Peregrino Brimah: In Nigeria, polygamy shall only be allowed for the rich

by Peregrino Brimah

If God says I can, who can say I can’t? Well, it seems Nigerian leaders wish to do so. Ultimately as a believer, I shall obey the laws of the land. The Lord shall task those in authority who “have two heads” that took it upon themselves to restrict me from my God-earned inalienable rights.

What am I talking about? Well, Nigeria’s Emir of Kano is pushing the state and indeed northern governments to regulate polygamous marriage among the poor. While obviously there are many great parts of the large proposed new law, there are some areas that quickly raise concern and prompt public dialogue.

According to Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s proposal as I understand it, certain bodies will review the wealth status of prospective multiple wife-takers on a case-by-case basis. Those who “cannot afford it” shall be denied permission to have more wives.

I am left aghast. MURIC backed the Emir citing two verses from the Quran. (Qur’an 24:33) and (Qur’an 4:3). One said what means, “do not marry unless you can afford it.” Such verse if turned into law will challenge even a first marriage and is not targeted at polygamy any more than it may be at monogamy. The second verse described “treating all wives fairly, not giving advantage to one over the other.” I failed to see how these verses supported an argument of the state regulating multiple marriages of the poor.

What is the religious basis if any for this new proposed legislation? Is it borne from Islam or from colonial laws and societies and demands of Bill Gates and the World Bank? Is it to stem the Almajiri child-abandonment incidence which I am by all means active against or is it a means of using that ban-worthy practice to fulfil other agenda? Is it a means of population control targeting the poor?

Let’s analyse. If the new law rules that you must have a certain income to marry more than one wife. What if you had that income and ‘Buhari came into power’ and then you lost your job/trade and qualifying income? Will the state proceed to ‘repossess” your second wife, sort-of like credit cards and mortgages?

What if the second or third wife is wealthy…can afford to take care of herself and you and perhaps others. Will the enforcers consider this in evaluating your eligibility? I dare say that I doubt state enforcers could navigate such complexities and do so without prejudice and sentiment. We do know of several cases of quite wealthy wives. The first wife of prophet Mohammed of Islam upon whom be peace, Khadija was quite wealthy. Would the prophet have been barred from marrying a second wife if he had so desired under this rule, if the first was capable of taking care of herself but his own income was regarded as below the polygamy cutoff line? Cases like Buratai’s wealthy “susu” “cooperative” wives comes to mind. They were ‘so wealthy’ from their susu, they were able to purchase million dollar luxury hotels in Dubai and snake farms and other million dollar properties across Nigeria and other countries. Would this law not bar the marriage of such industrious wives if the man’s income is below the threshold? I would hope such areas are clarified before these laws are introduced.

Is Polygamy Linked With Terrorism?

I am not sure who the Emir is attempting to please with sensational headlines like this entertained in Nigeria’s dailies. The Almajiri child abandonment system is, of course, linked to terrorism. But rather than outlaw that system of child abandonment which is already outlawed in Islam, the Emir focuses on outlawing what is permitted in Islam to supposedly treat the related disorder.

It would be sufficient if the Emir’s new law prescribed punishment including incarceration for families who abandon their children. In my view, this should have first been attempted before considering banning the poor from polygamy. Ban the Almajiri system and see what happens. Ban parents from sending their children out to beg for any reason whatsoever and see how many of them will live precariously. But to ban the poor from polygamy!???

Quran orders:

Quran 5:87 O you who have believed, do not prohibit the good things which Allah has made lawful to you and do not transgress. Indeed, Allah does not like transgressors.

The verse warns: do not prohibit what God has permitted.

Secondly, it emphasises that Muslims should be responsible and not exceed boundaries in all cases.

This verse, in particular, was used not just for polygamy but in a hadith to defend even the practice of “mutah,” the act of temporary marriage. This goes to show the fields covered by this particular verse. The very field the Emir is waddling into.

Reference: Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 139:
Narrated Abdullah: We used to participate in the holy wars carried on by the Prophet and we had no women (wives) with us. So we said (to the Prophet ). “Shall we castrate ourselves?” But the Prophet forbade us to do that and thenceforth He allowed us to marry a woman (temporarily) by giving her even a garment, and then he recited: “O you who believe! Do not make unlawful the good things which Allah has made lawful for you.”

I would be quite afraid to prohibit what God has permitted, be it for the rich or poor. Is poverty linked to terrorism? I beg to differ. Institutionalised disadvantagement and not poverty is the reason for terror as I have written in the past. A company of Nigeria’s SGF was paid $1 million to cut exotic grass in Yobe state. This is the reason for terror. This is where we need new laws and the enforcement of them. This is where we hope to see our Emirs active. The money meant for displaced persons being coveted by officials of the presidency. Terrorism in Borno is because of Shettima, Sheriff, Dasuki, Badeh, Babachir, SEMA, NEMA and all others misappropriating the money, food and land of the poor. 71 IDP food trailers went missing mid last year and nothing happened. No law was made and the Emirs did not act or react while hundreds of the poor died of starvation. This is why we have terror. Not because of poor people marrying. This was even Boko Haram’s publicity pitch: that Boko (western civilization) is the reason for your poverty…join us fight the corrupt westernised governing system that keeps you in deprivation.

Poverty does not come before organised terror. Organised terror is sponsored. Our religious leaders and governors in Nigeria quite often know the sponsors. How about we first face the affluent behind the terror rather than targeting the manipulated poor double-victims of the failures of our religious and state leaders? The Bible and Quran both adulate the virtues of the poor. Mathew 5:3 goes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” And Luke in chapter 6 verse 24 says: “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.”

A cursory look at the very western societies Nigeria’s north appears to be emulating shows that many of the problems the Emir has easily associated with polygamy are actually problems solved where there is good governance. Hundreds of thousands of children are birthed by “jobless” single mothers in the United States each year. These would have become Almajiri and terrorists had it been in Nigeria where freely administrating government officials like Dasuki’s “procurement officer,” now CoAS, who buy luxury homes in Dubai and others who take million dollar personal account payments to pluck exotic grass abound, while the religious leaders look the other way and propose no new laws like the state adopting shariah hand cutting, to check them. But in the US there is social welfare. Social welfare is an essential stipulation in Islam. The poor must be catered to by the state through its earnings and taxation of the rich. So where Nigeria’s leaders fail to provide social welfare which will stop the poor and abandoned from becoming terrorists, they propose banning polygamy as a remedy.

Would it not be a day, the day Nigeria’s leaders, spiritual or state, proceed with chastisements, bans and restrictions for the wealthy and not first for the poor? There will be a combined solar and lunar eclipse on that day.

It is quite convenient for a wealthy Emir who has married at least five times and has at least four wives, to promote new legislation that preferentially targets the poor. It is expected for the rich administrators and legislators to pass this legislation and for the poor to soon be subject to it without say and any chance to protest. But does this make it right?

Proverbs 29:7 A righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge.

And Allah(s) knows best.


Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Dr. Peregrino Brimah; @EveryNigerian

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