PETER OBI, THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDACY AND QUEER RIGHTS

PETER OBI, THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDACY AND QUEER RIGHTS

We are back in election season and this might just be the most paramount election this country will experience in recent times. Everyone was perturbed about the candidates from the two major parties. So, you can imagine the relief when a third party rose into prominence.

And the flag bearer was Peter Obi.

Since the announcement of his candidacy, Peter Obi has gotten so much love and just as much antagonism, which is not surprising, considering the fact that he represented a leadership that knew Nigeria’s problems and actually had well-articulated plans on how to fix them, something we haven’t had in presidential campaigns in many years. That was until questions began to rise on Twitter about his views on queer rights, and suddenly, nothing seemed to matter anymore: not insecurity, not unemployment, not even the fall of Naira. The Labour Party presidential candidate never responded, and somehow, that translated to him being homophobic. And in the spirit of grasping at straws in a drowning smear campaign, a video of his running mate, Datti Baba-Ahmed, saying that there should be a capital punishment for homosexuality surfaced on the internet. The accusations of Obi’s prejudice now had some backing; it now became “…since he chose Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed for a running mate, it’s the response we’ve been waiting for… He is homophobic and we will not be voting him.”

But this wasn’t enough. Queer people who carried on supporting Obi began getting emotionally blackmailed and accused of enabling and platforming a homophobe for the presidential candidacy. And every time the question “Why aren’t the other major candidates, Atiku Abubakar and Bola Tinubu, getting the same heat?” was asked, there was crickets for silence filling the air.

More recently, a video surfaced where Peter Obi was asked about his stance on homosexuality and what he thinks of the comments his choice for a vice president made years ago. And he responded, saying that he believes people’s opinion can change over time and while he cannot speak on behalf of his running mate, he himself is tolerant of people’s lifestyle and choices.

The caption of this video became that Peter Obi chose violence against Queer People, something that is very sensationalist at best and dishonest at worst.

This has caused so much uproar, and I made a Twitter thread to share my opinion on it all, which of course some people agreed with, while others who did not get past the first line reacted with expected fury. What’s a Twitter conversation after all without a biased, illogical opposing view?

But the question remains: are these other issues not essential enough because no one seems to care about them anymore? Do the inflation, insecurity and poor infrastructure not matter anymore?

And I ask again, like I asked in my Twitter thread: Do you really care about actual change and the rights of queer people? Because if you did, you would begin by sensitizing your families and your friends. You cannot start a building from the roof. Revoking the SSMPA bill won’t take away the homophobia from your society. The response I have been getting to this is: “With the law getting repealed, these homophobes will have no legitimized backing.” To me, this is quite laughable. Even in countries progressive enough to legalize gay marriage and even have the backing of functioning laws, queer people still face violent homophobia; there are constant stories of gay clubs being shot up and transwomen being murdered in the news. Why do you think we’ll have it any different in Nigeria – this same Nigeria that is so corrupt and lawless?

It is unfortunate that our lives mean next to nothing to our society. As a queer person myself, it hurts. But we cannot afford to throw the baby out with the bathwater, especially in this forthcoming election. Centering queer rights over every other issue plaguing Nigeria is short-sighted and selfish. We want to be able to express our love and identity as queer people, but there is a queer person in Borno who is scared that tonight is the night they get butchered by domestic terrorists. There is another queer person who just died in an avoidable auto accident due to the bad state of the roads. Another queer person is at home because of the enduring ASUU strike with a family who won’t stand them if they knew they were gay; and yet another queer person who’s been arbitrarily arrested because he was profiled by an ignorant police.

Do you not see how intersected all these issues are? Some self-proclaimed activists are shouting foul over Peter Obi’s comments, and it begs to be asked if they consider the accommodation of their privilege superior to the concerns of the everyday queer Nigerian? Your priority is queer rights, but you’re a dependent, your parents are owed by the government, business is not going well, they can’t afford that Masters degree you want to pursue because of the Naira drop, and you can’t japa because the dollar exchange rate that used to be 200,000 naira is now 1,000,000 naira. Barely two years ago, youths were shot at for asking for our basic Human Rights, and Twitter was banned because we dared to ask questions and raise our voices. How can we live long to care about gay rights when we cannot even exist on a more basic level?

If you really care about making a change, you should start from the grassroots. You’ve lived through homophobic administrations; best believe you can live through one more – and we don’t even know for certain that Peter Obi is homophobic. You can live through a homophobic administration that can reopen schools, create jobs and raise the value of the nation’s currency. Because gay rights or not, you’re going to still be in the closet; the SSMPA wasn’t the reason you were in there in the first place. It was your dependency on the family you know to be homophobic, the childhood trauma from seeing how gay people are treated around the world, the exposure to societal views regarding homosexuality. Whether we get a president who will see to the repealing of the SSMPA or not, that will not make that much of a difference, if you don’t make a difference.

Come 2023, someone will become Nigeria’s next president. And we will all be damned if that person is someone who not only doesn’t care about anyone’s existence but theirs, but will also contribute to digging this country into a deeper hole. Joining voices with some gay activist who resides in the UK to criticize Peter Obi is insane, because if the odds end up not being in Obi’s favour and he loses, you’re the one stuck in Nigeria, this time with homophobia and even worse living conditions.

No one is diminishing our existence as queer persons living in Nigeria. But we need to be smart. We can question and hold people accountable, and we can be strategic. Get your PVCs and do the right thing. As a friend once said, “I’d rather fight homophobia with a full stomach.”

Written by Slytaurean

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  1. Green scepter
    July 16, 12:24 Reply

    Thank you so much for this. Some days ago ( precisely a week to today), a debate chaired by Bisi Alimi was aired and it was quite unfortunate how young Africans fail to see the big picture.

