Nigerian president reinstates anti-LGBT crackdown

On Sep 6, 2016 The Washington Blade reported: It was dawn in Nigeria on Dec. 31, 1983, just a few days before my ninth birthday and I was excited for my party. When the news broke that the military had taken over power in a coup, my father, a former police officer and a card-carrying member of the Unity Party of Nigeria, a Socialist factional party of southwest Nigeria, was concerned about our safety.

He locked us in a room and begged us to not scream while he explained to us, his three children, what had happened. When Maj. Gen. Mohammed Buhari was named as the military ruler of the country, it meant little to me. It was just another day in a chaotic Nigeria. Within a few months, however, his influence reached even me.

One way we made a living in my family was by hawking “pure water” along the busy main road just around the corner from our house. This supplemented my mother’s salary as a cleaner in a university and my father’s salary as a security guard at the National Stadium. After school and before doing my homework, I would hawk. The poverty we experienced was not uncommon and there were many other boys and girls like me who were working really hard to put food on the tables of their families.

A few months after Buhari came into power, he introduced a program called the “War Against Indiscipline” (WAI) meant to instill and promote discipline in Nigerians. The project prohibited many things the government considered to be “anti-social behavior,” including street hawking, jumping ahead in queue, bribery and homosexuality. At the surface, the project seemed harmless, apart from the fact that it prohibited homosexuality. It was well received by many Nigerians who saw massive corruption and a lack of governance in the country.

When I was 9-years-old, the WAI brigade arrested me for street hawking. Luckily, I was not flogged, but my parents had to pay a fine for my release. I also witnessed men being flogged on the street for driving carelessly, women harassed for “indecent” outfits and traders’ wares taken away from them, only to be shared among the WAI brigade. The Buhari anti-corruption brigade suddenly became a champion of corruption. The WAI period was one of the most dehumanizing and degrading periods Nigerians endured.

Now Buhari is back in office, albeit as a civilian government official, and with his reemergence is the re-introduction of WAI. When I was a young person, Buhari, made it hard for my family to put food on the table. As an openly gay man, the reintroduction of WAI has come to hunt me in a new way.

The reintroduction establishes seven key punishable offenses and homosexuality is at its core. In 35 years, many things have changed. Since the last time Buhari was in power, Nigeria has tried passing the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act more than five times in 12 years, but in 2014, under the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria achieved that feast. Thus they became the first country in the modern world to constitutionally criminalize same-sex relationships with 14-years imprisonment.

However, while Jonathan is known for his docile, ineffective and dull sense of active governance, the power and danger of Buhari lies in his desperation to prove to everyone, but most importantly to himself, that he is not a weak leader.

Read more at: Nigerian president reinstates anti-LGBT crackdown

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