James Ndagi viewed the dilemma posed by Masaba from the social point of view, in the context of the impact of his exuberant procreation on the society, via creating a legion of largely uneducated children, destined to be almajiris, layabouts, touts, social rejects and hoodlums He failed to see why Masaba should not be made to pay for his affront on the society by not learning to tuck his reproductive organ properly inside his trouser piece (if he wears any). Taslim Anibaba, ever the intellectual, took a more moderate approach, viewing things from the legal (albeit Islamic) and intellectual angle. Being a staunch Muslim, he had the requisite knowledge to compare Masaba present ordeal with the dictates of the holy book (Quran) and seemed to disagree with the present treatment being meted out to Masaba. Being a non-Muslim, his write-up afforded me a great opportunity to have an inside view of the Islamic faith on this rather interesting topic. However, a third point of view, and apparently the most preponderant, views the fact of Masaba marrying 86 wives as rather un-Islamic and clearly beyond the dictates of even the Quran which permits polygamy with qualifications. Qualifications in the sense of the male so involved being able to equally provide for the wives in this scenario. To this group (obviously the Niger state government belongs here), Masaba could not have been a Muslim and deserves every imaginable punishment.
Bello Abubakar Masaba is not alone in his practice of polygamy, there is historical antecedent to it. Polygyny or polygamy as it is well known and that has suddenly assumed international notoriety in Nigeria, is an ancient practice which has not been a strange bedfellow to many cultures. History is replete with many famous names associated with this practice. Judaism has it that most of the Old Testament prophets were polygamists. Abraham (â€œthe friend of Godâ€) had more than one wife. David, a noted King of Israel, had 100 wives and King Solomon had 700 wives with 300 concubines. Coming to the Prophet of Islam, Cyril Glasse in the Encyclopaedia of Islam noted that Mohammed had 10 wives and two concubines. He was said to have been married monogamously to his first wife, Khadijah, for 20 years, and she was the only one to bear him children. He, however, married several widows and other women after her death, to create political alliances. It is perhaps of further significance to state that in Christendom, earlier prophets of the Latter Day Saints Church (the Mormon group) were committed polygamists. The founder of the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith Jnr had 33 wives.
The point is, if polygamy was immoral, then these significant figures of history (Mohammed inclusive) must have all been immoral.
In Nigeria, polygamy is common place. The practice of both simultaneous and consecutive polygamy is widespread. This practice also cuts across religious, ethnic or social affiliations. Personally, I used to know of a herbalist/traditional worshipper who had close to the 86 wives Alhaji Masaba is now being prosecuted for. This gentleman, in his lifetime, could not recognise all his children and in fact, kept a diary of their names, dates of birth and mothersâ€™ names. While the practice of simultaneous polygamy tends to raise more eyebrows, consecutive polygamists seem to get away with the game. This is a situation where a man has or has had many wives but not at the same time. This practice also knows no regional limitations and is actually rampant in the so-called civilised western countries.
I took the pains to illustrate the above to show that the current hullabaloo about the antics of Bello Abubakar Masaba is rather puzzling. If all polygamous men in Nigeria were to be sanctioned, the list would be too full for comfort. Perhaps I am missing something, but going through the Masaba saga, it is apparent that he faced three accusations at the beginning, namely:
– Claiming to be a prophet. This he denied but claimed to have seen the Prophet Mohammed.
– Claiming to have seen Allah. Muslims (according to the Quran) believe that no human being can see Allah.
– Marrying 86 wives, which according to the Etsu Nupe of Niger State is against Islamic injunctions. Masaba, in his defence, claimed to have stopped reading the Quran (and possibly unaware of such an injunction) though quite versatile with it before stopping. Based on this, the Etsu Nupe expressed doubts on Masabaâ€™s sanity.
This is not a defence of Masaba and his proficiency at procreation and neither is it a condemnation of him. Rather, the situation that had inadvertently turned a randy octogenarian into a global super star raises some salient questions about the contradictions in our fatherland. Masaba in his defence challenged his persecutors to point to parts of the Quran that forbids marrying more than 4 wives. This is neither here nor there and I must submit that I am not competent to answer this. However, I want to begin from the moral platform, being cognisant of the fact that many view Masabaâ€™s action as being immoral. Is there any justification in locking up an 86-year old man over acts that took several years to commit? Where were those sanctimonious authorities when these acts were being committed in stages? Obviously, Masaba did not marry all his wives in one day.
We live daily with undeserved priviledges and political chicaneries thrown in our faces. Obvious and disturbing advantages in our faulty political arrangements rear their ugly heads almost on daily basis. The case of Masaba is only a demonstration of the contradictions in our political arrangement, a situation whereby a federal state that loudly proclaims its secularity gladly turns the other eye where that sacred ethos is being violated. The concept of a rather primitive Islamic law that allows the stoning to death of â€œadulterersâ€ and amputation of the limbs of â€œthievesâ€ in a modern state proclaiming secularity remains a nightmare. Yet this same state would happily roll out its might where a component part decides to exercise its inherent constitutional right of creating more local governments â€“ Lagos State being an example.
All I am trying to say is that we have successfully built a nation based on contradictions, injustices, political chicaneries and oppression. For so long as these negativities abide in our body polity, for so long would cases similar to that of Masaba continue to come to the fore to test our sincerity. True, Masaba is a Northerner; the reality is that in his extreme avarice for the female folks, he brings up the issues that should be dealt with in order to create a just and sustainable society. He raises posers that should be answered by all.