A MENTAL health counsellor whose father had four wives has spoken about his harrowing childhood growing up in a polygamous family in Nigeria.

Chris Ozeku says he was beaten and physically abused by his step brothers — he was the fourth youngest of 16 children — and treated poorly by his father’s other wives.

Polygamy, the practice or custom of having more than one wife or husband at the same time, is today still accepted in some religions and cultures.

Mr Ozeku, aged 37, moved to Heaton with his own family three years ago.

The father-of-three said: “Polygamy is growing like a virus in so many countries — not just Nigeria. It has destroyed the lives of many children all over the world.

“My father had four wives, and I went through hell with my step-brothers. There was me and my sister from my mother, and the rest were step-brothers and sisters.

“I suffered a lot of abuse and beatings over the years and felt like I was all alone. But on the outside, to everyone else, everything was fine.”

Mr Ozeku, who was born in Benin City, says he suffered between the ages of seven and 23.

After working in a warehouse, he finally had the opportunity to move to Holland and away from the abuse, where he met Sibylle Schenkel, who he married in Spain in July 2011.

The pair have three children — Milacle, Shiloh and Divine, aged seven, six and seven months. Mr Ozeku, who now works as a mental health counsellor at Royal Bolton Hospital, says people back in his home country are still going through the same ordeal he suffered.

He hopes that by writing about the taboo subject, he can raise awareness.

He added: “Nothing has changed. Still no one talks about what goes on when their father has more than one wife. It’s like a taboo.

“I want to create awareness to others exactly what happens inside that of a polygamist family — the abuse, the fights and the trouble. This is why I decided to write about my experiences.

“It happens in many families where the women are fighting for the affections of the man, and in turn the children are affected by what they see.”

Mr Ozeku has written a book about his experiences, called The Evil Inside Polygamy, available now from Amazon, priced £4.99.

Polygamy facts

  • Polygamy is a Greek word which means “frequently married”.
  • It is the term used for a marriage involving more than two people.
  • Polygamous marriages are recognized civilly in 48 countries, mainly in Africa.
  • The early Mormon practice of polygamy was initiated by the Prophet Joseph Smith in the early 1830s USA.