Marriage among the Igbo of Nigeria By :Celestine A. Obi

 III Polygyny

Not every people accept the view that a man should have only one wife. Among the Eskimos for instance, it has observed that whereas each husband married one wife, a man of fair means could marry two or more to make himself socially important. Also, although monogamy may be the accepted practice among the peoples of the Kalahari Desert and Australian aborigines, still polygyny is said to be found among them too. Some sociologists and anthropologists try to make up a general explanation for the existence of polygyny, saying that it occurs mainly among pastoral and agricultural peoples. But this statement is only a little short of becoming an illicit generalisation, for the Tuareg nomads of the Sahara Desert are practically monogamous even though they are a pastoral people and practised the Islamic religion which guaranteed a plurality of wives. Experts like Westermarck and others asserted that polygyny represented a decadent form of marriage. This is at best a theory, which has yet to be developed or dropped. Furthermore, although it used to be held in the 16th. and 17th. centuries that Mohammed was the inventor of polygyny, hence its spread in Africa and Asia seemed to be coterminous with the spread of Islam, nevertheless, it has been found out that polygyny was much more widespread than this.

The Igbo social order is patriarchal Marriage is both monogamous and polygynous. In the past, polygyny was rather encouraged and supported while today the support is at least tacit or implied since society still accepts it as a lawful form of marriage. We have cited instances first to show the aerial dimension of polygyny, in other words, that it is not restricted to the Igbo people, nor to pastoral and nomadic peoples, and secondly to show the different reasons for, and circumstances in which different peoples adopted and perhaps still tolerate polygyny.

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