POLYGAMY IN IGBOLAND: MATTERS ARISING VS MEETING THE NEEDS OF CONTEMPORARY WOMEN IN OUR CHANGING WORLD, CHALLENGES AND THE WAY FORWARD

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Being a product of polygamy myself, practitioner of the Christian Faith and a minister of the Gospel, lately, I've been involved in arguments and counter arguments as it affects the subject of polygamy in relation to Igbo culture and its supposed Bible condemnation or endorsement.

My reason for being involved isn't just for the fun of it but because it has a direct impact on the kind of society we intend to build. Moreover, we live in an ever-changing world with new challenges springing up on daily basis as a result of the social evolution and re-engineering we are going through in our bid to develop a safe, productive and secured environment, especially in view of evolving the Biafra nation of our dream.

Devoid of bias, I've argued and challenged people of same faith to point out any scripture were God condemned polygamy. So far, I've neither seen any nor has anyone provided me with one, except people quoting that “from the beginning God made them male and female". A scripture which in no way implies condemnation of polygamy.

The proponents of polygamy have argued in support of the practice as our sociocultural way of minimizing or possibly eliminating some social vices, such as prostitution otherwise known as sex work and other forms unethical sexual behaviours.

Some other proponents of polygamy have argued that it would accelerate our population growth as a way of checkmating being outnumbered by the Muslim population in Igbo land considering the rate of mass migration of Muslims into Igbo land from the Northern part of Nigeria, especially in places like Ebonyi State which could result in political/religious dominance and loss of our cultural values and identity by strangers.

Others have argued that polygamy helps in checkmating the rate at which Igbo women turn out as second, third and even fourth wives to men of other ethnic extractions. And as such reduces the rate at which we lost our single ladies to non-Igbos which of course is tantamount to an unqualified human capital flight from Igbo land.

Yet others have argued that polygamy helps in alleviating the suffering of single women who can't afford living wages, especially the rural women and the unemployed in the Igbo society. And upholding this practice would address such economic challenges confronting these single and unemployed or un-gainfully employed women.

On contrary, others have argued that since national population statistics shows that men even outnumber women, it then goes to prove that men aren't in short supply. And as such we should rather think of how to provide employment to unemployed single men so that they will have the financial capability to marry our single women. Since economic hardship is the actual reason why greater number of men are unmarried resulting in many Igbo ladies remaining single and searching.

Some others arguing against polygamy, have pointed to the ills associated with such practice. Examples are quarrels, jealousy arising from rivalries amongst mates which inhabit potentials that could lead to diabolic activities and physical assaults.

Finally, there's a school of thought who are of the view that we need a manageable population to achieve a sustainable economic development and as such, polygamy could make such dream to become a mirage of a sort or rather all together elusive.

While conceding to the validity of all the proposed Biblical, socio-cultural, political and economic arguments, both for and against polygamy. However, beyond these, I think we need to approach this issue from a more robust, pragmatic and comprehensive angle, especially as it affects all parties involved and our future as a people. Especially with special reference to women who are the worst hit in terms of self-fulfilment, satisfaction and sense of security or otherwise in marriage relationship.

My personal research on this controversial subject shows that there's more to the need of a woman far beyond being provided with material things. Every woman craves and aspire for quality attention, respect, emotional and physical intimacy with her husband to attain a certain level of security in marriage, for instance. Do you sincerely think these aspirations are actually possible in a polygamous marriage arrangement?

I've come to an empirical conclusion that a man may provide everything money can buy for a woman and still expose her to the dangers associated with loneliness and dissatisfaction, such as infidelity and insecurity. In such situations, a woman is often asked what else she want.

One would be tempted to ask, what purpose does getting married and yet remaining single or suffering in loneliness and insecurity since these are amongst other things marriage is supposed to address from the contemporary women's perspective?  It's my candid opinion that most men and the society at large are yet to understudy, and appreciate the psychological constitution of women and their inner quest for fulfilment and satisfaction in our ever-changing world.

Unlike in the contemporary world of technology and information age we live in, in the olden days, women were less exposed to freedom of expression, self-ambitions, less possessive in marriage relationships. Reason being that polygamy was a common and acceptable norm in Igbo society and women had less impact in vital family decision making process which includes the taking of an additional wife or wives as the case may be.

Based on the foregoing, I recommend the followings: As a matter of urgency, we should double our efforts in the Biafra/Igbo nation total emancipation from this British-Nigeria contraption as a way to forestall possible Islamic dominance of the political space in our ancestral homeland, in terms of being outnumbered in population as we would take charge of our political and cultural space and immigration policies when our emancipation is achieved. We should rather concentrate more on how to make laws to reduce the cost implications of marriage rites in Igbo land.

Since national population statistics show that men aren't in short supply but their purchasing power is, we should work on improving our economy, provide employment as a way of addressing issues of single men and women in Igbo society. We should consider the ills associated with polygamy which isn't wrong in itself but has its attendant controversies and vices which often could be detrimental to the mental and physical health of all parties involved. Since polygamy isn't mandatory but optional in Igbo culture, I suggest we should lay less emphasis on it and refrain from its undue condemnation.

Written by:
Mazi Elekwachi Ude
For: The Biafra Restoration Voice - TBRV

Published by:
Chibuike John Nebeokike
For: The Biafra Restoration Voice - TBRV

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