Gay Nigerian: Antigay Law Is a Distraction From Real Problems

By Michelle Garcia

Originally published on Advocate.com January 17 2014 3:44 PM ET

A gay Nigerian man who fled his home country in 2007 for the U.K., told CNN that the new law banning same-sex unions and public displays of homosexuality is a distraction from the country's other, more pressing problems.

Bisi Alimi was the first person in Nigeria to publicly declare that he is gay on national television in 2004. Alimi told Christiane Amanpour Thursday that he wanted to preempt being outed by the media and that he felt a responsibility to stimulate discussion about LGBT people among Nigerians.

Amanpour asked whether the Nigerian government cares about the negative international attention it has received for enacting the law. Alimi said the government cares because of its major exportation of oil, but he wondered why the president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, did not made a public statement following his signing the bill on January 7, in secret.

"This is a bill that has generated a lot of conversation globally," Alimi said. "Why did he sign this bill in secrecy? The information was released to bloggers — not even the Nigerian press."

Alimi added that the political climate in Nigeria has been turbulent for several years, but the passage of this bill has become a distraction from significant problems such as widespread sexual assault and corruption.
 
"Before I went on national television in Nigeria, same-sex relationships was not something we talked about, as much as we don't talk about sex in Nigeria," he said. After he spoke openly on the most popular show in Nigeria, his appearance initially sparked some thoughtful discussion, but it eventually turned too salacious, he said

"People were not ready to educate themselves, and this created a lot of problems for the LGBT community in Nigeria," he said. Eventually the show was canceled and the host lost her job, while Alimi could not find a job and was forced to leave school.