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From the Bucket Men to Twon -Brass (4) By Patrick Naagbanton.


 

By Patrick Naagbanton

“Even the one guarding oil facilities force us to pay them money. Even JTF (Joint Task Force, the military task force operating in the delta region) force us to pay them. I am not even worried about the amount, even if they ask us to pay more we will and let them guard us against sea-pirates. We are just paying money for nothing. There was a time sea-pirates attacked us and we went to military people to report to them. They said we should go to police. The reason why we travel in the night is that we pay lesser amount of money, but is risky travelling in the night”, an enraged manager said further.

We were heading southwest still on the New Calabar River, some twenty five minutes before eight p.m., I heard a loud bang like that of a firework blast. I moved to the manager who was in his room, watching a comical Nigerian movie called, “Happy Christmas”

“What is the problem?” I asked.

“Don’t worry, the engine propeller cut off. It won’t affect anything. They will fix it” he responded.

The bell rang again and the boat stopped while the crew members were installing a new propeller. As the manager promised, it didn’t take up to three minutes before a new one was fixed and our journey began. We got to a military house boat in the Bille community to hand over all the ten drums to the military men there.

As we left the military point, I turned to the manager again and asked him what the drums were for. He laughed mischievously and said, “Oga sir, leave me alone oooo. You know what is happening than I know. Let’s talk about other things”, he laughed. I cracked some jokes with him, hoping to get more details about the drums, but he refused to say anything about it. Bille is one of the Kalabari communities, located in the Degema LGA. In early nineteen ninety- two, the Kalabari – Nembe war broke out again. The hostilities continued until two years after. The battle was over the ownership of the oil and gas rich area where Soku gas plant and other oil wells are located. Bille creek was a major battle field. On Thursday, third February, nineteen ninety-four at the Bille creek which is popularly called “Kilometer 90”, Ebigberi Trust, twenty years old then, who had just completed his secondary school, was travelling from Port Harcourt to his Twon- Brass town when attackers struck. He narrated to me in detail how around ten a.m. (in the morning) under the severe harmattan cold then, the incident took place. As they were approaching the Bille creek, seven young men alleged to be Kalabari fighters, dressed in military uniforms, heavily armed with guns opened fire on their speed boat. They were twenty-five persons in the commercial speed boat travelling to Twon-Brass and other Nembe communities along the creeks. There was also another commercial speed boat with same number of passengers, travelling with them. The attackers were in two boats as they saw them coming, used ropes and barricaded the creek route. The other boat travelling with them sped off. Ebigberi Trust and others couldn’t escape like the other boat, they were   attacked. Fourteen persons including a police escort and a Nembe chief were killed. Trust was amongst the eleven who survived the gun attack. Trust is still alive and now a sailor, still sailing in the rough creeks and high seas of the delta. Fighters from the Nembe kingdom were also patrolling the creeks and attacking suspected Kalabari natives. Some calm had returned after the boat incident and others, but armed fighters on both sides were not disarmed. They still have the guns. The route is notorious for sea piracy and illegal oil activities by state and non -state agents.

 

The boat driver was such a great man who knew his job. He sailed west-north, north-west and arrived south-west around ten twenty-five p.m. He didn’t miss the route. He wasn’t using a Compass or a Global Positioning Systems (GPS) or other navigational equipment.  We were at Oluasiri to drop off passengers with their loads of crates of beer (Star and Heineken).  At Oluasiri, a party was going on. Some young men and girls were by the beach side twisting their waists and bodies seriously to the tune of the erotic songs of Nigeria’s rich musician, J.M. Martins. Two loud speakers playing the music were placed by the beach. The chorus was loud. “Baby make you give me your fine love eh/fine love eh/your sweetie sweetie love eh/Baby make you give me your fine fine love eh/your sweetie sweetie love eh”. Such songs in time of crisis can be a big relief.

The Oluasiri people are Nembe people and the community is in one of the oil rich disputed areas. The Kalabari and the Abua people (both Ijaw kingdoms) in Rivers State are saying that they own the area (Oluasiri) and that the Oluasiri people are settlers on their land. The Oluasiri and other Nembe people of Bayelsa State are countering that. Blood has been spilt over this, and now rages the bitter legal battles and media war by Rivers and Bayelsa States over ownership of the oil and gas rich area. As a travel writer, it is not my responsibility to go into the issues of who owns the disputed area, but to merely highlight the prevailing issues in the zones I travel through. But I hope the government would resolve the issue justly and peacefully soon. Poor locals from both sides are the victims of this pointless oil war.

We got to a fishing camp around the Brass River called, “Sansan Village”, to drop off a female passenger, and her two kids and some bags of rice and garri. At the Sansan fish village, instead of having a concrete or iron jetty, planks of wood were used as a platform (jetty) which one climbs into the impoverished fishing village. The wood was old and falling apart. Sand flies, the black tiny, blood-sucking and virus-causing insects swarmed our boat. I was bitten seriously. I ran back to my apartment for safety. At boat room, I saw a fat rat chasing another small one along a wooden pillar by my seat. I chased them away and sat down. We didn’t spend up to six minutes there we sailed out. We diverted through another snake- like creek and entered the Krikakiri area in the Kula community in the Akuku Toru LGA, another Kalabari community in Rivers State. The “Strike Chief” we encountered at the Port Harcourt’s port hails from here. Kula is rich in oil and gas too. The community had witnessed killings related to chieftaincy tussle, violent struggles to benefit from royalties given by Shell and others, and youth leadership crisis. At Krikakiri, our bell rang again, our boat slowed down; the manager came out of his room and handed over two thousand naira notes to some soldiers who were guarding an oil facility there.

Around twelve-thirty a.m., we were at Kampala, a fishing settlement named after the capital of Uganda in East Africa. We were not dropping any passengers. We wanted to pick up a small rectangular empty metal container with us to Twon -Brass.

