Obama Fights Nigerian Anti-Gay Bill, Threatens To Cut Off Aid
U.S President Barack Obama is threatening to cut off foreign aid to Nigeria if a recent anti-gay bill is passed, but Nigerians are unwavering.
A couple of weeks ago the Nigerian senate passed a bill which strictly prohibits same-sex romantic liaisons. The consequences are dire and well stated: Erring individuals stand to bag a jail sentence of 10 to 14 years.
The bill is yet to pass through the country's lower legislative chamber, the House of Representatives before Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan can sign it into law.
Expectedly, the bill has raised furor among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons (LGBT), groups, human rights organizations, and western governments. On Tuesday, Obama issued a memo ordering American diplomats abroad to advance the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons (LGBT). The U.S government also announced that the fight against gay and lesbian discrimination would be a central point of its foreign policy, and transgressing nations like Nigeria could be denied aid.
But the overwhelming majority of Nigerians who support the anti-gay bill are adamant. Addressing the Nigerian press on Obama's threat, Zakari Mohammed, a Nigerian lawmaker said, "We have a culture. We have religious beliefs and we have a tradition. We are black people. We are not white, and so the U.S cannot impose its culture on us. Same sex marriage is alien to our culture and we can never give it a chance. So if (Western nations) will hold their aid to us, to hell with them."
Many Nigerians have frowned on the United States' invasion into the country's lawmaking process with many arguing that Nigeria as a sovereign nation reserves the right to make its own laws without interferences from external forces.
"No country has the right to interfere in the way we make our own laws because we don't interfere in the way others make their own laws," Nigeria's Senate President David Mark said when passing the bill.
The country's Minister for information, Labaran Maku said that Nigerians reserve the right to make its own laws without apologies to other countries. "Between Europe, America and Africa there is a huge culture gap. Some of the things that are considered fundamental rights abroad also can be very offensive to African culture and tradition and to the way we live our lives here," he said during a press conference.
Many Nigerians share the sentiments of the information minister. "If the U.S or any other foreign country wants to strip us of aid because we still hold on tightly to our values, then so be it. We are Africans, not Americans. We do not influence other countries when they are making their laws, so it is ridiculous that they'll attempt to influence the way we make our own laws. Africans view homosexuality as immoral. It has never been condoned in Africa, and it will certainly not be tolerated here in Nigeria," says Tosin Omole, a pastor at a local church in Lagos.
In most parts of Africa, homosexuality is vehemently frowned upon and perceived as an alien culture. The Nigerian anti-gay bill has so far enjoyed an overwhelming support from the majority of Nigerians, and it is highly likely that it will eventually be signed into law. But on whether the U.S government will make good its threat of denying aid to Nigeria in the event that the bill is signed, only time will tell.
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