By Akin Adeoya
My understanding of the marriage concept as it applies to the typical palace in Yorubaland is that marriage to a monarch is fundamentally different from marriage to ordinary mortals. Let’s start from the very idea of the divine nature of kings: Ekeji Orisa-Friend of the gods. This characteristic alone already indicates that no woman can expect to have equal status with a Yoruba monarch. That you are married to a spirit does not make you a spirit even though it grants you special privileges. Those privileges end where that of the monarch begins.
But the awe with which our kings were viewed may have less to do that this more or less superstitious conception of their nature and more to do with the traditions they uphold, the way they comport themselves, the sheer scarcity of their royal presence. You can’t be seeing a god every day on cable TV. A god is not and cannot be a social media sensation. Imagine a god with a social media handle? I think that the social media handle should be that of the Palace. When gods descend from their heavenly abode to interact with ordinary humans virtually on a daily basis, humans, by their nature, begin to see them as just normal people.
Familiarity breeds contempt.
Culturally, a king does not go about “toasting” women to become his wives. There are distinguished personages who understand the traditional process of acquiring wives for a monarch. Take note: wives. It is not culturally acceptable for a true monarch in Yorubaland to have one wife. That creates the danger of a competing power base. The wife can become a virtual opposition to the king. She becomes entangled in Palace politics not just as an important factor, but as potential competition to the ekeji orisa. If care is not taken, she is capable of organising a Palace coup to eliminate the king in extreme situations.
To avoid this unpalatable scenario, and also because a king requires many trusted wives to carry out a wide-ranging set of duties, he is encouraged, if not mandated, to take as many wives as possible. This diffuses the alternative power base and allows the king his peace.
When you are one of 15 or 20 wives competing for the attention of the ekeji orisa, the thought of ever challenging his royal authority will never occur to you. You are busy trying to please him, give him a child, cook for him, run his errands, prove your loyalty and when you have grown kids, protect and care for them.
The phenomenon of a “mono wife” who is celebrated on social media and decorated with the appurtenances of royalty which significance she may not even understand is alien to our culture and creates all kinds of problems. The biggest of those problems is that it opens up the monarch to constant competition from a woman whose understanding of marriage to a monarch lacks traditional depth. She is “one” Just like her husband, ( She is his “partner”. She can call the shots. Oh, maybe she also has his Prince in her grasp. Omo kekere o mo oogun, o npe ni efo…Okunrin kan bi igba.
Would this happen if there were a dozen pregnancies queueing up at the royal maternity?
I know I will be accused of male chauvinism. But mind you I am not preaching this lifestyle to regular folks. I am saying this is how our monarchs lived and thrived. And just if you make the mistake of thinking this is just a male thing, then please go read the story of Queen Amina of Zaria. Queen Amina took male companions the way the old Kings took wives, by royal command. And when she had exhausted them with her insurmountable libido, they were despatched to the nether regions. No man would walk away boasting of his exploits in Queen Amina’s oza room! So after all, it’s not just a man’s thing.
The long and short message of this homily this morning is simple: If your kinsmen are preparing to make you a king, don’t go there and start preaching the Christian ethos of one man one wife. The institution you are about to lead does not believe in that injunction. It has a different conception of marriage.
*Akin Adeoya is a journalist