One of their boats, carrying plenty of wood from the area to Port Harcourt had run into a stubborn storm and the boat sank two days before. After dropping us at Twon Brass, the boat crew members would go to where the boat sank along Nembe creek, dive into the water and use a long rope to tie the floating metal container, just to indicate that a boat had sunk there. Some crew members had taken the empty metal container from Kampala, and had tied it to the tail of our moving boat. We had travelled for about four minutes with the container when waving water from our boat filled it and it cut off and sank. Two crew members pulled off their shirts and dived into the tidal belly of the water, searching for the container. They saw it, but it was filled with water and sinking deeper. They were helpless, returned to the boat sad and feeling dejected. This delayed our movement a bit.

We moved deeper into the Nembe area. The Nembe kingdom of the Ijaw or Ijo nationality has two LGAs( Nembe and Brass ) in Bayelsa State of the central Niger Delta with booming  towns which some of the natives called them ‘ kingdoms’ for some reasons. Around two a.m. (in the morning), I lifted up my eyes to the skies and saw stars over us, which seemed countless and moving closer to us. The morning breeze was chilling and refreshing. We passed Sunnykiri, another busy fishing settlement located on the edge of the windy creek. By three- thirty a.m. we were in the Nembe creek located in the Nembe LGA, a crew member was moving from one chamber of the boat to another, collecting fares and charges on loads. I paid him One thousand five hundred naira (about nine dollars) as my fare.

Nembe is the home of Ebiegberi Joe Alagoa, the humble and brilliant Professor Emeritus of history I respect a lot. Alagoa explores the rich oral histories and legends of his people through his historiographical expertise, reconstructs it, and presents it in a very simple and clear manner. In one of his books, The Small Brave City-State (1964), in pages 91 and 92, he wrote, “The early Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch trade in slaves had carried on through the ports of New Calabar and Bonny. It shifted to Nembe Brass Town when the British preventive activities became effective at these ports ….. In the 1880s, after the arrival of Sir George Tubman Goldie’s National African Company (which became the Royal Niger Company, Chartered and Limited, in 1886), the company established supercargoes and the Nembe traders became allies against the common rival, and Liverpool merchants with stations on the Brass River agitated in the British press and parliament against the increasingly intolerable monopoly maintained by the Niger Company at Akassa over all the markets in the interior” .In early two thousand and beyond, Alagoa and I served on the advisory board of the California, US – based National Radio project (NRP).

Nembe is also the home of Emmanuel Gladstone Olawale Rotimi (1938-2000), widely called, “Ola Rotimi”, the famous playwright, theatre director and teacher. Rotimi was the author of the renowned play; The Gods Are not to blame (1968). He was born of a Yoruba father, Samuel Gladstone Enitan Rotimi and his mother, Dorcas Oruene was from the Nembe main town of Ogbolomabiri. The Nembe kingdom has an age-long matrilineal (inheritance along mother’s line) society, a child or children acquired in any relationship (either marriage or otherwise)   even if they bear the man’s name belong to the woman and her family. The system is no more. On Saturday, twenty-eight December, two thousand and thirteen, Edmund M. Daukoru, ex -Petroleum Minister to President Olusegun Obasanjo government, now Amanyanabo(king) of Nembe Kingdom (Mingi Xii) proclaimed it abolished. The system was established before 1800 AD. In nineteen seventy-seven, Akassa Youmi, his famous historical play was published. The play is about the Nembe-British War commonly called “the Akassa War”. The war over control of trade route between Nembe chiefs and its people (Ola Rotimi’s  people) and British commercial interest, many Nembe people were killed, while Britain lost over hundred people, some were buried in Twon-Brass. Youmi in the Nembe dialect means, the war. Ola Rotimi in his Akassa Youmi presents an aspect of the tragedy in a dramatic form.

 

We spent about four hours dropping off several passengers and their luggage at the various Nembe communities and fishing camps. Around ten minutes after seven a.m., we sailed into Twon- Brass through the Brass River. The river, that sometimes of the day could be mad and its forceful waves block humans traveling in boats on its table, was calm. Before we anchored at Twon -Brass, I viewed Twon -Kubu burial ground from my binoculars on my left. Twon- Kubu is in Twon -Brass, headquarters of Brass L.G.A. There(Twon-Kabu) persons accused of being witches, lunatics or those who died the wrong way like plane crash and others are buried in this area. Twon-Kubu is on the verge of the town. There were spots of tall forest trees around the area

.

Twon- Kubu is different from Ada-Ama cemetery located near Old Bank Road in the heart of Twon- Brass town. At Ada-Ama “good people” are buried with fanfare.” “Who are the bad people and who are the good people?” I inquired myself. I also saw Imbikiri, was a European settlement where palm kernels were sold. Imbi means palm karnel, whileKiri means settlement, area or  ground  A resident of Twon Brass once cracked a joke with me that if one does not see fish to buy in Imbikiri, one cannot  get fish anywhere in the world. Imbikiri is a settlement predominantly occupied by local and migrant fishermen and women and fish traders from other parts of Nigeria. The camp is crucial to the local economy of the people. The Nembe people consider it a serious taboo to kill or eat shark, the weird predatory fish. The fisher folks complained of the problems they have on daily basis when they catch shark and attempt to smuggle it into the town. The people also forbid killing or eating of python, the huge snake found in their mass in the Brass River. Twon -Brass, the old town of the Nembe people, from pre-colonial to present-day has witnessed one form of violent raid or another. At the river, I saw three long vessels as long as our wood boat, racing through in different directions. It looked like vessels with illicit crude oil.

When I got to Twon- Brass, I had wanted to sail out again. Not on the huge wooden boat, but in a speedboat to the Akassa area at the mouth of the turbulent Atlantic Ocean. I was advised against travelling there at the time, because of the dangerous activities of sea robbers and illegal crude oil cartels and dealers. I spent the night (Saturday) at the Samfagha Hotels near the Agip Gate. The hotel was clean and a bit spacious. I paid three thousand naira (about eighteen dollars) for the night. There was uninterrupted power supply from the nearby Agip gas turbine. The entire community also benefit from the power too. If such hotel were to be in Port Harcourt or elsewhere the room rate would have been higher. Opposite the  hotel was a massive hotel with half-naked sex workers from all over the country and even some African countries like Cameroon , Cotonou and others who had come to stay there to do their trade.

