By Suyi Ayodele
Our fathers of old were better than us in many ways. They were more organised. They tower far above us when it comes to human management. And they were far more honourable. Save for our claim to Western education, we have nothing to compare. Beyond our ability to read and write, the native intelligence of those men of old dwarfs our Western culture of nowadays. They were bold, courageous, realistic and truthful. They married our mothers and made no pretence about having other women in their lives. They never pretended to be saints. Hence, they had nothing to hide from our mothers.
They took in women according to their capacities. They were responsible to their wives and children. And above all, they commanded great respect. Our generation is a generation of deceits. We are a sharp contrast to the noble lifestyles of our fathers. We pretend a lot. We hide under religion to perpetrate evils. Little wonder we die more often at the hands of jealous wives. This same generation falls at the feet of “side chicks”, the street lingo for mistresses. We should be worried as a generation at the extent of violence in homes across the social strata. The statistics of men that have gone beyond at the hands of women – wives and side chicks alike – is alarming.
Something is definitely wrong with our “civilised” generation. What our fathers did successfully, and with utmost pride, is exactly what is killing us. The phenomenon of side chick or mistress, and even more pointedly, concubine did not start with this age. But why is it that the water of side chicks gets stuck in our own teeth? The answer lies in the hypocrisy of this epoch. How did our fathers survive polygyny without falling under the knives of their wives? How did they manage their harem of mistresses without falling prey to killer side chicks? Were they oppressing our mothers? The answer is no. They were simply good managers who employed the weapon of truth to achieve peace and tranquility in their homes and by extension, their societies. They were truthful in all their dealings. They kept mistresses that their wives knew about. God bless our mothers of those days.
We had cases where wives reported their husbands to their mistresses. Those mistresses whipped the men back to line. The society was more organised and wives did not lose their husbands prematurely to killer side chicks. Our fathers lived more exciting and fulfilling lives. When their mistresses called, our mothers simply fabricated other engagements outside the house in order to maintain peace. Little wonder nobody hacked their men to death in one dingy hotel or service apartment. It is not funny that while our fathers’ mistresses followed them to their farms to take their own share of the harvest, men in our generation dare not wave at any female friend by the roadside while in the same cars with their wives. We must give explanations to all the “who was that questions”. Make no mistake about it: polygyny is native to Africa. What we are suffering now is a case of atavistic regression.
Our generation cannot match the native intelligence of our fathers. The Ifa Corpus, ensconced in African Traditional Religion (ATR), stipulates that in polygyny, a man begins to have peace of mind after taking the eighth wife. The Odu says one wife is good, second gives room for jealousy; third leads to broken home; fourth brings squabbles; fifth warns others not to ruin the man’s fortunes; sixth becomes wicked; seventh turns witch; eight blames others for disturbing the man; ninth accuses others of laziness and the tenth accuses others of forcing themselves on the man. We should also get it right: there is a big difference between adultery and polygamy. Adultery involves secrecy; polygyny is an open affair. In adultery, neither partner wants anyone to know what is going on between them. Our fathers were not adulterous. They were too open in their relationships. Our mothers of old knew where their husbands were at any given time. It may sound strange, but we had cases where wives asked women to date their husbands; especially when the women realised that they could no longer cope with the demands from their men. An older friend told me a story of how his grandmother paid the bride price of another woman for her husband. The word ‘adultery’ is a neologism, coined by this present generation.
But all that has changed. Civilisation came and issues that were hitherto anthropological became spiritual. The first set of “civilisation” that came through Christianity was a sensitive civilisation; a more realistic and practical civilisation. Represented by the orthodox churches such as Catholic, Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian, these early evangelists preached the gospel without distorting the traditional family lifestyles and values of the converts. I am from a family of Lay Readers in the Anglican Communion. The first Lay Reader of All Saints’ Anglican Church, Oke Bola, Ikole Ekiti, happened to be the patriarch of my family. In his lifetime, he was married, legally to six wives. No Catechist or Reverend (Alufa) asked him to let go of any of his wives. I need nobody to tell me that he is among the angels in heaven as a lay reader too! The religion of those days was humane; practical and purely realistic. You needed to see our harvest ceremonies and bazaar days of those days. From ‘Egbe Agba Okunrin’, to ‘Christ Morning Stars’ (Egbe Irawo Owuro), to ‘Egbe Omo Ogun Igbala’ (The Salvation group), you saw wives of church leaders dressed in gorgeous attires. The competition for “asia” plaque was captivating. That was when Baba Egbe would wear the same attire with his five wives and “Iriju Ijo” (Church Warden) would deck same ankara with his three wives and the jollification would go on without any acrimony. The mistresses had their parts to play and the wives understood perfectly. It was a period where birds could fly in the sky without their wings touching one another.
