Benue State’s Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill: Where Are The Priorities?

Benue State’s Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill: Where Are The Priorities?

Benue, a North-Central Nigerian State, has become more prominent in recent times for so many wrong reasons. It is a state with a population of 4,253,641 as of the 2006 census. With farming as the main occupation, the state can be credited with the production of cash crops such as potatoes, cassava, soya bean, guinea corn, flax, yams, sesame, rice, groundnuts and palm nuts. Its closest neighbour northward is Kogi State and eastward, Enugu State.

In the past, the state has been plagued by flooding during which the dailies and social media were full of gory details about how a population ranging from 100,000 was displaced from their homes. In that time, Nigerians, young and old, straight and gay, united to save these 100,000 human beings because it was the most humane thing to do. Everyone was reaching out through any means – from social media campaigns to radio discussions – to send relief materials across. By February 10, 2018, the first revealing story hit the headlines: Fraud after Flood: How Relief Materials for Benue Victims Were Diverted. In his usual taciturn manner, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State dismissed the claims of the media as false and the machinations of his opposition.

However, from 2017 to 2018, this same state has been the melting pot of such horror stories of alleged Fulani herdsmen attacks. The word ‘alleged’ is used so often to characterize these stories, it becomes difficult not to see it for it is – a play on words, an excuse to derail any proper action intended against the culprits. From a mass burial held in January 11, 2018 for 72 people killed in the conflict between nomadic herdsmen and farmers in Makurdi to the victims of January 1, 2018 attack that also left 500,000 persons displaced, the state has been wreaked with havoc, fear and tears.

As if these were not enough, in April 24, 2018, worshipers at the St. Ignatius Quashi Catholic Church Parish in Ukpor-Mbalom in Gwer Local Government Area of the state were attacked and killed by – again – suspected herdsmen. This time, at least 19 people were killed including two priests.

The latest attack came barely four days after the murder of 10 persons by herdsmen in the neighboring Guma Local Government Area and the destruction of 300 houses by men suspected to be military personnel in Naka, Gwer West Local Government Area of the state. There were reports that several persons sustained bullet wounds, while the invaders also sacked part of the village, razing close to 60 houses, huts, and farmland, economic trees, as well as the food barns of their victims.

Let’s not even forget the 29 persons who were massacred in March 5, 2018 in an attack at Omusu village in Okpokwu Local Government Area. 14 of the victims were women while two were children killed on their way back from school.

These killings are callous and unfortunate, some say, but what is even more unfortunate is the possibility that there must have been several unreported attacks by suspected herdsmen which have left hundreds of people dead in various communities within the state in recent months.

And on the premise of all that has been said, someone would have expected the legislators and the executive of the state to get together a plan to built frontiers and make stricter laws that will keep Benue residents safe – especially since the governor had accused the big wigs in power of ignoring several warnings of impending attacks on communities in Benue by herdsmen in a January 13 meeting with the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Security.

The Committee was in the state on a fact-finding mission on the attacks and the governor told them: “We wrote to the Vice President regarding the planned attacks on parts of Benue by Fulani herdsmen, because the threat was everywhere on the streets, but he refused to reply. However, when Mr. President returned from the United Kingdom, I intimated him through a letter. The documents are here.”

However, Governor Ortom in May 29 did an about turn in the charges against President Buhari regarding the herdsmen killings in his state, stressing that those linking the president to the attacks were being mischievous. He said: “Come 2018, Buhari will definitely come here for campaigns. I cannot preempt what he will say or what Benue people will say. But as you know, in politics, there are no permanent enemies or permanent friends, but permanent interest… That the herdsmen are killing Benue people does not mean it is Buhari who is responsible. There are still reasonable herdsmen who still live here in peace with their neighbours.”

Such naked avarice! An agenda-driven governor, who chooses to advance his personal ambition and political survival at the cost of the lives of his own people! This is the same man who was accused by the military of sponsoring and arming a militia responsible for reprisal killings! The governor who purportedly wrote several times to President Buhari, pushing for assistance from the federal government to combat the murderous crises! The same governor who identified Miyetti Allah as the culprit, and then turned around to fail to hold the Miyetti Allah patrons responsible for the continued genocide!

What a shame.

