By Bayo Fasunwon
Efforts would be directed at concluding the discourse on the just concluded Isese Festival held in most Southwestern States of Nigeria. It is noteworthy that their Ondo State’s counterparts have also sent their emissaries to government to recognize and declare that day as being sacred and dedicated to the worship of few of the three hundred and fifty-nine deities in Yorubaland. It is also important to emphasise that of all the god(dresses) in Nigeria, none commands global patronage like the Yoruba deities. Ironically, Yorubaland also houses the largest cathedral and religious camps of both the Christian and Islamic religions in Nigeria.
All in all, Yorubaland through her peoples, land and patronage have become foreign currency earners for the nation. Whichever way and whatever deity, they love Nigeria, and Nigerians love them too. But, doe the embrace of these deities come without affecting the culture of the people, and the nature of these gods? In the last article, it was submitted that religion determines a lot of things. The vocabularies of every language are also influenced by religion, so much more that learning the indigenous languages of the deities become essential for true worship. However, there are some cultures that the embrace of Isese has to interact. The first being Polygamy.
Isese, from the various ‘Odu Ifa’, Orikis and folklores support polygamy. The various gods are such that were married to more than a wife, while the goddesses were either first, second or third wives. The Kings were much more honoured for having more than a wife, and the outstanding characteristics of warriors was the identification of wives as assets. The Christian religion however seems to, by interpretation of the clergy condemned the polygamist, and assured the monogamist of a special place in heaven. So it was that even when the polygamist gets converted, restitution, which translated in the sending away of other wives apart from the first wife, is recommended and celebrated. It is however, a well-known fact that the progenitors of Christianity and fathers of faith, were all polygamists. At no time in the Bible did God speak against those who praised polygamy, neither is there any verse that stipulates stiff punishment for those who married more than a wife. There are verses which explicitly states that those who desire the positions of Bishops and Deacons should be husband of one wife. By interpretation, others can have more than one?
The Islamic religion which has certain things in common with traditional system of worship allows for limited from of polygamy. Adherents are allowed to marry not more than four wives, with a proviso that they should love and treat all these women equally. A friend also explained that more wives meant more fortunes, and is well advised. Also, if one is well accepted by Allah, one can even have close to 300 houris (exceptionally beautiful virgins) as wives in paradise.
The Yorubas see women as being created for men, and not vice versa. Any man that marries does the woman a favour by taking away her reproach. It is believed that no matter the level of attainment, any woman without husband lacks a covering for her head. A marriage partner and offspring are therefore necessities as far as the Yoruba tradition is concerned. Within that context, it is also believed that women should take of men, so that the men can be much more productive. Especially, during war, women hold fort and are expected to even perform the roles of men. When men get older, younger wives (just like David) are recommended to them for marriage. So, when the older women visit their daughters as Nannies, the men are not left to suffer hunger and psychosocial needs. This is unlike now, when men are left to suffer in their old or mid years due to the absence of their wives. Many men have suffered ailments, and some have been murdered by house helps while their wives were away. Mothers have also mostly neglected their husbands, and transferred all their love to their children, for a secured tomorrow. It is therefore uncommon for mothers to demonise their husbands before their children, so that the dividends of parenthood can come mostly to them. It is therefore common nowadays, as against the former times, to see men die earlier leaving widows who get sympathies from the society. With Isese and people marrying under its tenets, polygamy is expected to soar.
It is amusing to note that many who are vocal against polygamy have side chicks, mistresses and even children outside wedlock. Of these are many who are devoted Christians, who feel constrained by their religions. Many believe that man by nature is polygamous. The animals are, Also, the population of unmarried females and young widows seem to insinuate that the home should belong to more than a woman. Many men would still be alive if their imported religion had not given their wives the confidence of monopoly. The direct murder, incapacitation and installment extermination of many a man would have been avoided if only the women knew ab initio that monogamy is a choice and not a right, within African communities. Are there challenges associated with Polygamy? There are many stories of rivalries that have fatal consequences. But most times, these rivalries are borne out of the non-institutionalised code of conduct for polygamous homes, within the context of religion. Where such exists, rivalries have been transformed to healthy competitions and cooperation. But, having one wife does not really immunize against challenges of fatal consequences, check the news.
While many are rejoicing at the acceptance of Isese day, this article is a subtle reminder that the acceptance of the day, is the acceptance of all that goes with it. There would be the legal resurgence of sacrifices at the junctions, religious worship at the rivers and cross roads. For our women, brace up. For the single aging women, there is hope, and for the young and daring, your children shall no longer be referred to as bastards. With Isese, men can enjoy the dividends of the competition between two or more women, and the various wives, who depended solely on their husbands, polygamy would ignite the entrepreneurial spirit in you. The truth however remains that each man should cut his cloth according to his cloth. If you lack the capacity to handle more than a wife, do not seek for another. Even if you have the financial capacity, and you lack the emotional stamina, Isese may not give it to you. The Isese day would surely revive our traditions, but such must be embraced with wisdom. It is more advisable to rejoice with the wife of your youth.