Democracy and representation
Few days ago, during the swearing in ceremony of newly elected members of the house of representatives, Nigerians were treated to a burlesque spectacle staged by the distinguished majority leader of the House- Distinguished Honorable Alhassan Ado Garba popularly known as Alhassan Doguwa an All Progressive Congress (APC) member representing Doguwa/Tudun Wada Federal Constituency of Kano State. With alarming self-assurance, and a casual disregard of the feelings of those whose sensibilities maybe offended, Honorable Ado-Doguwa rose on the floor of the hallowed chamber to introduce his self-described respectable four wives- who were equally on the floor of the, in a roll call-I guess, represent the order of their importance in his self-acclaimed glorious life. Not done, Honorable Ado Doguwa reminded his colleagues of his fecund exploits as the father of a whopping 27 kids fathered respectively by his four respectable wives- who seem proud and happy about their station in life as the lucky wife modestly accomplished politician- if their mien when introduce is to be trusted. It is difficult not to be consumed by nostalgia when one considers the unfortunate fact that Honorable Doguwa’s version of parliamentary spectacle is a mediocre variant of the high-minded, even though comical spectacle staged by the political famous Honorable Patrick Obahiagbon of blessed political memory.
We should keep in mind that, Honorable Doguwa’s spectacle is staged around a time when a privileged, snobbish and entitled polygamist counseled his constituents against the danger of polygamy and its associated social outcome within the context of crushing poverty. Vulgar, distasteful, and degenerate as an enlightened segment of the Nigerian public may consider Honorable Doguwa’s boast on the floor of the house, we must concede that his personality structure, taste and lifestyle is truly representative of the people for whom he stands proxy in the hallowed chamber. To the extent that democracy is about representation, no true democrat who is alive to the loftiest ideal of democracy should feel offended by the presence of a man of Distinguished Honorable Doguwa’s Character in the house. Representation is the contested relationship at the heart of democracy. Oftentimes, the people want to see themselves in their leader and representatives. They want to be represented by someone who represent their yearnings and aspiration, if not their daily struggle for survival. Their leader must represent their subjective conception of a life of pride and dignity. A preponderance of those who are offended by Honorable Doguwa’s boast will agree that his Doguwa/Tudun Wada Federal Constituency of Kano State is populated by constituents with similar personality structure, taste and lifestyle. For those people polygamy is a legitimate way of life with its own cultural merits. Their collective sentiments about child rearing is singularly pro-life. Pro-choice values and the matrimonial behavior they encourage are social suspect in that corner of the country, hence, the relatively large amount of children in the average family.
The debate about the sociological merit of Honorable Alhassan Doguwa’s behavior within the context of our development aspiration as a nation is tangential to its representative merits. It is the believe of this writer that polygamy and its associated social outcomes cannot survive the process of robust industrialization and the modernization it fosters. A polygamous way of life is inherently incompatible with our emerging liberal capitalist democratic existence. It fosters socially unsustainable inequality that may equally lead to political instability if the sociological brake-down is allowed to fester. Scholars of diverse persuasion have contended that, in a society where everybody is legitimately granted the luxury of polygamy, the relatively well-off accumulate a disproportionate number of females thereby leaving their relatively poorer male mateless. In such a society, the average female has all the incentive to assume the status of the 20th wife of a relatively rich and older man than be the first, and probably only wife of a relatively poor man. As a result, younger and relatively poorer males may lose in the mating game. Unable to marry or better still unable to foster a happy married life due to lack, they channel their libidinous energy and sense of social humiliation into violence or any availing criminal venture.
It is a very condescending act of class snobbery for privileged Northerners like the Emir of Kano (who himself is a polygamist), to lecture their innocent subjects on the perils of rampant polygamy, and the consequent unsustainably large family size. The legitimacy of the institution of polygamy is sustained in the North through patronage by the elites. The North must confront the truth that, the institution of polygamy is inimical to our collective development aspiration as a nation, a good number of the vices that plagues the Nation have their antecedents in that primordial matrimonial institution. This is why Honorable Doguwa’s boast in the hallowed chamber of the house must be regarded as utterly irresponsible even though representative.
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