In Urhobo land, I grew up to meet it. Men with only one wife were looked down upon. My paternal grandfather was well over six feet and good looking, but he was not highly respected. In fact, some people saw him as lazy. His major crime was that he married only one wife, a short woman for that matter, although my grandmother was a black beauty. He did have a love child, although my father never mentioned or acknowledged his half-sister. I don’t know why. My mother only told us after my father died. I only saw her once from afar, but my late brother knew him and took care of him.
Many Urhobo people viewed Christianity with suspicion in the early stages. They saw it as a religion that the white man brought to force a strange culture (monogamy) on us. Do not forget that many wives and children equated to wealth because the larger the family, the more the workforce and therefore wealth. You now know why monogamists were seen as poor people, who could not make enough money to marry more wives, have many children and a large workforce. The spread of Christianity brought more disdain from non-Christians. My father was the only Christian amongst his siblings. “Unfortunately,” he was the last male child. His elder siblings could not understand why their well-educated baby brother would have only one wife. It was a recurring issue: marry a second wife.
One would have thought that women like my mother had a case (having many male children) to make them an exception, but no. My mother had eight children, all males, but that was no guarantee. If we were all girls, my mother could have been thrown out and I do not know how my father could have resisted his elder siblings. When we were seven before our youngest brother was born, my father’s elder sister came on a visit. One day, she asked my father in Urhobo: “Ukaniedife (my father’s middle name), when are you taking a second wife,” she asked. “Ay’ovo wh’oshoo (literally translated to mean having sex with only one woman kills the penis),” she added with biblical finality. Properly translated it means, having sex with only one wife can lead to impotency. True, having one wife can lead to monotony and low interest in sex, but there is no scientific basis to say it leads to impotency because it does not. Some monogamists simply look for ways to spice their sex life and keep it evergreen.
There has been a resurgence of bullying of and ridiculing of monogamists this time social media and other fora and that is responsible for today’s article. We live in a free world. The constitution does not tell us the number of women to marry, so what is this subtle bullying all about? I made a decision to be a monogamist as a little boy because I did not like the injustice, jealousy, envy and rivalry I saw in polygamous families around. That is not to say monogamy does not have its share of shortcomings: spouses who starve their other halves of sex, wives who wear tight and thick jeans trousers to bed to teach their husbands a lesson for not acceding to sometimes unreasonable demands, etc. Monogamy is monopoly and has its shortcomings and as a person, I hate monopoly. I often joke with my friends that the only area where I have accepted monopoly is marriage. Otherwise I detest monopoly.
Monogamy or polygamy, which is better? My firm Christian beliefs notwithstanding, I do not get involved in such mumu arguments. Polygamy is part of our culture; embrace it or turn your back on it. It is a matter of choice. Make your choice and live with the consequences: the good, the bad and the ugly. I have chosen monogamy, let me live with the consequences of my choice. You cannot come and taunt me in a free society where I have made my choice.
I went for a milestone birthday in Lagos some time ago. The celebrant has over 30 children. The guests, especially the women, were murmuring about the man’s “rascally” dick and weakness for women. But one thing was remarkable. The lowest qualification the children had is a first degree. He trained all his children to university level. I will not know how well brought-up they are because I was seeing them for the first time. I will not also judge them because one of them was smoking while the ceremony was on or one was smooching a girl in one corner. What did you expect? Lions beget lions, not goats.
What impressed me was that all of them are well educated. Compare that to some other scenarios I see. A man has 17 children, none of them is a graduate; they do not have requisite training as artisans. The father has abandoned them to their fate. The girls are doing “runs” to keep body and soul together, while the males, without good enough knowledge to engage in sophisticated 419, are engaged in petty crimes and armed robbery or just loafing around. Don’t you see such scenarios around you?
Growing up, my parents always advised us that you cannot stop a child from growing protruding teeth; he should just grow enough lips to cover them. These youngsters making noise about polygamy and having many side chicks after getting married; it is your life. As you make your bed, so you will lie on it. Some of the protagonists of polygamy and side chicks are youngsters, who do not even have the resources to “camp” a girl at home. Bride price is very cheap in Urhobo land. My wife’s was N60, but I could only pay N55. I will never be able to pay the balance because I need to bring all the people who attended the marriage together to pay the N5 balance. My father-in-law, two of my wife’s siblings and two of my siblings, who witnessed the marriage are dead, not to talk of relatives and family friends who have since passed on. That is just by the side. But some of these noisemakers do not even have the resources to pay bride price and do traditional marriage of one wife.
In Urhobo land, you can see “couples” who have lived together for 20 years and have had many children, even grandchildren. Then the father of the woman dies. All of a sudden, you hear that the man cannot bury his “father-in-law” because he has not paid the bride price or formally married the woman that he has been living with for 20 years. Then the man starts running around and mobilising relatives to pay the dowry or do the traditional marriage before he could bury his father-in-law (sh’ogor). You see partly why I am angry with these noisemakers?
If you come to social media to justify taking to polygamy, you are insecure. You need nobody’s permission. I am a monogamist and I owe nobody any explanation. Make una let me hear word. Live your life the way you want, you are not answerable to anyone as long as you live within the law. When your time to depart the earth comes, you will only be answerable to God. You believe in God sef? Anyway, it doesn’t matter.