National Commentary

Anything But Straight: Nigeria

According to international election monitors, the April 21 vote in favor of Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua was rigged, threatening the very freedom and stability of this oil-rich, but corrupt nation. Braving threats of a brutal governmental crackdown, thousands of courageous Nigerians took to the streets on May Day to protest the political charade that passes for political liberty.

Clearly, these demonstrators could benefit if they stood side-by-side with a moral leader who demanded an end to corruption and called for new elections. Such a man would be regarded as a true national hero who could lead Nigeria from a kleptocracy to genuine democracy.

Anglican Archbishop Peter J Akinola is perfectly situated to step in and fill this role. Not only is he a local powerbroker, he is also the leader of the largest province in the worldwide Anglican Church. This offers Akinola a unique international platform to draw attention to the electoral sabotage that is ripping apart the very soul of Nigeria.

But, instead of staying in Nigeria this week to bring his convulsing country together, he is flying to the comfy confines of Virginia to tear the Anglican Church apart. While his country is on the verge of a Constitutional conflagration, the Nigerian archbishop is burning with rage because in 2003 the Episcopal Church installed openly gay V. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire.

While the political elites in Abuja will use guns to maintain dominion over voters, Akinola will be lording over a ceremony in Old Dominion to install church rector Martyn Minns as the bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a subsidiary of the Nigerian church. Basically, conservatives who think the Episcopal Church is too liberal, are refusing to submit to its authority, and instead have opted to align themselves with Akinola.

What I find outlandish is that Akinola and his Anglican apostates get all bent out of shape about a gay bishop in sleepy New Hampshire, but fall asleep at the wheel over real problems faced by Nigeria, and Africa as a whole.

Is Robisnon’s sexual orientation more important than the heartbreaking fact that two million Africans die from AIDS-related illnesses each year, according to Nuhu Ribadu, the Chairman of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission?

Does a New England homosexual take precedence over the nearly 3,000 African children who die each day from malaria? Is the gay issue a bigger moral concern than the 40 million African children who are not currently in school?

Or, what about the fact that Nigeria has profited to the lavish tune of a half trillion dollars from oil revenues in less than fifty years – and yet, seventy percent of Nigerians live in abject poverty with exiguous incomes of less than one dollar a day? (Presumably, these peasants are not the ones sitting in the pews of Akinola’s lavish church).

Akinola would have you believe that he must come to America to save us from our decadence. Yet, according to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, Nigeria is awash in premarital sex and has STD rates that would make a red light district hooker blush.

In Nigeria, there are 2.9 million people with HIV/AIDS, including 930,000 AIDS orphans. In the past twelve months, 78-percent of men and 29-percent of women, 15-24, have had sex with a casual partner. A 1990 Demographic and Health survey reported that 38-percent of women in Southwest Nigeria were in polygamous marriages.

I bring this up not to point a finger at Nigeria, but to try to comprehend why Akinola is flying to America, when sexual practices condemned by his church are flying off the charts in his home country. It seems that the good Archbishop is a moral coward who basks in the media spotlight abroad, while refusing to spotlight the devastating problems that plague his own country.

Indeed, when confronted with these life and death issues, all Akinola seems to want to prattle on about is his homosexual hang-up.

"To opine that, unknown to humans, God had hitherto created some people to be homosexuals and lesbians (i.e., sexual orientations) is tantamount to creating God in our own image and introducing a cancerous element into the fabric of the African understanding of marriage and family," Akinola once said.

"Homosexuality and lesbianism, like divorce, breed a society of single parents which gives rise to a generation of bastards," the Archbishop has also said.

If Akinola were a real leader, he would be at home fighting disease and tyranny, while leading the opposition against an illegal election. Instead of demonstrating such cojones, Akinola is leaving his countryman to fight this battle, while he jets to America to obsess about Bishop Robinson’s cojones.

Could Akinola have his priorities any more backwards?

Finally, if these renegade American church leaders want to submit to Akinol’s "leadership," then they owe it to Nigeria’s beleaguered citizens to take an active role in their society. To simply become Nigerian in name only – while ignoring the country’s daunting problems – is to be profoundly disrespectful and behave like, well, Peter J Akinola.