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Meet the first gay Nigerian to come out on TV

January 16th, 2014
04:03 PM ET

What is Nigeria's new anti-gay law?

By Mick Krever, CNN

In 2004, Bisi Alimi did an extraordinary thing.

He went on national television and told his fellow Nigerians that he was gay.

Alimi lived in a country not only where open discussion of sex and sexuality is considered déclassé, but where 98% of his fellow citizens now say they do not approve of homosexuality.

“There were so many things we don’t talk about,” Alimi told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday. “My career was on the line, I was going to be outed by the media.”

It was better, he decided, to come out of the closet on his own terms.

“I have a responsibility to stand up for the community, to give a face to the community, to demystify the old arguments that there are no homosexuals in Nigeria,” he said.

He became the first Nigerian to declare his homosexuality on television.

In that same year, 2004, Alimi had been diagnosed with HIV. He had been working for years as an activist with the gay community in Nigeria, and was programing director for an HIV-advocacy group.

The world learned this week that Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has signed a new law, the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act.

So strict is the law that CNN’s Vladimir Duthiers, reporting from Lagos, told Amanpour that he could even face imprisonment just for interviewing a gay activist.

“I could be thrown in jail for 10 years under this new law,” Duthiers said, as could someone caught distributing condoms for use by homosexuals – that in a country where more than three million people are living with HIV, according to UNAIDS.

The law “makes it illegal for anybody to associate, to aide, to abet, to comingle with anybody who is perceived to be homosexual, to be part of a gay group, to be part of a gay society,” Duthiers said.

A Nigerian man in Lagos told Reuters he was “very glad” Jonathan signed the anti-gay bill.

“It's un-African,” he said. “We don't want such a thing in our country.”

After Alimi so publicly told Nigeria that he was gay, he said, “the conversation got mainstreamed.”

But not necessarily as he would have liked.

The discussion “was more of victimization rather than having an intelligent, adult conversation around these issues,” he said.

“People were not ready to educate themselves. And this created a lot of problems for the LGBT community in Nigeria.”

“I couldn’t get a job, I left university, nobody was going to employ me, my life was constantly in danger, I was always beaten, arrested by the police, discharged.”

He would eventually seek asylum in the UK, where he now lives.

Parliament passed the bill last year, so why did the president sign it now?

“He has been boxed to a corner,” Alimi said, who believes President Jonathan is increasingly politically alienated.

“I know, like so many other Nigerians know, that this is a distraction.”

As for those fellow countrymen, Alimi believes that for many, their intolerant views are bolstered by religion.

“How many Nigerians know…what this law means? Or how many Nigerians have an understanding outside of religion what exactly we talk about when we talk about sexuality?”

“Why then should religion be the basis of putting a law in place in a secular state?”


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode • Nigeria
soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. Seyi Okunuga

    It is not an African custom; hence it's considered a TABOO (virus) to its traditional values. It is forbidden in the scheme of our existence as Black Africans and suggests a deceptive effort to alter man's natural existence and African's heritage & believes. Many view this as a personal decision and many more, belief its should not be encouraged; this is bearing in mind that it will lead to a negative influence on the young and naive who are with less understanding of these things. These are little indulgences that encourages child molestors and sorts. Thank you.

    January 17, 2014 at 4:37 am | Reply
    • nnamdi

      no

      January 17, 2014 at 6:16 am | Reply
      • simon

        At least, gays and lesbians are now endangered species. The world can come to their rescue. But that will not be a good idea for Vladimir Putin and d Russians, kudos pres. Jonathan for taking d bold step

        January 18, 2014 at 7:50 am |
  2. Charles Maduka

    Since the west cannot accept Polygamy which is legal in Africa by choice and we cannot even convince them to, then it beholds on them to also accept that Gay marriage is alien to our cultures and values and thus illegal here.
    Alternatively, the US and western embassies can grant 'gay' asylum and free visa to all gays who want to freely and openly practice their gayness from Africa.

    January 17, 2014 at 5:22 am | Reply
    • Ekaette

      Right on point Charles, right on point!

      January 18, 2014 at 5:40 am | Reply
    • Arnold

      i love this coment

      January 18, 2014 at 6:43 pm | Reply
  3. Ayodeji Lancaster

    I'm with you Bisi Alimi. No one has the right to force their religious believe on a secular state.

    January 17, 2014 at 5:35 am | Reply
    • nnamdi

      You are right. Am a christian but i do not think that i need to force someone to practice my religion

      January 17, 2014 at 5:53 am | Reply
      • Edruyi

        Sorry...you think you are a christian!

        January 19, 2014 at 4:23 am |
    • Arnold

      Who determines what is "circular" the West???? Will polygamy be considered "circular" ??????? Can the African people persuade the Western world to accept Polygamy???? If your parents were gay would you have come to the world MUMU???

      January 18, 2014 at 6:50 pm | Reply
  4. Ejiro

    Making this a religious issue is just whipping up sentiments . I don't know of any culture in Nigeria where this is accepted ,at least not openly. That lack of acceptance further spills into religious circles and is thus not exclusive to religion. The laws of a nation are a clear reflection of its culture and thus the west should not be in a hurry to condemn this . Like a point made earlier,some things like polygamy are culturally accepted in Nigeria and equally recognised by law. It will only amount to indirect colonisation to dictate what laws Nigeria as an independent state should and should not have.

    January 17, 2014 at 6:31 am | Reply
    • Ned

      Culture and tradition have no bearing on the fundamental rights of human beings.

