Sunday, 20 September 2015 18:21

Which Way Out? Re:The Agony of Monogamy - by Tola Adeniyi

Written by 
From Dr. Adenike Yesufu to Patrick Iroegbu. Understanding family issues is important to how we live out family vows, ring holding and carry ourselves and pursuits around. I thought this expose by Tola Adeniyi posted in would be of interest to you. I know you belong to a group that addresses this issue. I will wait to hear your response. Remember I teach Sociology of Family. I need dispassionate views.


It was at the church service for the 90th birthday of the legendary matriarch of the Awo dynasty Chief Dr Hannah Dideolu Awolowo in Ikenne that the thoughts that prompted this article began. Some well known highly placed gentlemen and their wives were called upon to partake in the wine sipping, bread breaking ritual called Holy Communion. As soon as these respectable ladies and gentlemen, all of them past age 70, and amongst whom were renowned professors, high court judges, legal luminaries and business moguls, finished their spiritual blessing and were returning to their seats, they caught a pitiable sight in their over-flowing garb of hypocrisy. They wore forlorn mien plastered with furrowed frowned faces like some one afflicted with putrid smell of heavy dose of fart. They looked as if they were mourning a three-year-old boy mistakenly killed by his own father, or the passing of a poor woman who has just succumbed to excruciatingly painful cancer.

They clung to their wives as if they were newly wedded. I temporarily forgot that I was in a holy church, the spiritual enclave of Christians. I almost laughed my head off because I knew each of the ‘holy’ ‘monogamous’ men intimately and by Jove, I knew of their second, third or fourth wives/liaisons/mistresses with whom they had sired several children. To the whole world they were champions of monogamy, but to their hearts and conscience they were celebrated polygamists, or at best, serial monogamists. Pshaw!

I saw pain written all over them, the agony of living a lie, the unease of hypocrisy, and the shame of going through life pretending to be what you are not. This is the sort of agony a lot of the so-called monogamists go through all their lives. The series of lies they sell to their wives, and the double life they present to their pastors and church leaders, most of whom are actually equally guilty of hypocrisy and double life living.

This piece is not set out to condemn or criticise monogamy. Monogamy is perfect for those who believe in its concept and can genuinely keep to it. I too have been married to one lovely woman for almost 45 years and it has been like a marriage made in heaven. I happen also to be the promoter along with some friends the 35-year-old Family Club of Nigeria which is dedicated to the upliftment and celebration of marriage and family values. The article is designed to expose the hypocrisy and pain associated with embracing false notions which are really not observed by any culture in the world, and to advise those who erroneously sentence themselves to a life of sadness and emptiness because they were deceived to believe that there is some utopia somewhere called monogamy.

I am very much aware that this article will generate a lot of controversy most especially from those who live holier-than-thou life and have continued to deceive the world that they are upholders of a doctrine that is not supported by true and enlightened interpretation of any religious doctrine.
The white men, I am yet to see any human being whose skin colour is like that of chalk, came and told the unfortunate lands they invaded that the cherished cultures, traditions and religions of such lands were rubbish, and instead indoctrinated them with values which they themselves never believed in or truly practiced. We know of King Henry Vlll, and several major historical figures in ‘Christian’ Europe who had more than one wife in addition of a string of wives who their ‘laws’ forbade them to address as wives but who nonetheless perform all the functions of wife minus name.

God bless President Mitterrand who openly confessed to having two women in his life, with the one in the other house with whom he fathered an 18-year-old daughter at the time he passed on. I have schooled, worked and lived virtually in all the continents of the world and I make bold to say with all emphasis at my disposal that no culture on planet earth truly practices monogamy. My Greek, Italian, Russian, British, American and other Caucasians routinely visit their other wives [called by other names] with whom they have children. But back in the homes shared with the one carrying the ring, they are monogamists! If God had wanted humanity to be monogamous, He or She would not have made the pigeon the only monogamous creature.

The cultures that practice polygamy had always known that at any given time, the number of available marriageable women far out number available men plus the fact that an 80-year-old man, if he has money, is still very much in the market whereas a 60-year-old woman may not be that lucky. The biological limitation to a woman’s productive age is also a factor. Why should a woman therefore remain on the shelf till age 45 when she could jolly well get married as second or sixth wife to a man who can afford to share life’s responsibilities with her? Why should a woman leave a man with whom she is No 1, simply because took a second wife and end up being numberless in the hands of several men with whom she naturally shares bed just because of some doctrine she hardly understands? All the women who should go and marry but are saying they do not want to share their man with another woman in a polygamous setting, are sharing current boyfriends with several other women. Where is the logic?

The argument that children in a polygamous house are always at each other’s throat does not hold water. Many siblings of monogamous families are known to have had worse and irresolvable, irreconcilable squabble, with dirty bitterness over inheritance than children from different mothers. The agony suffered by both men and women in the hand of unnatural laws and doctrines is too stifling for comfort. In 2002, 502 Reverend mothers were reported to have died while procuring abortion in Rome. Nigerian Tribune wrote an editorial on the unfortunate incident. And stories of Reverend fathers having children and sodomising young men in their care are legion! Why the hypocrisy? Why should the world continue to live the life of Ostrich?

A well known Nigerian journalist hid his other wives from his wife because his religion would not permit of it and his wife, living in monogamy should not hear of it. At his funeral service, other wives surfaced and the woman parading the ring collapsed. It was the grace of God that prevented double interment that day! The Western world which had not learnt the art of living amicably with more than one partner under the same roof has indulged in multiple serial marriages, divorcing innocent wives under flimsy excuses so that another woman can move in should not be measure of standard for the world. Thank God Hillary Clinton in the US and Mrs Cook in England were very much wiser. They refused to allow some indiscretion on the part of their husbands to ruin their marriages.

