Friday, February 1, 2008

During the recent heated debate on Polygamy (and the accompanying clip at Nigerian Curiosity TV) at this here blog, I expressed my personal opinion that polygamy should be illegal in Nigeria. For that I received quite a bit of flack and my own mother began to worry, out of concern for my 'online safety', that I may be going too far with "this blogging thing."

A conversation between Nigerian blogger, Omodudu, and I resulted in me having to acknowledge that there was an angle to the entire debate that I needed to address.

Omodudu impressed upon me the importance of acknowledging some of the historical basis for Polygamy. According to him, one angle he insisted that I focus on was that polygamy ensured that fathers had enough surviving children who would eventually work the fields to provide for the family. As such, a man needed to have more than one wife so as to ensure that he had a considerable number of surviving children (considering child mortality rates).

Omodudu went on to point out that although many of us bloggers, and our readers, live in large cities such as Lagos, Abuja or even cities outside of Nigeria, the majority of Nigerians still survive by subsistence farming and as such, the need for many offspring, and consequently polygamy, remains till this day.

Yes, I should have explained that there were probably some very good reasons for polygamy coming to be in our society in the first place. Doing so would have added more context to the discussion. And, I can acknowledge that the historical need for offspring and/or the need for women to have husbands if and when the number of men in their village is small and/or any other historically significant reasons for polygamy are important considerations. However, I do not believe that these reasons - especially the need for more surviving offspring - remain a valid basis to maintain the institution of polygamy. (Please read my initial post for some of my reasons).

If we as a nation need to maintain certain levels of surviving children, implementing effective and affordable health care for mothers and their new-born babies, will lower child mortality rates. The result will be children that can help their parents, while getting an education, work on farms to support their families. However, I like to think that as a nation, we want to lower child mortality rates because children will get competent educations and will eventually be able to contribute to Nigeria via their skills when they become adults. These skills might be in farming/agriculture, science, politics or entertainment. Hopefully, a majority of the nation has aspirations for their children to have lives better than those they may have had.

I strongly believe that any other of the reasons for polygamy become less relevant if we commit ourselves to advancing ourselves and becoming a modern society. But, that being said, I understand that people have a right to sleep with whoever they want to. More importantly, under Nigerian law, polygamy is perfectly legal. I also clearly understand that even if polygamy were illegal, that would not stop some men and women from engaging in sexual relationships outside of their marriage. But, at the end of the day, I stick to my opinion (based on personal experience and observations) that polygamy is unfair to women and I want no part of it. But, if you and your mate choose to engage in polygamy, then by all means, do so. At the end of the day, what you do in the privacy of your bedroom is your business.

Thank you for reading the rejoinders this week. Regular blogging returns on Monday with a full week of posts. Beginning with Nigerian Curiosity's Person of 2007. Although polling has closed, do you know who will it will be? It may shock you...

Further Reading:
- Polygamy and the State of the Nigerian Union

- Jola Naibi's On Polygamy And How It Thrives
- Chippla's On Polygamy in Nigeria
- I thought Nneoma's Pyoo wata blog had a post about polygamy, but it appears I was mistaken. Nevertheless, check out her latest post about AFRICOM
- Nigeria Politricks 'My Nigerian Revolution' Meme is up and all I can say is wow. Read it here.

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11 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

Omodudu said...

That pretty much sums it up there. If emphasis were placed on reducing infant mortality, my bet is that within 100 years polygamy will be a thing of the past.
I would like to see any study that attempts to contrast children from monogamous settings with kids from polygamous getups, while discounting for education. My guess is that the result may be quite shocking.

Waffarian said...

There was on article about polygamy on NVS, one guy seriously supporting, you should put a link on his article as well, make i go find am. I dey come.

Waffarian said...

Here is the link, check it out:

Naija Vixen said...

Hey babe, I've seriously missed reading your opinions! Im with you on making polygamy illegal...but even if the power to do so was will still get some people stonewalling it. Have a great weekend xx

snazzy said...

according to a lawyer I know polygamy is not legal in Nigeria in the standard sense. The civil law in Nigeria recognizes only one wife. The constitution also acknowledges traditional law and sharia law and allows u to have multiple wives under those codes. But those wives have no "legal" standing under standard civil war.