      January 17, 2014 at 3:52 pm | Reply
      • Victor

        What is fundamental human rights? The right to be human! Why allow a culture, religion or initiative (whatever it is called) that does not allow procreation of humans stand? Is that not a violation of human living rights? How did gays and lesbians emerge in this world?

        January 17, 2014 at 5:42 pm |
    • Arnold

      You've said it all my friend

      January 18, 2014 at 6:52 pm | Reply
  5. Prince

    Christina, how will it make you feel if osama binlandin imposed his suicide bombing on Americans and the rest of the world? how will you feel, if i came to your country to force you into eating garri, and when you insist on eating your sandwich cancer, i take away the things i have with you...
    I am sure America and all the other gay countries should be getting this lectures from one another.

    January 17, 2014 at 6:44 am | Reply
    • nnamdi

      what are u saying

      January 17, 2014 at 8:13 am | Reply
  6. Prince

    When you people start marrying your daughters and sons to your dogs, be sure to leave Nigeria out of is

    January 17, 2014 at 6:52 am | Reply
  7. Ayodeji

    There are several ideals accepted from the West by Africans because they have some form of similarities with our own culture or because we feels the west understands them better, but for gay marriage and association, its totally alien to African culture and can never be accepted here no matter how it is branded. Since the west still remain friends with Saudi Arabia, then they should accept to leave us to our Beliefs.

    January 17, 2014 at 6:56 am | Reply
  8. Prince

    I am representing all decent Nigerians, when i write this, keep your gay money and business we want nothing of it, all you brought us, is the devils ass on a plate and we dont want it.

    Sister Bisi Alimi did not get a job in Nigeria, because he was looking for a job, where he could parade his gay sh** and we wont have that, so go to UK, if we loose you to UK it wont make any difference, as you are still a waste even after spending that long time in UK.
    You came on CNN, and you forgot to wipe the sperm off your lips, from the last dick you sucked.. I am sure you are making your mother and father proud, keep up the work and when you want to marry that german shepherd in your UK neighborhood, dont worry, you and your gay family will have to do without our blessings.

    January 17, 2014 at 7:08 am | Reply
    • nnamdi

      there is something wrong with you

      January 17, 2014 at 8:14 am | Reply
      • Edruyi

        No..... It is you that don't know what is wrong with you. And that's a major problem to you

        January 19, 2014 at 4:26 am |
      • Edruyi

        Simple.....if your father and mother were gays or dis orientated would you have been born....or having the ideas you are supporting

        January 19, 2014 at 4:28 am |
    • the View

      You speak for yourself you shallow minded individual! As much as I have issues with Bisi, I do not consider myself God enough or perfect enough to criminalise him! If he (Bisi) goes to hell (according to your sentimental view) you're lounging with him (cos you're a sinner too!) Adios

      January 17, 2014 at 8:50 am | Reply
      • nnamdi

        you are also a sinner so by your words, u are going to hell

        January 17, 2014 at 1:10 pm |
      • nnamdi

        sry wrong comment

        January 17, 2014 at 1:14 pm |
    • Marcus

      Your Heart is full of hate. Go and let god clean it.

      January 17, 2014 at 3:38 pm | Reply
    • Remi

      PRINCE!
      You're an ignorant fool and you DO NOT represent decent Nigerians!

      January 17, 2014 at 4:29 pm | Reply
  9. dishwasher

    No wonder!!!!!!!!!so ur HIV positive aight? so God who created them MALE and FEMALE is a fool abi??????so woman no gd 4 u abi?????? No prbs God is watching,have it in mind ur days are numbered u serial gay.

    January 17, 2014 at 10:14 am | Reply
  10. nnamdi

    sry wrong comment

    January 17, 2014 at 1:13 pm | Reply
  11. Muyiwa

    West cannot force Gay on Africans. Keep your useless culture. Can we force you to start celebrating masquerade. What makes you think we must all do anything you ratify.? You can call your father by name but, it is a taboo in africa. Please dont dictate how we live our life, we don't dictate yours. Alimi can stay abroad as along as he wants, but if he decides to come to Nigeria, he must abide by the rules.

    January 17, 2014 at 1:23 pm | Reply
  12. oghogho eguavoen

    life is indidvidua difference.we Nigeria don`t Need gay Level ok,so u can do in uk,ur type of People is there.do whatever u like there,if u come 2nigeria,u Keep ur evil way,if not u face the law.

    January 17, 2014 at 4:49 pm | Reply
  13. Edruyi

    The fact that the world is accepting evil and naming it civilization does not make it right. What is evil is evil....what is abnormal is abnormal....what is a disease is a disease......

    January 19, 2014 at 4:31 am | Reply
  14. Babs

    Crazy african !

    January 20, 2014 at 9:47 am | Reply
  15. Jonathan Onche Edeh

    President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, had made the right decision on the gay issue. If the West thinks this evil is good for them, then Nigeria should be bold enough to make it clear to the world that this isn't good food for us. On this note, the president is highly commended for doing what is right.....and we are convinced this is for the best.....irrespective of whatever or how the West feels about it, perhaps a slap on their face.

    January 21, 2014 at 4:31 pm | Reply
  16. allser

    As an individual suggested, When America releases all drud dealers, pedophiles, rapists, terrorists...and legalizes and gives everyone the freedom to do whatever they feel is their human and civil right because they were "born that way", then they can count Nigeria in on the issue of sodomy. Perhaps also, POTUS's daughters can marry each other-why not. Their father see's it as their "fundamental human right"

    January 29, 2014 at 9:05 am | Reply

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