Twon- Brass is the native home of Ernest Sissei- Ikoli (1893-1960), one of the fathers of modern journalism and nationalism. Mokwugo Okoye (1926-1998), the foremost pro-independence activist, philosopher and writer, praised Ikoli and others in page 72 of his book, Storms on the Niger. The book was first published by the Eastern Nigeria Printing Corporation in Enugu in nineteen sixty-four. Okoye described Ernest Sissei -Ikoli of The Daily Times, Thomas Horatio Jackson of The Lagos Weekly Record, W. Couldson Labour of The Dawn and Herbert Macaulay of The Lagos Daily Newspapers as “…real masters of their craft and ornaments to the Nigerian intelligence. With their colleagues they brought news of the outside world to the rising middle class and focused attention on more glaring problems of national development.” During the trip, I met Twon- Brass chiefs who disparaged the great Ikoli as a failure who never did anything for his Nembe or Ijaw people. I tried to defend Ikoli, but one of them was angry with me for doing that. Society has slipped into absurdity where success and achievements are measured on the basis of fraudulent money and wealth one parades. Ikoli remains largely unsung. Some years ago, the Rivers State Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) erected a monument of Ikoli, holding a pen in front of its secretariat. The NUJ’s secretariat which is located along Moscow Road in the heart of Port Harcourt city is now in ruins and Ikoli’s monument is falling apart as well.

 

Alfred Papapreye Diete-Spiff, the former military administrator of old Rivers State is said to be a Nembe man with some roots in Twon- Brass. Diete-Spiff is the Amayanabo(king) of Brass, a sub-kingdom within the Brass LGA. Like other sub-kingdoms within the Brass LGA -Okpoama, Odioma and Akassa, they have their Amayanabos(kings) too. Twon- Brass is also the home of Clifford T.I. Ordu – Cameroon, the eminent Professor of soil microbiology, born on third July, nineteen thirty-seven and died on twenty-five October, two thousand and thirteen which is a great loss to the world scientist’ community.

Charles Alfred, a young, bright scholar of peace, war and the conflict economies, was born Twon-Brass some thirty-nine years ago. He is a lecturer of the Political Science Department at the Federal University, Wukari, Taraba State located in North-Eastern part of Nigeria. The University where Charles teaches is located in the Wukari LGA (Jukunland) where T.Y. Danjuma, the ex-military general and billionaire oil tycoon comes from. The university is one of the new nine universities established by the Goodluck Ebele Jonathan government. Charles is the author of the book, A Comprehensive History of Twon-Brass, Vol 1, 2 and 3

 

Twon-Brass is a lovely town. But damaging environmental activities of the oil companies and others in the Brass River and its environs has aggravated the rising surge level which threatens to swallow the beautiful Ijaw town by the sea.  I bade goodbye to Twon- Brass around seven a.m. on Sunday, twenty-nine December, two thousand and thirteen. Not with the huge local ferry boat again, but with the small “flying” boat (speed boat). My journey from Twon -Brass was just three and half hours.

I decided to travel with the poor locals- traders, fishermen and women, and with those who don’t have the money to pay for the speed boat to tell their stories. In the early sixties, travelling through the creeks from the Port Harcourt harbour to Twon- Brass in the large dug-out canoes would take three days. The boats were pulled manually (with paddles). The breakthrough in science and technology saw to better marine engines and equipment that reduced the stress of a longer journey. The various creeks used to be small, but successive governments in then Port Harcourt (then seat of power of the old Rivers State) had dredged the creeks to make them more accessible; for travels especially.

 

Twon -Brass! I shall come to you again, not on the snail- pace moving wooden boat, but on the flying boat (speed boat) to attend Professor Ordu-Cameroon’s funeral coming up sometime in March, this year.

 

Concluded

 

Naagbanton lives in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital

No Right To Force The Legalization Of Same-Sex Union By Hannatu Musawa.


 

Hannatu Musawa
Columnist:

Hannatu Musawa

The signing of the Same-sex Prohibition Act by President Jonathan on January 7 2014, elicited negative reactions from Western countries such as the US, member countries of the European Union and Canada. They have consistently mounted pressure on the federal government over the president’s signing of the Same-Sex Prohibition Act 2014, claiming that the law is a violation of the fundamental human rights of Nigerians with same sex orientation.

Notably, the law does not only criminalize same-sex marriage, it also makes public displays of affection and even socializing in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex community illegal. The US ambassador to Nigeria, Mr James Entwistle threatened that his country would scale down its support for HIV/AIDS and anti-malaria programs in response to government’s position on the gay rights issue. The Vanguard also reported that they learnt the US is committing “substantial” resources to fund the emergence of gay clubs and advocacy groups in Nigeria. The Canadian government canceled a planned state visit by President Jonathan scheduled for next month. The Canadian government’s action is believed to be that country’s reaction to the president’s assenting to the bill, which has so far enjoyed popular support in Nigeria.

Since 2011, certain Western countries have been considering and implementing laws that limit or prohibit general budget support to countries that restrict the rights of homosexuals. Regardless of this, many African countries have continued to refuse pressure to legalize homosexual practices. Many African leaders feel that gay rights are against Africa’s culture and religious value systems and believe that they have the sovereign right to reject what is seen as an imposition by Western nations that attempts to affect national sentiments via aid. While I vehemently disagree with the laws that impose the death penalty on those who come out as homosexuals, the reality is that same sex acts are illegal in about 38 African countries and actual enforcement varies widely and punishment ranges from prison sentences to the Draconian sentence of the death penalty.

In Mauritania, Sudan and Nigeria, homosexuality is a serious punishable crime. In Uganda, Tanzania and Sierra Leone, offenders can receive life imprisonment for homosexual acts. South Africa’s constitution is the most liberal towards gays and lesbians within the continent, with a constitution that guarantees gay and lesbian rights and legal same sex marriage. However, even there, gay rights have been described as an “exclusive privilege of the whites and well-heeled, a small but high-profile subset.”

