Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Nigerian president chases rats

Today in Nigeria, there is a militant Niger Delta group holding Shell employees hostage and threatening to ground all oil exports from Nigeria until their demands (including the release of their leader, currently standing trial for treason) are met. In the South Western state of Oyo, there is a constitutional impasse as two men lay claim to the governorship- one claiming that the incumbent has been impeached, and the incumbent arguing that having obtained a judgement that pronounced the impeachment illegal, he remains the rightful governor. There is the potential threat of violence, as the supporters of the two men square up for a fight. And there are millions of Nigerians living in poverty, suffering from entirely preventable diseases, and hungry. And the president's own son testifies that corruption remains rife at the highest echelons of the Nigerian government.

Against this daunting backdrop, it was cheering news to hear that the Nigerian government had put forward a bill, initiated by the President himself, to outlaw same sex marriage and to make it an offence punishable by a 5 year sentence for any Nigerian citizen to participate in a gay marriage. He caps it by reiterating that oft repeated triteness espoused by such eminences as the venerable Mugabe that homosexuality is "unAfrican". Mugabe remained stoically silent when soon after his pronouncement, evidence that Canaan Banana, his guerilla colleague and then president of Zimbabwe had been involved in a homosexual relationship with one of his aides emerged.

I am reminded of the saying among my people of the man whom, while his home burns is busy chasing the rats emerging from the burning hut, instead of trying to put out the fire. Whatever your opinions are on same sex partnerships, surely you must agree that it's not our most pressing problem.....

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