By Chido Onumah
I understand distinguished Senator David Mark, the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic, is a very pious man. I don’t know Mr. Mark personally, but those who know him say the retired general is one person who pursues his cause with the zeal of a soldier. It was this zeal that he brought to bear as minister of communications in the regime of the “Evil Genius”, General Ibrahim Babangida, by making sure that the “ordinary people” did not have access to telephone and upbraiding university students for protesting fuel price increase when many of them didn’t have cars.
When Mark wanted to run for president a few years ago, he granted an interview in which he declared: “If I have my way, I will say whoever does not have a military background should not be made president,” noting that “civilians don’t have the requisite training”. According to Mark, even journalists should undergo military training because, “It gives you the confidence that you need and makes you to be everything”. He went on: “I can tell you that a staff sergeant in the army is better than a university graduate in this country. That is the truth. If you give me a graduate and a staff sergeant, I will pick the sergeant because I can train the sergeant”. The point Mark was trying to make was that nobody should deny him the opportunity to rule Nigeria simply because he was once a soldier.
Mark has since made his mark (no pun intended) on our democratic landscape. He has been a senator since the return to democracy in 1999. He is in his second term as senate president, the first and only senator to achieve this feat in the 4th Republic. He was one of the senators who supported the bill that sought to give President Obasanjo a third term in office. He was one of the few officers alleged to have played a prominent role in the annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential election. And the way he is going, Mark may yet fulfill his ambition of being the president and commander-in-chief.
Mark’s latest pet project is his crusade against gays and lesbians, that extraterrestrial, subhuman group that has descended on our great country and seeks to pervert our collective morality. Some people have argued that if Mark and his colleagues could expend a quarter of the time and energy they are expending hounding gays and lesbians, on pressing national problems, the country might be a safer and more prosperous place for her citizens. But that is beside the point. We all know the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly is nothing more than a retirement home for public officers who have lost their immunity.
As a devout and morally upright Christian who aspires to be a Knight of the Catholic Church someday, I can understand Mark’s antipathy toward gays and lesbians. But to allow that to becloud his legislative judgment in a supposedly secular nation like ours, is to say the least, troubling. Unfortunately, that is exactly what he is doing by championing the anti-gay movement in the senate. During his latest outing at a civic reception in honour of John Cardinal Olorunfemi Onaiyekan in Abuja, Mark said “The need to nurture and preserve sanity, morality and humanity in our nation informed the decision of the Nigerian Senate to legislate against same-sex marriage and homosexuality”.
We all know where science stands on the issue of homosexuality. It does appear, therefore, that beyond the religious argument, there has not been any “persuasive” argument put forward by homophobes. But we can’t give in to the religious argument for obvious reasons. Nigeria is a secular state. The other reason is that it is a very slippery slope. If we hound homosexuals on the basis of religion, then we create room for other religious bigots who have made our country a living hell in their purported attempt to propitiate heaven.
Caution is the word, Mr. Mark. All the balderdash that homosexuality is not in our culture, is simply that: balderdash. The bottom line is that we are dealing with a relationship between two consenting adults. What crime has been committed? The crime of falling in love?
The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community does not pose a national security threat. Rather, those we need to wage a war against are bigots, whether they be religious, ethnic or sexual.
If we allow Mark and his colleagues to legislate on what adults do in their bedrooms, they may one day begin to think of legislating on what a woman, for example, does to her body.
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