I always tell anyone who is looking to begin reading African Books about THE SECRET LIVES OF BABA SEGI’S WIVES. It is usually the first book I recommend. Imagine my joy when I heard a stage play was coming to Lagos! I informed members of my BookClub about it and we all decided to go as a group. I had such an amazing time. I didn’t want it to end.
The Secret Lives of Babi Segi’s Wives, is a perceptive, entertaining, and eye-opening novel of polygamy in modern-day Nigeria. The struggles, rivalries, intricate family politics, and the interplay of personalities and relationships within the complex private world of a polygamous union come to life in The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives.
Words can’t even begin to explain what I feel for this book. I LOVE THIS BOOK. It is raw. It is a FUNNY moving story told with love and compassion. It is powerful. Unsettling. Violent.
And in the words of Ikhide Ikheloa “It is a triumph of life over adversity, a joyful ode to the sensual mystery and resilience of human spirit”.
For Baba Segi, his collection of wives and children are signs of his virility. All runs smoothly in the polygamous home until wife number four arrives. Wife number four is a soft-spoken university graduate who is quickly ostracized by her illiterate co-wives. However, she is determined to give Baba Segi the children he expects. Her failure to conceive exposes a dark family secret. This revelation has devastating consequences for the entire household.
Watching the play brought to light again some of the notions I had when I first read this book.
I understood better that everyone has a story. Everyone comes from a past that reflects on their present. It could be a good or a bad reflection.
Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives begins its narrative as a tale told by the omniscient third person, and so while reading, your opinion is already formed and you are literally casting stern looks at Iya Femi and Iya Segi etc – now you’re casting these stern looks because you have not heard their stories. But then, you stop when you get to the next chapter and Iya Segi or Iya Femi or Taju or Bolanle steps in and you can almost hear them say:
‘Hey, do not look at me that way. Let me tell you my story. This is what I had to endure. This is what I have been through. Listen!”
The switch in narrative is something I really loved about the book and the stage play.
Secondly, Ikhide Ikheloa’s comment comes to life again;
a triumph of life over adversity…the sensual mystery and resilience of the human spirit.
This comment brings to mind, the survival instinct of humans. To think that each character came from a past that influenced their present.
I loved that the story was set in Ibadan – it warmed my heart. I felt like I was in a familiar space as Ibadan is my favorite city in Nigeria. The market of Sango and its cemetery, the streets of Agbowo opposite the University gate and the residential areas of Awolowo Road and Osuntokun junction.
The first time I read the book, I felt a rush of sadness as I got to the end. I also felt the same way when I got to the end of the stage play. And when the stage play ended with Bolanle walking into her freedom, I remember thinking, perhaps, the most important person in this play is Bolanle. I like to think of her as the cord that binds.
Just like Bolanle, the world is spread before me like an egg cracked open – I’ll fry the heck out of it. Nothing will hold me back. And her last words resonated within me:
“My bags are packed. I depart. Can you guess my destination? Freedom! That is my destination. Nowhere else but freedom.”
This play was everything. The actors brought everything to life. I have never seen anything so beautiful in a while. The music. The lines. The dance. The culture. I laughed so hard. And Iya Femi was my best character in the stage play and to think I tagged her a witch when I first read the book. Can we also talk about Iya Segi’s lesbian tendencies? Her obsession with the tomato seller? I loved how humour was used to discuss some very important themes – Infidelity, Rape, Homosexuality, Infertility, Patriarchy etc.
This book would forever be rated 5 STARS for it’s candid and refreshing approach to infertility and infidelity.
Super Glad I got to see it alongside members of the coolest Book Club Ever – KAWE AFRICA BOOK CLUB