|Stephane Tchakam, Charge de Communication Pan Africa ILGA|
As the presidential elections draw near in Nigeria, activists in that country have expressed great concerns with the current government citing that change seems farfetched even post elections as the government has continuously flouted Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) issues.
“So far the present government has avoided pushing for any new anti-gay laws but at the same time they have not done anything about LGBT equality for me to score them good. I am well informed that this present government don’t want LGBT issues to be talked about or put in any agenda”, said Davis Mac-Iyalla of Changing Attitude Nigeria.
Human Rights activist, Leo Igwe echoed the same sentiments adding, “the situation is bad but surely better that what used to be the case, the government pays lip service to its human rights obligations. The police system is corrupt, impunity is the operational philosophy, the justice system is weak, ineffective and out of the reach of the poor and powerless citizens. State institutions are used oppress and exploit the people, the gap between the rich and poor remains very wide and many people still resort to crime to survive.”
Igwe further stated “the government doesn’t want to take the necessary measures to make our democracy truly a government of the people. It wants to protect and maintain the status quo that befits and privileges the powerful and frustrates any change or reform that returns power to the people.”
The presidential elections are scheduled to take place on 29 April 2011and activists remain uncertain about the future of LGBTI people in Nigeria which is known for its notorious position on homosexuality and also marred with the pending Same Gender Marriage Prohibition Bill.
Igwe said “I hope the new government will pay attention to the rights of minorities. President Jonathan who hails from a minority ethnic group is largely expected to win so the hope is that his government would make a case for minority groups but will that include sexual minorities? I don’t think so.”
Despite the pending monstrous Bill and the continued harassment of LGBTI people in Nigeria, Mac-Iyalla said “I think time has come for us Nigerian LGBTI’s to begin to remind our religious, political leaders that we are there and not going away. Nothing will change if we all hide underground and I think this electoral season is the time to put ourselves in the agenda if we want to change of legal or attitudes of the Nigerian people.”
Meanwhile LGBTI activist have been dealt another severe blow after the National Gay Forum in that country publicly endorsed former deputy president Atiku Abubakar in his campaign to rule Nigeria, which in turn has backfired, with Abubakar ‘s Campaign Organisation slamming the endorsement as unwanted and unlawful.
The National Gay Forum spokesperson, Victor Labelle told journalist that Abubakar was committed to turning the fortunes of the country around for the better. In response, Abubakar Campaign Organisation spokesperson, Garba Shehu has said “we believe that lesbianism and sodomy are unlawful acts in this country, so we are surprised that law and order have so broken down in this country that gays will organise freely, address the press and the police did not arrest them. Law and order has broken down completely and the next thing we will be hearing now is that of armed robbers and kidnappers that will organise, then bombers will also organise their press conference tomorrow”, reports www.indepthafrica.com.
Although Abubakar has not yet responded activists say should he support LGBTI’s he will be met with challenges.
“He would meet stiff if not violent opposition particularly from the Islam dominated Northern Nigeria where he hails from. In fact he could be impeached or removed. Because today one cannot openly and publicly support LGBTI rights and succeed politically in Nigeria”, said Igwe.
“Atiku won’t directly bring any hope or change but I am confident that he will listen to what we have to say”, said Mac-Iyalla.
Nigeria elects a head of state (President) and a legislature (National Assembly). The president is elected by the people. The National Assembly has two chambers, the House of Representatives which has 360 members, elected for a four year term and the Senate which has 109 members, elected for a four year term.
In the last presidential elections of 1997 Abubakar lost trailing behind in third place with just 7.47% votes losing to Umaru Yar’Adua who clichéd 69.82% votes. Although not running for the presidential elections this year, Abubakar has put all stops in his quest to rule Nigeria. In a petition to the Independent National Commission in Nigeria, Abubakar called on the commission to reject Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who is the current president and who is most likely to win the elections for the forthcoming presidential elections.