In an interview with Blanck Digital magazine, Nigerian gay activist, Bisi Alimi says he can’t come to Nigeria because he’s scared for his life. Bisi who came out as gay on National TV many years back has been living in the UK since 2007. Bisi says Homosexuality can be accepted in Africa as Africans are neither idiots nor senseless.
“Since I left Nigeria in 2007 I have never been back, it’s not a safe place for me. It would be sheer foolishness on my part to go back to Nigeria after the failed attempt on my life or the never ending run-ins I had with the police. It is one thing to be a martyr and another to live to fight another day, and I think I would rather want to live so I can keep fighting.
More excerpts of the interview after the cut.
Do you miss Lagos?
Do I miss Lagos? Do I miss Mushin? I will be lying if I said I don’t. I really miss the fun I had as a child; I miss the buzz of living on the street and the fun of overcoming those unexpected dangers that come with living in a place like Mushin. I miss my friends, my families and the neighbourhood. However, I won’t deny that in as much as I do miss Lagos and Mushin, I also realised that Lagos broke ties with me when I came out as gay and it was very hard then and even harder now to really relate to Mushin as home.
Can you go Home?
The simple answer is NO! Unless otherwise I want to take a risk and sometimes I have said myself, is it a risk worth taking? I am not sure I know the answer.
It has changed the conversation around same sex relationship and identity in Nigeria. The fact is, do your research and you find that prior to 2004, when I came out on New Dawn, there were hardly any conversations around such issues. A few months before my coming out, Obasanjo was busy spreading false messages about no homosexuals in Nigeria. To my recollection of things, that was the first time same sex issues were making mainstream news. The media were reporting it and it was really getting airwaves. However, there was a narrative that was missing. The narrative of the real people. We were considered invisible by Obasanjo and there was that need to create visibility. It was a great shock when on the morning of that October, a guy sat on the sofa with Funmi Iyanda and talked about being gay. I mean in Nigeria? Till today I still received emails from Nigerians saying I must be mad to have done that.
Today we have a law that criminalizes same sex relationships in Nigeria. The law came into effect because I spoke up and others have not kept quiet since then. Whichever way we look at it, the act of 2004 changed the discourse in Nigeria.
Do you think homosexuality can be accepted in an African society?
Yes I do. I do because Africans are not idiots or senseless. It really angers me when in the discourse of accepting sexual orientation and gender identity, that Africans are likened to some dangerous species. History in Europe as regards LGBT people is not that far away. I mean homosexuality was decriminalized in the UK just over 50 years ago. It is important to note that Nigeria was just coming out of colonial rules when Britain was decriminalizing homosexuality. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not making a case for homophobes in Nigeria or Uganda or any other part of Africa. What I am saying is, the question that generates a sense of hopelessness as regards LGBT rights in Africa is only playing to the irrational discourse that Africans are not rational people. We know that contrary is the case.
It is important to understand the impact post colonial religious movement is having on the continent. Yes, homosexuality will be accepted in Nigeria if we stick to the positive narrative of same sex relationships. If we step up the game and let Africans remember the basis of the African society, one built on the principles of “umbutu” and not on greed as perpetrated by religious entrepreneur who are constantly ruining the continent with the support of their politicians, who disregards democracy and the wish of the people.
It is not only homosexuality I see being accepted on the continent, I see good governance coming on as well. I see the people’s wishes coming true. I see respect for women and girls. I see the end of marriage rape and child marriage. I see education becoming a right and not a privilege. I see healthcare being people orientated and I am see an Africa like David Diop said in “Africa”, a continent “Whose fruit bit by bit acquires the bitter taste of liberty”