Our ancestors had forewarned that “ụzọ eji nwa adịghị èchí échî” meaning that a marital relationship that has produced a child can never be deemed closed or ended.
Even as at that, it is natural for a man or woman when fed up with a marriage to decide to call it quits.
However, the colonial inspired superiority of the western courts 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 escapes as being rendited 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 himself was 32. He was now 55 years old and the wife was just 39 with increased libido.
Ekwueme not only deflowered Ukwunnu but was also responsible for her quick development of all feminine features that would make a woman delectable.
Ukwunnu’s adazị enu, adazị nnukwu and adazị anị or ogbe ndịda 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 deeply and very regularly that the wife, Ukwunnu thought that sex was the main purpose of marriage.
The became wife was very sexually active and was always very satisfied with no need to look somewhere for a top up.
Even with 8 children (consisting of five boys and three girls) born within the first 10 years of their marriage, Ukwunnu still looked unmined, untapped and full of allure.
She was nicknamed “Nwanyi dị ụtọ” meaning “a very sweet woman” by her hailers.
If she was walking on the road or standing by the road side, Ukwunnu’s beauty could command even a pius man to take a second look at her. Her beauty was just glorious.
A 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 to his pocket and to his state of happiness, Ekwueme started rationing the favorite sexual dish to his wife.
It’s known to Igbo men that only “obioma na-ebute utu nkeni” meaning that “it’s only a man with no worries could experience a spontaneous penile erection”. Therefore, the economic woes were making it difficult for the real Chief Ekwueme to stand erect either 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 a good intercourse from a heroic man like Ekwueme was like a hard drug which must not be withdrawn abruptly but gradually from a sex addict wife.
A few weeks’ 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 “nna ukwu gbuom ta kam nwụọ!”
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 could no longer suffer in silence. At was, she could manage marijuana in place of cocaine.
Inuandated 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 arms 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 by the community even if her husband wanted her to stay. She would be permanently banished from her matrimonial home and the 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 adultress 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 children were better reared by their own mothers therefore, venial offences like adultery by a woman with children only attracted a fine or reprimands by the wives’ or Ndinyunyedi association, daughters or Umuada meeting and the men’s or Umunna 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 willing philandering men in the neighborhood.
However, some Igbo communities allowed for a married man and woman to have an “Iko or Agịlị” with whom a sexual intercourse was allowed.
Approved adultery by way of Ịko or Agịlị is still being practised in some Igbo communities of Aguleri, Umuleri, Anam and local communities in Onitsha Ado.
But some communities categorized as “ndi na-akwa akwa Nwanyi” or “those who would rather kill than to share sexual experience with anyone else” like Ụmụọwa 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 was insisting on divorcing his wife for any offence or no offence at all, he would simply visit his inlaws 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 host inlaws or the wife’s relations would discover the Ube leaf while the wine is being served and get the unambiguous “we no marry again” message.
Alternatively, the husband’s people would present the keg of palm wine to the father of their wife or his representative and stylishly drop the Ube leaf atop the palm wine keg and leave immediately without saying a word.
The Ube leaf delivers the divorce verdict of “Ube belu n’oke” i.e “we have drawn a boundary in our marital relationship with your daughter”.
This is followed by a formal request by the husband or his people for a refund of the bride price which could be refunded whenever the woman remarries.
The inlaws whose daughter had begotten male children for her husband would just laugh off the whole exercise relying on the Igbo saying that “uzo eji nwa adịghị èchí échî”.
They would just take back their daughter and wait for the appropriate time.
The appropriate time is when the sons 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 father of the bride had married another woman who raised the bride.
Igbos say “ọzụzụ zụ chaa 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 active and are alive. This is faster when a son has built his own house.
A son can also bury his divorced mother beside his uncompromising father. The son now calls the shots and the dead father at this time man would be lying silent in the grave. The dead couple would have to sort themselves out in the neitherworld.
The foregoing is so because the first son, in Igbo land, inherits his deceased father’s compound except if he was disinherited by his father before the father died.
Chief Ekwueme was a very wise man who was also well grounded in Igbo tradition. He considered all the implications of whatever choice available to him and had seen through the futility of pursuing a divorce in either the regular court or following the traditional route.
Ekwueme couldn’t also 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 pinch him twice in the eye.
Despite the tar of their mothers 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 carefully considered all options, Chief Ekwueme used a cotton wool to plug his ears and never entertained any further adverse reports which could cause chaos in his home.
After all, Chief Ekwueme, who was himself nicknamed “oti okwe ori okwe” by his close friends in his haydays, recalled that he too was not innocent of adultery.
He rang his testicles as a bell whenever his wife was pregnant or was breastfeeding.
By Anayo M. Nwosu