That Piece About Nigeria And America’s Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

That Piece About Nigeria And America’s Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

This write-up was done by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, and originally published on  It’s titled ‘Why are Nigerians terrified of same-sex marriage in America?’ And in my opinion, I think the title is misleading because the write-up certainly doesn’t explore any answers to that question.

But that’s just me. Read and let us know what you think.


Late in 2014 when my friend, Zachary, invited me to his wedding taking place in The Berkshires this September, I was less concerned about having to travel all the way from Abuja to Massachusetts. Zachary is gay. “What if lightning comes and strikes the building?” I asked. He replied that there had so far been under 100, 000 gay marriages in the U.S. – and no bolts. “Of course, my partner and I could be the last straw,” he added.

That exchange may have been facetious, but many Nigerians are genuinely terrified of gay marriage. And they are distraught over the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to legalize gay marriage in America.

They express sadness and pity for what is supposedly God’s Own Country. They predict America’s inevitable decline. But the emotion most potent in their words is fear. The kind you might expect from news of an impending tsunami. Many Nigerians appear terrified that, having finally won the victory on home soil, America will now set its sights on imposing similar legislature in countries like Nigeria. “We must resist this wave,” I have heard people say.

Rumors of America’s plan of action have already started making the rounds. Over the past few days, a number of articles in local newspapers have revealed what some Nigerians believe to be the secret agenda behind President Obama’s invitation to Nigeria’s new president, Muhammadu Buhari. Allegedly, the meeting, scheduled to take place in the White House on July 20, is aimed at persuading President Buhari to repeal Nigeria’s infamous Same Sex Prohibition Law signed by the previous Goodluck Jonathan administration. “Beware of Obama’s Invitation,” read a headline in one of Nigeria’s dailies.

A June 2015 survey conducted by Nigeria’s NOI Polls (which works in collaboration with Gallup) shows that 90% of Nigerians believe their country would be a better place without homosexuals. In addition, 81% do not agree that gay people should have the same rights as other Nigerians. Only 30% of Nigerians were shown to believe that gay people deserved equal access to public services such as healthcare, housing and education.

Despite these hair-raising data, I would be surprised if the anti-gay bill were the only reason why President Obama has extended this warm invitation to Nigeria’s president, what with issues like Boko Haram currently siphoning global attention. But if indeed he has the welfare of gay Nigerians in mind, President Obama must proceed with caution.

At the October 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth, Australia, British Prime Minister David Cameron told African leaders that if they resisted homosexuality in their countries, they risked losing aid money from the United Kingdom. Those words registered quite highly on the scale of African indignation. From Ghana to Zimbabwe to Uganda, commentators, columnists and government officials encouraged Cameron to zoom off to hell with his aid.

Nigeria, the giant of Africa, went beyond mere sound and fury. Within weeks, the country’s Senate swept aside other pressing national concerns and called for a 14-year prison sentence for anyone convicted of homosexuality — an issue that had previously not featured on the national agenda. In December 2013, then president Jonathan signed the anti-gay bill, which illegalized public displays of affection between gay couples, and banned organizations that promote gay rights. NOI Polls showed that 92% of Nigerians were at the time in favor of the new law.

Cameron’s bid to advance gay rights clearly backfired. And not just because homophobic sentiments are especially intense in Africa, where same-sex relationships are illegal in the vast majority of the countries on the continent. The Prime Minister’s controlling and imperialistic choice of words inspired the need to reassure any doubters of their countries’ absolute autonomy from Britain. Choosing the exact opposite of what pressured views stipulate is sometimes a way to re-establish your freedom to conduct your own affairs.

If the topic of gay rights arises in his conversation with President Buhari, President Obama must remember that he is the helmsman of America, not of Nigeria. He must realize that “We must not allow these ‘white people’ tell us what to do” is increasingly becoming a valid reason for Africans to ignore both unconstructive and beneficial counsel on various issues.

The legalization of gay marriage in America has led Nigerians to build up a fresh readiness to resist anything homosexual. The anti-gay swords have been unsheathed. How carefully President Obama and other activists in America conduct themselves when advocating on behalf of the gay people in countries like Nigeria will go a long way in either ameliorating or worsening the welfare of those they seek to help.

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  1. Max
    July 08, 07:00 Reply

    Lol…I knew you couldn’t resist.

  2. Dennis Macaulay
    July 08, 07:01 Reply

    Where does she stand tho? I want to you because I totally enoyed reading her novel.

    I also do agree with her somewhat, the methods will make these countries throw away the baby with the bath water. Colonial imperialism is way over so that arm twisting tactic will not work.

    No sensible government in Nigeria will recognize gay rights as at today. Vast majority of Nigerians want that obnoxious law even when they dont have power supply, no jobs, no healthcare et al they still want people like me hauled to prison.

    I think the main battle is for future generations, our battle now is to work on mindsets of Nigerians and not the policy angle!

  3. sinnex
    July 08, 07:02 Reply

    You are right, this is a load of crap. I can’t believe I spent some minutes reading this.