The raucousness from Western nations that has been accompanying the banning of same sex unions in some parts of Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia has risen to a crescendo. And in their bid to ram the freedom of same sex unions down the throat of more traditional and conservative nations, the west has discarded high-minded rhetoric for bullying tactics dressed in the guise of human rights mantras. The result? Hypocrisy has taken center stage as the preferred response of the west in their bid to redefine the limits of marriage, privacy and religious freedom in some African, Eastern European and Asian countries.

The hypocrisy of the west regarding their stance on the banning of same sex unions is most apparent when considered next to the position taken on polygamy under western laws. In most western nations, the practice of polygamy is not only frowned upon but has been criminalized. The hypocrisy and bully politics of the west in regards to the banning of same sex unions occurs when Western countries pass laws that limits the boundaries of marriage, privacy and religious freedom in line with their value system while they employ strategies and tactics to intimidate, harass, undermine, threaten and abuse other countries for doing the same.

In the case of Reynolds vs. United States, the American courts declined accepting polygamy as a legitimate religious practice, dismissing it as “almost exclusively a feature of the life of Asiatic and African people.” While that particular case is very old, in later decisions, American courts have declared polygamy to be “a blot on our civilization” and compared it to human sacrifice and “a return to barbarism.”

In all the countries that have banned homosexual unions, traditions and religion defines the issue and because most countries have varying values of which they adhere to and are guided by, none should have a right to impose their value system on another. Not only is the practice of polygamy one of the common threads between Christians, Jews and Muslims, studies have found polygamy present in 78% of the world’s cultures. In the same way that countries that accept polygamy have no right to force western nations to legalize polygamy, western nations have no right to impose same sex unions on the countries that ban it.

As a sovereign nation, Nigeria has a right to ban same sex unions in the same way the west has banned polygamy. Indeed the anti-gay legislation is a reaffirmation of core Nigerian values, as the Nigerian society is, to a great extent, based on respect for traditions and religion. The leadership in Nigeria has taken a position on a practice that is alien to its culture and its religious and traditional institutions. The public relations officer of the northern Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) stated that Christians and their counterparts in other religions have unanimously expressed gratitude to the president and National Assembly for passing the Anti Same-Sex Marriage law, despite opposition from Europe and the US. Similarly, the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN), Lagos State, commended the president for signing the bill into law. The group applauded the president for standing his ground, despite pressure to reject the anti-gay bill by some international organizations and foreign countries.

In line with traditions that don’t prohibit same sex unions, neither of the two dominant religions of the world supports homosexuality. In the scriptures, marriage is a sacred contract between a man and a woman that cannot be redefined and it is the cornerstone of family life. In the Bible, passages in the book of Leviticus prohibit homosexuality. Chapter 18:22 states, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” Similarly, chapter 20:13 also states, “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” Jews and Christians have historically interpreted these two verses as the clear prohibition of homosexual acts. Furthermore, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah has historically been interpreted as condemning homosexual acts.

In Islam, the traditional schools of Islamic law based on Qur’anic verses and hadith consider homosexual acts a punishable crime and a sin. The Qur’an cites the story of the “people of Lot” (also known as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah), destroyed by the wrath of God, because they engaged in “lustful” carnal acts between men. The Qur’an contains seven references to the people of Lot; 7:80-84, 11:77-83, 21:74, 22:43, 26:165-175, 27:56-59 and 29:27-33, and their destruction by Allah is associated explicitly with their sexual practices.

In 2012, the Nigerian parliament approved a bill banning same sex marriage despite threats from the US and UK that they would consider withholding aid if the country didn’t recognize gay rights. Curiously though in the US, 17 states out of 50 (less than half) have endorsed same-sex practices and others reject its legality. This means that even in the US, not all its citizens are in support of same-sex practices.

Nigeria and the countries that have banned same sex unions have cultures that are clear and intact and they have a right to rededicate themselves to their traditional values. Same-sex marriage is inconsistent with Nigerian values of procreation and the belief in the continuity of family and clan. And in that vein, Nigeria has a right to fashion its laws in accordance with its values and traditions.

It increasingly seems that the Western countries’ mandate is to coerce African states to institutionalize behavior systems that they frown upon or deem illegal. There is the urgent need for these African states and the Nigerian leadership not to be dependent on foreign assistance for governance. Nigeria and the continent should use its net worth to dismantle the entrenched dependence syndrome and to also say no, no matter how many times they are accused of not adhering to the value system of the West. Aid given with strings attached is not worth it. Nigeria should not lose its moral and spiritual integrity for the sake of aid.

Just like with polygamists in Western countries, a day of social acceptance is unlikely to come for homosexuals in Nigeria and most African and Asian countries. It is unlikely that any law will be passed in Nigeria where the act of same sex marriage will be legalized. No matter, the rights of every nation to infuse its value system into its laws should not be based on the views of other nations, but on each nations individual principle.

Despite one’s view on the subject matter, there is no doubt that Nigeria has a right to enact laws that are reflective of its traditions and religious values and norms. No country has a right to dictate another countries laws that defines the boundaries of marriage, privacy and religious freedom. Thus, just as Nigeria has no right to harass America, Canada or any other nation to enforce and adopt polygamy and other traditional practices into their statutes, these nations also have no right to harass Nigeria to adopt laws that legalize homosexuality. The more the West continues to malign Nigeria for passing laws that prohibit certain modern western value systems, while they hold onto laws that disallow traditional practices acceptable in Nigeria, their hue and cry over human rights becomes a little more than hype and they become much more than hypocrites. May each country be free to preserve the value systems they wish to be defined by and adopt the laws of which they wish to be governed.

Article Written by Hannatu Musawa

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Nigeria’s Retrogressive Anti-Gay Law By Abiodun Ladepo.


