What is the significance of Sadiku's request for Sidi's hand in marriage on behalf of Baroka in The Lion and the Jewel?

Sadiku's request for Sidi's hand in marriage on behalf of Baroka signifies Sadiku's high status within the family and her endorsement of his decision. As his senior wife, she acts as a trusted emissary but is not entirely truthful with her husband.

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Throughout The Lion and the Jewel, Sadiku acts both on her own behalf and as an agent of her husband, Baroka. As his senior wife, Sadiku is the longest-term member of Baroka’s family and is severely impacted by his choices of junior wives who enter into the marriage and household. Once Baroka has decided that he wishes to marry Sidi, he trusts Sadiku to be his delegate in conveying the message. The fact that he does not deliver the request personally also indicates his confidence in Sidi’s acceptance as well as his assertion of her inferior status.

In the polygamous society that Wole Soyinka depicts, wives share in responsibilities and benefits in an elite husband’s family and household. Their shares are not equal, however: the senior wife functions as an administrator and wields substantial power over the junior wives. It is to her advantage to have a harmonious situation, with junior wives who adapt well to their subordinate roles, but she recognizes there will inevitably be friction. In the fictional situation of the play, Sadiku is concerned because Baroka has tired of his most junior wife. As he has complained of impotence, she knows that he will soon add another, younger woman into their home. She therefore becomes actively involved in the search, while not fully revealing her strategy to her husband, and helps him identify Sidi as a satisfactory choice. Once he has made his choice, he delegates his senior wife to convey the request.

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