A Senate Without Vision


David Bonaventure Alechenu Mark, the Nigerian Senate President, courtesy of a cruel irony, was in that accustomed mood of sadism. Not that one expects anything less. Clearly, not disposed to taking a fleeting look across the floor for a last-minute hint of objection—even as unlikely as that might seem—the retired army general heedlessly hammered the gavel on his massive desk. Bang! With that misguided action, Mr. Mark delivered a devastating blow to the emotional stability of sexual minorities and struck the final nail in the coffin of an increasingly haunting same sex marriage in this clime.

Mark you, the applause for this singular act can only come from those who ignorantly hopped on the Senate’s bullet train for a long ride back into the dark past. Without doubt, all these people lining up behind the Senate on this are those whose psyches are formed and shaped by the immutability of conventions; they are the unfortunate mental slaves held back in the unyielding fortress of dogma. Like the senators, they simply cannot see beyond the dim world they have created for themselves.

In the warped wisdom of our fossilised Senate, it is now a crime to be punished with long years in prison if one is found guilty of promoting or succumbing to a sexual orientation which repudiates the so-called natural order. And there seems to be no other impulse for ratifying such a backward bill, promoted by 25 senators, who can only have been afflicted by indolence and provincialism, than the spurious need to “protect our culture.”

Yes, it’s all false because here’s a Senate that’s never been driven by any altruistic motive.

Need our haughty senators, who never miss any chance to proclaim their democratic integrity, be reminded that if they are ever keen on shielding our culture, the abridgement of basic rights of fellow citizens, or anyone for that matter, is not the place to begin?

In sanctioning same sex relationship, the Senate has unwittingly provoked further questions about the democratic credentials of its members and cast that institution in bad light in the community of civilised people.

Right thinking people have to question the propriety in the speedy passage of gay laws in a society where about 80 per cent can hardly afford one decent meal every day. How, for instance, will banning same sex union create jobs, reduce poverty, upgrade security and rebuild dilapidated infrastructure littered across the country? In what ways will this law impact positively on the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals in which Nigeria has been shown to be embarrassingly several miles behind less endowed countries like Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda and Malawi?

Were our senators duly cognizant of their briefs, they would know that there is a legion of existential problems plaguing Nigerians today than taking note of the sexual lives of individuals. One would have expected Domingo Obende, the ACN senator from Edo State, who originated the bill, to fix his gaze on the persistent abuse of power by the ruling PDP, who use the police and other security agents to harass and curtail movements of innocent citizens, including members of his own party.

At least, Obende would not say he is not aware that PDP members from Bayelsa State on their way to Abuja to witness the court case involving Governor Timipre Sylva were stopped and detained at Lokoja and later “deported” to Bayelsa. Before that, ACN members travelling from Lagos and Osogbo to Abuja for legitimate purposes were stopped by the police at different times around Lokoja, detained and eventually refused entry into a city that should be accessible to every Nigerian. Or would he say such a brazen violation of the right of citizens to move and associate freely in their country is not serious enough for him to raise his voice on the floor of the Senate? What has Obende done about it? Nada, as the Spanish would say.

Instead, a man who ought to be troubled by the menace of soil erosion back home in Edo North Senatorial District, or by the recent damning UNEP report on environmental degradation in the Niger Delta, has found contentment in railroading through the Senate, a law that adds nothing to improve the quality of governance at all levels.

Of course, all our senators wear clothes designed by well-known, long-established names in the fashion industry. If they are not aware, then someone must tell them that many of those designer attires, footwear and bags with which they strut about and show off at the National Assembly are products of the creative ingenuity of those in the same sexual league with those who they now want to crucify in Nigeria. And one can bet that on the day that bill was passed, more than half the senators wore labels associated with gays.

Since it began sitting, this Senate, on all counts, has displayed an acute lack of focus. Discount the Senate president’s rhetoric on the threat by Britain to deny aid to countries with anti-gay laws. The way he spoke brashly about the British threat, you would think that Mr. Mark stands on any convincing pedestal to summon the subliminal pride of his compatriots. No, not from a man who just launched a brand new golf course on a terrain where grinding poverty walks on four legs.

•Godwin Onyeacholem is editor, GIRAFFE magazine