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Tinubu: LGBTQ Storm in $150bn Samoa deal teacup

By Farooq A. Kperogi

In the last two days, my social media feed has been suffused with impassioned expressions of grief and outrage from Nigerians over a putative June 28 agreement that the Nigerian government has signed with the European Union to legalize LGBTQ+ rights in the country in exchange for a $150 economic package.

It turned out that a July 4 Daily Trust titled “LGBT: Knocks As Nigeria Signs $150 Billion Samoa Deal” might be the source of the cultural and social anxiety that Nigerian are expressing about Nigeria becoming an “LGBTQ+ nation,” as someone put it on social media.

Unfortunately, the Daily Trust story failed to cite the portion of the Samoa agreement that mandates Nigeria to change its laws to accommodate LGBTQ-friendly policies. It based its headline and entire story on an unnamed report without even citing evidence from the report.

“The agreement reportedly has some clauses that compel underdeveloped and developing nations to support the agitations by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community for recognition, as condition for getting financial and other supports from advanced societies,” it wrote.

The paper then proceeded to fish for people who would express fury and consternation over a piece of information that it hasn’t originally seen, and these expressions of fury and consternation created a self-reinforcing loop. We call this circular reporting.

Circular reporting, also called false confirmation, occurs when a source contrives a piece of information, repeats the information to multiple sources in the form of interviews (in the case of journalism), and then cleverly passes off the views of the interviewees as the original source of the information. It’s basically creating something from nothing.

I read the 12-page agreement titled “The Samoa Agreement with African, Caribbean and Pacific States” that is posted on the website of the European Parliament. There is no obligation in the agreement that requires African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries adopt LGBTQ rights.

However, page 2 of the document states, “The chapter on human rights should explicitly list the forms of discrimination that should be combated (such as sexual, ethnic, or religious discriminations) and mention sexual and reproductive rights.”

Even so, there is an admission in the document that several countries, including European Union members, are resistant to enshrining “sexual rights” in their legal codes.

On page 5, for instance, we see the following: “As of 22 November 2023, however, 30 OACPS members, mostly African and Caribbean, had failed to sign…. Some leaders explained they wanted to check whether the agreement would be compatible with their legal order, notably as regards same-sex relations and sexual health and rights.

“This move surprised several commentators, as the wording on these topics does not go beyond existing international agreements…) and was agreed after years of negotiation; in addition, the agreement includes the possibility for the signatories to make interpretative declarations or reservations.”

Again, page 8 of the agreement notes that not only African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries but also some European Union members resisted being bludgeoned into agreeing to LGBTQ+ rights.

It says, “While the parties will commit ‘to promote, protect and fulfil all human rights be they civil, political, economic, social or cultural’, some ACP states were reluctant to see the foundation agreement mention sexual orientation and gender identity (LGBTI rights) – an issue on which there are also differences among EU Member States.

“As a matter of compromise, the parties will commit to the implementation of existing international agreements – notably the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action on sexual and reproductive health and rights, the Beijing Platform on gender equality and their follow-up (negotiated agreement, Article 36). The wording however falls short of the EU negotiators’ ambitions,” the document says.

Further down on page 9 of the document, it was made certain that the European Union was unable to universalize the merit of protecting sexual health. “Access to sexual and reproductive health services and information will be promoted – without further details, as the parties have varying views on this concept.”

In other words, although the European Union did want to get countries in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific to embrace an expansion of the notion of human rights to include sexual minorities, they got a sustained pushback, not only from them but also from some European Union members.

The only rights that Nigeria and other countries agreed to in the Samoa Agreement are the rights they have already been signatories to for years such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action, and the Beijing Platform.

Plus, a provision in the agreement, which states that countries that signed the agreement have the latitude to “make interpretative declarations or reservations” about controversial issues means that they can understand “sexual discrimination” in ways that suit their cultural peculiarities and existing laws.

Anyone who takes the trouble to actually read the 12-page agreement would know that our lazy, stenographic news media ecosystem has merely created a storm in a teacup. In addition to the reality that the cultural soil in Nigeria is too inhospitable for the seeds of LGBTQ+ rights to germinate, much less flourish, no halfway sane Nigerian politician would risk irrecoverable political, social, and symbolic self-diminution by signing an agreement that violates an existing domestic law, i.e., the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, and that causes extreme anxiety in a cultural conservative country like ours.

In all this, my major worry is that Nigerians waste precious emotions and expend tremendous amounts of energy over issues that are really of no consequence to their everyday lives but look away when threats that smolder their souls and annihilate their very existence confront them. The World Bank and the IMF routinely give loans to Nigeria and attach punishing conditionalities to them.

The removal of subsidies on everything, the devaluation of the naira, the shrinking of expenditure on education and health, etc. are some of the conditions these evil institutions attach to the loans. Someone close to people in power told me a few days ago that Tinubu’s resistance to the IMF’s insistence that he increase petrol price has dissipated and that it’s a matter of when, not if, he’ll approve a price increase of over N1,000 a liter.

When that happens, people will merely grumble, thicken their skins, make peace with their suffering, and move on. So long as LGBTQ+ people have no rights, so long as our religious and cultural values are respected, it doesn’t matter if the IMF and the World Bank instruct our leaders to murder us piecemeal.

That’s why people in positions of power will perpetuate their dominance of society and sustain their oppression of the people intergenerationally. They know that most people are governed by their emotions, not their intellect, by their hearts, not their heads.

The day Nigerians are as engaged and as enraged as they are about this non-existent LGBTQ+ conditionality in a European Union economic package as they are about the IMF’s and the World Bank’s conditionalities that ensure that our people continually live at the subhuman level is the day true liberation will start.

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