Written by Zane Lelo Meslani
If there’s one thing that Africa excels at, is oppressing marginalised groups such as the LGBTQI+ community and imposing colonial laws to uphold these ideas that have been prevalent for decades. In this particular case, anti-homosexuality laws in Nigeria were championed by Dr Doyin Okupe, the former presidential spokesperson to Olusegun Obasanjo who dubbed being gay as “un-biblical and un-African”. In what can only be described as poetic justice, the politicians son recently caused a furore on social media when he posted a triumphant coming out story to Instagram. In the picture, Bolu Okupe holds the Pride flag in rainbow-striped shorts to tell the world. “Yes, I’m gay AF”. I sat down to chat to Bolu and he stands firm in his decision to come out and wanted to use this post as an inspiration to many. Speaking to Exit he says, “I decided that I would like to use my time and privilege to create a voice for my LGBT community back home. To be honest, it was not that hard for me to come out as I live in France, but it’s not the same story back home, so if I can use my platform to hopefully make a positive impact one day, then I would be satisfied.”
He acknowledges that the laws architected by his father have affected queer people living in Nigeria and wants change to occur. “They [the laws] have not affected me due to the fact that I do not live in Nigeria, but they have definitely affected gay men like me back home. They have been threatened, tortured, harassed and sometimes executed simply due to their sexuality, this must change because it is unacceptable.” From fighting trolls online, Bolu hasn’t backed down and defended his community at every chance possible. “I hope firstly that more queer people will begin to speak up and own up to their nature because we have strength in numbers,” says Okupe. “Once society sees how many of us there truly are, a change will have to happen, there will be no other choice. Secondly, I would like us to get to a place within society where we leave the judgments and just learn to love and accept one another regardless of our differences. I won’t try to convince anyone to accept us or like us, all we ask for is that our basic human rights are respected.”
The fight for equality, respect and for queer voices to be amplified continues to be a daily struggle. From queer front liners during #EndSARS marches to awareness driven online by individual voices throughout the African continent, we all share the common goal of liberating people from laws that discriminate and violent behaviours that are rife in the communities that we live in. “I would like to tell queer people everywhere to stay strong, be brave and keep up hope. A day is coming where we will soon be able to live peacefully and freely and be proud of the way God made us.” says Bolu, leaving words of inspiration.