By Abiodun Ladepo

This past Wednesday, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan elevated crassness and primitiveness to the highest level imaginable by signing into law a bill banning homosexuality in Nigeria.  I deliberately crafted the previous sentence so unambiguously.  He did not just ban homosexual marriage; he banned homosexuality as a whole!  Perhaps if the law had only stopped at “persons who enter into a same-sex marriage contract or civil union commit an offence and are each liable on conviction to a term of 14 years in prison,” one might not feel so much outrage.  But it went on to state that “any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organizations or directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationship in Nigeria commits an offence and shall each be liable on conviction to a term of 10 years in prison”!  In essence, only heterosexuals are allowed to hold hands in public, sit on each other’s lap, hump each other while dancing in clubs or kiss publicly.  What, in the name of God, just happened to Nigeria?

Let me state upfront that I am a Straight (heterosexual) guy who is happily married to a beautiful woman.  So, this write-up is not about me or my sexual preference.  It is about Nigeria’s lack of originality and lack of creative instincts.  We the people, along with our leaders, fail to do the deep thinking, the due diligence, in many respects that will take our country farther and more quickly than we have hitherto done.  Lethargy is irredeemably ingrained in our psyche.  Otherwise, how does being openly gay draw our country back?  We already have thousands of gay people in our midst!  How does their gayness prevent those of us who are not gay from going about our businesses?

This law assumes that the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community just arrived in Nigeria yesterday.  No, the LGBT has been with us since, at least, when I was a young boy over 50 years ago.  I recall growing up in (yes) Zaria, Kaduna State, of all places, and going to watch evening dances of members of the LGBT.  We used to call them “Dandaudu.”  We, the kids, used to marvel at their public display of amorous acts.  This was in the early 60s.  They were not hidden behind the walls of any clubs in the middle of the night; they danced in open spaces and in early evenings.  I have also personally witnessed “Dandaudus” doing their dances in Bukuru, Jos, Bauchi and Maiduguri in the 70s.  And if you lived in the hostel during your secondary school years, don’t tell me that you did not catch a few of your guy friends “doing it.”  I have heard from some of my secondary school female friends of the sexual trysts that went on in their hostel.  Let’s not even talk about what happens in the dorms of our universities.  So, why are we just now finding out that their presence in our midst is anathema and antithetical to our moral fiber?

Reuben Abati, that formerly celebrated anti-bad government champion, who is now a turncoat and who I now detest with so much passion, defended the law with the pedestrian argument that since 90 percent of Nigerians were opposed to same-sex marriage, “…the law is in line with our cultural and religious beliefs.”   Ninety percent?  First, how did we come up with that percentage?  When did we poll the country to ascertain that 90 percent of our people oppose same-sex marriage?  And even if they do, what right does the majority have to trample on the basic right of the minority – the fundamental human right to freedom of association?  What right does the majority have to deprive the minority of having sex with whomever it wants as long as it is consensual?  The worst that the Nigerian government should have been able to do should have been the denial of official recognition of such a union. But to criminalize it is akin to despotism, especially in a democratic dispensation.

And by the way, since when has this government or any past Nigerian government taken a decision in favor of an issue perceived to have received the support of the majority of Nigerians?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the removal or Stella Oduah as Aviation minister, Diezani Madueke as Petroleum minister and Reuben Abati as adviser?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the banning of government officials, especially the President, from seeking medical attention abroad until our medical facilities and personnel are of the same standard as those they use when they go abroad?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the supply of 24/7 uninterrupted electricity to all corners of Nigeria?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the revamping, rejuvenating and reinvigorating of the EFCC so it can better fight corruption?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support a massive overhaul of our educational infrastructures from elementary all the way to university systems?  Don’t 90 percent of our people oppose the blocking of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway by mega-churches and mega-mosques?  Have our lawmakers crafted any laws that criminalize the failure by government to do the things mentioned above?  No.  But these nosey people are eager to get into the bedrooms of Nigerians.

I find this homophobic inclination that is so rampant in our country as yet another example of religious zealotry and self-righteousness that have been the bane of our society.  Everybody is stampeding and trampling each other today in their quest to out-do one another as they condemn homosexuality.  But we will find out one day – tomorrow maybe –  just as we have found out in Europe and America that even family members of influential government officials can be (and are indeed) gay!  In fact, we will soon find out that membership in the LGBT community cuts across all spectra of our society – from the ranks of elected politicians, to traditional rulers, military officers, police officers, teachers, technocrats, pastors, imams, babalawos, traders and what not.  And what are we going to do when we find out that one of these influential people whom we had thought was heterosexual was indeed bisexual?  Would we throw OBJ or IBB or GEJ or Mama Iyabo or Dame Patience or any of their children into 14 years of prison terms if any of them turns out to be gay? What would we do when we discover that Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye or his wife, Folu do engage in homosexual acts (with other partners, of course)?  What about Sheik Muhammad Yahaya Sanni and his many wives?  Are we going to give them immunity against prosecution?

This is why I stated earlier that our leaders did not subject this law to a rigorous and intellectual discuss before allowing their emotion, religion and communal bandwagon mentality to overtake their sense of reason.  Before the bill was adopted by the Senate in 2011, a few Nigerian members of the LGBT community, supported by some civil rights activists, appeared before the Senate to argue against enacting such a law.  The lawmakers and religious zealots in the chambers of the Senate booed and heckled these gay folks till they cried and left in disgrace.  Among the booing and heckling crowd were men who maintain two, three, four or more wives – wives who are subjugated, mentally and are physically abused.  Among this crowd were women who cheat on their husbands with their pastors and imams to the extent of making babies out-of-wedlock while their husbands thought the babies were theirs.  These people, in my opinion, lack the moral right to tell a gay man or woman whom to love and whom to cavort with in public.

Believe me, gays are the least of Nigeria’s problems.  Graft in high places, greed in high places, hired assassination, kidnapping, murder, armed robbery, neglect of rural areas, neglect of urban areas, lack of functioning basic amenities like electricity, water, hospitals, education, transportation, youth unemployment – all take precedence over what my neighbor is doing in his/her bedroom.  I am ashamed that my leaders do not see this.

