Nwunye Nnam

Nwunye nnam: Are the whites really to blame for the abandonment of African cultures?

My childhood never involved watching Cinderella and its fairytale accompaniments about wicked stepmothers and princes that were supposedly charming. So I did not learn of the evils that seemed forever imbibed in stepmothers from any foreign TV channel, rather they were told to me as tales under the moon, half or full. Tales about the evils of “nwunye nnam”.

Throughout my sojourn on the social media space, I have come across some interestingly ludicrous statements, entertaining, enlightening, and so on, but the most interesting had been that the whites taught us that polygamy is a sin, but homosexuality and its accompaniments are right. Polygamy as a lifestyle may or may not have ended with civilization and the issue of the land tenure system. In the old days, a man was allowed as many as 12 wives, if he can feed and clothe the entirety of them. If Ezeji wanted to, he can marry any amount of wives he wanted, and nobody would question his judgment. But even in those times, the economy of a man’s pocket or barn determines what he is allowed to do. Maduka who inherited one plot of land from his father has no business taking more than two wives, even the second may be allowed if the first was barren. Any father that gives his child to maduka as a third wife is setting her up for a lifetime of ubiam.

Now let us go back to Ezeji with his 12 wives. Now assuming his 12 wives gave him 12 sons, _ and this is the good case scenario_ and he has 24 plots of land, naturally, each son gets two plots of land that is disregarding the case of the first son getting the bulk of his father’s properties as the okpara. Now a few decades down the line, if ezeji’s children also end up marrying half as much as their father had, then there may be no land to share unless it is bought, raided, or stolen. Now raiding is out of the picture, since the whites apparently brought kotuma of the ash buttocks along with their religion. Now a man with his faculties intact may not see the need for another wife if the first has given him sons, to keep his name intact, daughters to marry off, food to fill his stomach, and a warm bed to retire to at night. He would not go hunting for a second wife for any reason to avoid the sort of confusion we keep dealing with because of land to this day. Unless he inevitably starts to think with his third leg, which is the only reason men take second wives these days.

Now the case of nwunye nnam is a slightly different matter, one which may or may not have contributed to the reduced rate of polygamy. I have always had this view of stepmothers as women that set out to maltreat their husband’s children. I have never heard a positive tale about them, and if I have, then I have forgotten. Now if maduka, from our first story, manages to marry a second wife after the first died, and she decides in all her glory to treat the first wife’s kids like trash, word will get around. Surely. Now Oriaku will end up making the young chap who has come to marry her swear he will never take another wife, mostly because of the fear that whoever he marries may kill her children after she dies.

Polygamy may also have gotten to where it is in our present world because many women refuse to sit around their huts, rocking their babies to their breasts while twiddling their thumbs, waiting till the day their husbands bestow them with their presence. Maduka’s case can also be seen in a man who earns a little stipend monthly from his desk job and lives in his one-bedroom apartment with a wife and three children. I wonder why he would see the need for an extra wife or girlfriend unless it’s outright stupidity. Polygamy in our world today is coming to end but it is wrong to place the blame on anyone. Polygamy may not be a sin, but it is not a necessity either.

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