In 2014, former president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan signed into law a bill criminalizing same-sex marriage in Nigeria. It was called the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act. Now, with all these killings happening in Benue, Governor Ortom and members of the Benue State House of Assembly have pushed a lousy same-sex marriage prohibition bill into law. Jonathan, in his time, signed the bill into law so as to seek favour among Nigerians who were dissatisfied with his government and whom he knew would be easily swayed by the pandering to their sense of morality and religion. Ortom has followed suit, and so, it would seem that if any politician wishes to run for a second tenure in office, all they have to do is legislate a law against the LGBTQI community.

The LGBTQI community is always a perfect scapegoat to the unscrupulous machinations of the Nigerian leadership. Samuel Ortom clearly has intentions of running for governor again in 2019, and to further his ambition, he has come after the LGBTQI in Benue State, a plan he figures will work better for his political goal, instead of pushing for laws that will keep his people safe and seeing how to ameliorate incessant killings in the state. One would have expected that the lawmakers of the state would be more concerned with fixing this porosity in their security system. Instead, they chose to pass a bill prohibiting a marriage contract or civil union entered into between persons of same sex in the state. This bill was passed in May 30, just a few days after countrymen and women had observed The National Mourning Day. What happened to passing a more stringent arms law? There’s not even any law on disarmament. Is this bill the first step to protecting Benue citizens? Would the enactment save those who are still living and enduring? Who are these governor and lawmakers?!

After the first attack, Governor Ortom had claimed that the presidency had abandoned them and didn’t care about them, only for him to turn around on Democracy Day to say that the presidency was not responsible for the attacks and had no idea what was happening to them and how the attacks happened. This was when the presidency declared that it was going to implement a combination of security, humanitarian and peace-building measures in the North Central regions of Nigeria, areas that had suffered banditry and bloodshed. The presidency also claimed that it had approved N10 billion for the rebuilding of affected communities. It would be interesting to note just how much substance these claims have as time goes on, considering how, instead of ambitiously seeing that these claims materialize into something that has an actual impact on the people of Benue, all the state government could bring themselves to focus on is the passage of some same sex marriage prohibition bill.

As though there are any LGBTQI persons in Benue State whose probable unions are affecting the safety and welfare of the state. Or perhaps, these LGBTQI persons are the actual culprits behind the killings, and this law preventing them from getting married is really just a tactic to flush them out of their hideouts and prosecute them for the lives they’ve taken from Benue State. Maybe, just maybe.

Nigeria has a history of ignoring pertinent issues that take into consideration actual lives and superseding them with less important affairs. This has got to stop. We need to prioritize our issues and stop politicizing human lives. Perhaps this wheel of desperate political maneuvering will stop if younger generations of Nigerians step up and wrest the reins of government from these old farts. With the passing of Not Too Young To Run bill, every young person should get involved in our politics with the intent to rebuild the future of this country and generations of Nigerians to come. Active participation, mobilization and citizen engagement should be the anthem every civil society organization should focus on. As young effective leaders, we need to understand the bigger picture; that we don’t know or agree with someone’s lifestyle, beliefs and philosophy is not enough reason to sign off on their death and discrimination. Whatever happened to focusing on building a virile economy and combating terrorism and youth restiveness?

The world is changing, ever more so with its championing of diversity. We should promote the acceptance of gender and sexual diversity. The ubuntu ideology teaches quality that includes the essential human virtues: compassion and humanity. We ought to embrace this. Empower ourselves to speak to critical issues that are relevant and impactful.

Right here, right now, safety for all, irrespective of political affiliation, gender, sexual orientation, educational qualification and location, is our topmost priority. We have been about enough deaths in Nigeria. Shouldn’t it be about time we start being about living?

Written by Ekene Odigwe

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10 Comments

  1. Stefny
    June 07, 09:00 Reply

    I really loved this write up, kudos to you. Although I really want to post this on naijalez.com, is that allowed?

    • Pink Panther
      June 07, 13:53 Reply

      As long as you state this site as the original publication, then post away.

  2. Bigfoot
    June 07, 09:38 Reply

    There are a lot of controversies surrounding that bill. Truth is no matter what we say, it has been passed. What’s done is done.

    I’m aware civil society organisations are lobbying heavily such that they got the attention of the House Committee on Health but based on info I’m not at liberty to divulge, I know that this will soon be water under the River Benue bridge.

