Monday, August 11, 2008

Former teacher and self-proclaimed healer, Mohammed Bello Abubakar, was recently interviewed by the BBC. The 84 year old Nigerian claimed to communicate directly with the Prophet Mohammed, the most important symbol of the Islamic faith. While such a claim is enough to generate significant discussion, what was most interesting about Abubakar's story is that he is apparently married to 86 women and has been blessed with 170 children. However, in his interview he discouraged others from following in his footsteps.  While I agree with him that having a family that large can be problematic, I have to say that many should actually take a page from Abubakar's book. Nigeria's leaders and ruling elite especially could learn a lot from him.

Baba Mohammed Bello Abubakar

As I read the BBC article on Abubakar, I initially found it funny that he discouraged others from following in his footsteps. But, I found nothing funny about his comment,
"A man with 10 wives would collapse and die, but my own power is given by Allah. That is why I have been able to control 86 of them,"
Of course, there could have been a miscommunication between speaker, translator and interviewer, especially if Abubakar's primary language is Hausa and not English. Yet, the word 'control' conjured images of mindless animals being herded to slaughter. It made me bristle. But, as I took some time to think about what he was saying, something clicked. Although I have publicly called for the illegalization of polygamy and have been heavily criticized for it, I must say that Abubakar might be onto something.

For those of us that are familiar with polygamy, we know that it is a system that can breed serious competition amongst wives trying to gain favor from their husband for themselves or their children. Therefore, to maintain a family as large as Abubakar's must require a delicate balance between keeping competing wives and interests in check. However, the pictures of Abubakar's wives showed relatively content women. And, while I have no idea how he manages to feed and clothe his large family, I daresay, Abubakar must have learned how to keep what must be a complex network of partnerships, interests and differing attitudes together under his 'roof'. Regardless of how I feel about polygamy, I have to commend Abubakar for his management skills. He should write a book and share his tips. I don't think I would go as far as Durano's suggestion that pharmaceutical companies "analyze and recreate what makes him tick and ... produce a product that would effectively compete with viagra from his DNA.[sic]" But, that is a story for another day.

Far too often, it seems that Nigeria's leadership has little to no control over various issues in the country. Consider these craters that currently exist on many streets in Lagos. Better control and management skills could be of great use to residents that are forced to use this street which if anything is a hazard.
                                                                                  Source: Lagos City Photo Blog

The Niger Delta and the stalled Summit that Yar'Adua proposed also reflects a the importance of controlling tense situations. As with Abubakar's large family, the ultimate goal is to keep Nigeria together and control the various problems that will undoubtedly arise. Instead, the planned Summit was forced to fall apart before it even began. Since then, there has been sluggish progress in bringing security to the residents of the Delta. And, the village of Abonema, from which my mother hails, has become a ghost town because cult members and armed gangs turned it into a battle ground. Some leadership is clearly needed for the populace who are at the mercy of armed thugs and criminals.

No matter what one thinks, leadership requires some level of control. The word 'control' might not be palatable to the sensitivities of many but the reality is that a nation will fall apart if those charged with its maintenance fail to control the many competing factors and interests. I do not suggest a clampdown on differences as can sometimes happen in Nigeria, just a better effort at getting most things under control. It would give citizens more faith that something good is on the horizon. Abubakar is managing to do it in his household, why can't Nigeria?

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

As said, the key word is control but I think its more like control over self, not necessarily over others. People who follow respond better to a leader who has self discipline and control. A person with self-control is more believable, trustworthy and effective.

Solomon, the king, was reputed to have over 100 wives and 300 concubines. And he was said to be wisest man alive then. Its a chicken or egg question; which came first? The women or the wisdom?

Did he get wisdom from dealing with the women or got the women because he had the wisdom?

I think both had to do with the self-control he had.

Now I know you will say how come a self-disciplined person go into polygamy? Go check it out, the successful polygamists went into it with their eyes open and they succeeded at it because they realized that their relationships with their wives/husband was individual. They however learnt to share.

Don't ask me how cos I don't know they did it.

TheAfroBeat said...

Read this story and thought: lack of self control. I can't contest what revelations he had from Allah but 86 wives is highly unecessary and just a tad bit extreme.

As for control over the nation, Yar'Adua could learn a thing or two from the military as i think they win the prize when it comes to strictly "control". As for management of competing interests/factors, I think our current administration could learn a thing or two from self-reflection as to what "governance" REALLY means in every sense - SERVICE.

Thanks for sharing Solo!

Femi B said...

Control is a very subjective word, Managing a large family and managing a region, id say might just be overwhelmingly different. To the one heading the greed is involved.but to the latter......

Anyway, Did u use the pidgin letter? I am wondering if it was not only funny but romantic too?

NneomaMD said...

this is an interesting take on the BBC story. my initial reaction was surprise initially and then admiration, like you, about how this guy is able to manage such a family. i think you should definitely interview the guy someday and see how he does it. I was a somewhat dismayed that he encourages his children to beg for a living....but that is a conversation for another day.

as for whether he serves as a good example for nigerian leaders. i wonder. if he has only able to do it by the grace of Allah, I wonder if that can be transposed to the political stage. However, I would figure that there might be some delegation of tasks involved here and those delegates perform their duties well. i have to give credit for all those women who are able to live with each other.

