Polygamy! An integral part of Nigerian history and culture. Polygamy, not limited to the illiterate, not refused by the educated. Polygamy, is it really the right of an African man? Lola Shoneyin tells the tale of Bolanle an educated young woman, brought up in a ‘Christian home’, who agrees to become the fourth wife of Baba Segi. A Yoruba man. A Nigerian man. A man who allows lust to become his undoing.

Bolanle did not dream of becoming fourth wife, she did not dream of being labelled ‘the barren wife’, yet she walked herself into Baba Segi’s home. Bolanle was running from her past, she could not confide in her sister, she could not confide in her mother. When her mother was finally informed of Bolanle’s rape she proclaimed; “No daughter of mine could have been raped. That is not the way I brought you up.” The attitude to rape and suffering in Nigeria is one that needs to change. Young girls fear rape so much they turn frigid, women who are raped are blamed as the culprit goes free. Bolanle wore her shame as it turned her into a rebellious child. Her parents did not see her suffering, instead the focused on the manifestations of her pain. Blolanle in an attempt to hide from her pain, walked herself into a trap, yet life always has a way of teaching us invaluable lessons from our foolish mistakes.

The secret of Baba Segi’s wives is clear to the reader from first chapter; ‘Bellyache’. Baba Segi was infertile, yet the weight of infertily is primarily the womans’ fault in the eyes of the average Nigerian, though science has proven otherwise. Iya Segi the senior wife and mastermind of the home was the one who figured out her husbands difficulties. She was a strong woman, a fixer, an entrepreneur; she fixed the problem for the sake of peace. However, she did not expect her husband to crave more ‘wealth’ in the form of wives and children. So she welcomed her junior wives, Iya Tope and Iya Femi. She shared her secret with them and encouraged them to find men to father their children. She encouraged them to open their wombs using the seed of anyone of their choice. Iya Tope chose the meat seller, a man who made her feel things that Baba Segi did not have the mind to comprehend.  Iya Femi, was sold into slavery as a young orphan, by the uncle who had been cared for by her parents. Her mistress ‘Grandma’ was cruel to her, but she found solace in Tunde, Grandma’s son, and chose him as the father of her children.

infertily is primarily the womans' fault .... even though science has proven otherwise. Click To Tweet

All hell breaks loose when Baba Segi is disappointed by Bolanle’s bareness. Several visits to the hospital exposes Baba Segi’s short comings, and he is forced to face his own infertility. The secret lives of Baba Segi’s wives is a funny and swift read, capturing the reader’s mind and attention. Shoneyin stands aside as she tells the story, it is left to the reader to decide; who is the culprit and the cause of the suffering experienced by Bolanle? Is it the country, men, women, religion, family, culture, or is she the cause of her struggles? When we are the master mind behind our afflictions, who do we direct the daggers to? Who do we bind and cast?

When we are the master minds behind our afflictions, who do we bind and cast? Click To Tweet

Until next time! You know Dami loves to read!

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