Although this essay focuses on polygamy as a form of conjugal union, it dwells on its various perspectives in Nigeria’s socio-political firmament.
Isidore Okpewho’s novel The Victims highlights the perennial crossfire associated with a home where polygamy holds sway. The novel revisits the tensions and acrimony in a conjugal misery occasioned by a forced union of two women, Nwabunor and Ogugua, who both drink from a common trough of irresponsibility personified in Obanua, their husband. Obanua, a driver by trade had married his second wife Ogugua because his first wife Nwabunor did not bear him another child after nine years of their only son, Ubaka.
Thus, Obanua is irredeemably torn between two loyalties, his first wife whose paranoid sense of entitlement pushed to suspect even her own shadows and his second, younger and more beautiful wife who is favoured after the birth of her son, Bomboy. By marrying two wives, Obanua compromises his emotional integrity and in his search for happiness which inevitably eludes him, he becomes a frustrated drunk, a travesty of a husband and a spoof of a father. Eventually, he loses his entire family who all become innocent victims of diabolical machinations, jealousy, and hate which are the inexorable hallmarks of polygamy.
While polygamy as a form of marriage is widely accepted by some religions and cultures across the world, it is repudiated by other religions and cultures too. As a cultural practice in the days of yore, it was a demonstration of a man’s wealth and status among his people. As an acceptable religious practice, a man is allowed to marry up to four wives as long as he can take care of them. However, beyond culture and religion, there are men who are forced into polygamy by circumstances bothering on the search for a child, or in most cases, the search for a male child who, according to them, will sustain the family lineage. Also, there are men who plunge into polygamy in search of happiness, wealth and sundry reasons that engage their cosmetic fancy. Although this essay focuses on polygamy as a form of conjugal union, it dwells on its various perspectives in Nigeria’s socio-political firmament. Let us, therefore, for the purpose of this essay identify three different types of polygamy – domestic polygamy, political polygamy and religious polygamy.
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Domestic polygamy has been discussed above using The Victims to illustrate its tragic undercurrents. Obanua’s case can be called official polygamy, where a man brings in another wife making it obvious to all members of the immediate and extended family. However, the unofficial polygamy seems to be more prevalent in contemporary times and like an albatross, it hangs on the neck of many men. Some men, in addition to their official wives at home, keep other women by the side, young girls, widows or even other married women as mistresses who partake of their attention and personal economy.
This kind of unofficial polygamy has wrecked the lives of many men and their homes with perpetrators coming from all strata of the society. Those who indulge in unofficial polygamy give various reasons for their clandestine act ranging from lack of happiness at home, nagging from their wives, lack of romance, and total absence of affection in the marriage.
Some men complain of how their wives have become fat or obese and no longer attractive, the same women who have gone through the travails of childbirth, twice or even more with all the attendant wear and tear. Unofficial polygamy has become a major challenge to the marriage institution which is the smallest unit and foundation of any society. When marriages are threatened by polygamy, the society is threatened because the children who form the basis and future of the society are misguided as a result of the dislocation in the family and therefore grow up to become irresponsible, deviant adults.
Political polygamy is at the heart of Nigeria’s contemporary political experience. Presently, politicians and other political stakeholders display wanton apostasy straddling two political parties at the same time in search of self-fulfillment. It is quite debasing when an avowed member of a political party, who has gained immensely and rose to the pinnacle of his career riding at the back of that same party suddenly realizes that the party is evil and defects to another party. This kind of attitude reveals the hollowness that resides in the heart of those we entrust with our collective destiny in leadership positions. While some people are members of one party, they continually and secretly nurse the ambition to defect to another party and when they finally do, they retain one foot in their former party living a leeway for a shameless return in the future.
This kind of ideological pervasion exposes politicians who are without direction, lacking in any ideological conviction and are willing to plunge the country into a despairing morass as long as their personal interests are protected.
While defection is a political reality, in fact, politicians can justifiably move from one party to another in a proper way, the rate it is done in Nigeria portrays a total lack of ideological conviction. It has been muted in some quarters that the defections are motivated by a desire to avoid the blistering searchlight of the economic and fraud police, the EFCC. Some people have also opined that defections are motivated by a desire to have a suitable platform to devour the national cake through juicy appointments. These political polygamists totally violate their allegiance to the people who voted for them and like Obanua, polygamy based on greed and lasciviousness will ultimately embrace tragedy.
In some ways, religious polygamy accounts for all forms of social misdemeanour and inordinate quest for power, wealth and relevance. Those who profess one faith or another, who present a façade of sanctimony also secretly, indulge in other forms of spiritual allegiance thereby revealing innate hypocritical mien first to themselves and secondly to their followers. Some pastors and Christians, under the cover of the night, commit apostasy by patronizing juju priests, marabouts and other kinds of spiritualists pretending to have solutions to life’s myriad of problems.
According to the Bible, this kind of attitude made God punish the Israelites each time they ran after other gods. I believe in miracles, I believe in the observable procedure of continuity – night and day, sowing and reaping, birth and death too. However, there are many Christians who are steeped in occult practices and indulge in all manner of spiritual subterfuge, thus we have miracle marriage, the miracle child, miracle money and miracle promotions. Unfortunately, a desperate populace does not care and are eventually lead to destruction at the slaughter slab by those who are guilty of religious polygamy. Are all miracles from God? Certainly no.
The devil is capable of giving anything that God can give but the difference is permanence. We must, therefore, look inwards and renounce the age-long maxim that the end justifies the means. Polygamy in whatever guise it occurs bothers on unfaithfulness and a consistent search for what is not lost. Our society is caught in the corrosive stranglehold of polygamy and the earlier we disentangle ourselves, the more we avoid impending tragedy.
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