The first time I went to see Malam Garba, his house was crowded. His many wives and his numerous children were all around. He had invited us for a visit (and offcourse ) a meal. His wives were busy preparing this meal for all of us.
I thought of this visit when I was reading this book about the four wives of Baba Segi (or his official name Iyanda Alao). They live in one compound in the city of Ibandan. We meet all of his wives and their backgrounds. We see how they interact with one another, especially when wife number four appears. Her name is Bolanle. She is an university trained woman, and this causes some controversy in the household of Baba Segi (named after his first child and daughter by his first wife Iya Segi). Bolanle has different attitudes and different pleasures and she seems to please Baba Segi very much. The three other women work together to make life hard for this young woman. In the midst of this scheming all the children of the first three wives have to find their own position and attitude in the new balance in the extended household.
An immense shift in the many mutual relationships starts when Bolanle visits a medical doctor to find out what causes her barrenness. In her younger years she has been raped. The result of tests has a shocking effect on everyone in this household. The unity (superficial ?) of the household balances on the brink of disaster. What will be the effect on every member of the household, adults and children?
Shoneyin has written a very readable book, that is at times funny. At other times it shows the complications of a polygamous household. The phrase ‘One man, one wife’ (the title of another book from Nigeria, but it from a much older date) came to my mind, next to my visit to Malam Garba.
I hope Lola will write more books with her lucid style.
Lola Shoneyin – The secret lives of Baba Segi’s wives – 2010