On the 20th of July 2015, exactly seven days from today, and less than a month after the US Supreme Court issued the infamous ruling that eased America from the ranks of civilized nations into the realm of those that should be reclassified to belong to Sodom and Gomorrah; President Muhammadu Buhari is scheduled to be hosted to a state visit by Barack Obama. Buhari’s appearance in Washington D.C. is only one in a long series of similar trips to Western capitals that commenced even before the last general inauguration as the President.
In February, Buhari delivered a well-received lecture at the Chatham House in London which attempted to define his raison d’être in contemporary Nigerian politics. He followed that up with an impromptu visit to the British Prime Minister David Cameron soon after winning the presidential elections in March. The visit culminated with an invitation to the G-7 summit in Germany where he had his first meeting with President Barack Obama on the sidelines, not to forget his trips to South Africa, Niger and Chad.
The central themes of all these endeavours were essentially two-fold. The first concerns his resolve to garner world-wide support for the rapid recovery of the moribund Nigerian economy which took serious battering in the past several years of unbridled corruption in high places.
The support of London, Washington, Paris and Berlin, was considered crucial particularly as they concern the speedy recovery of looted funds required for the aggressive infrastructural development and social security initiatives the All Progressive Congress (APC) promised in its campaigns before the election.
The second deliberate intention of PMBs globe-trotting so far, was to generate global support, if not an actual coalition, against the Islamic States of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-inspired insurgency in the North-East led and perpetrated by the Boko Haram sect, and that, in truth, should not surprise anybody. The ongoing fight against Boko Haram remains the clear and present danger because no meaningful development can take place anywhere in the absence of peace and security. The President is aware of this no doubt. It was why he prioritized the engagement of Niger, Chad and Cameroun in the first place. It was also why he proceeded to Berlin with a shopping list of the requirements crucial for ending the insurgency.
For a long while, Nigerians have been bewildered as to why a ragtag group like Boko Haram was able to secure superior arms they possess to run the once respected Nigerian Army ragged whenever it pleased them. They demand answers as to why the same group was able to acquire the armoured fighting vehicles they repeatedly displayed in their videos including the one released in collaboration with ISIS at the weekend.
The Nigerian public demand answers as to why the Boko Haram insurgents routinely move for hundreds of kilometres in long convoys of SUVs including armoured fighting vehicles undetected and unchallenged from the air! What happened to the promised support including the sharing of intelligence by the Western nations?
Why was it possible for America to locate and eliminate key terrorists who threatened the American homeland from Yemen and Libya using drones with ease, and yet, found it impossible to do the same in the effort to locate our Chibok girls? Why has the Nigerian Air force been unable to obliterate Boko Haram convoys from the air? What happened to the much vaunted satellite surveillance capability of America in our case and if such resources were not made available to the Nigerian military why?
Beyond the request for the right type of military ordinance, these are the sort of questions that pre-occupy the minds of many Nigerians as PMB gears up for his meeting with Obama. There are simply too many unanswered questions in Nigeria’s catastrophic fight against Boko Haram at the moment and the President’s visit to Washington should at least assist in bringing a closure to most of them.
That aside, there is also the little matter of PMBs customary appearance before the White House Press Corps in the course of his visit. The president’s minders must be mindful of this potential booby-trap. The lively and ever vociferous White House press corps had embarrassed many unprepared visiting leaders in the past with their incisive questioning.
The president’s minders must therefore be on top of their game. In the little time left before the visit, PMB must be supremely prepared for the inevitable questioning from the media which will not only test his grasp of contemporary world affairs, but also, ultimately, his composure in answering them. It is trite reasoning to even contemplate that polygamists too are not entitled to their rights.
With America too far gone on the path of self-destruction with the catastrophic decision of the Supreme Court to legalize gay marriage, Buhari can expect at least one question on what he intends to do about the recent National Assembly Act banning same-sex marriages in all its guises. What should Buhari’s response be to such a question if he was to be asked in the full glare of the global media?
Before we get ahead of ourselves, it is imperative to briefly appreciate that barely three decades ago all Buhari would have been required to say in response to the legislation of the NASS on same-sex marriage would be to retort that it was the decision of the majority of Nigerians as enforced by their elected representatives. But unfortunately, what is presently unravelling in American can best be described as the age of the tyranny of the minority.
All it took for enforcement of same-sex marriage in America was a 5-4 split decision of the US Supreme Court to legalize the infamy nationwide. It did not matter that a majority of Americans may be against it for as long as homophobia is deemed to be offensive to the Fourteenth Amendment of the constitution which guarantees “Equal Protection” and “Due Process”, among other clauses. Simply put, the American minority, are also entitled to the same rights as its majority – period!
The big question, of course, as one of the Judges who voted against pointed out in his dissent, is why the same door was not opened for polygamists as guaranteed by both the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the same American constitution! First Amendment secures the free exercise of religion, while the Fourteenth Amendment criminalizes discrimination on all basis including religion. It does so through its relevant clauses on the equal protection!
And yet, if you happen to be a Muslim in America today and decides to take a second wife, you risked being prosecuted for bigamy if the act is in conflict with the criminal justice system. So what should be Buhari’s answer if he is asked why Nigeria has refused tol repeal its law banning same-sex marriages?
To me, the best strategy is for the president to be evasive but firm. Emphasis must be placed on the fact that Nigeria is a flourishing democracy as imperfect as it may seem. The decision was a collective resolve of the generality of the Nigerian people through their elected representatives and any reversal must ultimately take the same course. It should be as simple as that.
If America will not condone polygamy under whatever guise, why should they expect the rest of us who reject homosexuality to accept or condone it against our wishes and religious beliefs? Few are willing to admit it, but beyond the serious matter of religion, what is at play in this debate is the clash of cultures and civilizations. And that is why I find the continued reference to human rights in relation to the subject so repulsive.
The bottom line, of course, is that when Buhari is asked the offending question, he must remember that he was elected by Nigerians and not Americans.