Of TIERs, Reuben Abati And All That Angst

Of TIERs, Reuben Abati And All That Angst

Let me get this out of the way from the onset so we are clear. I don’t like Mr. Reuben Abati. Over the past five years, I have come to view him as a rather unpleasant human being. A man who proselytized and moralized about government but came into office and disavowed everything he was known for. He became hugely divisive, contemptuous and propagated hate at unbelievable level. I would go so far and call him a failed media aide to former President Goodluck Jonathan and a political charlatan who eschewed his values for open and inclusive government and turned coat in his quest for political power. We watched him brand LGBT citizens as pedophiles on both local and international news media on the basis of their sexual orientation and called them abomination as he defended their imprisonment for 14 years when the former president signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act into law. The SSMPA made participation in gay marriages in Nigeria punishable with up to 14 years in prison and prescribed up to 10 years imprisonment for belonging or involving in a gay association. For a man who for decades called for the separation of state and religion, it was discomforting seeing him unravel by welcoming the most atrocious and discriminatory law in recent human memory as “in line with the people’s cultural and religious inclination”.

Now, barely two years after he left office, he is scheduled to return as the keynote speaker at The Initiative for Equal Rights’ Human Rights discussion conference themed Human Rights, Sexuality and the Law. Ever since the announcement, a great deal of angst has been directed at the organizers for selecting a notable homophobe as keynote speaker in its premier event.

I am of a different opinion and I believe this is a welcome development.

Too many times, minorities have operated on the basis of safety in numbers. They hem themselves in with their fellows and refuse to embrace opinions outside of theirs. But it is opinions that shape dialogue and no lasting peace is ever achieved without understanding and addressing the fears of the opposition. Someone said, you do not invite the KKK to an NAACP event. Well, sometimes, you do if you want lasting peace; and it happened as recently as 3 years ago in Wyoming between the KKK group, United Klans of America and the Casper, Wyoming NAACP chapter. John Abarr of the former came out of that meeting paying $30 of his own money as membership fee to join the NAACP.

There are many examples in history where visionary men rose above parochial interests to seek solace in dialogue and usher long lasting peaceful coexistence. In 1994, the ANC opted to share power with its oppressors despite the rising wave of black-on-black violence in opposition against the power sharing agreement. In the United States, it was slave owners who saw to the birth of a multicultural and multiracial nation by enshrining in its constitution these very words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”

In all of these instances, the greatest driver of opposition is a combination of fear of the unknown and a gross lack of understanding. If you wish to foster integration and acceptance among diverse groups, you have to be able to open yourselves up and dispel the fears of your enemies. You have to be able to listen, find and address the place where the hate resides. Mr. Abati acknowledges that there are “too many marginalized and oppressed groups” in Nigeria and accepts that “equality speaks to issues of justice & other rights”. He also now proclaims that the LGBT community is “an endangered minority in the country” and that “states have a responsibility to facilitate citizen’s human rights, and respect international protocols and covenants”. It will be interesting to know when and how he evolved to this conclusion, given his role in the enactment of the “quite intolerant…extant laws”

Frankly, I think TIERS did a fantastic job in securing the attendance of Mr. Reuben Abati. At the conference, he will have the opportunity to explain to his audience the mindset behind the passage of one of the most draconian laws against personal freedoms in Nigeria by the Goodluck Jonathan administration. Laws which he and his principal now seem to agree may need to be revisited. In-between perhaps, he will learn about the consequences of their politically motivated persecution: the toll in human lives, costs in brain drain and properties destroyed and impact on broken families. He may even cheekily explain to them why his participation at the conference does not flout the extant law. After all, it is a gender and sexuality event.

More importantly though, is what he will take away from the conference. If Mr. Abati even remotely walks away from this event with a different or changed perspective about LGBT people and their circumstances, that in itself is a massive victory. It is a victory because no matter what anyone says, Mr. Abati is an opinion leader in the country. His views online and newspaper columns are shared by millions of people across the country. If his attendance will get him to reshape his views and even those of his ardent followers, then it is not a wasted venture.