Beauty said...

Control by the Red Army created the old USSR and the failed union of several peoples is creating unnecessary deaths in the region, today, Georgia being bombed into submission as a case in point, and Russia continues to be saddled by the rest of the countries it used to control. The break up of tightly controlled China is going to be the next big issue as people groan under a tiny fraction of 1.5Bn people currently on the move. Why does this matter? Control of women who are treated as no more than an appendage of men continues to raise its ugly head. To suggest success in this complex network of partnerships, interests and differing attitudes in the Abubakar household is unfair.

The wives of Abubakar are kept together out of the sheer ignorance and control systems that makes it possible to understand why those Islamic clerics were able to convince parents against having their kids get polio shots. The African leadership has always been a backward mix-bag control freaks. Could this be the reason development and progress has barely moved in Africa? Traditional rulers in Nigeria awarded chieftaincy titles to the fools that brought cola has meant no progress hence Mohammed Bello Abubakar becomes a leadership guru.

Leadership is all about love! But not of the Abubakar type, a leader is a dealer in hope. “Stories of identity – narratives that help individuals think about and feel who they are, where they come from, and where they are headed – constitute the single most powerful weapon in the leader’s arsenal.” The contrast, Crowd renters and riggers of history is how Okey Ndibe labels our leadership in today's Sun.

Justice Emmanuel Olayinka Ayoola, the Chairman of Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission summarized most Nigerians as hypocrites, ... they see somebody doing something wrong, they laugh with him, they celebrate him, he doesn’t know that he is doing something wrong. That is why I said that lack of integrity is deeper than we think. My conclusion is this; success is dependent on excellence and excellence always must the goal of all Nigerians.

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Solomonsydelle,

I apologize in advance for this comment but I just can't help myself:

If Nigeria were to adopt the management skills of Bello Abubakar, I believe the country will be even more screwed than it is today. :-) --Durano, done!

The Activist said...

To think that I just posted this Abubakar story today or my own blog?

Abubakar doing something right? Well if sending is kids to beg for money as I read is part of what is doing right, I dont agree. Besides the control he should have had was to have less wives and kids.............. that I can liking to Nigeria situation

guerreiranigeriana said...

..hmmmnnn...i didn't read the article about ole boy abubakar...but, i also have some trouble with the word control, especially coming from a so-called leader or head of a household...i certainly don't want to control my children, husband, friends, employees, etc...nor do i want to be controlled...

...aside from my issue with control, i can't still applaud or say that nigerian leaders should learn about control from abubakar...i think most of them have some level of may not look that way to us, but that may very well be the idea...there are many ways to control, including fear...if you are afraid to do certain things for fear of armed robbers or militants, there is a certain control someone has over you (in this case, i am pointing my finger at the government) is used in the us as well...continuing to feed capitalism, consumerism and propaganda down the throats of us citizens is a way to control what they have access to, know and thus how they will behave...i do not agree that control is the way otherwise, we lightweight have many politicians pay thugs to go 'harass' or 'scare' people to vote one way or not vote at all?...

Buttercup said...

i just saw this on Standtall's blog ystdy n just cudnt believe my eyes...i see it as a man takin advantage of women..i find it ludicrous that it was Allah that revealed 86women as his wives..but then again, i really cant say..the whole thing is just beyond me!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Interesting analogy and write-up. I don't know about Abubakar and his control tactics, but Nigeria could do better with proper leadership.

tobenna said...

Simply put, the guy is a living legend.
86 wives, 1 man?????
How does he do it?

P.S. Solly, where are you?

Sola Folowosele said...

The Muslim community in Nigeria disowned the man through the Sultan of Sokoto few days back..they said the man's action & lifestyle is unislamic.they also said his claim of being an islamic cleric is blasphemous..

Waffarian said...

The only feeling I had when I read this article was disgust. First of all what kind of is father is he? I doubt he is able to give every single child of his the love and attention that a child requires. So, I see him as an extremely selfish man that has put his needs before his kids.

Secondly, what kind of husband can he be? How in the name of the lord is he able to provide for all those women? Considering the living conditions of these women, again, a very selfish man.

Did he say Control? Ofcourse he can "control" them, he hardly knows any of far as I am concerned, he is not controlling a damn thing. It is impossible to control what does not exist. He does not have "wives", he has strangers.

Unknown said...

I don't know about anyone else but the whole issue left a bad taste in my mouth.

For one, i felt the his use of "control" was psychic. Almost all of his wives had at one time or the other gone to him for healing and the next thing he was telling them that Allah had instructed him to marry them....abegi

I think his case is greed. And what kind of management is it when he lives in an uncompleted house and his children are beggars to take care of the family?

I think your analysis of his scenario is a bit off

Anonymous said...

wow that picture brings back some memories...that is a wide pot hole... the issue of lack of leadership and control in Nigeria is true, but where do we start to solve the problem... from the top or from the bottom?

Anonymous said...

So control is not my main issue, sexually transmitted diseases are and the innocent children who will born into this world being carriers of a disease they didn't ask for.

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