THE ENDLESS RIGOURS OF POLYGAMY!
TITLE: THE SECRET LIVES OF BABA SEGI’S WIVES
AUTHOR: LOLA SHONEYIN
PUBLISHER: CASSAVA REPUBLIC PRESS
REVIEWER: NKECHI OBIANIGWE
In a society where the relevance of a man is determined by the strength of his manhood, Bolanle finds herself a victim in Baba Segi’s polygamous home as her inability to produce a child causes a repulsive stench on the Alao family name. Baba Segi, whom the gods have blessed with seven children, finds it difficult to believe that despite his incessant thrust to ensure that his last wife Bolanle produces seeds, all his efforts have proved abortive. Baba Segi seeks a lasting solution to the problem and convinces his wife, Bolanle, to seek medical attention since she would not yield to his traditional solution. This action causes a major turning point in the Alao family as a gruesome secret is uncovered; Baba Segi’s manhood is no different from that of a child!
Lola Shoneyin gives a vivid description of what a typical polygamous family represents in Nigeria ( although using Ibadan as the focus);the challenges experienced by the wives and how each one of them tries to oust the other by employing destructive tactics. Here, Bolanle was considered the bad egg; firstly because she was a graduate, and no one really understood why such a person would settle for an old illiterate as against someone younger and same educational background. Secondly, her inability to produce a seed for Baba Segi gave enough room for them to put her in a negative light before her husband.
The wives exhibit different personality traits. The eldest wife, Iya Segi is considered meek and by far the wisest by her husband as she is “the wife of his youth”, ironically, she is the engineer behind the destruction of the home. Iya Tope represents the harmless serpent, who never contributes to the evil tactics; a coward, silent observer and a replica of a zombie. Iya Femi is the greedy one, who strives to oust anyone that attempts to avert her husband’s attention. From her words, we realize hypocrisy is her best companion. On the other hand,Bolanle sees this family as perfect comfort zone for self discovery. She is by far, the icon of what a true woman should be.
The role of the teacher as a high priest cannot be undermined here as Baba Segi turned to him for help and advice at every point. Although not a perfect description of a guardian angel, he helps to put Baba Segi’s house in order through the spoken words of wisdom he offered freely to Baba Segi.
The decadence of morality and chastity is also present here. It shows itself through a mix of adultery and sexual pervasion that exists in our society. From the abuses experienced by Iya Femi and Bolanle at a tender age, the result that accompanied the greedy disposition exhibited by Iya Femi and Bolanle’s insecurity can to an extent, be justifiable. On the other hand, can Taju, Baba Segi’s driver be blamed for his sexual escapades with Iya Segi? Has it not been as a result of the environment in which his brother gave him room to enjoy himself as a “peeping Tom”?.
The proverbial inclination exhibited in this book is highly commendable. It makes the book fun to read and stresses the importance of what is being said.
The book is a beautiful piece carefully put together and is a true representation of what polygamy entails, nevertheless, the use of words that sound vulgar (like ‘fuck’) or is frowned upon must be avoided in subsequent editions. Although they tend to add some flavor to the story, but when the target reader does not exclude children, extreme care needs to be ensured.