Always Groom for One More

Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times, May 12, 2011

He fell in love with his first wife because she was sincere and eager to please.

His second wife, a cousin, was irresistible because she did everything he wished and nothing he didn’t.

“That alone made me love her.”

His third wife won him because she submitted to his every request.

“I saw her, I liked her. I went to her parents and asked for her hand in marriage.”

Wife No. 4 was very obedient. So was wife No. 5. Wife No. 6, the same. As were wives 7 and 8 and 9 and . . .

Well, by then–it was the late 1980s–things had taken off for Bello Maasaba, an Islamic faith healer in this city in Niger state. He went from a wedding every few months to one every few weeks.

All told, the 87-year-old has married 107 women, which, even in a society with a tradition of polygamy, is on the high side. The Nigerian government is not amused. Neither are Islamic authorities in the state.

But he’s still marrying, every time Miss Right comes along. He now has 86 wives, the youngest 19 and the oldest 64. Nine have died and 12 he divorced (for disobedience).

{snip}

After school, he led an ordinary life for 21 years, involved in the clothing business and later working for a sugar company, keeping just two wives. Life was normal until a religious “vision” in the 1970s, which he says involved a visit from the archangel Gabriel. He fell deeply ill, unable to eat or sleep for days, and all the medicine the doctors gave him only made him worse.

He gave up work and became a traditional faith healer who eschewed medicine. The angel also instructed him to take wife after wife after wife.

“I get a revelation from God telling me any woman I’m going to marry. If it wasn’t from God, I wouldn’t have gone beyond two,” he explains in a wispy, singsong voice.

Maasaba has to pause to remember the number of children he has: an ever growing figure, with the youngest just 1 month old. He has fathered 185, and 133 are still living. He has acquired an extended family of some 5,000 people, many of whom live in the sprawling compound in the block surrounding his house.

It takes three enormous sacks of rice a day and prodigious quantities of meat and vegetables to feed his enormous clan. He’s rich because of the handsome fees paid by those who come to be healed.

Maasaba’s many marriages underscore the gulf between modern urban Nigeria and traditional rural towns, where women often have few choices.

Aishetu Ndayako, about 57, clocked in at wife No. 40 or so. She had heard Maasaba was a good man who looked after his wives and solved all the problems of the family.

She was a widow with six children and no means of support when she married him, leaving her children living in her late husband’s house.

{snip}

Three years ago, Islamic authorities in Niger, a majority Muslim state with Sharia, or Islamic law, ordered that Maasaba divorce 82 of his wives, keeping four. He refused and was ordered by the Sharia court to leave town. (Muslim scholars generally agree that the Koran allows up to four wives, provided each gets equal treatment.)

Police raided Maasaba’s house at 3:45 a.m. on Sept. 15, 2008. He was taken away to jail.

{snip}

Refused bail, Maasaba spent 22 days behind bars, while his wives (11 of them pregnant) demonstrated for his release. In the end, a group of civil rights lawyers came to Maasaba’s rescue and had him freed on bail.

That November, at the High Court in the capital, Abuja, the lawyers called in his wives and their parents, one by one, to testify that they had agreed to marriage. At wife No. 57, the court told the lawyers to stop, and ordered Maasaba freed.

{snip}

As Maasaba talks, they are hidden within, listening to the squawking speakers, as the delicate question is finally posed. With so many wives, how does he meet their romantic needs?

He smiles. Everyone asks him that.

“In his wisdom, God has given me the power and strength to give them the sexual portion they need,” he says. “If I didn’t satisfy them, they would leave.”

{snip}

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  • Anonymous

    What’s wrong with this story? Nothing!! The guy is staying in Africa. He hasn’t dumped the 86 wives and hundreds of children on the American taxpayer.

  • Anonymous

    According to the CIA’s World Factbook, there are 1.06 boys born for every girl in Nigeria. That number may not seem like much on the surface, but it isn’t if you consider the fact that there are 155 million Nigerians.