Then the second wave of “civilisation” came through pentecostalism. Things changed completely. The new set of religious leaders went after the traditional family settings. They told us that it is “one man, one wife”. I had attended many sessions of doctrinal teaching in my present church where it was argued that any man who had married two wives before becoming ‘Born Again’ must send away the second wife. I queried such doctrine, tagged “Restitution”. My late father married four wives and had another one through widow inheritance. I told the teacher that if my father is not in heaven, no other man is qualified to be in heaven. And I stand by that till the second coming of the Lord Jesus! No apologies. The idea of “one man, one wife”, is, to the best of my knowledge, responsible largely for the present social disequilibrium, the reason why so many so-called born again, spirit-filled and tongue blasting Christians fall prey to the social menace now known as sidechicks.
I keep wondering which one is better: a man who has three or more wives known to all and sundry, or a man who has one wife and ten mistresses in the dark streets of virtually every city? I am by no means preaching indecent behaviour of adultery. I think it is more preferable for a man who has overflowing libido, to marry as many wives as he can adequately cater to than to have one known wife and ten hidden sidechicks. The sad aspect of it is the fact that the white people who told us polygyny is bad do worse things. The Western world which exported the idea of monogamy is the same place where sexual perversions like homosexuality, lesbianism and bestiality hold sway and where it is acceptable for people to surgically alter their birth genders. What can be worse than that? Religious leaders should begin to re-examine some of the doctrines. Go to any church and see the sea of heads in their singles classes. I am talking about ladies who are in their marriageable ages but who are held down by some doctrines that are not in tandem with the socio-economic realities of this epoch. How on earth do you tell a lady in her mid 30s not to visit her fiancé alone because “they may be tempted”?
I attended a family session sometime ago where one preacher said it “ is absolutely wrong for a single sister to cook for a single brother”. I shook my head!. Some churches even threaten not to wed any “sister” who goes outside the denomination to go look for a “brother” in another denomination. Yet we say the “Body of Christ” is one. We ignorantly build an army of sidechicks as long as we continue to put doctrinal impediments in the ways of ladies who are of age forgetting that even the patriarchs of old, including but not limited to Abraham, Jacob and David had more than one wife each and God Almighty never for once imputed it against them as unrighteousness. Remember also that in several portions of the Pentateuch, God made clearly spelt out injunctions that stipulated how men who had more than one wife should treat their women. If God was outright against polygyny, why would he show such interest in the fate of the other woman? There are some churches where males are not even allowed to talk directly to ladies on matters of love, but must go through the pastorate. We hold on to such an anachronistic doctrine, forgetting that on the go, there are one thousand and one dating sites from Badoo, to IChat, Tendermeets to Visymo; Darmove Randk to Izito and so on, on the internet, where such “talking” can be done without any encumbrance.
The reality before the church now is the fear of accepting that things have changed. While I have no problem with the gospel of holiness and the teachings about the sanctity of the undefiled matrimonial bed, I strongly believe that the Church universal must begin to give the issue of polygyny a second thought. I feel greatly sad that a promising young lady like Chidinma Adaora Ojukwu may have her life ruined forever because she played the role of a killer sidechick. More saddening to me is the idea that a prosperous Michael Usifo Ataga would leave the comfort of his home in Banana Island to go and die in a dingy service apartment in Lekki. Ataga probably abandoned his home for that service apartment, his abattoir, because he wanted to avoid the prying eyes of snooping neigbours, church members or some visiting brethren, who could carry the tale of his escapades to his madam. Our fathers had no reason to be secretive about their sidechicks because the society of their time understood such anthropological tendencies.
What we have nowadays are men who spend some minutes in their cars, deleting offensive messages from their phones before they enter their homes. Men who keep secret phones in their lockers in their offices. Men who take holy communion on Sundays and go under the sheets in dingy hotels with side chicks on Mondays. By no means, those who can keep to one wife should do so. And those who are not under such grace should be able to take more than one wife without anyone looking at them as candidates of hell. The Bible, after all, says in Matthew 22:30 that “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven”. Who knows, if Ataga had acted like our fathers, maybe, he would be alive today? Who knows if Mrs. Ataga was aware of Chidinma, like our mothers of old, there would have been no need for a service apartment. Think about the agonies of the Atagas; think about the agonies of the Ojukwus. Then think about the good old days when there was no ‘corner-corner’ love. Then make your choice.