Marcus Tullius Cicero wrote: “The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.”
Today, Monday, May 28, 2018, The United States of America celebrates the Memorial Day to remember fallen heroes who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. In Nigeria, the Joint Nigeria Crisis Action Committee (JN-CAC) declared May 28 as the National Day of Mourning and Remembrance for people who have fallen as a result of the violent killings in Nigeria in recent times.
According to the press statement released by the JN-CAC, The African Centre for Strategic Studies estimates that over 60,000 persons were killed in Nigeria’s Middle Belt between 2001 and 2016. In the first 70 days of 2018, over 1,400 persons were killed through violence across the country. These statistics do not include the numerous Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender victims who have also fallen as a result of hate.
While we mourn these people who have been killed through insurgence or conflict, may we not forget our brothers, sisters, fathers, nephews, nieces, uncles, aunts and children who were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and have been killed for who they are. May we also observe a minute of silence for these ones who were killed through jungle justice and mob action. Let us not forget the ones that have been made to flee their homes and countries in search of protection and safety in foreign lands. The ones who have found home away from home, who miss their motherland but cannot return home because the laws of their land are against them.
While we are at it, let us not also forget that the unfriendly anti-gay law in Nigeria silently kills the ones who have remained, every day. Norman Cousins could not have been wrong when he wrote that “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” Perhaps, it will be shocking to reveal the statistics of LGBT Nigerians who are lost to suicide and mental health challenges because the country they should be proud of stabbed them in the back; and the front; even on both sides of their ribs and robbed them of their essence of living.
On this day, I have also chosen to light a candle in memory of fallen Nigerian heroes who were gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgender and are no more. The ones who did not conform to societal pressure. The ones who rebelled against the law and society to stay true to themselves. Those ones who were bold and courageous enough to stand for what they believed in.
The likes of Dare Odumuye, one of the foremost gay rights activists who was not afraid to challenge the law and care for his community; Rotimi Fani-Kayode, who through his art went ahead of time to tell stories of African queer culture and sexuality; Justin Fashanu, who is an example of the many challenges LGBT Nigerian youths face and who are often pushed to take their own lives; and Area Scatter who was not afraid to let his sexuality shine through when he performed and entertained as a drag queen in the 70s.
I may not have met them, but their strength, struggle and perseverance are the encouragement that LGBT Nigerians have embraced to continue in the struggle for equality, diversity, inclusion and fight for their fundamental human rights.
It is the National Day of Mourning and Remembrance. We have not forgotten. We will never forget the many injustices against our humanity. We mourn, every day. We will continue to mourn. And we stand in solidarity with these fallen heroes of ages past and present.
So long, farewell.
A luta continua, Vitória é certa
Peter Okeugo is a Nigerian journalist, former delegate to the Youth Assembly at The United Nations, New York and UNESCO/MAB Youth Forum, Italy. He is a 2018 Media Justice Fellow of the Bisi Alimi Foundation.