It was the emergency nature of the call that made me curious because the Olori Ebi (head of the family that is) would not summon a family meeting without cogent
reasons. Nevertheless, I still found it rather disturbing that the meeting would be scheduled for the residence of a member who got married to two wives just some two months ago. When I arrived, I was given a chair near the Olori Ebi while the husband and the two wives were seated in the middle. Without any preamble, the Olori Ebi asked the man of the house to speak.
[Image: Olusegun Adeniyi]
After thanking us for the role we played at his wedding to the two wives who were very gorgeously dressed, as if ready for a party, the husband now said: “I honestly don’t know what to do on this matter and that is why I invited the whole family. You are all aware that our wedding took place on…”
To this, Mr. Run-away Abobaku, (a distant relation of the husband who was supposed to have escorted a big masquerade to some distant land and was not expected at the meeting), interjected, “how can we forget the day you chose to do things your own way; a day you invited people who were not members of our family to the high table, even before we arrived the ceremony? How can we forget the day your senior wife even had the temerity to bring an enemy of the family as her bridesmaid and we your family members were left without seats at an occasion that was supposed to be our own…”
At this point, the Olori Ebi had to intervene because tempers were already getting high. “Please, let us leave the issue of Family Supremacy for now so that we can resolve the problem at hand. We will deal with that another day. Now, please continue your story”, he said, beckoning on the husband.
“Well, not to bore you with a long tale, said the husband, “a week after our marriage, my two wives said they needed about a month to rest so they went away to enjoy themselves. By the time they returned, they spent another week before they said they needed to visit their families. They came back last week from that trip and after just a few days in my house, they now say they need another six weeks to rest…”
This elicited instant reaction from the younger brother to the husband, Elder Glutonia Abolonjeku who laughed hysterically before saying: “That is what some smart people call recess! Without doing any meaningful work, your new wives want to take what the dictionary describes as ‘a temporary cessation of the customary activities of an engagement, occupation, or pursuit.’ Work for one week, rest for six! Even God worked for six days before resting for one day! Your wives must think you are what the Yoruba people would call Mugun. Perhaps you are!”
The Olori Ebi had to intervene again: “Are you done?” he asked the husband who nodded, before he followed up with another question: “Are you meeting your obligations as a husband; I mean do you provide enough for your wives?”
The husband replied: “I do that Sir. In fact, I keep a joint account with them such that they take whatever they want and I don’t even know how much they take. The main issue is that neither of these two new wives has any child for me and they are not even taking care of my children that they met in the house. Many of them have left schools because I cannot afford to pay their tuition, some are sick as you can see and the food in the house is not enough to cater for the remaining ones. But my wives don’t care because they have more than enough for themselves. I don’t even know what value these two wives add to my life. I cook my own food, do my laundry and now, they want to go on holiday for another six weeks…”
Now, Auntie Ruth Abokoku (younger sister to the mother of the husband who has a reputation for following her husband everywhere) spoke for the first time: “Do you want to hear the truth, Mr. Gbewudani?”
“What is the meaning of that name? Is that the new name given him by the wives?” asked Abolonjeku.
Auntie Abokoku laughed. “Well, come to think of it, that is the name they have given him by their action. Gbewudani is a name given to the husband of a wayward wife who is too weak to have any control; the sort who would receive and even entertain the concubines of their wives in his house. I hope you get the drift.”
Nodding his head, Abolonjeku replied, “I do. And the description fits our brother perfectly for I have it on good authority that all the time that these two wives go on their holiday, they are actually on duty, moving from the house of one man to the other. So despite all the money they make in this house for doing practically nothing, they are still raking in millions from several other sources during their so-called holidays which they devote to other businesses…In fact, I understand that even while here, the still do all their runs fulltime.”
Again, the Olori Ebi had to intervene. “It is not fair for us to listen to just one side because these women must have their own reasons too”. Pointing to the elder wife, he asked, “What do you say to the allegation by your husband?”
Finally, the elder wife spoke. “Thank you very much Oga Olori Ebi. I don’t know what our husband wants to achieve by keeping us here, doing nothing. The few days that we have spent with him here, what did he ask us to do that we have not done? Just ask him. For instance, my job in this house is to assess and approve the workers he would employ as farm hands to manage the different crops: Yams (without allowing goats!), potatoes, rice, beans etc. But up till this moment, he has not been able to come up with anybody for me to screen and approve. Even the Council of the Wise that selected him as our husband has been depleted and he cannot come up with names for me to look at so that he can fill the council. In that situation, what am I expected to do?”