And I get it. I get the fact that Nigeria is a deeply religious country.  Even if I wonder how truly religious we are when we watch our religious leaders steal from the religious houses and sexually abuse the laity; even if I sometimes wonder why our religious leaders live in obscene opulence while they watch their followers wallow in abject poverty, I still get the fact that Nigeria is a deeply religious country.  It is the reason why an issue such as gay rights should have been thoroughly debated intellectually.  I hope the passing of this primitive and retrogressive law begins the rigorous discussion of how we allow members of the LGBT to bask in their rightful sense of belonging.  We should lead Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Cameroon, Togo, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leon, Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia out of the comity of nations still wedded to the archaic tradition of segregating their own people on the basis of sexual preferences.

We should join South Africa, Zaire, Congo, Gabon, Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, Mali (yes, Chad, Niger and Mali), Burkina Faso, Benin Republic, Cote D’Ivoire and Guinea Bissau in the comity of nations that embrace the diversity of their people’s sexual preferences and have legislated to protect the rights of their LGBT people.

By Abiodun Ladepo

Los Angeles, California, USA

Oluyole2@yahoo.com

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

Setting Yourself Up For An Amazing Year.


 

Allison Vesterfelt

This blog post first appeared over at www.allisonvesterfelt.com – you can read more about Allison there! 

You never know how much stuff you have until you put it all in a box.

I say this (and write it) all the time, but it’s true. Most of us feel we’re packing pretty lightly, that our life doesn’t include a ton of excess, that we don’t own too much or buy too much or eat too much or socialize too much or criticize ourselves too much — until we see our life from an objective perspective.

Once we start pulling things out of the closet, once we begin organizing the drawers, once we try to pack it all into a cardboard box — that’s when we realize just how cluttered our life really is.

What we really need to do is take an inventory.

new-yearPhoto Credit: Amodiovalerio Verde , Creative Commons

If you’re like most people, this is the time of year when you start thinking about what you want next year to look like. You may have considered some New Year’s Resolutions, or you may be boycotting resolutions. Either way, I’m guessing you’ve spent at least a little time thinking about how you want 2014 to look differently from 2013.

The problem is, most of us spend a good portion of time thinking about what we want to add to our lives without first considered what already exists in them.

I thought about this recently while I was reflecting on the last year of my life.

The thought came to me accidentally, to tell you the truth. I was scrolling through my phone, looking at pictures, when all of a sudden I realized: the last 12 months of my life has been so full.

So much had happened, I realized. So much has changed.

I’ve published a book, moved to Nashville, been to Europe on vacation with my husband. I’ve made new friends, traveled through a dozen states (at least), turned 30 years old, raised $30,000 (with your help) to build a classroom in Uganda, spent time with family, visited Guatemala with Food for the Hungry, run a 10k, and watched people I love have babies and get married.

It’s been a full year; and I don’t say that to brag.

I say that because, my guess is, your year has been really full, too.

Something incredible happens when you just spend a little time taking inventory. You realize how much you had in the first place.
You never realize how much you have until you put it in a box.

There are a few reasons taking inventory is so valuable as we try to move forward into our next year.

First, we realize how “rich” we really are.

When I go through my closet to clear out old clothes, I realize the complaint that I have “nothing to wear” is really unfounded. I have so much to wear, I forget I have most of it.

The same is true for events and achievements in life. Next time you catch yourself thinking the last year of your life has been a waste, go through your Instagram profile. In the place we tend to record our most proud moments, chances are you’ll find memories of the most lovely, wonderful things that have happened to you in the past 12 months.

We are all more blessed than we realize. Our lives are really full.

Second, an honest inventory points to our priorities.

When I spend time to determine where I’ve invested my time, money and energy, I discover what matters to me most. Not what I say matters, but what really matters. I might not like what I find there, but if I’m willing to be honest about it, the information can be incredibly valuable.

Am I spending my time, energy or money on things that really matter?

Is there a disconnect between what I say matters to me; and what really does?

When we take an honest inventory of our lives, we’re able to see how we want to move ahead differently in the future. For example, in my own honest inventory, I realize I spent way too much time, energy and stress over my e-mail inbox. What a waste. I’m not going to do that again next year.

What would it look like for you to take an honest inventory of your last 12 months?

Missionary Doctor Sees ‘Miracle’ in HIV Victim, Prays for More.


Hannah Gay
Hannah Gay, the pediatrician who functionally cured a baby of HIV, is shown in 1988 during her time as a Baptist representative in the Horn of Africa. (Joanna Pineo, courtesy Baptist Press)

People worldwide took note of Hannah Gay when an HIV-positive child in her care went into remission—the first functional cure of HIV in a child.

But the “shiest pediatrician in America” told Baptist Press (BP) she was just standing by as God performed a modern-day miracle.

It’s something she’s gotten to tell often in the more than a year and a half since the baby first went into remission, and in places as prestigious as the Oxford Union in England, where she presented a case study Nov. 5.

“I think [God’s] teaching me submission with all of the speaking business,” Gay, a pediatrician with University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Miss., told BP. “I don’t particularly like that, but it is an opportunity for me to be able to say … when I treated this baby I was not even thinking of curing the baby. That was the furthest thing from my mind. I was simply trying to prevent infection, and I failed at what I was trying to do.”

But her “failure” became a “miracle” in God’s hands, she says: “It was God that cured the baby, and I just happened to be standing close by at the time.”

Gay’s high view of God has been nurtured by years of trust in Him, including six years spent with the International Mission Board in West Africa.

“[Faith] influences every area of her practice,” Paul Gay, Hannah’s husband, told BP. “Hannah ministers through everything she touches. Her ministry is supported and guided by prayer. The affection, the love that she has for the families and the children, the commitment she has, all [stem] from her faith. She has a dedication that flows from her relationship with God, and I think that has attracted a team to work with her who share her commitment.”

While in Africa, the Gays came face to face with those dealing with AIDS and its effects.

