All the members of the household were gathered in the living room. Some were sitting. Some stood. But everybody was talking at the same time. Ruckus. Confusion. Tension.
Hauwa, Alhaji’s second wife stood beside her packed, neatly arranged luggage. She was determined to go, yes. She was determined to leave that compound and Alhaji’s home that day. The other two wives, Bimbola and Khadijat looked like they were going to explode with joy at Hauwa’s decision. They struggled to rein in their excitement.
‘Finally we will have our husband back.’ Khadija whispered to Bimbo, the youngest wife.
‘Yes o, let her just go. I don’t understand all this drama.’
‘If a woman is tired of her marriage, she has a right to go back to her father’s house, or wherever she came from.’ Bimbo’s murmur was too loud and Alhaji pounced.
‘Keep quiet there! You are all my wives and you all have equal rights.’ Alhaji roared.
‘Well, Maigida, Hauwa wants to leave, let her go now. I don’t even know why you are angry with me.’ Bimbo retorted, moving a few steps away from Alhaji. The man looked livid enough to throw a punch.
‘Alhaji, you cannot hold her here against her will. I’m sure there is a law somewhere that says you can’t do that.” Khadija threw in another annoying line. It successfully riled up Alhaji.
‘Madam charge-and-bail lawyer, maybe you should call the police to arrest me for trying to stop my own wife from leaving my own house. Or is this your house? Because you are attending an evening school, you think you can look me in the eye and lecture me?
Alhaja Agba, Alhaji’s mother and the family matriarch, finally spoke up.
‘Kabir, I don’t understand why you won’t let this woman go. She said she wants to leave. Nobody has thrown her things out. She is the one who packed her bags and said she is leaving. Let her leave.’
‘Even you Mama? Neither Kabir nor Hauwa could believe their ears. The old woman never took sides, never openly.
The gateman had his ears close to the windows as he pretended to be cleaning them from outside. The house-help too was going in and out pretending to be busy. Everybody was interested in the Hauwa-must-go drama.
Why did Hauwa want to go? Why was nobody, except her husband, begging her to stay, not to leave her matrimonial home? Alhaja Agba was going to open the pot of yam on the fire to check every slice, as the Yorubas say.
‘Why won’t you let her go? Why exactly do you want to keep Hauwa here by force? You know as we all do that she is the most troublesome of your three wives.’
The housekeeper coughed and dashed into the kitchen.
‘She cannot cook. She is rude and treats everybody with disdain, like we are all beneath her.’
‘Oh oh, thank you Alhaja.’ Bimbo and Khadija chorused
The gateman tapped the window with his long broom as if he was trying to clear cobwebs.
‘Will you all shaaraap? Did I ask for your contribution?
So, Alhaja continued.
‘What exactly has Hauwa brought into this family? If she carries out her threat to leave today, what will this household miss, her cooking or her patience, her kindness or hospitality? She is yet to even have a child! I don’t know what you are begging her to stay for. She has not added any value. She fights with everybody, gateman or guest. She is just cantankerous, that one. Let her go if she wants to.’
Hauwa definitely was not anybody’s favourite person in that household but her husband would not let her go. Why? I do not know many men who will hold on tightly to a woman who is rude, can’t cook and does not have a child, especially if the woman is the one who decided to pack her bags. Most men would heave a sigh of relief and thank the Almighty for rescuing them so effortlessly and mercifully. So, what is the catch? What is Hauwa’s hold on Alhaji? What does Hauwa have that the other two wives lack?
Alhaji soon put everybody out of their misery, after chasing the domestic staff away, of course.
‘It is true Hauwa is rude and can’t cook to save her own life. She does not have a child yet and she is temperamental. She has many faults buuuutttt….’
Ah ah, what was the suspenseful pause for, everybody wondered.
‘What is the long ‘but’ for o, Alhaji?’ Bimbo sneered.
‘I knew it. She has given you love potion. She has given you fish with incision on it.’ Alhaja Agba’s voice was dripping concentrated hate.
‘Or maybe they took an oath that we do not know about,’ Khadija quipped.
‘No, she has something all of you don’t have. She is a better wife than both of you log of woods in my bed. You Khadija, do you ask yourself why I do not sleep in your room? Why did I marry a second and third wife? You, Bimbo, do you not just lie there like I’m forcing you? Which one of you know the difference between nightwear and lingerie? Do you know anything about bedroom scents or how to be your husband’s private masseuse? It is only Hauwa that makes me feel like a man. She is the only one who satisfies me in bed. That is why I will not let her go. I do not want to start looking for another wife or chasing small small girls all over town. Hauwa is ten times more a woman than the two of you.’
By the time Alhaji was done, everybody was scrambling to pick their jaws on the floor. They had never heard Alhaji speak like that. He is a scholar and leader in the Muslim community. He is a marriage counsellor. A preacher who delivers pungent unforgettable lectures at Islamic events. Who knew he was also a tiger who wanted a tigress in his bed? His wives did not know whether to laugh or cry.
Does this little drama in Alhaji Kabir’s living room leave you with many questions running around your brain, like it did mine the day I heard it? Who is a total woman? Is being a kind, respectful submissive woman enough for your man? Is the woman who can cook up a storm in the blink of an eye the complete woman or the one who bore her man four healthy sons? Perhaps it is the woman who supports her husband financially and covers his shame that is the complete woman? Are there even complete women or is the concept of a total woman just an illusion?
Until I heard the Hauwa story, I didn’t know, those in polygamous homes also have to compete in the sex department. What did I know? I thought once the cat was let out of the bag, you do not have to worry any further. I thought once a woman formally loses her exclusive right to her man’s jewels, she no longer has to struggle for ‘best performer’ award.
Imagine how Hauwa’s tricks and treats between the sheets earned her a lifetime achievement award? Sex, for some men, is like that famous Yoruba mixture, Aporo epa Ijebu’, the one concoction that cures all ailments. Every woman knows that if a man is not getting adequate service, he gets all cranky, snapping and angry at everything and everybody. Men can beg for service, blackmail for service or even beat you into servicing them. If you do not come through after a short or long wait, they simply go on an expedition, like the natural fishermen and gifted hunters that they are. Must we then wait to be summoned to a family meeting like Alhaji Kabir’s living room drama of disgrace for non-performing wives?
My sisters, give your man the full option. Wear waist beads. Have them in different sets of colours. Spend some money on lingerie in his favourite colours. Enough of the comfy cotton floor length brown night wears. Invest in a couple of bottles of bedtime perfumes, soft, sexy fragrance. I’ll share more detailed tips in another piece but for now, you girls need to wake up and return from the ‘missionary’ journey. Stop with the one-course meal every time. It is boring. Show him the stars. Let him pant. Let him sweat. The fact that you have been married 15 years does not make him less desirable to the women outside. And there is a hungry army of them out there. If your man ‘mistakenly’ falls into the bosom of a woman who had been fishing without catching anything for years, and she takes him on a tour of places your felt were sacred, he just might decide to stay back and set up a shrine for himself. Keep him in your shrine. Let him do as he pleases in your sanctuary. He’s the only one recognised by heaven to conduct three services in your sacred place. He can stay as long as he likes on your praying mat. He is the licensed owner of your holy core.