That Piece About The TIERs Human Rights Day Event

That Piece About The TIERs Human Rights Day Event

On December 17, I was at the TIERs Human Rights Day event. It was a spectacular function. The speakers were wildly brilliant. And I met Elnathan John.

Oh, also, it turned out not to be a strictly-for-LGBT-people event, because I ran into a few straight acquaintances of mine. One female friend took one look at me as I walked into the venue, squealed, and with a bright smile, she said: “I knew it! I just knew you had to be gay to be so vocal about LGBT issues the way you are on Facebook.”

There, that was how that closet door banged open. Anyway, she penned a piece of her experience at the event, and I decided to share it here. Do read and sound off your thoughts.

*

I didn’t know what to expect from the TIERs Human Rights Day event, mainly because I had never even heard of TIERs (The Initiative for Equal Rights) before that day, and weeks ago at the Ake festival, we had had several discussions on sexuality, sexual orientation and the law. So I really didn’t know what to expect. I ended up attending because someone wanted me to do something for her there, and it was another opportunity to buy a book I had been thinking of buying.

I got there early enough, before the program commenced. And I met Elnathan John, who, by the way, I wasn’t sure I liked, because of his online persona and that scathing, bile-filled post he wrote about Chimamanda Adichie. Surprisingly though, he was nice and pleasant, polite and friendly even. I saw Ayo Sogunro with his ‘connecting beards’ and thick glasses. Wana Wana was there with all her vivacious energy. And I began to feel the pulse of excitement; I knew it was going to be an awesome event. I’d heard Elnathan and Wana Wana speak before, and I’d read Ayo’s writings. So I knew that it was going to be a good day.

Professor Chidi Odinkalu

Professor Chidi Odinkalu

Professor Chidi Odinkalu gave the keynote address. I am ashamed to say I didn’t know of this man before that day. My God! See brilliance in motion! He spoke and I was spellbound. He was clearly very knowledgeable about many things, especially the law. He’s good looking too, I can’t even lie. If he were twenty years younger, I’d have asked to get his number. Some of the things he said struck and stayed with me. Here, let me paraphrase some.

“When it comes to sexuality and religion, nobody has the jurisdiction over you in matters of your faith… Nobody has the right to appoint themselves vigilantes for God, no one has the right to take the position of God.

“There’s no such thing as the ‘Nigerian culture’ because a hundred and five years ago, Nigeria didn’t exist. What we have instead is a multitude of diverse cultures, and we Nigerians aren’t tolerant of that diversity.

“Sex is an act of worship and we should be happy to have conversations about it, because without it, none of us would be here. We should talk about sex shamelessly.

“Nigerians are okay with public sadomasochists (who whip danfo drivers and set thieves ablaze), but concerned about what people do behind closed doors. This country is a very ‘religious’ society, but not a godly one.

“Under the law, there should be dignity of all human beings and equality of all citizens and equal protection for them. Every limitation of rights must be reasonably justified in a democratic society. Every Nigerian citizen deserves equal protection and dignity under the law whether they’re Shiiates, or they’re LGBT, the country shouldn’t discriminate against people because of who they are or who they choose to get intimate with. We’re all humans, who people decide to sleep with is not our business, unless they’re sleeping with children.”

See, that man is bae. His words were so insightful and his views are so liberal. Someone in the audience had to ask if he schooled or lived abroad, I mean, international exposure on fleek! But no, he schooled in this our Nigeria oh.

Olumide Makanjuola, the CEO of TIERs, spoke next, and talked about the human rights report on Nigeria. He informed us about the recent occurrences in the country as regards the law and ‘sexual offenders’. The new trend for Nigerian policemen is to pick up young guys on the road because of the way they walk, take them to cyber cafes and force them to print out their private messages on social media to ‘prove’ that they’re gay, and then lock them up. Olumide said his organization has spent over N600, 000 in the past month to bail people out of police custody on the suspicion of being gay. The saddest part is that none of these people were actually caught in the act; they were simply arrested based on speculation and suspicion. Another thing that sexual minorities face is extortion from people who are aware of their sexual orientation; you must pay them a certain sum monthly or they will inform the police. And if you report to the police that you are being blackmailed, they’d let your blackmailer go and then arrest you instead for being gay.