Adiba said...

I don't see why Polygamy should be made illegal. Not all Polygamous marriages are a result of adultery. So if a man feels he is capable of maintaining a household with two or more wives then why not. It is possible as a woman to live harmoniously in a polygamous marriage. I think we are becoming too westernized that we have started to disregard our ethnic traditions.


@ Laura: Thanks for joining the discussion.

If I may play devil's advocate, please answer this question. Would 2 Nigerian men be satisfied to share the same woman?

A quick glance at the original polygamy post, the comments and accompanying clip could help give some added context to where I am coming from on this issue. If you ever have the time, please take a look at them.

And as to our traditions. You are right we should not simply reject them fir 'western' customs. But, I want to ask you, is it not possible to make modifications to one's behavior when you discover a different (and maybe better, depending on your personal situation) way of doing things? Our customs DO NOT REQUIRE men to have more than one wife. So, why do so many people do it? I am truly perplexed, which is why I ask you these things.

Anyway, I agree that not all polygamous marriages stem from infidelity (didn't know that I made that suggestion) and yes, I have heard of houses were multiple wives live in peace. Have I seen them? No. And as I am the product of a polygamous family, I speak from MY OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCE and say that there are serious consequences to polygamy that we do not necessarily address in our society. But, then again, if you or anyone else chooses to be in a polygamous relationship, that is your choice and good luck to you.

Sorry for the long response, but thank you for making the points you did. And, please feel free to stop by and join in our conversation anytime. Thanks!

@ everyone else: my response to Laura has taken me away from a deadline that I must meet in order to get the Nigerian Curiosity's Person of 2007 post finished. Please forgive me for this delay. Happy Monday to you all!

Sugabelly said...

I have a bias against polygamy (my boyfriend comes from a polygamous family and in the beginning of our relationship he thought it was okay to sleep with other women. I didn't find it so funny.), but then again, it is an atmosphere that we are all familiar with and have all grown up in and around. I know it has its benefits for certain people, but I really believe that it should begin to disappear now.

See the sad effects of polygamy on a stranger: Senator Uzamere's African American Wife accuses him of Bigamy in a rant on YouTube. (What the poor woman doesn't know is that in Nigeria, bigamy doesn't exist. We call it polygamy and we get with the program.)

N.I.M.M.O said...

I think this topic must really be dear to your heart for you to bring it up again.

However, polygamy is not/has not been a problem in this world for it is practiced all over the world, even the so-called Western countries. But as the late Hubert Ogunde described it when challenged on his many wives, Africa practices 'simultaneous polygamy' while the West practices 'serial polygamy' what with their high divorce rates and 'Baby Mamas' all over the place.

As you pointed out, our culture does not require men to have more than one wife but somehow they just want to have more than one. I guess its the primitivism in us. We still go back to the time when the male of our specie goes around with as many females as it can find and fend for.

But somehow, I don't think its that much of a problem. As much, if not more, child abuse happens in a monogamous as in a polygamous home. So also does spousal abuse - both male and female.

We have heard tales of men/women who kill their spouses in order to marry again (and avoid polygamy). We have also heard about women who collude to kill their husband in a polygamous home.

But as I said before, take a look around you, the best people you will find are from polygamous homes. Check it out.


Waffarian said...

Me, I want more than one husband so I support polygamy. I want one serious bread winner, the one that brings home the bacon, stable, dependent, then I want my "owanbe husband", this one has to be good looking oh and he better know how to "wind" that waist when makossa comes on.

The last but not the least, would have to be the one I discuss with at nights, my ideas and dreams, he has to be willing to listen to my rantings and calm me down if necessary. Of course, reproduction will also be on the agenda, and I might boot anyone out if the desired sex is not produced (as in male, female).

So, if you know any willing men that can live in harmony with one another and a woman, pls, hook me up!

StR8 UP Desiree'D said...

i concur with omodudu's explanation about how polygamy and stuff .. but it's time to move on people! We're now living the western way lol, everything is made easier (technologies era) so i hereby support that we ban polygamy :)... specifically polygyny! polyandary on the other hand can still stick around for the sakes of the likes of waffarian haha. I hear you my sister and i echo u.

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