Polygamy: Fuel To Poverty In Nigeria

Few days back I stumbled upon an article which propelled me to write this very piece without hesitation. In some way, it has become absolutely normal to bring forth arguments with premises based solely on the “misdeeds” of a certain majority of people. Some how, the right minority go unnoticed as though they do not exist at all. The aforementioned article which had the writer giving his or her disposition towards monogamy was aimed not only at ridiculing its very ideology but also at encouraging polygamy with very poor convictions.

Most people, in much the same way as this article, often claim that women happen to cover a greater percentage of the population of any country as against their male counterparts. They further explain the act of polygamy as an effective strategy to “reduce” the population of single women. Hence, giving them the opportunity to become loving wives and caring mothers. This ideology happens to sit well with a lot of men irrespective of religion and culture. I remember listening to stories about how men married hundreds of wives in the past so they could have just enough hands to work on the farm. It’s difficult to put the piece together at the moment considering that this is a very different era.

At some point, when the aforementioned reason for having more than a wife doesn’t quite sit well with them, they’ll switch to history for aid. The famous story of Mitterrand, former french president, who was discovered to have had two sons outside his marital home at the event of his death, although the French laws forbid polygamy and the citation from 2002,where over five hundred Reverend mothers died from constant intake of abortion pills in Rome, suddenly comes into play. At the end, some eventually settle for religious reasons. This,they claim buttresses their point as they believe the more wives a man possesses, the lesser the temptation of adultery, which begs the question,”What happens if a man gets to the fourth or sixth wife and either doesn’t feel sexually satisfied still, or isn’t capable of taking care of the wives and their children, talk more of treating them equally?” Or could this logic be applied to only the rich?

Albeit the Bible doesn’t rebuke polygamy,seeing that several noble men took in more than one wife, it also doesn’t clearly state that a man is allowed more than one wife. The idea of one man to a wife in modern day Christianity is believed by some historians to be as a result of the influence of the Roman marital law which was a strictly one man-one wife institute. The Quran on the other hand clearly allows for polygamy on the basis that the husband attains absolute equality amongst the women. And the very verse ends with the notion that it is better to have just a wife in order that injustice might stay out of his dealings.

Quran 4 vs 3 :

“And if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphan­ girls, then marry women of your choice, two or three, or four but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly, then only one or that your right hands possess. That is nearer to prevent you from doing injustice.”

Although it is a known fact that it is quite impossible for a man to dish out such justice,certain men do feign it. Scholars have translated this verse to mean that it is more advisable for a man to marry just a wife lest he commits injustice amongst them or their children. Or lest he becomes financially strained. They further agree to a reasonable degree that this very verse allows for men whose wives have difficulty producing children or as in the case of the Prophet Muhammad(peace be upon him),to liberate women and shield them from harmful cultural practices.

So many a time, I’ve heard clerics say “it is Sunnah (i.e the doings of the prophet to marry more than one wife) and as a matter of fact I’ve heard of certain men who marry two women at a time. How sensible is this very act and how does it apply to one’s life and economic growth? Because with the exception of Aisha(peace be upon her),all other women married by the Prophet were either widows,divorcees or captives. His marriage to these women were majorly to shield them from the inhumane treatment dished out to women as a whole in the 7th century Arabia. They were in the most degraded position and instead of having any rights to inheritance,a woman in her person formed part of the inheritance. Widows,orphans and slaves were most cruelly treated. Things are quite different in this very century. Women have been enlightened and advocation for women rights and freedom has been welcomed in this very state.

It becomes difficult to link the modern charade of “Sunnah” to the very act of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), seeing that he himself was monogamous for 25 years. He was practically married to one woman until the age of 50.

Imagine a country where the rich, poor and wretched decide to take on more than a wife not considering whether or not they can provide for the well being of their offspring. Imagine such occurrence in a state as populated as Nigeria with little or no assistance from either the federal or state government? A country with a minimum wage of less than twenty thousand naira. A country with a 0% budget for education and health care. Would polygamy sit well with you still?

By Okunlola Azeezat, author of ‘Red Fuse Trip’ currently up for sale on okadabooks.

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