Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Are you really the father of those children?

My man, can you answer this simple question:  Are you sure, really sure, you’re the father of those children in your house?  I mean, are you their biological father? Do they carry your genes? Was it your sperm that impregnated your wife resulting in the birth of those children? Pardon my meddling in what clearly is your family affair. However, you do have a right to know that you’re not raising other people’s children under the illusion that they are yours. Recent revelations about disputed paternity of children brought to mind the agelong belief that it is the mother of a child who knows the real father.

Dr. Murray Conrad, remember him? He was the personal physician of the music idol, Michael Jackson. In a recent interview he granted a US news medium, the doctor said Jackson was not the father of his three children as he claimed he never slept with their mother, Debbie Rowe.  (See: The dust raised by that revelation had hardly settled when a newsbreak in Ghana revealed that Ghanaian football superstar; Nii Odartey Lamptey, is embroiled in a divorce suit with his wife, Gloria. Ghana newspaper, Daily Graphic of November 30,  2013 reported in its online edition  that  Gloria Lamptey has “filed for divorce at the Accra High Court on the back of marital problems arising out of alleged infidelity on her part, after the football star discovered through paternity tests that he was not the biological father of their three daughters”.

According to the 38-year-old Lamptey, “The issue is in court… it is a legal issue I don’t want to go into it now….but I am 100 per cent sure that the children are not mine after 20 years,” he was reported to have told Accra-based NEAT FM. However, Mrs. Lamptey allegedly claimed the husband was infertile and it was upon his consent that she proceeded to undertake InVitro Fertilisation, a claim the footballer is contesting.

Lamptey, a midfield maestro was a member of the Black Starlets team which won the 1991 FIFA Under-17 World Cup and went on to win a historic Olympic bronze medal with the Black Meteors at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, and a silver medal at the 1993 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Australia. A former Aston Villa and Coventry City player, he was 1991 world’s best juvenile player. The Lampteys’ case is said to have come  on the heels of a recent divorce case being heard at another  Accra High Court involving a former Black Stars captain, John Mensah, whose wife of 10 years, Henrietta, is seeking a break-up of their marriage on the grounds of infidelity, among other accusations.

Before we think there are no similar paternity issues in Nigeria, let me bring to our attention a celebrated case involving the late business mogul and colourful politician, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola. The Nation in its August 7, 2007 edition reported that  a DNA test conducted on the order of  the administrator of Abiola’s estate and in compliance with the instruction in Abiola’s Will dated October 29, 1989 showed that  some of his 113 children might not be his children as 25 of them were alleged to have failed the DNA test.

The question is why are cases of paternity dispute on the increase around the world? The simple answer may be due to increasing infidelity in marriages. However, that will not explain the entire phenomenon. The act of infidelity is itself driven by a number of factors. Among them are pressures from the extended family, fear of divorce as a result of woman’s inability to bear children or giving birth to only girls, lack of sexual satisfaction, and many others.

I have been married for over a decade and should know some of these things. Family pressures, if not properly handled may lead spouses astray. Though companionship should be the primary reason for marriage, however, in our traditional African society, children are placed over and above companionship. Mothers and mothers in-law especially want their daughters or daughters in-law to give birth nine months from the wedding date; that is if she’s not yet pregnant before marriage. Some mothers do tell their sons to be sure their fiancées are pregnant before fixing date of marriage because of fear of infertility. Those who believe that the marital bed should not be defiled before marriage start putting their daughters or daughters in-law under intense stress once a year passed by without signs of pregnancy in the wife. In some cases, the husbands too join in mounting the pressure on their wives to bear them children.

Similarly, there is another category of married women who do not have male children. They do have children but they are all girls. In some traditional societies, particularly among the Igbo and Yoruba, male children are preferred to female. For some reasons, such as a male child being the one to carry on or preserve the names of the family; a male child being stronger and hard-working and so on, some husbands and their extended families therefore mount undue pressure on their wives to give them male children.

Medically, it has been proved that men carry X and Y chromosomes while women carry X chromosome. A male child is produced only when a male sperm produces Y chromosome to fertilise the X chromosome of the woman. Invariably, it is the man who determines the sex of the child. Unfortunately, many men who blame their wives do not know this or rather choose to ignore the medical truth. In search of children, particularly male children, some women do silly things such as having extra-marital relationships including having sexual affairs with their husband’s friends, office colleagues, drivers, gatekeepers, etc. Some of them even resort to buying children from fake and mercantile maternity clinics and orphanages that dot our landscape. They do this in the vain hope of making their husbands and families happy and saving their marriage from collapse.

The Nigerian law may not recognise bastards but the Yoruba despise them. They are called “omo ale”, that is a child from concubine. There is an adage that “agbo ile to ba ntoro, omo ale ibe ni o ti d’agba” that is if a clan is peaceful, it’s because the bastard in the family is yet to be of age. Perhaps, if husbands and the extended family of spouses will stop putting their wives, daughters and daughters in- law under pressure, maybe, we will have fewer cases of disputed paternities. I do hope that women themselves will stop this nonsense all in the name of preserving their marriage. If they or their husbands are infertile, they should insist on written agreement or having a witness if they are to go for artificial insemination, in vitro fertilisation, child adoption or any lawful means of resolving their infertility.