High profile LGBT activist Bisi Alimi and his husband have just become the first gay couple interviewed on Nigerian television.
Alimi has actively campaigned for LGBTI rights since bravely coming out on Nigerian TV about 14 years ago. Coming out cost Alimi his acting job on a Nigerian soap opera. His parents also kicked him out of home. But Alimi would go on to set up the Bisi Alimi Foundation to help LGBTI people.
Normally not shy of publicity, Alimi deliberated for a while with his husband Anthony Davis about doing the interview. But they both decided to appear on The Report Card. Comedian Hero Daniels hosts the satirical news show.
The couple who live in London visited Nigeria so Anthony could see Alimi’s homeland. But local media soon caught wind that the couple had arrived and they were soon being hounded for an interview.
‘The television station was able to track us down for an interview and at first it was a NO NO, but we also felt we own the movement in Nigeria a sense of responsibility towards visibility,’ Alimi told Gay Star News.
‘I think the fear was more around how it will be perceived and how that will impact people and also this has never been done before and what does it mean in the bigger picture. After much deliberation, we both agreed to do the interview.’
‘Your love is valid’
Married for two years and together for four, Alimi is usually the one fronting the media because Anthony is ‘quite a private person’. But both men realized they had an opportunity to serve as role models for Nigeria’s LGBTI community.
‘The purpose was to give visibility but also to send a very strong message to LGBT people across Nigeria and Africa that their love is valid,’ Alimi said.
‘I really want to thank my husband who thought it was a good idea and wanted to come along and do it with me.’
Homosexuality is illegal in Nigeria, where police regularly target people they believe to be gay. Last week, police raided a hotel party where they threw 57 men in jail on suspicion of ‘homosexual activity’.
The LGBTI community also does not get much support from politicians. Same-sex partnerships are not recognized and anti-discrimination laws do not protect the community.
This week one of the leading presidential candidates in the 2019 national elections, Donald Duke, backtracked on his comments saying he would not criminalize LGBTI people if elected.
‘Homosexuality is a crime in Nigeria and ought to remain so,’ Duke said on Instagram
Celebrate love without fear
Alimi admitted his ‘image is bigger than me’ and with that profile comes a lot of responsibility.
‘While in Lagos, I met this gay couple… and I saw how beautiful there love is,’ Alimi recalled.
‘What I hope to achieve is that they celebrate their love beyond social media, that they can love without fear.
‘My hope is that many people in Nigeria and across Africa consensual loving same sex relationships can watch the interview and know for a fact that irrespective of what is said about them, that their love is valid and it is real, it is to them that I do what I do.’
LGBTI people in the west
Living in the UK Alimi admitted that it ‘is easy for us to forget how beautiful the easy life we have is’. He wants people in more priviliged countries to help others.
‘Everyday across Nigeria, many LGBT people would just want 0000.1% of the love and freedom that we have and I hope if you are reading this and living in Europe or America where it is okay to be gay, you will understand that in other part of the world it is not easy and many it is time to give your time or money or energy to make the world better,’ he said.
Watch some of the history making interview here: