In the run up to President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent visit to the US, there were palpable fears among Nigerians that the visit was structured for President Barack Obama to arm-twist the Nigerian president into reversing the anti same sex marriage act which Nigerian Senate passed into law last year.
The US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Linda Thomas Green-Field’s spirited argument that the fight for the rights of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender (LGBT) is an integral part of USA foreign policy which must be enforced globally, only helped to fuel the suspicion and put Nigerians on edge.
It is perplexing that the USA, (formerly known as New England) a country that was basically partly founded by some Christian puritans who migrated from England owing to persecutions, have now turned 360% in their attitude to homosexuals. Although history is known to often repeat itself, (and in this case, history is repeating its self unpleasantly) it was never envisaged that in this life, sodomy- now disguised as LGBT would be glamorised and glorified.
In any case, you would wonder no more about how the US descended to such horrific level of moral decadence, when you realise that apart from the puritan Christians, there is another set of people from England, who under punishment, were sent off by British authorities to the farms in the Americas where 13 states initially discovered by a Spanish sailor, Christopher Columbus, had become part of British colonies.
Over the years, both the Puritan Christians and the lawbreakers who left England to constitute the core nucleus of USA started congregating under two distinctive political camps. On one side are Republicans under the auspices of the Grand Old Party (GOP) dominated by the puritans and on the other side are the liberals of Democratic Party with a support base of the original non-conformists.
With the Democratic Party as the ruling party in the past seven years, Laissez faire attitude to issues of morality was introduced. As a result, the core Christian moral values held dearly and entrenched in US culture with the conservative Republican Party as the standard-bearers and as encapsulated in the 1776 Declaration of Independence where God was specifically mentioned “the law of nature and of nature’s God” started being eroded. Consequently, strong US values are now rapidly being sacrificed on the altar of political expediency by the ruling Democratic Party.
Simply put, the Democratic Party is basically whittling down US high moral values to make the party attractive to latter day immigrants tagged independents/swing voters – Germans, Jews, Dutch, Hispanics, Blacks, Asians – who are neither Christians nor non-conformists.
The strategy behind the wooing of these new voter blocks is to pull them into the loop to facilitate the expansion of the voter base of the Democratic Party and thus guarantee her return as the ruling party in the upcoming presidential election in 2016. The foregoing analogy may be simplistic, but how else can one explain a situation whereby a country whose currency, the dollar carries the insignia ‘In God We Trust’ (reinforcing the critical role of God) suddenly become a haven for practitioners of sodomy that God wiped out with fire and brimstone in the story of Sodom & Gomorrah?
Were it not for the Supreme Court judgment, the freaky members of the deviant sect (LGBT) could have remained in the ‘closet’ or on the fringe where they have been since time immemorial. While it is justifiable not to discriminate against gays, the elevation of gay rights from mere practice of the abnormal act to the rights to marry each other and even convert from one sex gender to the other, (as Caitlyn Jenner has done) by the highest level of the US judiciary, has now brought the sacred institution of marriage to the base and banal level. So much so that the likes of Jenner are now declaring themselves as the new ‘normal’ and his (her) fans, chief of which is President Barack Obama, are acknowledging it as the existential realities of the 21st century. The implication of this is that anybody that sneers at LGBTs would now be guilty of the offence of sexism like a fascist or racist.
Proponents of gay marriage law in the western world of which the US is now a leading light have compelling argument that gay right is human right that must be enforced. That may be logically fair, but so also is polygamy a human right that should be enforced but the USA and most part of the western world forbid their citizens from engaging in polygamy. So the question is: how come the US constitution does not recognise the rights of many Americans who in the bid to avoid violating laws of the country, are being compelled to migrate to Mexico where polygamy is not criminalised? That logic can also be stretched further by inferring that, the right to remain alive (as opposed to dying from hunger) is also human right but people are dying on the streets of South Sudan owing to starvation (a fallout of a perennial war and famine) without the US’s intervention in the manner she has vigorously hounded African countries like Uganda, Nigeria and others that passed anti gay laws.
While advocacy for conformity in anti corruption or anti terrorism war is understandable because they are mutually beneficial as we are all interconnected in a global village, but crusade for universal practice of same sex marriage and prohibition of polygamy appears to me like an exclusive US, advanced western society affair which she is trying to shove down the throat of Africans.
Can you imagine, the Arabs, Persians or Africans who practise polygamy insisting that polygamy should be accepted as a way of life in western countries like USA, UK, France or Germany? It’s unthinkable.