    The western world didn’t become Liberal over night. Infact, they are still undergoing evolution even as of today.

    Some ( if not most ) gays in the queer community (especially in Nigeria) are still having a very tough time in loving and accepting themselves. So, if gay men who are living this experience first hand are finding it extremely difficult to come full circle, why do we expect heterosexuals who have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA on what being gay is like to automatically show aligiance and support without a foundation of education outside academic and religious books?

    Was it gay people who where gunned down at the endsars protest?

    Didn’t Atiku delete his tweet after condemning the murder of a student just because the extremists threatened not to vote for him? Trust me, Atiku would have kept mute had it been it was a gay man who was lynched.

    The darkness hovering the heads of Nigerians and Nigeria as a whole, is due to religious control. The same control that has weakened the minds of her people to stand and demand their basic human rights from their corrupt leaders rather than flood places of worship and holding “pray for Nigeria” crusades .

    Until we understand that Nigerians need education outside religious and academic books, we are going absolutely nowhere

  2. Dillish
    July 16, 12:51 Reply

    Thank you very much Slytaurean.

    I am also one of those vocal about Peter Obi’s presidency. I support with my full chest because with him.

    People who mostly have been on the opposite divide, yes, we understand that queer liberation is very important and at the same time, economic security is equally important because at the end of the day.
    We are not dismissing your concerns because they are valid. It is also our concern too because it affects all but please let’s face reality, it is NOT Peter Obi’s job to repeal that law. He can’t. It is the NASS job to do that. Have y’all seen the composition of those people? Especially those from Arewa?

    We have someonr who is ready to make a real change in terms of economy and y’all are asking him to put it at risk? O wrong nau

  3. Ken
    July 16, 20:37 Reply

    I have to say that this is a nice campaign to vote Peter Obi. I have nothing against campaigning for your candidate. My only warning will be not to make the mistake of using queer rights as a yardstick to vote. Regardless of politicians meaningless diplomatic comments, in reality nothing will change. In my opinion Peter Obi is skilled in giving people the answers they wish to hear, eventhough in reality he knows that such answers will never see the light of the day. As for me i am not moved by what politicians say. They are all the same. Peter Obi cannot and will not support queer rights. He is just skilled pacifist and politician, always singing beautiful tunes to win support and nothing more. i dont recall obi ever supporting queer rights during his administration in anambra, let alone championing same in entire Nigeria!

    The fact is that nigeria is staunchly homophobic. Queer rights is not on the agenda on any of the parties or candidates. Some may tell you cunning fantastic tales just to get extra votes, but we all know that in the end neither Peter Obi nor Tinubu not Atiku will ever support or tone down the hate against LGBTQ. Infact they thrive on such hate and will not hesitate to use it as a weapon. Please do not be deceived. Vote for the candidate you wish based on track record, personality etc. Not empty political/diplomatic statements designed to secure nothing but votes.

  4. Kenshin Himura
    July 17, 09:48 Reply

    Thank you so much. I think Peter Obi answered that question in the best way possible given that an average Nigerian is homophobic.
    If he’s able to meet the immediate needs of Nigerians, I think that’s fair for a start. He said he’d focus on more pressing issues (I’m not invalidating LGBT activism). Nigeria is in low ebb! I’d personally prefer good governance.

    Also, the other aspirants won’t have answered that question half as intelligently as Obi did.
    We should vote for Peter Obi on the basis of his struggles for a better Nigeria and not based on sentiments about sexuality which is only a fraction of everyone’s existence.

  5. Goldberg
    July 17, 09:57 Reply

    It’s so stupid to lambaste Peter Obi because he didn’t outrightly condemn his running mate.. That would be dragging him in the bus.

    LGBTQ+ topic is a very sensitive one in Nigeria. Realistically, I don’t expect anyone contesting for presidency in this country to publicly throw their weight behind our community – that would ruin their chances of being elected. Peter Obi would be cancelled even before the elections, if he wasn’t sensitive with the way he tackled the question.

    I always stand by this:

    To anyone rallying against PO because he didn’t publicly condemn his running mate’s statement and pick up a rainbow flag… if the other two presidential aspirants didn’t promise that they’re going to decriminalize homosexuality in Nigeria and fix other issues bedeviling the country, just shut the fûçk up.

    It’s obvious Tinubu and BAT aren’t close to being good candidates let alone better than PO, in any ramifications. So why do we have to cancel him (PO) when he’s our only chance if we really want to fix this country?
    Those bigoted fellows won’t answer this question.

  6. Kennedy
    July 17, 12:07 Reply

    We just have to be realistic, no political candidate in Nigeria will ever openly declare their support for queer people .

    His response is the closest we’ll ever get.

    We should accept this and push for a better Nigeria instead.

    It’s unfair to drag him, especially when some of our very own activists are self serving narcissists.

  7. FRED
    July 17, 21:37 Reply

    Politicians probably made the SSMPA law for selfish reasons. Selfish in that they just wanted yo keep their queer children far and away from Nigeria (and possibly, Nigerians too).
    These politicians are well aware of LGBT presence in Nigeria. There are places in the North where gays still show up in their full rainbow gears and regalia. Yet, the South is bent on stamping out every little display that appears to be LGBT themed.
    We need to calmly assess the reality of things in Nigeria and then decide if we won’t vote for someone who has a higher chance of making Nigeria prosperous so that we can be strong enough to fight another day.
    For me, Nigeria is no where near the level where politicians are assessed based on their LGBT inclinations alone.

  8. JohnKD
    July 28, 09:52 Reply

    Thank you for saying this. I Agree 💯

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