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

 i) Reasons for Igbo Polygyny

“As far as polygyny is concerned, there are various reasons why a man may want to possess more than, no wife:

a) among many peoples, a man must refrain from intercourse with a woman who is pregnant or nursing;

b) among savages, women age early and lose their attraction for men;

c) many men like change….;

d) Quite often, the barrenness of the first wife leads to taking a second, in conditions namely, where great value is placed on posterity”.

Among the Igbos, polygamy is adopted for economic and social, and for sexual and other reasons. In the past, it was the normal ambition of every family-head, to continue to add to the number of his wives throughout his fife. The man needed many hands so as to cope with the work in his farms. Women themselves are generally very good at farm work. A wife does not only help but within some few years, her children will join the team. Love for having children is another dynamic factor that leads to polygyny among the Igbo people. Children are a great asset, and so every marriage has procreation as its raison d’être. When a marriage has proved fruitless, then another woman, (at times one already pregnant outside marriage) is sought to redeem the situation. If the husband fails to or delays before taking a wife, he sets the ball of gossip rolling. Often people advise him to act quickly. “Marriage must be fruitful. Of what use is it, if it is not fruitful? One year is enough for any woman who would have a baby to begin making one”.

A second wife may also be taken if the first becomes impossible to live with. Both will now compete to win the good favour of the husband. We have also seen cases where the first wife led the way in marrying a second wife into the family. It is not only for economic reasons or to have children that has made polygyny to flourish as it did in lgboland. Many people, especially Chiefs married for social prestige. Just as it is the custom that among the Lango people of Uganda, there is no limit, so also among the Igbos there is none either. It is not uncommon to find a man with 5 to 10 wives or sometimes even more. It is taken for 9Canted that such men can feed the wives, otherwise they fall prey to public criticism and gossip. It is important to point out here that the polygyny meant here as found among the Igbo people is different from the. ‘harem’ type. It is polygyny in the strict sense. We can not say that sexual reasons are completely absent from Igbo polygyny but from our observations it can be said that they are not among the principal ones. Igbo women were never enclosed in harems.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.