So much has been said about TIERS history and deviation from core values. Let me say that organizations evolve to embrace the dynamism of its environment and rise to its challenges. The men and women within its structure today are some of the best young minds you can engage. They have been beating the path for an all-inclusive society. You may question their views on issues but do not do so on a wimp. That would be disingenuous and disrespectful to the labours they’ve put in to bring their cause to the center.

Finally, there are also those who say that Mr. Abati is the least preferred choice because he spewed hateful tirades in government and represents the face of the oppressor. This is possibly true. But dialogue does not have to exist among agreeable parties only. Dialogue does not have to be with friends alone and it does not have to be nice.

Written by Kritzmoritz

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27 Comments

  1. Dim
    December 08, 05:12 Reply

    This is a superior argument, I agree with TIERS for choosing Reuben Abati, we many make a headway having him in the Conference as keynote speaker.

  2. Dennis Macaulay
    December 08, 07:25 Reply

    I find this quite laughable and frankly insulting to Nigerian LGBT. Like the other article rightly said if you are looking for engagement and dialogue, then a keynote speaker is not the way to go. At the risk of repeating myself, Abati should be put on a panel to properly engage with the audience and share his perspective while getting feedback from the other panelists and members of the audience on what he cost us.

    In the example you gave about the KKK and NAACP (which is still subject to verification I might add), I am very certain the white supremacist did not headline the event, he did not attend the event to lecture them. Just look at how Trevor Noah is being roasted by black people simply because they think he Cozied up to Tomi Lharen.

    Abati is not on the record apologizing for his actions and roles as the poster boy of that law. I still don’t understand upon which premise this judgment call was made. He is no longer in government, he has no political power whatsoever. If you are going by his ability to shape opinions by his writing, then we have way many people who do not have disgusting LGBT rights records and who also shape opinions to deliver this keynote speech.

    This remains what it is, a bad judgment call from TIERs, and there is no need to white wash it. It is even telling that some people think that Abati agreeing to speak alone is a victory for us….sigh

    Let us remember our dead comrades and let us not forget the legacy of fear handed to us by GEJ and his cohorts at the National Assembly ably defended by Reuben Abati

  3. Henrie
    December 08, 07:46 Reply

    I don’t understand what all the fuss about him being a Keynote speaker really is about. I guess I’ll have to look up that a keynote speaker is and what that title implies for an event. That said, if this is going to be a conversation, a debate or dialogue (which I’m now learning that it is, give that a pro-LGBT person, Joy Ibewaji, will also be speaking), then by all means let’s have it. When Abati takes the stage let him preach his homophobia. Let him boldly represent all homophobes on that platform. Homophobia is too real to be given a backseat in such conversation. Let us here from a vocal member of the homophobic community and boo as loudly as we can. As long as there’ll also be individuals standing by to take the stage and deconstruct his silly arguments (and I’m hoping more of such will be speaking), let the debate go on.

    • Dennis Macaulay
      December 08, 08:05 Reply

      Reuben will not be on the Joy Bewaji panel, he will deliver the keynote address before the panels start discussing.

      He could have apologized during the Tweetchat but he did not.

  4. ambivalentone
    December 08, 07:56 Reply

    Apparently, u still don’t get it.
    For the supremacists, there was a REALIZATION and ADMISSION to their selves about the wrongness of slavery and then clear efforts on their part to make amends. Not the other way round.
    There were many opportunities during that twitter Q n A to have tendered apologies for supporting the signage of the draconic law by his principal after an admission to the evolution (or not) of his thought patterns. But does he? No. “…For Nigerians, sexuality is an emotional, religious & cultural matter. This has governed responses, beyond the law.” They wanted to kill gays, so we decided to make them happy and gave them the law FORGETING CLEARLY STATED INTERNATIONAL PRINCIPLES AND SENTIMENTS on the subject even when the law was being signed. And goes right on to say “Your reference to evolution is worth underlining. There is a lot to be done in term…” with our much desired “I am much enlightened and apologize for my role blah blah blah” clearly missing after.
    Its fine really. But u know what I am reminded of everytime? “Since passing the ban on same sex marriage, I can attest that not a single Nigerian has been discriminated against as a result of that law”. He didn’t say that, but that is how obviously insensitive Reuben is not to deserve to be keynote speaker

  5. Francis
    December 08, 08:14 Reply

    May the good Lord in his infinite goodness grant me the power to have faith in our politicians. For your information, most Nigerians don’t trust Abati again unless he’s speaking their language (homophobia). He lost his credibility with GEJ govt.