  3. Mandy
    June 07, 13:57 Reply

    Perhaps if Ortom gets voted out next year, despite this stunt intended to distract his people, then maybe Nigerian incumbent politicians will realize the futility of scapegoating the LGBT to make political ends meet.

    • Dunder
      June 07, 20:10 Reply

      Benue people would have to be incredibly daft to return this Ortom guy. He was swept in with the change wave and now that things look like the change Buhari meant was population control in the middle belt and south, Ortom’s putting party politics before his constituents’ life, freedom and property should hurt him seriously- when you can’t even control/BAN grazing or improve security and the president has not found the free time to visit this state, citizens should feel insulted but I guess the governor is scared of being impeached by a house stupid enough to copy and paste a bill already signed into law . Having recriminalized about 2% of their population that was already in hiding, I am sure all the dead will be resurrected and even the herdsmen and their accomplices will give their lives to Christ.

  4. Dunder
    June 07, 20:55 Reply

    A very fact-full piece that expresses the my opinion on this smoke and mirrors bill. I don’t want to be too pessimistic but I have studied Nigerian history long enough to know that youth, by itself, is not a redeeming quality. In fact, the rashness that comes with it can be in serious opposition to common sense. Virtually all the past Nigerian rulers had age on their side. Every military titan or terrorist was young when they ruled or died. Danjuma shot his unarmed boss when he was young. Obasanjo shot 17 university students dead when young as well. All succesful coups were planned and executed by young airheads. Gowon and OJukwu could have organized a vote that would have permitted the peaceful secession of Nigeria but the ego that goes with youth… IBB, Abacha, fani-kayode snr, and even Nzeogwu who had truly honest intentions were all young. Ok, there was an Ige, Zik, Jakande or Soyinka or Awolowo here or there but the majority of ogas at the top were foolish young men and that was before smart phones, Pentecostal Christianity and the more virulent strains of Islam that define today’s Nigeria space.

    How many young people in your church, school or neighborhood can you entrust with a battery of hens? Who are the most problematic members of the legislature or the fed. exec. Council? How many youth know more than what pastor x, sheikh y and instablog broadcasts every morning? As for the few shining lights, how do they win elections or convince be-droned Nigerians to focus on the things that mater in a country where Falanas lose elections soundly and Dinas are killed off? The few smarts whose lives are spared have to take orders from a godfather. People still spend all night banning witches and then burn disoriented old women alive for falling from the sky you know.

    I’ll advice that we be hopeful but not exit the strategy room. For instance, should access to healthcare not be the right of every Nigerian? Remember that some hospitals still refuse to treat people with gunshot wounds. If healthcare is a right, should the government be permitted to eavesdrop on the conversations between a doctor and a patient? They wont do that to a catholic priest and a parishioner after all so we may need to tackle this from the professional side (NMA and co. who were treating us discretely before)- there may still be people who understand their call to service goes beyond whatever dream their man of god had the night before.

  5. trystham
    June 08, 06:46 Reply

    It is now very obvious something stinks. I listened in on a radio show one time and it talked about the tricks employed by these governors to get eyes off them. I am certain Ortom is VERY complicit in the herdsmen plague threatening his state otherwise this would be least of his troubles. It is also very safe to say his call for Benue ppl to defend themselves was pure theatrics.

  6. Black Dynasty
    June 08, 16:39 Reply

    But should we be telling people how to run their states? Just because we want to fulfil our own ‘gay agenda’

    • Pink Panther
      June 08, 20:37 Reply

      Are you serious? Like really, did you just type this nonsense with any seriousness or are you merely kidding? Or do you have this sudden craving to create relevance by being unnecessarily controversial?

    • Dunder
      June 10, 19:52 Reply

      Benue people are free to pursue distractions while their ACTUAL enemies plot their complete annihilation. Since the state seems to be run by Neros and the entire populace is now properly anesthetized with a false sense of safety since the evil homos have been banned, any cattle rearing organization or mass murdering association with the slightest strategic insight should see that they are presenting themselves as ripe for harvest based on their skewed list of priorities. Your house is on fire and you are rubbing bleaching cream… Kontunnu…

      My only issue is this- when the carnage rises to that level where serious money needs to be donated, I hope they will be as allergic to gay Luciferous money from the West. Let me see how much of the heterosexual federal budget would be allocated to a state of minorities that are overwhelmingly Christian.

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