The government isn’t really the problem. We are, because we make them think it is okay for our countrymen to beat and arrest the gay ones among us.

For women, there have been cases of ‘correctional rapes’, where many men will take turns to brutally rape a suspected lesbian in a bid to correct her sexuality. Maybe if she had enough penises forcefully rammed into her, she would suddenly, magically enjoy them instead of fellow women.

The TIERs 2015 Report on Human Rights Violations based on Real or Perceived Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Nigerian is damning. And we as Nigerians need to do better. The truth is that, if we allow LGBT people to be oppressed because we feel it’s not our business since we’re heterosexual, a day will come when our own rights will be taken away too. The social media bill is a good example of that. And if we don’t speak out about these things now, well, we’ll all suffer for it in the end. If you keep quiet about laws that oppress one set of people today, someday, it will be your turn and there’d be no one left to speak for you.

The panelists at the event were Ayo Sogunro, Elnathan John, Pamela Adie, Iheoma Obibi, and then the moderator, Wana Wana. This panel was on fire! Each of the panelists was passionate about the issues discussed and their words had a lot of import.

tiers4Elnathan John wanted the Nigerian people to stop being afraid of homosexuality because it’s not a communicable disease; no one can infect you with homosexuality. Also, there are good gay people, and there are bad gay people. There are gay people who want to be in relationships, there are gay people who want to fuck around, and there are gay people who are celibate. Basically, gay people are just people. And an abuser is an abuser, a rapist is a rapist; it doesn’t matter if he’s straight or gay.

tiers5Ayo Sogunro explained that we live in a society where the idea of human rights is still vague because we are used to the idea of earned rights. We aren’t used to the fact that we have rights that we are born with as human beings. We are only homophobic to the extent that the gay person is beneath us in social class or status. After all, ‘big men and women’ host wild gay parties that are open secrets, but no police would dare arrest them or interlopers dare harass them for being homosexual. Even Nigerian human rights activists who are mostly lawyers have been trained to support existing hierarchies, not upset them.

tiers2Pamela Adie said that we talk about LGBT rights in abstract; we never really consider that those involved are people; that they’re humans first and foremost. And a lot of homophobic people actually have latent homosexual traits and fantasies. She revealed how she’d been married to a man once, but had to leave the marriage because that was not who she really is. She pointed out that homosexual couples are just like heterosexual couples; the only difference is that they’re of the same gender.

tiers3Iheoma Obibi spoke of how someone once called her up and asked why she keeps encouraging “those people” to be gay, but then she revealed that her biggest buyers (she sells adult toys on myintimatepleasureshop.com) are heterosexual couples who have anal sex. They say it’s against “our culture” but culture evolves, culture is fluid (after all, killing twins was once our culture) and we can’t use the cultural argument when it comes to intimacy in the private sphere.

From the panelists, I got that human rights are human rights, sexual or otherwise. We can’t pick or choose. Human rights are for everyone. You can’t be a human rights activist and be anti-LGBT or anti-feminism, even though feminism has different nuances. And the reason LGBT rights are still nonexistent is because we don’t see them as humans.

Akanji Michael gave the closing address and we moved downstairs for the sweetest part of the event – Lunch! The sight of food made me so happy, I almost wept with joy. We all helped ourselves to whatever we wanted and continued to chitchat while we ate. Even if I didn’t enjoy the event (which was impossible, by the way), I definitely enjoyed my sumptuous lunch. And I really cannot wait for next year’s edition!

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23 Comments

  1. johnny
    December 26, 06:38 Reply

    ESE o. More programs like this should be organized. We need proper schooling

  2. Wealth
    December 26, 06:47 Reply

    I’m not sure if those in power cares. Nigeria cannot stop harboring homophobic people. Even some of the gays amongst us are homophobes,talk less of the heterosexuals,I just pray GOD changes the mind set of Nigerians cause most of the heterosexuals don’t see us a human.

  3. Chizzie
    December 26, 06:54 Reply

    Wow this gave me braingasms! I think it was a privilege that you got to attend this PP and be surrounded by such intelligent minds.

