Our ancestors had forewarned that “uzo eji nwa adighi èchí échî”, meaning that “a marital relationship that has produced a child can never be deemed closed or ended.” Even at that, it is natural for a man or woman to decide to call it quits when fed up with a marriage.
However, the Western courts’ superiority over Igbo cultural norms has now made it easier for many couples of Igbo extraction to sidestep the extant traditional ways and methods of resolving marriage challenges and now prefer to approach the regular courts for divorce rather than following the ancestral route. Chief Ekwueme was confused as his head was being pushed out of his neck by the weight of the embarrassment caused by his wife’s sexual escapades rendered by his cousin, who presented him with proofs, dates, places and the names of her male accomplices.
It was too much a pain for one man to carry. He had it up to the hilt, and a solution must be found. Ekwueme had married Ukwunnu when she was 16, and he was 32. He was now 55 years old, and the wife was just 39 with increased libido. Ekwueme deflowered Ukwunnu and was also responsible for her rapid development of all feminine features that would make a woman delectable.
Ukwunnu’s adazi enu, adazi nnukwu and adazi ani or ogbe ndida were very well developed and more beautiful than the towns that bear the names. Ekwueme was a stallion of a man as he mined his assets so profoundly and very regularly that the wife, Ukwunnu, thought that sex was the main purpose of marriage.
The wife was very sexually active and always very satisfied to look somewhere for a top-up. Even with eight children (consisting of five boys and three girls) born within the first nine years of their marriage, Ukwunnu still looked unmined, untapped and full of allure. She was nicknamed “Nwanyidiuto”, meaning “a very sweet woman” by her hailers. If she was walking on the road or standing by the roadside, Ukwunnu’s beauty could command even a pious man to take a second look at her. Her beauty was just glorious.
The near-perfect marriage of Chief & Mrs. Ekwueme started experiencing a crack when the importation business of Chief Ekwueme suffered a downturn. Being that every Igbo man’s sexual libido is tied to his financial health or pocket and his state of happiness, Ekwueme started rationing the favourite sexual dish to his wife. It is known to Igbo men that “Obioma na-ebute utu nkeni”, meaning that “it is only a man with no worries that could experience a spontaneous penile erection.” Therefore, the economic woes made it difficult for the real Chief Ekwueme to stand erect spontaneously or through persuasion.
Most times, Ekwueme would not even touch his wife for weeks without knowing that he was creating a monster. The sweetness of good intercourse from a heroic man like Ekwueme was like a hard drug that must be withdrawn gradually from a sex addict wife.
A few weeks of denial to a woman used to a regular dosage of sex is like starving a cocaine addict of a day’s tincture of the whitish substance. Not the kind of blissful happiness Ekwueme shelled out from his loins! Ekwueme had it in size, fullness, length, and he could also last as long as it took Madam Ukwunnu to shout “nnamukwu gbuom kam nwuo!” or “ọga mi killi me die!” in broken English.
So, only an experienced psychologist would understand why Ukwunnu went fishing for any other man who could help her feel a masculine power as in the old. She would no longer suffer in silence. Inundated with reports of proven adulterous acts of his wife, Chief Ekwueme was forced to set a trap and was able to catch her in the alms of a well-endowed plumber right there in his house. Ekwueme had feigned that he had travelled, hung around with a cousin and resurfaced in the evening. He caught his wife screaming for more from a dirty looking plumber.
What a disgrace! In most Igbo communities, adultery was not enough an offence for a man to divorce the mother of his children. But, any woman who was guilty of murder or caught planting a juju for his neighbour, co-wife or any other person must be sent back to her people even if her husband wanted her to stay. She would be permanently banished from her matrimonial home and possibly from the village.
It must be noted that a case of adultery in the most pre-colonial Igbo communities was not a mortal sin. In those days, when a woman was caught in the act, she would be publicly disgraced and fined. She was never even flogged or stoned. The indicted adulteress would be made to undergo a purification rite, after which she would be left alone. Marital relationship with her husband would continue, and after some time, nobody would remember her offence anymore.
