Nigeria stones gays; CNN cheers Nigeria’s “traditional weddings”

Germany’s first same-sex wedding, 2017

For those of us who live in the Western world, it can seem as if gay rights have won the day. Having been legalized in Germany in 2017 and in Austria in 2018, same-sex marriage is the law of the land in every major Western country except Switzerland, which seems to be on the verge of approval. It’s still verboten, to be sure, in the microstates of Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, and – surprise! – the Vatican City State.

Monaco: every modern amenity except gay marriage

There are odd exceptions and gray areas. Another microstate, San Marino, in the name of tourist profits, permits foreign gay couples, but not same-sex Sammarinese citizens, to wed within its borders. Also, although the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on gay nuptials applies to Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the jury is still out on whether it applies to American Samoa. And while gay marriages are already recognized in most of the U.K. and in the nation of Ireland, gays in Northern Ireland won’t enjoy the right to marry until this coming January. There are other curiosities: the Netherlands was the first country in the world to permit same-sex marriage, but the status of gay unions is still a gray area in Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, even though they are fully constituent parts of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The two large islands making up the bulk of New Zealand have recognized same-sex marriage since 2013, but it’s still banned in the rest of the so-called Realm of New Zealand — namely, the Cook Islands and the islands of Niue and Tokelau.

Some may find it surprising that so many Latin American countries – Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, and Uruguay – have same-sex marriage. Even more surprising, perhaps, is that there are beginning to be legal breakthroughs in gay rights in countries where public hostility toward gays is still through the roof. In June, for example, laws criminalizing same-sex relations were – quite remarkably – ruled unconstitutional in Botswana. This followed similar actions in Angola, Mozambique, and the Seychelles – and, last year, in India.

Goodluck Jonathan with Barack Obama

But in some part of the world, things are going the other way. Take Nigeria. In 2014, that country’s then president, Goodluck Jonathan, signed an act prohibiting same-sex marriage and “amorous relationships,” the latter of which apparently refers to any sort of intimate same-sex conduct. Violation can result in a long jail term – which, according to the Guardian, is 10 years. On December 11, the Guardian‘s Jason Burke reported that no fewer than 47 men had just gone on trial for this transgression, having been arrested in a police raid on a Lagos hotel where they were attending a meeting of a gay club. Although the law has previously been used by Nigerian authorities to harass, detain, intimidate, and extort money from gays, this is reportedly the first time that suspected offenses have led to actual prosecution.

A “traditional Nigerian wedding” as depicted by CNN

In a way, the 47 gay defendants were lucky to have been arrested in Lagos, which is in southern Nigeria, rather than in one of twelve states in northern Nigeria that have adopted sharia law, under which homosexuality is punishable by stoning to death. Given these grim facts about the status of gays in Nigeria, some readers who are aware of the truth about the situation might have been surprised on October 1 to read an article on the CNN website headlined “10 Things Nigeria Does Better than Anywhere Else.” The author of the piece, Noo Saro-Wiwa, began by admitting that “Nigeria has something of an image problem” but went on at once to insist that Nigeria, for several reasons, is an absolutely terrific tourist destination. Ironically, the very first reason given was the country’s “traditional weddings”: After gushing for several sentences about the terrific way in which Nigerians perform marriage ceremonies, Saro-Wiwa concluded: “If you haven’t experienced a traditional Nigerian wedding, you haven’t experienced Nigeria.” In true CNN fashion – the international “news” network loves to whitewash African and Arabic countries, perhaps because it derives much of its income from African governments, in the form of advertising revenue from their national airlines and tourism boards, and despite the fact that these countries are the toughest on earth on their gay citizens – there wasn’t a word about the way in which non-traditional couples are treated in Africa’s most populous country. This is CNN.

Sleaze all the way down: Tony Blair

blair1
Tony Blair

This week we’ve been pondering the sickening case of Tony Blair – who, upon stepping down from the job of U.K.’s head of government in 2007, was a not-so-young man in a very great hurry to accumulate the fortune he’d been fantasizing about during those ten underpaid years as (in his own words) “Britain’s most successful prime minister.” In a revelation-packed new bookBroken Vows – Tony Blair: The Tragedy of Power, which was recently excerpted in the Daily Mail, veteran investigative reporter Tom Bower maps out in detail Blair’s squalid road to riches. His tale of Blair’s shameless self-enrichment makes the history of the tirelessly acquisitive Clintons look like a children’s bedtime story.

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 23JAN13 - Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, President of Nigeria speaks during the televised session 'De-risking Africa - Achieving Inclusive Prosperity' at the Annual Meeting 2013 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 23, 2013. Copyright by World Economic Forum swiss-image.ch/Photo Remy Steinegger
Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, President of Nigeria

Yesterday, for example, we saw that Blair was quick to whitewash the crimes of Kazakh dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev in exchange for a handful of shekels. But Nazarbayev is only one of Blair’s many thuggish paymasters. In 2010, Blair visited Nigeria, “ostensibly to offer the services of AGI and the Faith Foundation” – two of his “charities” – “to help reconcile the country’s Muslims and Christians.” What he ended up doing was performing an expert ego massage on Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, whom he persuaded to hire J.P. Morgan as manager of his nation’s sovereign wealth fund. Result: a big payday for both Blair and Morgan – which secured the lucrative job without having to make a competitive bid.

Blair’s links to some of the world’s most unfree governments and to many of its less than scrupulous global businesses are too complex to easily diagram. And there’s no apparent limit to the level of oiliness that he’s apparently able to summon up in order to grease the wheels of commerce between the two. In 2012, in exchange for a generous sum, Blair put together a meeting between the top honcho at Glencore, the world’s largest commodity trading house, and the prime minister of Qatar, the goal being to facilitate a business deal. “Although present at their hour-long meeting,” writes Bower, Blair “remained curiously silent,” leading the Glencore CEO to wonder whether “Blair’s huge fee had been a waste of money.”

bower2
Tom Bower

Bower outlines deals so convoluted that they make one’s head spin. But never mind the details; what matters is the uniformly sleazy cast of characters, led by a host of disreputable but staggeringly flush sovereign wealth funds and a small army of cartoonishly rapacious presidents of African cesspools. When some corporation in the Persian Gulf that you’ve never heard of (but that’s swimming in money) decides to make an investment in some dodgy start-up in Indochina, the Balkans, west Africa, or South America, don’t be surprised if Blair’s right there in the middle of the whole ugly deal, scraping his 20 percent off the top.

And so it goes. As Bower writes, Blair

also popped up on the advisory panel that supervised the construction of British Petroleum’s £32 billion oil pipeline from Azerbaijan to the Mediterranean. Oddly enough, he was also paid to advise the president of Azerbaijan. In addition, his services were called in when BP was seeking new oil concessions in Abu Dhabi.

The sheikh who employed Blair privately to work for his investment fund also happened to be the head of Abu Dhabi’s Supreme Petroleum Council. 

One wonders how Blair can keep track of it all himself. But we haven’t yet gotten around to his Big Kahuna: Muammar Qaddafi. Tune in tomorrow.