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Nov 12, 2007 Commentary: Changing Attitude Nigeria's Response to Abuja’s Failed Bid
By Davis Mac-Iyalla

At Changing Attitude Nigeria we are very disappointed at the outcome of the bidding process for hosting the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Like most Nigerians we would have loved such an important international sporting occasion to come to our country. Some people may be tempted to accuse us of hypocrisy, as it was CAN that issued a damning report about Abuja’s bid, almost as if determined to undermine Nigeria’s chance of hosting the games. In fact, our disappointment is that the Nigerian government failed to respond to the issues we raised in time for the bidding process.

Anyone who has read our report will realise that we were not trying to stop Abuja’s bid completely, we were simply not prepared to support it at any cost. And to have rewarded Abuja with the Commonwealth games, when Nigeria has been behaving in such a contrary manner to the principles of the Commonwealth Games Federation, would simply have been seen as a reward for Nigeria’s recent upsurge in oppression against LGBT people.

The result is interesting. On paper, Abuja’s bid compares well with Glasgow’s; Not only has Scotland been fortunate to host other large sporting events recently, there is a wide groundswell of feeling that it is ‘Africa’s turn’; The voting delegates were extremely international; smaller and widely-dispersed countries with tiny populations still have the same voting power as countries with much larger populations. Yet the voting was 47-24, overwhelmingly in favour of Glasgow. So what could have caused so many to vote for Glasgow over Abuja? It is hard to justify the disparity in the votes purely on the technical merits of the bids from the two cities alone, so we must look around for other factors. Could it have been concern about the oppression of LGBT people and other human rights abuses in Nigeria?

We will never know exactly of course as the voting delegates do not normally give their reasons. We do know however that more enlightened attitudes to homosexuality are spreading throughout the world. We also know that there was some support for the human rights issues we raised among the voting delegates. This suggests that, with the increasing trend to acknowledge the fundamental rights of citizens as being universal, if Nigeria wants to win bids for any kind of international and prestigious events in the future, it will have to start taking more seriously international opinion on human rights issues that affect all and any of its citizens.

Davis Mac-Iyalla, director of Changing Attitude Nigeria, said:

“To be honest, we were not really expecting this unresponsive government to take sufficient remedial action in time. We hope however that they have woken up to the fact that they cannot expect that the world will no longer turn a blind eye to brutal injustices and oppressive laws against the ordinary citizens of Nigeria.

“This should be a reminder that if the government were to continue listening to the obsessed ranting of religious leaders on the subject of homosexuality it is going to leave Nigeria behind in the race to host international events. Already, some religious leaders are so dominating the attention of the world’s media with their hate speech that internationally they are becoming an embarrassment to Nigeria. People must be wondering who is actually setting the agenda for the country.”

We urge the team that put together Abuja’s bid for 2014 not to give up, but to start preparing now for the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Changing Attitude Nigeria hopes that next time the government will be taking the fundamental human rights of all of its citizens seriously, so the whole country will feel comfortable supporting the bid.

The author is the Director of a Christian Gay Group Changing Attitude Nigeria

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