Asked to speak, the younger wife said her elder one has already spoken for her, before she added: “What can anybody do when we have a husband who believes he is the only one who can cook very well, the only person who knows how to clean the house, the only person who will not mess up the clothes? He said he is not ready to bring in cooks, stewards and the likes because he wants to be sure those under considerations are good people. But you can see the result of such thinking: see how dirty the house is becoming. Besides, the proceeds from the farms are dwindling and we don’t find that funny because, as one of our ancestors once said, we are not in this family to spread poverty…”
Tapping her by the shoulder, the senior wife bent towards the younger one and whispered something to her. That perhaps elicited what followed: “I am aware that we are being blamed for all the problems in this household. Look at the workers whose appointments are usually approved by my senior here. Some of them end up raking in more money than we can ever imagine. For instance, the former Iyaloja in charge of selling farm products under the former head of this family was declaring whatever she wanted yet all the noise is always about the little money we, the wives take…”
“Eh, young woman, we didn’t invite you here to come and insult us”, said Olori Ebi who brought out a piece of paper containing an account of the kind of money that the wives had been taking from the family. As he reeled out the figures, he asked the women: “Do you think some of us are blind to the ways and means you have been using to take money from the family till?”
Before either of the wives could respond, Abolonjeku said: “Let us be fair here, Olori Ebi, don’t you think these women also have a point? Why would they be kept here doing nothing because their husband thinks he can do everything all by himself and that every other person is bad except himself?”
Nodding in agreement, Olori Ebi replied: “I am aware that the husband has ‘Prophet Elijah Complex’…
“What is that?” Abolonjeku asked to which Olori Ebi replied: “I don’t think you read your Bible again. Go and check the book of First Kings, Chapter 19 for the story of how Prophet Elijah thought he was the only person living right until God revealed to him that there were 7,000 others who had not bowed their heads before the idols of the time. That is the message the husband must get. I understand that the farms are being overgrown with weeds so he must quickly appoint the workers because if he doesn’t, the harvest will not be good this year. But that still does not resolve the issue of the indolence of the two wives.”
The Olori Ebi beckoned on Baba Agba who was regarded as the wisest man in the family to speak. He said: “In this family, there is so much to do but these two women either do not understand what their responsibilities are or they simply do not care. They are in charge of what each person is entitled to in this household and they set all the rules and regulations but all they care about is their own welfare. The bottom line is that there is so much work for them to do but they obviously don’t want to work. They just want to keep on enjoying at our collective expense in this family.”
“Thank you Baba Agba”, said Olori Ebi, before turning to the two women: “I think we have heard enough from you people and you can go.”
When the two wives left, Baba Agba said the husband too should go. After he left, the Olori Ebi now asked whether any family member had something to say.
It was Auntie Abokoku who spoke: “I think from what we can see here, our son doesn’t need two wives. If I were to be honest, he doesn’t even need one. These two women add practically no value to his life and the suggestion of most reasonable people is that all he needs is just one or two house keepers who would come in from time to time under a pay-as-you work arrangement. Since these two women are hardly in the house to work, there is no reason why they should not be paid as part-time wives. The house is leaking but it doesn’t bother them. The food in the house is almost depleted with fear that many of the children in this family could soon go hungry. That also is of no concern to them. They contribute so little and they have become a drain on the family purse which is why our son now finds it difficult to meet the obligations to his children, especially at a time the yields from his farm are dwindling.”
For about 30 minutes, Auntie Abokoku spoke about why keeping the two wives had become expensive for the husband; after which Abolonjeku now asked: “Do we then ask him to divorce one or both of them?”
This time, it was Abobaku, perhaps because of his legal background, who responded: “That is precisely the problem because he cannot. The wedding to the two women is legal and they have as much rights in this house as him. In fact, the way the tradition is, they seem more indispensable to keeping this family together than the husband. So, technically speaking, there is nothing he or anybody can do about it.”
“I like that phrase ‘technically speaking’ because there is something he can do about it”, interjected Baba Agba, “or more appropriately, there is something we can do about it”. Seeing that the whole room was now attentive, Baba Agba continued: “I have seen it happen again and again, when troublesome wives are chased away from the house of their husbands by family members. And it is on that note that I want to conclude: Let the two wives have their recess for as long as they want. But they should mark my word, one day, they will come back to this house and have the doors locked against them! The day, we in this room, decide to say ‘enough is enough’ is when all this nonsense will stop!”
With that, the family meeting adjourned Sine Die and I took my exit without saying anything. I just concurred with what everybody said; after all, what do I know?
Olusegun Adeniyi, firstname.lastname@example.org