    There is already a gender disparity in Nigeria. Men who take multiple wives are only aggravating the problem.

    Does this faith healer understand that 85 other men won’t be able to marry because he has 86 wives? How incredibly selfish.

  • Anonymous

    There is really no hope for such people. None.

    When I read articles like this, I think the only sensible thing for the civilized world to do with Africa is to quarantine it. Nobody gets in, nobody gets out. Send them some grain (but no money), and then let them do their thing. Let them take as many wives as they want. Let them indulge in all the random promiscuity and out-of-wedlock child-making that they want. Let them fulfill their apparent biological destiny of overpopulation, underfeeding, and continent-wide famines and disease.

    Nobody seems able to prevent them from going in this downward direction. The only question is, how do we stop them from taking us down with them?

  • Anonymous

    Nigeria is a fast-growing country, with the average female producing 4-5 children.

    It now has a population of 155 million, making it the most populous in Africa. With 40 percent currently under 14 years of age, Nigeria is on the cusp of a population explosion, which will exceed the capacity of the land to provide them with food and water.

    The only thing positive about this story is that he’s fathered ‘only’ 185.

  • GenX ANZAC

    …”He has fathered 185, and 133 are still living”.

    Meaning his children have a 28% mortality rate.

    Do you think neglect due to his broods overwhelming numbers is a factor in his children’s relatively short life spans.

    When fundamental resources required for a child’s healthy development are stretched so thin, the person as an outcome will surely be lacking.

    There’s a real ‘quality verses quantity’ (specialist V. drone) contrast between the third world and the industrialized world’s mentalities when it comes to child, umm, production.

    1/10 or 1/20 can never be equal to 1/2 or 1/1, especially when considering the initial resource pool that a 3rd world parent has access to, would be say 20% (as a guess, if they’re lucky) of the resources, we Western parents have available to, as to invest in our children.

    This is without factoring in the intangibles that the child would miss out on, such as paternal quality time.

    Although these children would have a father present, they’ll still basically grow up without a father, which seems to be a common predicament for ethnic Africans worldwide.

    Also you’d think that, with all of the infinite numerically possible genetic combinations talked about in this article, being mixed up and produced, that statistically Africa would be popping out a few more geniuses of the caliber of Srinivasa Ramanujan, Ilaiyaraaja, Neils Henrik Abel, Carl Friedrich Gauss and Grigori Perelman (all of who came from poverty) than they appear to be. Because as the mantra goes, isn’t human DNA globally supposed to have equal intellectual potential.

    On a lighter note, does Islam has an equivalent present giving holiday to Christian birthdays or Christmas?

    After some quick research, I see that maybe Ramadan, Eid ul Fitr, and Eid ul Adha would probably qualify. http://goo.gl/pvbl2

    That would means 86 wives+133 children=219 gifts (possibly x2)

    …Assistant wife flicks through the filing cabinet, then whispers in the ‘father’s’ ear, “next in line is number 144 (originally named) Mohammed”, Father to Mohammed “here you go Mo, for you this year a dried banana.”

    No wonder there is so much anger in Islam.

  • Anonymous

    How does nigeria do it?

    America gave them 13,000 TONS of food aid this year

    our topsoil is free of course. So is the oil to grow the crops. And of course, no americans go hungry ….. or homeless…. or lack health care

  • Anonymous

    What would happen if the US stopped supplying food aid to the world for even 6 months.

    Now, how badly did WWII disrupt world trade and movement of goods.

    Lastly, look at the behavior of the Obama administration with regard to military adventurism. Look specifically on a map.

    Understand something important. It’s on purpose, not a coincidence.

    There are many despicable things totalitarian governments engage in. One of the most despicable is food as a weapon of war.

  • Sonya

    How can this guy be an ISLAMIC faith healer? Islam only allows 4 wives, his excuse that “God is telling him to do it” wreaks of heresy. The last guy that got away with that excuse was Mohammed himself, and no others are allowed to use it!