There was a well known American actor who passed on about a decade ago and all his 11 ex-wives with their numerous children attended his funeral. To ridicule the lie of their hypocritical existence, all the women were recognised and addressed as wives. As far as records show, the man had 11 wives! Society must rethink this issue of pretentious monogamy vis-à-vis polygamy so that in the not-too-distant future we do not end up with millions of unmarried women whose life style would be worse than prostitutes’ and millions of children whose fathers would be nowhere to be found.

  • Patrick Iroegbu Impressive article, I must say. Let me respond by stating first of all that monogamy was set up as a religious standard following the bible that a man will leave his parents and join a woman to become one body. Cultural marriage practices are anthropologically accounted be they polygamy - a man marrying and living with plural wives in his life time or polyandry - a woman marrying several men and living with them concurrently in her lifestyle and time.

    Anthropological studies also show that there are other forms of un-paid for or un-celebrated marriage relationships such as visiting relationships and cohabitation where children are produced or personal vows to be and remain spiritually and bodily committed are kept between two adult partners. 

    Apart from ghost and symbolic ritual marriages to human realities, marriage and love relationships are a time frame pleasurable if not also argumentative and supportive experiences.

    To be fair. Tolu Adeniyi's article "The Agony of Monogamy" is well crafted with inventive moral and references to experiences of concrete reality on the question of one man and one woman marriage law and religion in the Christian circumstances. You will have religious ministers trained theologically to advocate and sustain the two-party person vow. Agreed, in Christian or Canon Law, it is understandable that it is a set of Christian rules to administer or govern marriage under that law in church domains. It is aimed to relatively work at least to the extent to show a Christian lifestyle. 

    Often norms and standards may deviate from the reality people put themselves through. Love is a powerful feeling and it is such an abstract experience of reality that it is a big feeling-assistance management stuff. Love is equally a complex burden of reality that unfolds with giving and receiving. What do people in society do with their love? When asked of, sought for and knocked upon how truly do love birds fly to deliver dividends in times and places? Cultures differ on ways and means despite religious assertions. 

    The fact that beauty and emotion, youthful look and attraction including needs and necessities of life requiring compelling evidence to be responded to and satisfied, our world of love and law is so complex a need to be captured in a single monogamous relationship. It is as critical as it is a big challenge one must say.

    Take a small look at the various reality talk shows on TV namely Jerry Springer and Judge Judy among others, we discover how the western language of cheating is manipulated in legal issues and rulings. Yet the reality is that love and sex being a basic human need as orchestrated by Sigmund Freud's enduring observations and writings can't be undermined in a monogamy of marriage as if it is not beyond it. It is far greater in need of cultures than it is religiously and Canonically portrayed. If a law is serving below the capacity of its moral jurisprudence I think Tolu Adeniyi's reasoning is by the same narrative instructive. 

    In my book, Marrying Wealth Marrying Poverty (2007) I analyzed the Igbo and African systems of polygamy in relation to survival and culturally being married and relevant in society. I found out that polygamy is a powerful marriage system of building a strong and powerful households and community connections. It, moreover, gave light to how competitive families groom resilient children to become caring, supportive and emerging leaders and movers drawing from their pundit backgrounds. The book went further to add that in the future there will be vigilant and vigorous calls and advocacy under the human rights struggle after gay rights to fight for multiple choice marriage rights. 

    While polygamy serves cultural marriage transaction needs in some societies, the framers of western civilization and Christianization laws around marriage are still locked in the complex burden of its easy hold on the reality from the theory.

    I must agree with Tolu Adeniyi's article as he put it out with meaningful philosophical, moral and realistic questions. He wrote the piece as an observer of our natural reality of lived and living experiences of marriage in monogamous frame but a life beyond that love frame, which indicates that modernity is due for the re-study and re-framing. 

    I personally don't know how you will read meaning into Tolu Adeniyi's postulation to reverse the monogamous trend and make the world less sinful and less self-condemning as noted with the farthing smell of clinging to betrayed monogamous ring wife holders in the early part of the article. 

    We commonly say going out with women by married men in Africa is common and the same ladies enjoying the men will turn around to crucify their men is a play of feelings of life - for monogamic protection. 

    While it is so easy to live with Christian marriage law of being married at the altar to a sworn one wife and one husband in Africa where the cultural right allows at the same time a man to pick up other wives of interest, and moreover, in a cultural counseling where everyone is expected to marry and stay married to a dead or living husband, it appears to me that people's culture puts forward a love mind and it works out their patterns of relationships.

    If I must some-worth assess the law of monogamy based on spiritual fanfare and Tolu Adeniyi's appraisal, I will do so without attitude to cover up that monogamy is good for those who can live by its provisions fairly but those who can't must not be condemned as diners and sinners to eternity. 

    Human rights with all laws supportive of them should recognize that to live a good life should not mean to be limited to choices and opportunities that will promote the same. 

    Love sells and it will break barriers to seek and find comfortable relationships. Again laws are good for the society to reduce crime but not to, on the other hand, criminalize choices in one's romantic love life in so far as the choice maker takes responsibility. Maturity with informed decisions must be respected.
Read 709 times
Patrick Iroegbu Ph.D

Patrick Iroegbu is a Social and Cultural (Medical) Anthropologist and lectures Anthropology in Canada. He is the author of Marrying Wealth, Marrying Poverty: Gender and Bridewealth Power in a Changing African Society: The Igbo of Nigeria (2007). He equally co-ordinates the Kpim Book Series Project of Father-Prof. Pantaleon Foundation based at Owerri, Nigeria. Research interests include gender and development, migration, race and ethnic relation issues, as well as Igbo Medicine, Social Mental Health and Cultural Studies.