In an interview with NPR.com, 29 year old Nigerian Gay rights activist, Bisi Alimi, who was the first person to come out as gay on Nigerian TV, talked about the challenges of living as a gay Nigerian man, living with the HIV virus, his relationship with his immediate family members and also about the Nigerian anti-gay law. Find excerpts from the revealing interview below…
Alimi’s acting career was just starting to take off when his sexuality stole the spotlight. The student newspaper at University of Lagos, where he was studying theater, threatened to publish a photo of him with his then-boyfriend. So Alimi beat them to the punch. He went on “New Dawn with Funmi,” one of the most popular talk shows in Nigeria, and challenged a long-held belief that homosexuality was brought to Africa by white colonizers. That was also the year Alimi was diagnosed with HIV.
Suddenly, his home country no longer saw him as a rising star. Alimi lost his roles on TV and on stage, many of his friends shunned him and the police even arrested him on unexplained charges. In 2007, things got worse. He was detained at the airport on his way back from the United Kingdom, where he gave an interview to BBC Network Africa, and was released two days later. Then a group of men entered his home and attempted to kill him. Alimi fled to the U.K. and hasn’t been back to Nigeria since.
Why are you happy about Nigeria’s harsh anti-gay law?
I see the law as a catalyst for change for good in Nigeria. You don’t understand what it is like to fight a beast that you cannot see. Before the signing of that law, between 95 and 98 percent of Nigerians were in support of it. The latest poll says 88 percent of Nigerians now support the law. That’s a 10 percent drop. Some people who are not LGBT are now saying, “Did we just support a law that criminalizes people … for falling in love?” [When] you see that your uncle or cousin is gay, it kind of changes the conversation.