Nigeria must be the weirdest country in the world with policies that seem often half-conceived and/or dreamt up by an uninformed executive branch and executed by its devil-may-care civil servants.
Looking across Africa at the treatment already being meted to homosexuals across the continent and then, the Nigeria’s Senate’s “A Bill for an Act to prohibit marriage or civil union entered into between persons of same sex, solemnisation of same and for other matters related therewith, 2011”, in November last year, I presented readers of this Blog with:
As part of the essay, I slapped on an essay which was one of my columns in The Comet on Sunday in July 2003, “A homosexual does not belong in jail”.
Now, with the very antagonistic climate against people who do not conform to “normal” sexual orientation prevalent in the country, one would expect the government to hold tight to “conformity”. Not really.
A friend waved a multi-page document as she walked towards me this past Sunday and being forever a nosy-parker/has-been journalist, I was eager to hear a juicy tale but it was not exactly what the friend had to tell.
She had gone to renew her driver’s license and apart from appearing in person, she filled the renewal form right in front of an officer of the licensing agency. Please note that many people do not present themselves while obtaining a license FOR THE FIRST TIME in Nigeria, and also for renewals. My friend is a lady in every sense of the word and on that particular occasion, she had many distinguishing female traits, including plaiting her hair into cornrow and packing it up in a bun known as suku in Yoruba.
I know, many young men wear corn rows and earrings everywhere these days even in the stifling Nigeria environment but no male in this part of the world would be caught dead wearing suku.
Ok, my friend’s license was issued with a gender classification of MALE in spite of being around a 36B!
Fearing the consequences of such an error, she drew the attention of the guy to it immediately but when he refused to amend it, she fired a letter to – The Chief Executive, National Drivers’ License Office, Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), National Headquarters, Plot 2032 Olusegun Obasanjo Way, Abuja.
Part of the letter of complaint which states that she uses her driver’s license at home and abroad on her international travels reads: “… when I drew the attention of the issuing officer to the error he said that I have to use it like that for the next three years when the error can be corrected”.
With the bad reputation – deserved and undeserved – that Nigerians have abroad, how would it be like when a 60-something-year old lady in every way present herself to rent a car but has a driver’s license that says she is a man?
I’m sure many of this Blog’s international readers must be wondering why a driver’s license must be issued by a “federal” agency in a country as large as Nigeria. Just yesterday, eleven readers from Iceland visited this blog.
Well, that’s the way it is in Nigeria where everything is so centralized that Abuja must be consulted on every matter. A very strong, powerful and overbearing center in a multi-ethnic society lies at the root of many problems in the country. Of course, it comes after corruption which, itself, has over-centralization to blame as part of its causes.
Over to you FRSC Chief Executive whose officers are on the road day and night shaking motorists down. Wole Soyinka, who started this on a small scale in Yoruba-Southwest, especially the Ibadan-Ife Road with great success back in the late 70s, must be shaking his head at what it has become after the template was borrowed and taken nationwide.
How my friend will survive the next three years as a female carrying a male ID card and, perhaps, taken as a fraudster or hermaphrodite in other countries, is a troubling thought.