On The Couch: Presidential Aspirant, Donald Duke retracts his statement on homosexuality

Progressive or unfit to run the country?

One of the human rights issues frequently discussed on ‘On The Couch’, an interview-style web-series hosted by Laila-Johnson Salami and Falz, is the Nigerian legal and social system’s criminalization of same-sex relations between consenting adults. On three of the show’s four aired episodes, the interviewed presidential aspirants have expressed reservations about homosexuality, but they have all —irresolutely or assertively— agreed that the 14-year jail sentence imposed on individuals ‘caught’ in same-sex relationships since 2014, is a violation of basic human rights, as everyone has free agency.

One of the more assertive responses came form Donald Duke, the former Governor of Cross River state and now aspiring President of the Republic. Although Donald Duke founded his argument on a cultural level, he affirmed his belief in the protection of basic human rights by offering a solution: “I don’t understand their sexuality”, he said, “But I will not criminalise them. I will ensure that they have the protection of the law”.

Donal Duke didn’t offer any insight into his proposed implementation strategy, however, his response offered more of an opinion than the other two aspirants —Fela Durotoye, and Eunice Atuejide, who both offered views from people in their political parties, and gave socio-cultural condemnation as a reason to keep the laws as they are. “Except someone within the community is willing to challenge it”, said Fela Durotoye, during the first episode of the show. Durotoye also said that he doesn’t think homosexuals are discriminated against in the current state of Nigeria.

Considering how often difficult it is to draw out individual voices away from the traditionalist monolith that is the Nigerian society, Duke’s response sparked some social media activity. The comments ranged from people calling him progressive to others registering him as unfit to run the country because of this opinion. Donald Duke took an exceptional stance from the lot, which is why it is disappointing to find that he withdrew his statement earlier today —a week after the episode aired.

His statement offers what he calls clarification for the aforementioned statement, which he says was “construed”. What he meant, according to his released statement, is that he won’t go out of his way to find and prosecute homosexuals for this act. Although he already made it clear that his views are not an endorsement of same-sex relationships during the interview, the written statement posted on Instagram and Twitter further emphasised that fact: “Recently, a statement I made during an interview concerning gay rights and homosexuality has been construed as my affirmation homosexuality and same-sex marriage”, he wrote, “Nothing is further from the truth”

In a country where people who identify as gay are often ostracized by their families at best and beat up, shamed and lynched at the worst, perhaps what we need is political allies who wouldn’t let the backlash overshadow their fight to protect the basic right to freedom of another individual, regardless of their views.

Watch the “On The Couch” episode here:

Featured Image Credit: Youtube/onthecouch

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