    I feel what Nigerians need is sound orientation like this! Most Nigerians actually aren’t homophobic in the actual sense they are just unexposed and ill informed. And you can’t blame them really, acquiring knowledge here is such a chore. Our education system is derelict and our society doesn’t even give one the opportunity to be “cultured “. Our idea of culture is primitive, we forget that culture is constantly evolving and progressing. American culture a century ago isn’t the same culture they have. While we over here kid ourselves into thinking that we still maintain the cultural norms and values of our forefathers especially when homosexuality is involved. But really how do you expect Nigerians to be enlightened when they are bombarded with songs about sharing the gala and the booze.

    We have a long way to go but this looks promising and reassuring.

    Meanwhile can someone tell Elnathan to try and spend at least 10mins in the shower. Haba

  4. Zosimus
    December 26, 08:22 Reply

    Wow! This was exhaustively educating, just when you think you’ve seen and heard it all, this avalanché of brilliant minds fall and give way to shiny new paths I never considered could lead to the highways too. This ministry should fast spread to our Universities and Sec. Schools biko, let’s forget the battle with the older generation so that we might win the war with our younger ones.

  5. Kenny
    December 26, 08:44 Reply

    PP did the mainstream media report this event? It wouldn’t do much good if the message is only getting to the lgbt community and very few straight people.

    • Mr. Fingers
      December 26, 09:58 Reply

      I was about asking the same question.

      Hopefully in the future programmes like this will make front page news.

    • Peak
      December 26, 11:38 Reply

      I don’t think the main focus should be hinged on how much mainstream coverage the program got or gets.
      Focus should be on “education/sensitisation and reorientation”. A lot of us don’t even know ourselves yet, or reached a significant level of acceptance. The key word is growth. Lets all grow with pace.
      Let focus on educating ourselfes, and once that is done, we can slowly educate others without seeming like we are forcing our “agenda” down their throats. Rome wasn’t built in a day.#OneStepAtATime.

    • Pink Panther
      December 26, 11:43 Reply

      I dont know about the coverage, Kenny, but you’re right. This is the virgin edition though. Hopefully, with subsequent events, it can get wider and bigger

  6. bruno
    December 26, 08:46 Reply

    sounds like an awesome event. pp is there an opening for the position of your plus one for the next one? can I book in advance.

  7. Khaleesi
    December 26, 09:13 Reply

    I would have given an arm to be @ this event! Who knew Prof Odinkalu was this open-minded?! Prof Odinkalu has been a family friend since my childhood, the man is indeed admirable and … Wait for this! Iheoma Obibi is his wife, she’s a die hard femininst and in true fashion maintains her maiden name even while married! I totally adore that couple! They are like brother and sister rather than husband and wife … Its so heartwarming that these issues can be discussed so openly in Nigeria, kudos to the Tiers team, you guys are doing a fantastic job!!! Posterity shall honour you …

  8. KryxxX
    December 26, 09:46 Reply

    Is it just me or does anybody else find Elnathan sexy in a very geeky and naughty way? And his sarcasms………….. ????

    By the way, why is everything in Lagos!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Peak
    December 26, 11:48 Reply

    1st of all Wana Wana of life was there? **hot tears**

    Mr Sogunro, Elnathan John and the lovely Iheoma Obibi gave me major braingasm.
    Chia! I wish! I wish!! I wish ooooo!!! I was there.
    I swear I thought Iheoma Obibi is a young lady. Heard her on the radio one time, on inspiration fm’s sharing life’s issues. She sounded do young, fresh and very exposed (well she was promoting intimate pleasures). I never knew there was a sex toy shop in naija until that program.
    Love love everything I read in this piece.

  10. KennedyI
    December 26, 13:42 Reply

    There are gay people who are celibate? Interesting…. I fall into this group maybe…. *thinking*

  11. Tobby
    December 26, 14:07 Reply

    It’s still hard to feel hopeful about anything LGBT related in Nigeria

  12. Chuck
    December 26, 14:32 Reply

    Did this event technically break the anti – gay law ?

    • Mr. Fingers
      December 26, 15:07 Reply

      One step at a time bro. By the way Google prof. Odinkalu and u would know how big a deal this is.

      It’s a gradual process. We will definitely get there.

  13. Valunois
    December 26, 19:46 Reply

    More of this event and there’ll be hope for tomorrow.

  14. […] online next weekend, was discussed during a TIERS Human Rights Day event last month. This is one heterosexual Nigerian attendee’s acccount of a presentation by Olumide Makanjuola, executive director of TIERS, about the report and related human rights […]

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