Traditional Igbo men believed that their mothers better-reared children; therefore, venial offences like adultery by a woman with children only attracted a fine or reprimands by the wives’ or Ndinyunyedi association, Umuada daughters’ meeting and the Umunna or men’s meeting. The husband of a woman caught in the act of adultery might decide to take a second wife and leave the first wife to her own devices. The woman would then go into descret community service of ever-present philandering men in the neighbourhood.
However, some Igbo communities allowed a married man and woman to have an “iko or agili” with whom sexual intercourse was allowed.
Approved adultery by way of iko or agili is still being practised in some Igbo communities of Aguleri, Umuleri, Anam and local communities in Onitsha Ado.
But some communities categorised as “ndi na-akwa akwa Nwanyi” or “those who will rather kill than to share a sexual experience with anyone else” like Umuowa in Imo State and Obukpa Nsukka in Enugu State still have institutionalized traditional juju that would make an adulterous woman married to their men go mad or fall so sick till she confesses. In a classic case of biasedness, their adulterous men are never so afflicted.
The early Catholic Missionaries in Igbo land, in couching the 8th Commandment, targeted the “iko” practice by translating the English version of “thou shalt not commit adultery” to “akwana iko.” But, if an Igbo man insisted on divorcing his wife for any offence or no offence at all, he would visit his in-laws accompanied by a relation or a friend, with a keg of palm wine inside which is inserted a leaf of “Ube” or local pear tree.
The in-laws whose daughter had begotten male children for her husband would laugh off the whole exercise relying on the Igbo saying that “uzo eji nwa adighi èchí échî.” They would just take back their daughter and wait for the appropriate time. The appropriate time is when the children of a divorced woman are of age. At that time, she would majestically go back home to live with her children, even though she would be addressed as “mother of Ekwueme’s children”, not “Ekwueme’s wife.” But does it matter?
Even in between that time she was divorced, a mother is duty-bound to attend any of her daughter’s traditional marriage ceremonies held in her estranged husband’s house. The woman is never prevented from performing the traditional role of the “mother of the bride” even when the bride’s father had married another woman who raised the bride. Igbos say, “ọzụzụ zụchaa naa, onye nwe nwa, nwe nwa!” meaning that “a child still belongs to the biological mother no matter the efforts of a foster parent!”
Divorcing a woman who has begotten a male child(ren) either in court or via a traditional method in Igbo land is a mere waste of effort and time. A grown male child has every right and traditional cover to bring back his divorced mother to live with him in his father’s compound even when his father is still alive. This is faster when a son has built his own house. A son can also bury his divorced mother beside his uncompromising father. He calls the shots, and the man is lying silent in the grave. The dead couple would have to sort themselves out in the netherworld.
The preceding is so because the first son, in Igbo land, inherits his deceased father’s compound except if his father disinherited him before the father died.
Chief Ekwueme was a sagacious man who was also well-grounded in Igbo tradition. He considered all the implications of whatever choice available to him. He had seen through the futility of pursuing a divorce in either the regular court or following the traditional route. Ekwueme could not take another wife because he neither had enough money to take care of the new wife nor enough erection to keep her at home. Nobody allows the same wood to poke him twice in the eye.
Despite the tar of their mother’s acts, Chief Ekwueme’s sons and daughters were doing well in their chosen professions. The proud dad loved his children so passionately and shared a strong bond with them. Having considered all options carefully, Chief Ekwueme used a cotton wool ball to plug his ears and never entertained any further adverse reports that could cause chaos in his home. After all, Chief Ekwueme, nicknamed “otiokweoriokwe” by his close friends, recalled that he too was not innocent of adultery.
He rang his testicles as a bell whenever his wife was pregnant or was breastfeeding.
25 November 2021