Gay in Nigeria: The Stark Reality For LGBT People In The West Africa Country

Micheal Ighodaro sought asylum in the US after he was attacked in Nigeria


Michael Ighodaro was attacked by homophobes in his home city of Abuja when he was waiting for a taxi outside his friend's home. His attackers stormed up behind the LGBT activist, hurled abuse at him, and broke his hands and ribs. His taxi driver discovered his battered body outside the housing complex.

"I couldn't go to the hospital to get treatment or to the police to report what had happened because I didn’t feel comfortable telling them I was beaten because I’m gay. So I had to visit the nurse in my office," Ighodaro, who worked for an HIV/AIDs advocacy group in the Nigerian city, tells The Independent. Ighodaro was forced to flee Nigera, and seek asylum in the US. 


A hangover from colonial rule, anti-gay laws in Nigeria can lead to punishments including 14 years in prison to death by stoning. Gay people are also banned from holding meetings or forming clubs. Ighodaro, who is an Assisant Professor in Global LGBTI Studies at The new School University in New York, is among activists fighting for laws and attitudes affected LGBT people in countries across the world to be changed. In 2015, he was named a White House Honoree and a World Refugee Champion of Change for his work with the New York-based Aids Vaccine Advocacy Coaltion (AVAC) and the Housing Works organisation which helps people coping with HIV/Aids and homelessness. He more recently became a board member for Outright International, which fights for LGBT rights worldwide.

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The 30-year-old spoke to The Independent about how he learned as a child that being gay is seen as "wrong", and the work to help LGBT people that still needs to be done. 



Ighodaro at The Outright Action International Celebration of Courage 2014 in NYC

You were kicked out of your family home when you were 17. What happened?

It go to the point where my dad couldn't accept me anymore. My parents were questioning the friends I was keeping and where I was going. One night, I went out with my friends and came back late. I was feeling a bit confident. That was the first time I had met other people like me. I wasn't scared of what my family would think. When I came back home my dad said 'that’s it we can’t have someone who's gay in the house.’ So they asked me to leave. My dad banned the family from speaking to me. No one spoke to me for 12 years. 

When was the last time you spoke to your parents? 

A lot has changed since then. Now I’m 30 and about two years ago I lost my dad. Before he died we made amends and he called me out of the blue to say sorry. He said he had to have heart surgery. It didn't go so well. We lost him in the process. 




Micheal Ighodaro sought asylum in the US after he was attacked in Nigeria

Micheal Ighodaro sought asylum in the US after he was attacked in Nigeria ( Micheal Ighodaro )


Michael Ighodaro was attacked by homophobes in his home city of Abuja when he was waiting for a taxi outside his friend's home. His attackers stormed up behind the LGBT activist, hurled abuse at him, and broke his hands and ribs. His taxi driver discovered his battered body outside the housing complex.

"I couldn't go to the hospital to get treatment or to the police to report what had happened because I didn’t feel comfortable telling them I was beaten because I’m gay. So I had to visit the nurse in my office," Ighodaro, who worked for an HIV/AIDs advocacy group in the Nigerian city, tells The Independent. Ighodaro was forced to flee Nigera, and seek asylum in the US. 


A hangover from colonial rule, anti-gay laws in Nigeria can lead to punishments including 14 years in prison to death by stoning. Gay people are also banned from holding meetings or forming clubs. Ighodaro, who is an Assisant Professor in Global LGBTI Studies at The new School University in New York, is among activists fighting for laws and attitudes affected LGBT people in countries across the world to be changed. In 2015, he was named a White House Honoree and a World Refugee Champion of Change for his work with the New York-based Aids Vaccine Advocacy Coaltion (AVAC) and the Housing Works organisation which helps people coping with HIV/Aids and homelessness. He more recently became a board member for Outright International, which fights for LGBT rights worldwide.

Download the new Independent Premium app

Sharing the full story, not just the headlines

Download now


The 30-year-old spoke to The Independent about how he learned as a child that being gay is seen as "wrong", and the work to help LGBT people that still needs to be done. 



Ighodaro at The Outright Action International Celebration of Courage 2014 in NYC

You were kicked out of your family home when you were 17. What happened?

It go to the point where my dad couldn't accept me anymore. My parents were questioning the friends I was keeping and where I was going. One night, I went out with my friends and came back late. I was feeling a bit confident. That was the first time I had met other people like me. I wasn't scared of what my family would think. When I came back home my dad said 'that’s it we can’t have someone who's gay in the house.’ So they asked me to leave. My dad banned the family from speaking to me. No one spoke to me for 12 years. 

When was the last time you spoke to your parents? 

A lot has changed since then. Now I’m 30 and about two years ago I lost my dad. Before he died we made amends and he called me out of the blue to say sorry. He said he had to have heart surgery. It didn't go so well. We lost him in the process. 


The top 15 worst countries to be gay in Europe


15. Italy

14. Macedonia

13. Poland

12. Liechtenstein

Did you ever come out to your parents in the conventional sense? 

I think the majority of the time they assumed I was gay, but they knew for sure the day I left home. I wouldn’t have chosen to come out that way. I was angry and young and I was 17. 

Did your friends who also identify as LGBT in Nigeria have the same experience as you? 

Yes. I grew up with a lot of friends at school who had similar experiences. I had a few friends who also dropped out of school because their parents found out they are gay or lesbian so we became close friends. That was how I started doing LGBT activism. I was one of the eldest in my group, some were 14 or 15-years-old. But we stood with each other. We would sleep under a bridge or on the buses or at a friends' houses. It was important to be there for each other. 



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