    • pinkpanthertb
      July 08, 07:05 Reply

      She was just dancing around and never really settling on any side of the fence. That’s just rubbish. It’s an op-ed; you have to have an opinion one side or the other. This entire piece was just a better more refined copy of all the claptrap that has been published on Nigerian newspapers concerning the almighty meeting between Buhari and Obama.

      • Dennis Macaulay
        July 08, 07:17 Reply

        She is just being smart and a politician. She raised a few valid points, but she does not support marriage equality if not she would have stated her support!

        • pinkpanthertb
          July 08, 07:18 Reply

          But she’s pro-LGBT, is she not? How many of your country’s politicians has ever had anything positive to say about the LGBT?

  4. pete
    July 08, 07:08 Reply

    I read this yesterday on & totally agree with her. the LGBT movement here should be seen as coming from within because imperial resentment is real. why still the the West’s line when China & Russia are ready to do same job for you.

  5. posh6666
    July 08, 07:59 Reply

    Nobody is asking for it to be legalised!the truth is in nigeria as long as our law is associated with morality then i can never see that ever happening thats y things like abortion isnt legal over here.Our law is mostly guided by the religious books.Atleast let it be uncriminalised like it was before so we can attend our parties and have some kind of security.What am i even saying even before criminalising it self shey kito has always happened,and police have always raided parties will it even make any difference if its uncriminalised?well maybe the international countries will no longer have a bad image about naija but it still wont change anything for we in naija.

  6. Diablo
    July 08, 08:12 Reply

    She was trying to play it safe and be diplomatic, all she did was basically just declare how gloom the situation is and how far off we are from attaining gay rights – Helping no one. Thanks Adaobi eh, for stating the obvious, keep it up

  7. kacee
    July 08, 08:20 Reply

    *almost in tears* why can’t Nigerians just vote, If we want to accept LGBT rights in our country it’s our right to vote and choose what we want. Our LGBT rights activists should start now, because america didn’t just sit back hiding. To be where they are today…#myopinion

  8. kacee
    July 08, 08:31 Reply

    This f**king annoying, homophobic irritating country, even birds are free to fly anywhere they wanna go, i’ve freaking had this to here (holding neck), thanks Adaobi #muah

  9. Mitch
    July 08, 09:39 Reply

    Quite diplomatic, I must say. And also very cowardly! If you don’t have an opinion, best keep shut for all our sakes!

  10. mchenrie
    July 08, 11:14 Reply

    I don’t think she has any duty to state her opinion on the matter. Her sentiments seems pretty honest; I admire her candour. Even dedicated gay rights activists in Nigeria do not completely entertain the so-called aid-withdrawal approach of persuasion. I personally find it counterproductive, it makes the issue too politicized like its game of economic power.

  11. Ace
    July 08, 12:02 Reply

    I guess this is more of a letter of warning for both parties. Obama shouldn’t try to force Buhari to accept gay rights and Buhari shouldn’t dare decriminalize gay relationships, that’s what I understood from this piece. She definitely greased her body well so if anyone wants to hold her words against her, she can easily slip out.

  12. samsey
    July 08, 12:48 Reply

    Yeah.. I do not come to you by chance (or isn’t that the title of her book?) was pretty dope.

    I think her article is well meaning, she wants Mr Obama to be wary of his tactics lest he further worsen already bad situation.

    All these foreign interferences end up cementing the erroneous belief that homosexuality is unafrican and make the turf tougher for us.

  13. Khaleesi
    July 08, 13:58 Reply

    smart lady!! she ended up being neither here nor there; she skilfully managed to remain neutral and in-between never quite appearing to support nor condemn gays and not seeming to support nor condemn the anti – gay law. She ventilated her (literal) lungs very well without really saying anything. Smart one!

  14. Dimkpa
    July 13, 00:57 Reply

    I have been thinking about the original title of this post. I don’t think Nigerians are terrified because America may impose their laws on us. I think the fact is Nigerians see everything from America as the best there is. Some in their subconscious even fancy themaelves American citizens in waiting and getting that passport or green card ia like getting a pass to heaven. We even modeled our government after theirs eschewing that of the UK that colonised us. This legalisation therefore has made homosexuality ‘American’, bringing it into the realm of the good things of life. However deeply held religious beliefs that fuel homophobia has created a conflict in the minds of the populace. It is now difficult to reconcile the good America with the bad homosexuality. They are terrified of having to confront their deeply held homophobia because doing so would require challenging their religious beliefs. That would in turn lead to questioning God, the bible, their world view and possibly the life they have lived all these while. It would be deeply distressing to realise that the creeds held as infallible and absolute truths may not be ao afterall, that the entirety of one’s existence has been based on foundations which initially thought to be solid are now not so afterall. This is a radical turn, a scary one, a journey into an unknown, a slippery slope through a tunnel that the average Nigerian doesn’t want to consider.
    So they hold tightly to their beliefs and lash out against America and homosexuality for causing this conflict in their minds. It is an act of desperation, holding on to what they are used to, unwilling to confront change because they fear the unknown effects it can bring. But deep down they know it is a losing battle.
    My suggestion to my felllow country men would be to calm down, the world won’t end, fire from above won’t consume the world because they accept gay people, if anything, the world would get more fabulous.

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