Ever wondered why the UK and USA also actively engaged in the Arab and Persian worlds like Saudi Arabia and Iran, yet they don’t try to strip those allies of their culture and religion by imposing their alien cultures and values like they do in Africa? Those Arab countries are not poverty stricken like African countries so they dictate the basis of their relationships-culture and trade- with the western world. In Africa’s relationship with the industrialised western world, the continent is the junior partners hence the imposition of values that sometimes manifest as bullying.
Coated with the veneer of aids, which in reality is disguised bribe, some western countries funded non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or civil society organisations influence Africans from Kampala to Kigali, Cape to Cairo into accepting perverted westernised ways of life such as the practice of LGBT which amounts to robbing Africans of their culture.
Incidentally, Buhari as military head of state some 30 years ago carried on with the policy of liberating Africa, which was started by leaders who struggled for and achieved Nigeria’s independence in 1960 like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Tafawa Balewa, and Obafemi Awolowo amongst others.
So going to the USA on 19th July 2015, Buhari was on a familiar terrain and therefore knew exactly what to give away and what to take away which international relations or diplomacy is all about. Pressed by the USA congress to reverse the anti same sex law in Nigeria, Buhari reportedly responded by telling his hosts that sodomy is a taboo in Africa and outlawed in Nigeria because over 80% of Nigerians are against it (Pew Report actually puts the figure at 98%). By so doing, Buhari smartly and commendably justified his objection to their demand by using one of the cardinal principles of democracy – majority carries the vote – a tenet the US covets as the objective principle for his position.
Not done, he turned the table against the USA by reminding them that by denying Nigeria of the much needed arms and ammunition like Apache choppers required to combat terrorism based on unsubstantiated claims of human rights abuse (Leahy law forbids USA from selling arms to countries whose armies have poor human rights records), America has been inadvertently helping foster Boko Haram terrorism in Nigeria and indeed the Gulf of Guinea and therefore vicariously guilty of the avoidable human carnage. The frustration expressed by President Buhari was supposed to prick the conscience of USA lawmakers and it has done exactly that.
Senator Patrick Leahy, the promoter of the law, has responded to President Buhari. In his view “President Buhari ignored the undisputed fact that most Nigerian army units have been approved, under the Leahy law, for US training and equipment. Only those particular units against which there is credible evidence of the most heinous crimes are ineligible for US aid. And even those units can again become eligible if the Nigerian government takes effective steps to bring the responsible individuals to justice”. The above clarification in my view, is good news because it reveals that, at last, a Nigerian leader’s voice is being heard and discussed in the top echelon of US political establishment.
My excitement about that positive development reached the highest crescendo when Senator Leahy concluded his response by saying: “l strongly agree with President Buhari about the need to defeat Boko Haram, and l have supported tens of millions of dollars in US aid to Nigeria for that purpose.” This suggests that the window for negotiation is still wide open and Nigeria only need to push harder by doing the needful (sanctioning officers found guilty and instituting internal monitoring and control system to track human rights abuse in the armed forces) to get the much sought military hardware from the US to defeat Boko Haram.
Given Nigeria’s role as the foremost peace keeper in Africa with respect to guaranteeing security and safety in the Gulf of Guinea and Lake Chad region, helping the US intervene in conflicts around the continent and by virtue of the size of Nigeria’s economy as the biggest as well as the sheer population size as the largest in Africa, she qualifies for such special privilege.
Similarly, the concept of allowing the US station her proposed military base for Africa, AFRICOM (now temporarily located in Germany) in Nigeria could also be a beneficial trade-off that could permanently hinge Nigeria to the US as it is with Germany, Japan and South Korea where there are several American military bases with enormous social and economic benefits.
Over all, it is my view that Buhari’s performance in the Oval Office of the White House on 20th July with Obama and subsequently with congressmen complement his performance in British Chatham House on 26 February where he made a presentation to the British intelligentsia.
As a seasoned farmer, Buhari has sown the seed of friendship and cooperation between Nigeria and the industrialised world represented by the US, UK and the other members of the G-7 countries like Germany. It is now left to the Nigerian government to (as a good farmer would), patiently and diligently nurture and harness the seed of goodwill derivable from Buhari’s historic trips abroad in the spirit of shuttle diplomacy.
Magnus Onyibe, a former commissioner in Delta State, is a development strategist and futurologist.