Mohammed Bello Abubakar
Muhammadu Bello Abubahkar Masaba Bida, also known as Muhammadu Bello Masaba, (1924 – 28 January 2017) was a Nigerian man who stirred up controversy in his hometown of Bida, Niger State. He married 120 wives, divorced 10, and fathered 203 children. At the time of his death, some of his wives were believed to be pregnant. Islam limits the number of wives a Muslim man can have to four wives, mandating they must be all treated equally. However, due to his extensive polygamy, and for being outspoken, he was uncharged under Sharia law and sent to prison.
"If God permits me, I will marry more than 86 wives. A normal human being could not marry 86 – but I can only by the grace of God," a defiant Bello Masaba told The Christian Science Monitor during a recent prison interview. "I married 86 women and there is peace in the house – if there is peace, how can this be wrong?"
Bello had worked as a teacher and Imam during his life. He lived with his family in an entire apartment block. Bello claims that he never pursued his wives, and claims that they sought him out due to his reputation as a healer. Many of his wives were much younger than he was, and a few were younger than some of his elder children. In interviews with Al Jazeera English, his wives claimed that he was a good husband and father. Although the Quran states that a man may marry four wives, Bello claimed that when the Quran set a law, it must also set a punishment for offenders, and no punishment was given for this particular offense.
After the death pronouncement on Masaba by an Islamic group, Jama'atu Nasiru-l Islam (JNI), the Bida Emirate Council and an assembly of Islamic leaders invited him (Masaba) for interrogation. At the end of their deliberations in Etsu Nupe's palace Bida, a verdict was read out by the Etsu Nupe of Bida himself, Alhaji Yahya Abubakar, that Masaba should divorce 82 out of the 86 wives within 48 hours or leave the entire Nupe Kingdom as his safety could not be guaranteed within the kingdom. At the expiration of the ultimatum, Pa Masaba refused to divorce any of his wives and denied ever promising to do so.
Despite this, Bello was arrested in late 2008 by Islamic authorities and tried before a Sharia court. Before his tial athe Sharia court, Police in Niger State gave the super polygamist of Bida a clean bill, as the state command declared that nothing incriminating was found in the house of the controversial husband of 86 wives. The leader of the police team that arrested the Islamic cleric in Bida in the wee hours of that penultimate Monday before 27 September 2008, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mr John Olayemi declared:
"We found nothing incriminating in his house. There was no knife, no pistol or skull in his house when we went to invite him to the headquarters for a chat."
But when asked why the police went ahead to arrest Masaba, the police Boss explained that the command only acted on an instrument of Upper Sharia Court.
While in detention in Minna Prison, an Upper Sharia Court Judge in Minna, Alhaji Abdulmalik Imam, on 6 October 2008 transferred the case of Masaba to a Chief Magistrate's Court in Minna after admitting lacking jurisdiction but Masaba was still remanded in prison custody at the instance of the Sharia Court.
Thousands of protestors gathered to protest against his actions, and claimed that if he were released, they would not allow him to return to his home. Meanwhile, his wives announced their outrage at his arrest. At his trial, he was asked to divorce 82 of his wives. Due to his persistent refusal to do so, he was sentenced to death, but the sentence was lifted when he agreed to the mass divorce in early September 2008. However, he still faced eviction from his home. The case was reported throughout Nigeria and around the world, and angered many Nigerian Muslims. Following the case, Bello advised other men not to follow his example:
"A man with ten wives would collapse and die, but my own power is given by Allah. That is why I have been able to control 86 of them," he told the BBC.
Afterwards, on 12 November 2008, a Federal High Court sitting in Maitama, Abuja ordered the release of Masaba from detention in Minna Prison with immediate effect. The trial high court judge, Justice G.O. Kolawole attached no condition to his release. The judge also ordered the Inspector General of Police, Mr Mike Okiro, to ensure the protection of Masaba's fundamental rights to life, liberty and privacy, as enshrined in the 1999 constitution of Nigeria, through the Niger State Commissioner of Police. Then, Masaba returned to his hometown, Bida, on 13 November 2008.
More recently, "the man with 86 wives" has reappeared in articles concerning an alleged plot to disenfranchise his family. Moreover, members of his family were prevented by thugs from registering to vote. Nine member of the Masaba family were injured by thugs whenever they attempted to register to vote.
After a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja ordered the release of Masaba from detention for having 86 wives, he added 18 to his 120 children and the total number of his children was 138. Bello also came into limelight with another super polygamist, Ziona Chana of India in 2011. As at May 2011, Masaba had 89 wives and 133 children while India's Ziona Chana had 39 wives, 94 children and 33 grandchildren.
In July 2011, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu, the governor of Niger State, justified the position of Masaba's refusal to divorce any of his wives when he was quoted, "though we have Sharia in place in the state, but we have no law to pin him (Masaba) down". Likewise, for the past few years, Niger State government's effort to prosecute Bello Masaba who married 89 wives in Bida, has been unsuccessful because of legal lacuna. The Speaker of Niger State House of Assembly, Barrister Adamu Usman, disclosed that various attempts to prosecute Masaba ran into hitches because there was no provision in the law of the state to effect his prosecution.
Barrister Adamu Usman said:
"As Attorney General then I personally appeared before Sharia court, Minna, as prosecutor to prosecute the man but later discovered that Sharia courts in Niger State cannot deal with the case. No provision made in Penal code C.P.C or sharia administration of Justice law to deal with such cases."
In June 2012, Masaba granted an interview to Jide Orintunsin where he debunked his rumoured death and said he's not done yet with his number of his wives.
Bello Masaba said:
"Large number of wives? I only have 97 wives. I am still going to marry more. I will keep marrying them for as long I am alive. Whoever is fighting me because of my wives or love life. Such an individual has missed it. Left for me, I would have married maybe two wives, but what I am doing is divine. It is an assignment and I will keep marrying till the end of time. I just want to advise those fighting against the number of my wives to stop because such people are waging war against God, their creator."
Alhaji Muhammadu Bello Abubakar Masaba Bida was living peacefully as a law-abiding citizen of Nigeria in his hometown, Bida, with his over 100 children till 31 January 2014.
- Nigerian man with 86 wives faces a 'fatwa' The Christian Science Monitor, 24 October 2008.
- . The Indian Express. The Express Group. 31 January 2017 http://indianexpress.com/article/world/nigeria-muslim-preacher-with-130-wives-dies-at-93-4500043/. Retrieved 31 January 2017. Missing or empty
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- Nigeria's Islamic authority has told an 84-year-old man with 86 wives and 170 children that he must whittle his number of spouses down to four. Mohammed Bello Abubakar, a former teacher and preacher, could face the death penalty under Sharia law, which was reintroduced to the Muslim-majority Niger State in 2000. Legal Brief Today, 25 August 2008.
- Nigerian faces death for 86 wives BBC.co.uk, 21 August 2008
- Nigerian man agrees to divorce 82 wives theage.com.au, 2 September 2008 Cite error: Invalid
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