“There [were] just huge numbers coming out of Uganda and some frightening numbers coming out of Kenya about HIV,” Paul Gay says. “There was great work going on in Uganda to try to get some kind of handle on the massive problem.”

At that time, a third of the adult population in Uganda was infected with HIV, Paul Gay told BP.

“Although we could not document it, the rumor was that [in Ethiopia] people who contracted HIV disappeared,” he says. “None of the nongovernmental organizations, none of the international organizations that were there in the country, did testing because we were afraid that a diagnosis would be a death sentence, not from the disease but from whoever was responsible for these disappearances.”

It was a silent problem, he says.

“It was only after the fall of the Communist government to the coalition of Eritrean and Tegrean forces in 1991 that people in authority began to speak,” he told BP.

Today in Africa

In Africa, the problem persists.

“Today in families where there is education concerning HIV/AIDS and the use of ARVs, there is less of an impact from AIDS as there was,” says Sharon Pumpelly, who served as a missionary in Uganda for 17 years. “But there are many families who do not fit in this category and AIDS has a devastating effect.”

The effects come in the form of loss of income, need for care and uncertainty for the family, she says.

“There are still elder-child-led families or grandma-led families,” Pumpelly says. “In our [True Love Waits] program, we ask youth to share their dreams for the future and base where we go from that.”

True Love Waits presenters noticed that Ugandan children raised by grandparents struggled to answer that question, she says.

“The older generation was supposed to relax, be cared for by their families and share stories and wisdom, not raise another generation,” Pumpelly says. “So this youth did not think about the future.”

AIDS affects people psychologically and socially, she continues.

“Through the Kenya government, Kenya Interfaith AIDS Consortium, I met a man who God saved after he tried to kill himself when getting a positive HIV diagnosis,” Pumpelly says. “His wife and children were HIV negative, but it was difficult for them financially.”

Though the government discouraged discrimination, that didn’t mean it stopped, she says. And the social embarrassment of AIDS is a problem too.

Pumpelly says she and her colleagues challenge missionaries to get tested for HIV, just so they know what it is like and mostly so they can encourage others to be tested.

“If testing for HIV did not carry a stigma, the amount of HIV in the world would be reduced,” she says. “No one is tested without counseling to help them deal with their results, which helps folks plan better for their future.”

Make a Difference

Christians can make a difference in the lives of those who test positive, Pumpelly says.

“AIDS is no longer on the world’s front burner, yet in poor countries or areas of countries, it is still forefront in the devastation it causes,” she says. “People need to look for ways to impact AIDS beyond just helping orphans—many want to only help the innocent victims.”

There are many ways to help. For instance, many missionaries would love to have teams trained to teach the Africa True Love Wins program.

“As Christians, we need to be encouraging life that glorifies God. Discipleship must include sexual purity and building right relationships in the marriage and home,” Pumpelly says. “People are suffering, and our hearts should be breaking.”

Help children in Africa affected by AIDS through these One Life projects:

  • One Orphan—Every child deserves a caring family. Sixty-five percent of the children in Zimbabwe have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS.
  • One Notebook—Provide composition notebooks for 150,000 orphan school children in 200 schools in Zimbabwe.
  • One Community—Transform a community by loving orphans, caring for the dying and bringing hope to those who live in poverty and despair. Many children become the head of their household because their parents have died of AIDS.
  • One School—Help transform the lives of students and their school, families and community. Hunger, poverty, absentee parents, gangs, HIV/AIDS and low academic achievement are daily challenges for these students.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

Dream Turns Hate-Filled Muslim Into Lover of Israel.


Umar Mulinde
Umar Mulinde was a Muslim who hated Israel until Jesus appeared to him in a dream. (CBN News)

Umar Mulinde was a Muslim who hated Israel until Jesus appeared to him in a dream. After that, he became a Christian and started a church in Uganda.

But his newfound faith cost him.

On Christmas Eve 2011, Mulinde, now a pastor, was attacked by two Muslims with buckets of acid. The acid ate away his skin, his eye and his ear.

“I felt fire from up to down to my toes and I was like, ‘Something’s cooking me,'” he recalls about the attack. “And they shouted, ‘Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar,’ three times. I realized I have fallen into the ambush of Muslim terrorists.”

Mulinde now wears a special pressure mask to aid the healing process.

“My conversion from Islam and my love and promotion of the love of Israel in my community taught the people on the other side to haunt me and to hunt me for a kill,” he says.

In a recent interview with CBN News, Mulinde gave the account of his conversion to Christianity, the details of the attack on him, the lessons he has learned, his forgiveness of those who attacked him, and his message to the West. Click play to watch his remarkable testimony.

“Presidents For Life” Fight For Re-election; Audit Finds Billion Dollar Loss Of Nigerian Oil Profits; Conflict Across Great Lakes Region Prompts Confab; Zuma Cozies Up To Nuclear Power.


Faure
By Global Information Network (GIN)

Jul. 30 (GIN) – Ruling parties in Togo, Zimbabwe, Mali and Guinea Bissau are looking to take one more bite of the apple and snatch one more electoral victory, deflating hopes by opposition parties to bring new faces and fresh ideas to the top offices.
Early returns in Togo and Mali have some crying foul. “It’s a sham amid massive corruption and proven fraud,” declared Agbeyome Kodjo, a former prime minister of the West African nation of Togo, whose party Togo Solidarity (OBUTS) joined with Let’s Save Togo for the elections.

Early results show Togo’s ruling party of Faure Gnassingbe winning two-thirds of parliamentary seats, allowing the president’s family to continue its 46 year-long grip on power.

Faure’s father, Eyadema Gnassingbe, came to power through a coup in 1967 and ruled for 38 years until his death in 2005, when his son was installed by the military.

Gnassingbe’s party will now control 62 of 91 seats, up from 50 of 81 seats.  Observers from the African Union and West African bloc ECOWAS have said that the elections were held in acceptable conditions.

Zimbabwe is slated to vote on July 31, Malians voted July 28, while Guinea Bissau is due in November.

