I like to think humans are products of memories. We remember people by the memories they left behind — the things they did, how they did, when they did, how it made us feel and the lessons we learned from it.
I remember Abacha as the Nigerian Military ruler that had Nigerians rejoicing at his death; Chimamanda as the author who penned my life’s story in Purple Hibiscus; ‘IC’ as my first straight friend who validated my queerness opened his arms and asked: “How can I support you?”; Buhari as the ‘saviour’ who turned out to be an utter disappointment; Ex- President Olusegun Obasanjo and his Operation Feed the Nation initiative, Mrs A, as the woman who first opened my eyes to see how much incredible creative gift I have.
But Former President Goodluck Jonathan. Oh! Goodluck Jonathan.
The gross incompetence, inefficiency, slothfulness, the lies and ugh! January 7th, 2014.
I doubt that I remember the events that led up to that day — the day Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same-Sex Prohibition Act into law. But I remember the aftermath; how it made me feel. And even now, 5 years later, how it makes me feel.
I was a student at a Federal University in North Central Nigeria ‘struggling’ to understand why I still had ‘boners’ when T passed my room wrapped in his white towel from his waist down and why it was hard living with A who liked to sag his boxers and walk around with his erection. It was also the point when I was getting fed up of the prayers and fasting and self hate I had accumulated all the while.
The law that had just been passed and its brand promise — 14 years — spread really fast. By the time we resumed from the Christmas / New Year break, ’14 years’ had become a joke
You see two guys leaving the room together to fetch water, “Una be gay?. 14 years oo!!!” was the joke. A guy reserves a seat for a guy friend in a lecture hall, “why no be girl? You be homo? 14 years o!” was the default response. A guy spends more than 2-4 minutes in the bathroom, “e be like sey that guy na 14 years oo” one random guy will remark.
Everyone else will laugh. But for me. It was a joke to everyone but me!
Of course, sometimes I joined to laugh, to reassure myself that my ‘deliverance’ was coming soon and this homo life would be behind me. I would no longer be at risk of this 14 years.
Only that deliverance never came.
It wasn’t until sometime later that I read the content of the January 7th Same-Sex Prohibition Act.
It reads “Persons who enter into a same-sex marriage contract or civil union commit an offence and are each liable on conviction to a term of 14 years in prison. Any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisations or directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationship in Nigeria commits an offence and shall each be liable on conviction to a term of 10 years in prison.”
And it was worse than I had thought.
The other day, I shed a few tears after watching the critically acclaimed anti-racism movie; “The Hate U Give”. And oh, what a perfect representation of injustice. But it was nothing about the racism or the acting or even the music that moved me to tears. It was the realization that the script, the movie could have as well played out in Nigerian situation only that instead of racism, the subject of the injustice is homophobia and it will be accurate.
So, I shed tears because only a few days before watching the movie, I had read the TIERs 2018 Human Rights Violation Report; a report that highlighted several experiences of injustice against Queer People. Police brutality, conversation therapy, gang rape, mass arrests, and jungle justice were common themes.
In Nigeria, Homophobia is as widely spread and widely accepted as air and even in parts of Northern Nigeria, by just being Queer, you are at risk of death.
One man, Goodluck Jonathan signed the law that validated this inhumane expressions of injustice.
The past 4 days have been quite challenging.
It’s easy to deal with homophobia when it’s on Twitter — from people you can mute or block or report. But in the past few days as though planned, it hit close to home — from people I love and deeply cherish one after the other very simultaneously. It never occurred to me why all these occurrences were getting more frequent now until yesterday when a friend reminded me that today January 7th is the 5th year anniversary of the SSMPA.
But this is how the universe works; everything comes together to remind you of pain, of loss, of that thing Goodluck Jonathan did.
I am not a better gay man than E, a victim of religous abuse, conversion therapy or Rape. I am not a better human than S, a victim of police brutality and arbitrary arrests. Neither am I more careful than the several unrecorded cases of jungle justice against gay men.
Goodluck Jonathan, today is a exercise in remembrance. Of how many have been murdered, are in prison, have lost their jobs because of this beautiful thing you c
You and those who supported this law are not in any way different from the murderers, the hateful people, the rapists, the extortioners you have empowered.
We will not forget. But we won’t stay quiet either.
We will fight against this injustice you signed into law. From as little as reporting homophobic tweets, blocking homophobic friends, to sponsoring more Queer-representative movies, we will fight.
And when we are done, Goodluck Jonathan, we will demand a public apology.
Roi Petite is a freelance creative. He is also a staff writer on The Rustin Times. He can be reached on Twitter via @roipetite.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed in this Op-Ed by the Writer are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Rustin Times.