A lecturer at the Umar Bn Khattab College of Education, Kaduna, Mohammed Sulaiman, trended on social media after he shared his photographs with his wives and 18 children, during Eid-el-Kabir. He speaks with SEGUN ADEWOLE about how he takes care for his family
The photographs you took with your family, which you shared on Eid-el-Kabir, trended on social media. How do you feel about that?
Actually, it is a tradition in my family for everyone to come together and take pictures, and I’ve been posting them on my page for years. If you follow my page, you’ll see them, but this year it became something else. I just discovered it is trending and has gone viral.
Did you ever imagine that you’d have such a large family before you married?
Well, it’s interesting that before I got married, if they had given me a wife, I would have said they should divide me into two. This is because the way we were brought up, we constantly heard about the difficulty of taking care of a wife and the children, so it made me feel like having half a wife, not a full wife.
That was my mentality then, but as I grew and understood the philosophy of life, I realised that all I needed was to strive and work hard to cater to their needs, and I could see a lot of opportunities to do that without even working in a collar job. I also see it as a means to cater to women because there are many of them without a husband. I now have three wives, and I’m hoping to marry another one in two months’ time.
As someone who has so many children, do you sometimes forget their names?
Why will I forget the names of my children? As a Muslim, the names of my kids were taken from the names of Allah, so they are arranged in that sequence. I give them nicknames so I know them by their names and nicknames. What you’re seeing in the picture is distorted. My children are 18, not 19, as has been said. I have the children of my brothers and sisters. In short, about seven of them are not part of the picture because some are still in school, some are writing the senior secondary certificate, National Examination Council (NECO), so they did not come home. They had their clothes too, but they were not part of the pictures. That is to say, apart from my kids, I have another seven or eight that are with me. They are my brothers’ and sisters’ children.
How do you handle rivalry among your wives and children as head of the house?
Speaking of rivalry, I think you will have little problem adjusting. You need to be fair in whatever you do, so fairness and equity make it very easy for me, and you can see they came together and agreed to take pictures together. There are places where there is rivalry, and the junior wife and senior wife cannot stay together because they will never tolerate each other. I can’t allow that because as Muslims we communicate and I never find it difficult to talk to my family, but at times you have some little challenges which are normal because there is no perfection in man.
Do you face challenges in providing for and taking care of your large family?
To be sincere, maybe because I’m productive in terms of searching, working, and travelling. I can work anywhere. I remember that I once worked with a cargo company, moving from Saudi Arabia to Nigeria and other places. I have never found it difficult to feed my family or pay my children’s school fees.
In short, I was awarded at my children’s school for being one of the parents that paid school fees promptly. My daughter is in university, my son is in a polytechnic, and I have at no time had any difficulty because I planned. I know after a school term, I will be paying for another term or semester, so somewhere along the line, I have it all planned out, and because I’m a Muslim, we were taught to plan things.
A pregnancy lasts for nine months; does it befit you as a man in the eighth month to start running helter-skelter for the delivery items? You have to plan ahead for the nine months, and as a Muslim, you plan ahead, so by the time it is the right time to produce all you need, Insha’Allah, you’ll have them already because you’re planning.
Have you ever faced criticism for having a polygamous family?
That is the norm, in short, day in and day out. Even with the pictures that went viral, I concentrated more on the criticisms. There are people who criticise sensibly and respond to them, and there are some that are foolish and insulting. I have no business with them. These criticisms make me rethink and ask myself what I am doing wrong, what I’m doing well, and what my lapses are that need correction.
Are you going to ensure that all your children get educated and to what level?
One of my daughters is already in 400L studying Biology, another is studying Computer Science. I know the importance of education, both Islamic, that is, moral education, and also western education; in short, I add trade to it. Apart from going to school, they go to Islamiyah (Arabic school) and they learn trade.
Considering the state of the economy, do you intend on having more children?
Actually, so far, I haven’t considered the state of the economy. I’ve considered what I can do and how I can make money to satisfy my family. When the Kaduna State Governor increased the school fees in Kaduna universities, someone advised that I defer my daughter’s admission, but I refused because I was capable of working. Why am I working? Is it not to satisfy my family? When you hear people talk about the state of the economy, it is because they don’t want to work. I don’t mind, as long as I have a job that earns me legitimate money.
What advice will you give to anyone considering getting married to many wives?
Not even many wives, some people have only one wife and maybe two children but don’t take care of them. You can see such a man looking flashy outside but he doesn’t take care of his family so the issue is not multiple wives. There are many examples like this. Some find it difficult to feed their families but go out to restaurants to eat the best. They cannot feed their families and cannot pay school fees.
So, I’m not even advising the person that is looking for multiple wives; I’m talking to a man with a single wife who doesn’t do the right thing. We should fear Allah and do the right thing; Allah will question us if we do otherwise. It is our responsibility, so we should try to live up to it. If you just go and relax, you’ll blame yourself hereafter.