Polygamy was never intended for poor men

The Nairobian ran a macabre and tragic story from Kakamega this week: A man climbed onto the roof of his first wife’s house, removed a solar panel and installed it on his second wife’s roof.

Predictably, a scuffle of sorts ensued, during which the woman whose ownership of the solar panel had been revoked grabbed a kitchen knife and sent the man to the hereafter. 
Because of a what might seem like a trivial spat, a man is dead, his two wives widowed, one of whom is ‘assisting police with investigations’ — if you know what we mean. 

There are three issues at play here. One, our good man shouldn’t have been a polygamist in the first place, because he clearly couldn’t afford it. If he could, both women would have had solar panels on their roofs. Two, the man and his second wife ignored the cardinal rule of polygamy: Respect wife number one.  In the African setting, wife number one always had the bigger house, placed in the most commanding space within the compound. She called the shots and her progeny received a bigger inheritance.

Polygamy, by the way, was not a game for every Tom, Dick and Harry. While it was the duty of the clan to raise cows for a man’s first wife’s dowry, it was up to him to raise bride price for all women he married after. That meant he would need to acquire wealth to marry more women.

The game has changed. Unlike in the past, it is possible to marry several wives when one doesn’t own a goat. When you add competition for resources to competition for the man’s love and attention, you are looking at a powder keg. The realities of the day no longer allow multiple women to co-exist peacefully while the man plays ajua at the market either.

If you do not have the resources to house women on individual plots far removed from each and take care of them and their children equally, stick to one woman. It is no longer possible to subjugate them by the fist too or expect them to endure dry spells.