Could the Nigeria crisis be a blessing in disguise for LGB&T activists?

The year 2012 began badly for all Nigerians after the government announced the removal of fuel subsidy, which caused a hike in fuel pump price by over 100 per cent.

Nigeria’s unions called a nationwide strike and only suspended their strike on Monday, after the president agreed to cut the cost of petrol following a week of protests.

The suspension of strikes and protests by Nigeria’s unions came as a huge relief to ordinary Nigerians.

What did the removal of the fuel subsidy mean for the LGBT community in Nigeria amongst other Nigerian citizens?

The strike and protests had one positive effect for the LGBT community in that they brought mainstream civil society activists closer to LGBT activists, something that would have been unthinkable a couple of months ago when the anti-gay bill was brought to the Nigerian parliament and no voices from the wider civil society spoke out against it.

Some local LGBT activists told Behind the Mask that they regard the current situation as an opportunity to buy time and make allies in their advocacy against the anti-gay bill.

Olumide Makanjuola, TIERs Director of Programs said, “We should see it as a chance for us to buy time and build more alliances with other Civil Society Groups in preparation for the [anti-gay] bill because it will still come back whether we like or not.”

TIERs stands for The Initiative for Equal Rights, a Nigerian LGBT organization.

Likewise, but with some slight apprehension, Oliver Anene Executive Director of the Improve Male Health Initiative said, “I believe it is a blessing, as it has bought us more time, but also has shown Nigerians that our legislatures have more important issues to deal with. What I’m actually scared of is that the LGBT movement might also get distracted by this, which seems to be the case already.”

Dorothy Aken’Ova of the International Centre for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights, INCRESE, said, “In a way it is a blessing for the anti-gay bill and it helps to buy time. Nigerians now know what is [really] evil.”

As a result of the current situation, President Goodluck Jonathan appears to have lost his popularity amongst the masses.

Makanjuola however suspects that the president might try to shore up his support by signing the anti-gay bill into law. He said, “They might use it to get the masses attention and win back their hearts and minds using arguments about religion and culture.”

Anene however seemed optimistic saying, “I haven’t thought about that. When you say appease the masses, you are talking about something all of Nigeria agrees to. We had noticed a change in orientation of people’s thoughts on the LGBT [community]. More and more people are against the bill, and we see that growing. If the Government wants to appease Nigerians, [it will] not [be] with anti-gay laws.”

Aken’Ova said, “The masses are now wise, people has been shot and killed. It will not be easy to appease anyone with the anti-gay rights palaver. The bill will not give him popularity because people have experienced evil during the strike and protests.”

From Behind the Mask

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