty to the extent that mixed messages on sexuality are passed on to many youths who do not know how to handle the images they see and their response to them.
The confusion that these images bring lead to tendencies being formed. If these tendencies are fed, they will grow stronger. If they are starved, they will grow weaker.
Almost 100 percent of the Nigerian population declare that they are Christian, Muslim or Traditionalists. All of these religions reject homosexuality as a way of life. Let me make myself very clear here, these religions reject homosexuality as a way of life and not homosexuals. During His lifetime on earth, Jesus hated sin but showed love to sinners.
As such, we must understand that good laws shouldn’t conflict with The Word of God to suit lifestyles. Rather, they should conflict with lifestyles to suit The Word of God.
There would be people that would say the law is not fair to those with such a lifestyle and they may have a point. But we must be able to distinguish between what is fair and what is right. They are not the same thing.
For instance, if you are a Christian you know that in Christianity, once there is genuine repentance, God will still forgive even a serial killer and leave open the doorway to eternal life in His Kingdom to such a person. On the other hand, if his victims died without accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, according to Scripture, they would be unable to access eternal life in the kingdom of God.
Now, if you ask me, I would say that it does not sound fair, and many people would be of the same opinion. But it is right, if you are a Christian, because Christians believe that God made us and is Sovereign over us.
It is not only homosexuality that is against our culture and the religions which we profess as Nigerians. Corruption, oil theft, election rigging, terrorism and other activities are likewise against our culture and religion and we have made laws against them and people have been arrested and sent to jail. Nobody is singling out homosexuality.
So when foreign Oped pieces lampoon the Nigerian Legislature as well as the Federal Government, rather than hold these opinion pieces as proof that an error was made with the signing into law of this bill, what we as Nigerians must do is to ask ourselves the question, what should be the driver of our Grundnorm, the basic norm, order and rule that forms the underlying basis for our legal system? Should it be the opinions and cultures of other nations or should it be the cultures of our people?
And it is trite nonsense for critics to write that the President only signed the Bill in order to distract the public. With all due respect, distract the public from what? If a genuine rebranding of a nation is the projection of positive things that are happening, then there are enough positive things happening in Nigeria that are capable of catching and holding the attention of Nigerians.
For the first time in our nation’s history, this year’s World Economic Forum on Africa will be hosted by Nigeria in Abuja from May 7-9, 2014. The choice of Nigeria as a host is against the background that Nigeria, under President Jonathan, has recently emerged as the largest economy in Africa (tinyurl.com/pbbld8r). Today, Nigerians live 10% longer than they did in 2007 and earn 65% more than they did in the same period (tinyurl.com/y5tfwwd) and (tinyurl.com/yyl5xy2).
With the growth in our economy and the progress in our Human Development Index, why would the President need to divert the attention of Nigerians with the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill? If there is any distraction at all it is that this storm in a tea cup is distracting media attention from the real and tangible benefits of the Transformation Agenda such as the fact that Nissan recently announced that as a result of the new National Automobile Policy they would begin to build cars in Nigeria with effect from 2014.
Let me add one last word to those who continue to criticize President Jonathan. You can’t pursue greatness and comfort at the same time. Leaders must be willing to stand up for what they know is right even when critics cry for blood.
Reno Omokri is Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on New Media.