In INTERVIEW on October 22, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Ten Percent of Nigeria’s Population is Homosexual – Dr. Gerard

Dr. Gerard van der Weijden is the inventor of the Reading Passport (used in more than 30 countries). He used to smoke 40 cigarettes per day. He strongly feels Nigerian homosexuals should not be chased underground. Then without mincing words, he touches on marriage and being childless. What are his thoughts? In this interview with Bayo Akinloye, Gerard bares his mind on issues bordering on the personal to the professional.

What will you like Nigerian newspapers and magazines to improve on?

My work mainly consists of helping magazines and newspapers and other publications to get more readers and users. You will see, all over the world that the media do not do very well. They do not put the readers and users in the first place. They are busier with themselves and with what message and idea they want to convey than what interests the reader. But, that’s not what many readers want: pages about politicians talking about their plans, their excuses for failure, blaming other people, never saying sorry to them etc.

Unless I am wrong, that is not what the Nigerian public expects from their media. Everybody including Nigerians wants a better and happy life. The media has to be of great help by helping the public to buy the best and cheapest vegetables, to participate in traffic, so they do not get hurt, helping parents and youngsters with their education, help them. They need to help the public to check and to control the people who spend their tax money, etc.

So bottom-up approach instead of top-down approach.

Before coming to Nigeria what impression did you have about the country?

Of course, I am also guilty of thinking in cliché of what I know of Nigeria. So yes! I expected to be approached for some beautiful projects I have to invest in and expecting 300% or more return on investment – this did not happen. I did not expect to walk around on my own in the streets – I did and I enjoyed it. I expected Lagos traffic jams but not in the way I experienced it. I expected people not to be very humorous but they were. I expected Nigeria not to be careful with their cultural heritage – and I was right.

What impression do you now have about it?

A week is too short to give a well balanced viewpoint – who is interested in that anyway? One observation I can share. I experienced many Nigerians turning what I see as a problem, even a big problem into an opportunity. In a restaurant, when the order of my wife was served I had already done with mine. The waiter told me “I am very sorry sir, the kitchen could not cope but now you have the chance to co-taste the food of your wife”.

What was life like to you growing up?

Very, very normal. I was one of ten children. We always had food and a roof over our heads and clothing. And, we all could go to school and study afterwards. This is partly because my parents were very thrifty and partly because our political system provides everybody with that kind of help

Marriages are collapsing all over the world, what’s the trend like where you live?

Same here. For very many reasons many marriages break up and there are, of course, people who see this development as very positive: people who are not happy, who are very unhappy in a relationship, who are hindered by their marriage to go forward, can now more easily and with less shame get rid of this ballast.

Do you give your wife house-keeping/food allowance, as men do here in Nigeria?

My marriage is personally and legally based on equality: what is mine is yours, what is yours is mine. That means there is no giving any kind of money anyhow. My wife and I discuss how much money we can and must spend on food, housing medical and savings. Before anyone of us wants to make a big purchase – a car, a TV set, etc – that has to be discussed in advance.

Why don’t you have kids?

For the very simple medical reason: it was not possible

How does your society view childless couples?

Childless couples are not seen as a special group of people. We meet people who share with us that having no children is missing a lot of joy. And we meet people who share with us that having no children saves us a lot of worries and miseries.

What do you think about homosexuality?

Personally and constitutionally nobody should be treated differently because of his or her looks, colour, religion, profession, sex, handicap, etc; also, not because of their sexual preference.
Two adults by mutual consent must be able to form the kind of relationship they want to have. Roughly, ten percent of the population, also the population of Nigeria is homosexual: lesbian or gay. This sexual preference has to do with the genes. You are born with it, so let it be.

Also, if we exclude all the people with handicaps, other beliefs, etc., we short-change society because if we discriminate against them. They cannot put their energy in bringing Nigeria forward. But they have to use all their energy to hide and protect themselves while living a life they do not want.

Do you smoke (in Nigeria, people feel almost every European smokes)?
No not anymore, I used to smoke around 40 cigarettes per day. I tried to quit three times and the last time, 25 years ago, it worked. The amount of people in Europe smoking is all the time gradually stopping; but of course, not fast enough. Indeed that was something I expected to see in Nigeria: many drinks and many smokers, but not so! Compliment.
What do you think of the politicians?

Polticians who do what they promise and work for the people I like? How many of them are around?

What childhood experience do you cherish till now?
One action of my father. At school/parents evenings he always had only one question for that teacher: “Is my child doing his/her best?” So he did not ask about achievements.


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