WHAT CHIMAMANDA GOT WRONG ON THE ANTI-GAYLAW
I read with astonishment Chimamanda Adiche's opinion on the anti-gay law from a post a friend shared on my facebook wall. 'Chimamanda, chekwa ezigbo echiche,' he simply commented atop the story. I think it was a sensible reaction to the now controversial and yet shocking disposition of the literary ace on the anti-gay law that recently got a presidential sanction. Chimamanda titled her story 'WHY CAN'T HE JUST BE LIKE EVERYONE ELSE?' And in answering the question she named the character in her perfectly crafted short intro fiction to her controversial opinion 'Sochukwuma,' only God knows! 'We don't know'. The long and short of Adiche's view on criminalising homosexuality was carefully and technically subsumed in the short anecdotal fiction in her story. Her submission was explicit and unequivocal: 'Sochukwuma' was not and could not be responsible for his sexual disorientation; he could not have chosen a lifestyle as such; it was congenital. She called it 'BENIGN DIFFERENCE.' Clearly, in the case of Sochukwuma, Adiche has not absolved him for his disorientation; but she believes he cannot be condemned for what he 'don't know'.
Even if we go with Adiche and support Sochukwuma's purported innocence, there will still be a need to criminalise homosexuality. The anti-gay law, obviously is not just about Sochukwuma and his likes â€' there is still the case of people, those who as President Museveni wrote 'become homosexuals for mercenary reasons' or rather have directed their homosexuality for mercenary purposes. The Ugandan president believes such people should be 'harshly' punished.
It is not difficult to be influenced by Adiche's perfect narratives, and concur that Sochukwuma should be exonerated and thus not be discriminated or made to suffer for what he 'don't know' why. But there is more to the sodomy law than painted in Adiche's narrative. I could not toe her line of thinking. 'Sochukuma' is only a character in a well crafted fiction, and Adiche, I know is an exceptional literary pundit. 'A writer is like a small god,' my mentor once told me, 'he creates men and things, and have them do whatever he wishes; sometimes he sees through their heads and thinks for them.' Adiche, no doubt, presented a beautiful literary piece there. But this is not about literature or imaginary things or people; it is not about sentiments and compromise; it is about people, societies, government and what they stand for; it is about preserving a sane, value-conscious and morallydignified society. Sochukwuma should have real human and not fictitious face or identity. And only then shall all of us, including my literary friend, begin to see and discern the deeper truth â€' that sodomy truly is a forbidden and abominable act, at least in Africa, and more particularly in Nigeria. It is possible that Adiche, through her Sochukwuma story have attracted a bunch of rigid fellows. They nod their heads as they read the story and say 'yes, it is true.' But the truth, remember, has many sides.
I see Adiche as a friend and a model too. But I am stunned at her surprising disenchantment for true African values. She called our government 'a failed democracy' not for many other reasons that truly bedevil her, but because it criminalises homosexuality, because it does not protect the right of few value and morally dissenting fellows. She said the anti-gay law is 'a strange priority in a country with so many real problems.' But this too, dear Adiche, is one of such real problems that has the capacity of denting our cultural identity as a people. And am shocked at your punctured value consciousness as an African, a Nigerian most importantly _Nwafor Igbo_.
The biblical Sodom and Gomora was not destroyed because it had a bad or irresponsible government, it was because of their vain orientation and moral disenchantment. Loss of value precedes loss of identity. But no, Adichedoes not think this way. Let me quote the Liberian President, Sirleaf Johnson in a joint interview with the British prime minister, Tony Blair: 'we have got certain traditional values in our society that we would like to preserve.' This is what we are talking about, dear Adiche, that sodomy is alien to African culture, that we are different from America and other countries that condone homosexuality.
If my 75-year old father kissed his wife in the public, he loses credibility; if your daughter wears a skimpy dress or clothes that left her cleavages bare in Nsukka she is tagged wayward or even prostitute. But this is not the story in America and many European countries.
Now, I believe my friend (Precious), who said 'it takes patriotism and determination to be an AFRICAN in a WHITE land.' But I have always seen Adiche as a true African identity and thought little of her susceptibility.
Written By Ikenna Ugwu