  6. simba
    December 08, 09:01 Reply

    i see reasons with all parties, and i hope this turns out good for the community. but i sincerely wish TIERS releases a statement giving us their reasons for choosing Abati. They may even have better reasons than any of us outside sees. Lastly there are better ways to criticize an article instead of boldly dismissing it as laughable. He gave his reasons, if u dont agree,give yours or write an article about it than to use such demeaning sentence.

    • Pasha
      December 08, 10:27 Reply

      Don’t worry Simba
      If commonsense was a commodity, you wouldn’t have cause to address this at all

    • Tiercel de Claron.
      December 08, 13:40 Reply

      Why should TIERS release any statement or clarification, when no one,to the best of our knowledge, not even you Simba, has sought one through its formal channels?.
      Unless you think coming on kitodiaries or going on twitter to rant and rave equates ‘formal’

      • Francis
        December 08, 13:44 Reply

        And you’re so sure no one has requested for such via formal channels abi? What are we even talking about sef? It’s common sense to release a statement when shit like this happens. You don’t sit around and fold your arms waiting for official request of explanation. When It’s not as if you’re working for you and your family members.

        • Tiercel de Claron.
          December 08, 13:51 Reply

          Did you,Francis,or anyone you know make such request?.
          Show us proof.
          No organization worth its salt responds to just anything about it in cyberspace

          • Tiercel de Claron.
            December 08, 13:54 Reply

            And no,shit didn’t happen?.
            I don’t see Alimi’s personal beef as being ‘shit’.

          • Francis
            December 08, 14:00 Reply

            Speak for your own future organization when you create one. No one comes under attack and sits idle doing nothing unless they don’t give a rat’s ass about the uproar.

            P.S: LOL. You seem to imply that if Bisi didn’t bring his “beef” into the matter no one would have bothered with Abati. As the famzers that Naija gays are na.

          • Jeova Sanctus Unus
            December 08, 19:10 Reply

            I’m very certain Change.org is the official communication channel of the US Government, FIFA, Wal-Mart, etc. I’m sure 2000 letters were sent to Reebok’s HQ after Rick Ross rapped about drugging a female.

            Apologies sir, any “organization worth its salt” doesn’t sit on its ass. It’s called Customer Service. This is the same community TIER tries to reach out to. More than 2 dozen people from KD (people I know) were at the TIER 10th Year Anniversary Gala, myself included. Coca Cola wouldn’t wait/prefer to respond individual inquiries about a rumor/uproar/controversy.

            Thanks. Don’t bother.

  7. Tiercel de Claron.
    December 08, 13:46 Reply

    Commonsense appear ‘laughable and insulting’ to some,of course.
    But then,commonsense is not.Not really.
    Not when emotion overrules reasoning.

    • Pasha
      December 08, 14:52 Reply

      You’ve said it all.
      People bring their personal influences on issues. You try to address it but find that they’re merely intellectual midgets straining for recognition. What do you do then? What garb can you drape on ignorance to make it appealing

  8. Chuck
    December 08, 16:56 Reply

    @Ambivalentone,
    Agreed! See all the peddlers of unexamined ideas defending Abati here.

    These are the same ones who want to prevent criticism of anything just to make sure their own shortcomings are not addressed. MGMs should be free to cheat, GEJ should be free to steal, People should be free to mock effeminate men etcetera. No ill goes undefended.

    Shine your eye sha – TIERS might not be the vehicle for same sex decriminalization in Nigeria. It might be time to look to a new NGO – a responsive one that works with the minorities it defends, and doesn’t just use them.

  9. John Adewoye
    December 08, 18:38 Reply

    Trump is elected, no going back. Let us wait and see how Abati will perform that day.
    I can hear him say what we want to hear “Nigeria made a mistake with the SSMPA.
    I can feel his lack of conscience at opposing gathering sometime later “Nigeria made a right move.
    I can see him leaving immediately after his keynote address to avoid answering any question.
    In all, I commend the organizers for going to the den of this lion.

  10. Jide
    December 09, 16:11 Reply

    Lol. looks like all the TIERS staff came online for this.

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