Challengers to the firmly entrenched leaders appear to face insurmountable odds. The seemingly unbeatable so-called “Presidents for Life” include Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni (25 years), Paul Biya of Cameroon (29 years), Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe (31 years), Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola (32 years) and Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea (nearly 32 years).

Meanwhile, hundreds of comments crowded the website My Continent – Africa on the “Presidents for Life” topic. http://mycontinent.co/Ditactors.php  Jackson of Uganda, speaking of the aging leaders, wrote:”Their overstay has affected our development, they are only after empowering their friends and families, the rest is history.” Added Nana Debrah Bekoe Isaac of, Ghana: “How can some people be so power glutton? Staying in power for over two decades is too bad. African leaders should change.” w/pix of F. Gnassingbe

REPORT OF BILLION-DOLLAR LOSS TO OIL FRAUD DIMS OIL WEALTH DREAMS

Jul. 30 (GIN) – Nigeria lost billions of dollars in oil and gas revenues over a 2-year period as the nation suffered from crumbling infrastructure, polluted lakes and rivers, joblessness and a growing insurgency now operating nationwide. A damning auditor’s report of fraud, mismanagement and corruption comes as neighbor countries Uganda and Ghana are becoming oil giants themselves.

The amount of potential oil revenues lost to oil theft, from 2009-2011, is estimated at approximately $10.9 billion, according to the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).

“Over 136 million barrels … were lost to crude oil theft and sabotage,” said Ledum Mitee, a former activist with the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People. Mitee heads the National Stakeholders Working Group for the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, an appointment approved by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.

In addition to oil theft and pipeline vandalism, the audit blamed a poorly defined pricing methodology, a dilapidated refining sector and excessive fuel subsidy for significantly reducing government revenue from the oil sector.

While the country pumped more oil, noted the report, there was no measurable improvement in the standard of living of the people and the ever-expanding population of the poor.

Anthony Ebipade, a former fighter in the Niger Delta, observed:”Since our people’s livelihoods have been destroyed through oil spillage and gas flaring, coupled with the poor quality of human potential owing to poor education, the easiest option is illegal business such as oil bunkering.”

Nnimmo Bassey of the Mother Earth Foundation added:”As we see clearly, neither farming nor fishing thrives in polluted and severely degraded places like the Niger Delta. This entrenches unemployment, poverty and disease.”

Writing from Uganda, journalist Byaruhanga Chris of the Ugandan daily New Vision asked when Uganda would take similar measures with its new oil income.

“So what’s the delay? Why has Uganda been slow to prioritize an already tried and tested transparency tool, especially now that the country is facing some of the biggest corruption scandals of its time?  Why can’t we, the citizens, be told how money is exchanging hands in the oil and gas sector?”

AS CONFLICTS MOUNT, REGIONAL LEADERS TO MEET IN KENYA FOR SPECIAL SUMMIT

Jul 30 (GIN) – Nairobi will be the venue for a major summit on growing flashpoints in the Great Lakes region, including renewed hostilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, tension among the two Sudans over the use of oil pipeline and rebellions, the pacification of Somalia and crisis in the Central African Republic.

Heads of states and governments from the Great Lakes region will also discuss the issue of refugees in the region, regional economic integration, investments in infrastructure and increased regional trade.

Kenya has been lobbying the international community for support to resettle refugees residing in the world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab, in northern Kenya and those living in other urban cities and towns. Nairobi’s involvement in Somalia has been a burden, said Minister Ken Vitisia, “both in terms of refugees and our presence militarily. It is very important that we find a common ground on this problem.”

The leaders expected to attend include the presidents South Sudan, Sudan, Angola, Zambia, the Central Africa Republic and the DR Congo.  The UN and development partners such as the African Development Bank, African Union and the World Bank will also attend.

The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo has engulfed other neighbors such as Rwanda and Uganda. There are also emerging tensions between Sudan and Uganda. Khartoum has filed a complaint with the African Union and the Great Lakes bloc over Uganda’s alleged support for rebel insurgencies against Sudan.

Sudan was alarmed after Sudanese opposition parties and rebels signed a charter dubbed the “New Dawn” in Kampala last January whose aim, according to Sudan, is to topple Omar al-Bashir’s regime.

Kenya is hosting the meeting while it seeks regional support for a non-permanent  seat at the United Nations Security Council for a two year period (2017-2018)

The summit kicks off July 31. w/pix of Somali refugees recently arrived

SOUTH AFRICA COZIES UP TO NUCLEAR POWER, DISMAYING CRITICS

Jul 30 (GIN) – President Jacob Zuma and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in three reciprocal working visits this year with nuclear cooperation high on the agenda at the meetings.

Russia is reportedly seeking to provide South Africa with uranium enrichment, supply, reactor technology and localization of nuclear skills. French and Chinese investors will have supporting roles.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Energy praised nuclear power stations for holding “tremendous benefits” for South Africa.

“Most importantly, it will leapfrog South Africa into the knowledge economy, as well as massive industrial development,” said Energy Minister Dipuo Peters.

But Democratic Alliance MP Jacques Smalle said South Africa did not need new nuclear power plants to complement its energy mix.

“In fact, the program could cost the taxpayer up to one trillion rand,” he told the House. A project of such magnitude was “completely unaffordable”.

“We are certain that the corruption [involved with] such a nuclear build would dwarf the arms deal,” Smalle said. “Instead of building new nuclear power plants, South Africa should increase its natural gas footprint.”

Zuma’s embrace of nuclear power, including taking over the chair of the National Nuclear Energy Coordinating committee, dismayed South Africa’s Greenpeace environmentalists.

“The confirmation of the take-over and the underhanded manner in which Deputy President Kgalema Mothlanthe was replaced both highlight the continued lack of transparency and ongoing secrecy by government when it comes to the country’s nuclear energy plans,” said Greenpeace activist Ferrial Adam.

He warned: “Even putting aside the issues of safety, security, and waste management, South Africa cannot afford new nuclear power plants and the stubbornness of the government on its delusions of grandeur would drive the country to bankruptcy.”

 Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

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