How polygamy makes wise men unwise

Azuka Onwuka

You must have seen many families torn apart over inheritance issue. The embarrassing news that emanates from such families sometimes makes you feel ashamed on their behalf. The culprit is usually polygamy or a second marriage.

Polygamy was fashionable and profitable in the days of yore when the conditions were right. Might was right then; therefore, a polygamous man had many children, especially sons, that would serve as an army in times of intimidation or aggression. Farming was the major occupation, and many children translated to a higher yield and wealth. Women were meant to be seen and not heard. So, a man could do as he wished and the wives dared not complain.

Today, all that has changed. Any man who goes into polygamy today because of religion, tradition, or wealth-creation may be creating a family he will be ashamed to behold from the land of the death, if dead men could see the happenings in the world.

Today, the only “good” thing about polygamy is that it offers men the opportunity to have a variety of sex partners. The more the wife of their youth gets older, the more such men go for younger women with fresher body and firmer breasts. Even in their 60s and 70s, many men still long for girls in their teens and 20s. Who will blame them? After all, our laws still permit that.

Sadly, while men are free to marry as many wives as they like, women are not given that liberty. Many of our societies even frown at the idea of widows remarrying, let alone marrying younger men, so as to also have access to fresh blood like their male counterparts. One thought there was some truth in the saying: What is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander. But we live in a society where different laws apply to men and women. Talk of the animal farm where all animals are equal but some are more equal than the others!

But beyond the non-modern features of polygamy, it has made many of our great men to create chaos in their homes while they are alive or after their death. In spite of the traditional or religious laws that govern inheritance in polygamous families, other extraneous matters usually set those laws aside and create an unjust scenario that leads to contention and bitter rivalry among siblings and co-wives that sometimes last for decades or generations and even lead to bloodshed.

But there are men who are not polygamous but still end up creating a family that is torn apart by rivalry over inheritance or injustice. Most times, these men are divorcees or widowers. When such a man remarries, he usually goes for a young wife that bears children for him. Try as much as he can, he cannot stop the young wife from turning his heart away from the children of the divorced or deceased wife. The young wife gives the man companionship, food, care and sex. And because the wife is usually much younger than the man, he goes the extra mile to prove to her that he is a better lover and is better in bed and care than any young man she could have married. The woman takes advantage of that and continues to manipulate the man to focus all attention on her and her children. Gradually, he begins to pay little or no attention to the children of the first wife. The children of the first wife naturally feel angry, and a gulf develops between them and their father.

When it is time to write his Will, the woman close to him at that period is the new wife. Directly or indirectly, she exacts pressure on him that makes him Will most things to the young wife and her children. He either cuts the children of the first wife off or gives them only the basics to fulfil all righteousness. And immediately after the man is buried, the Will is read. Enmity starts, followed by litigation.

Even though men see this ugly scenario in other households, some still drag their families into it. The thinking of every man is that he is smarter than the man who got into trouble. Men never learn from history because they believe that they are smarter and that their case will be different.

My belief is that when a man gets divorced or loses his wife, he should not just focus on what will make him happy but also on what will make the children happy and safe. It is unjust to father children and not take care of them adequately, no matter what problems a man has or had with their mother.

I know some thoughtful men who lost their wives and decided to marry their wife’s sister, so that the new wife would not treat their children of the first wife like strangers or enemies. But they did not succeed. It is inborn in women to treat their children better than other children. It is pure natural instinct. She may be considerate and caring, but try as hard as a woman can, she will most likely not treat her children and even her sister’s equally. There must be times she will take her own children into the inner room (behind closed doors) to give them a delicacy that other children will not be given.

There are men who got widowed and decided not to remarry until their last child got admitted into a university. That is great sacrifice. Their thinking is that they don’t want to have a young wife that will distract them from paying attention to their children in their formative years. But they still run the risk of having their young wife influence their Will unfairly.

No man should bank on his wisdom. Women have enormous powers. They can make men who have led countries and conquered nations look foolish. Ask wise man Solomon. Ask Antony of Rome what Cleopatra caused him. You know other names.

The solution is to bury one’s desires and think of the good of the children. When a man loses his wife, especially after they have had their desired number of children, he should focus on raising the children first. And whenever he decides to remarry, he should not be thinking of pointed breasts and figure eight in his next wife. It is better if he gets a woman who has passed her child-bearing age, a woman who sees the man’s children as hers. Both of them can jointly raise the children as theirs. A companion is better than a sweet sixteen. Just like people adopt children whose parents they don’t know, let the new wife adopt the children as her own and treat them truly as hers. They can call her Mummy, if she treats them like her children. Peace will reign in the home while the man is alive and after he is gone.

I will consider myself a failure if I create a rancorous home in which my children become mortal enemies because of the injustice I have left behind.

Even though nobody loves to be treated unfairly, adults must also learn to create their own wealth instead of fighting over the wealth their parents created. It is good that parents bequeath children with inheritance but it is not a right. A man can decide to Will his property to charity and leave a little for his children.

But no matter a man’s attainment in world affairs, creating enmity in his family over inheritance is not a sign of wisdom. Every man must strive from the morning of his marriage to leave a peaceful home behind.

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