THE INHERITANCE STATUS OF NWA AMỤTALỤ NA IME ENETE (LOVE CHILD) WHOSE MOTHER WAS NEVER MARRIED IN NNEWI.
Momentary enjoyment of Mr Onyeije with his girlfriend, Miss Ramọtụ when he was sent to Paiko in the northern Nigeria state of Niger on a temporary work transfer, has altered the peace in his family. The unintended alamako or sexual misadventure Mazi Onyeije committed in his youth has set up a quadratic equation that must be resolved urgently by his kinsmen to prevent a fratanal war amongst his children even when he was still alive.
Miss Ramọtụ had craved to marry Mazi Onyeije who was single at that time, but it didn’t work out. Onyeije could not summon enough courage to take a Nupe girl home as a wife. He feared that his parents would disown him.
And they would have done so. The sentiment against northern girls was not good at that time, which was a few years after Nigeria/Biafra civil war. With heavy heart, Onyeije had to return to his base in Lagos after a year without knowing that Ramọtụ had become pregnant.
Friends of Onyeije who were conversant with his dilemma rallied round Miss Ramọtụ who was a young manager of a local bank in Paiko during her pregnancy. Upon delivery of the baby, they suggested that Ramọtụ name the baby boy, Nwokeabịa, meaning “a male has arrived”. The boy at birth was an unmistakable replica of Onyeije in such a way that Igbo would say that the “father vomitted the baby”.
Ramọtụ was so happy to have the baby just to keep a souvenir or a memorabilium of Onyeije, a man who knew how to take her to Paris, Abuja and Santiago within an hour.
When the baby arrived, Ramọtụ and friends of Onyeije sent a message to the “impregnator” of the arrival of penal goods he ordered from Ramọtụ’s pubic arena just for his information since he had made it clear that he was not ready to marry Ramọtụ.
Mazi Onyeije later married a wife from his village and had three boys and a girl. He had also become very wealthy having left his banking employment and veered into business. His sons were to join him in his diverse business upon graduation from the university. It was a happy family.
At the age of 62, what Mazi Onyeije didn’t need was a war in his family.
Nwokeabịa, his illegimate child, could also no longer bear the embarrassing status of a bastard as some haughty maternal relations called him albeit indirectly and he launched a search for his biological father.
And he found him. He traced him to his home in Lagos.
Mazi Onyeije was seated in his living room when his wife, Susana called him out. “Papa Nkechi, there is a young man outside claiming to be your son, he wants to see you”.
Madam Susana was convinced that the young man she beheld was her husband’s offshoot not by the mere claim of the young man but by his looks. He was like her husband the very first day she met him at Izuchukwu Park at Nnewi.
“Good afternoon sir. My name is Nwokeabịa and my mother is Ramọtụ from Paiko, Niger state”, was all Nwokeabịa could say before his father interjected.
“Welcome my son”, said Mazi Nwokeabịa who was watching the television with his only brother who had come from Nnewi on a short visit. “The “Nsugbe” coconut had be broken and there was nothing to hide again”, Mazi Onyeije said to himself.
Being that his long guarded secret had been blown open, Mazi Onyeije was forced to introduce Nwokeabịa to his kinsmen but first to his immediate family.
“This is impossicant”, Susana and her children swore.
That was how the problem started.
Madam Susana and her children would not hear of this kind of shocking revelation. Not now that they had toiled and suffered to build a home and business they thought they owned alone.
Their attitudes towards the father of the house changed to an open indignation. The outrage was particularly further stoked by traditional fact that the first son of a man in Nnewi becomes the head of the family and the heir to the father’s compound apart from getting the lion share of his estates.
It didn’t take long before Madam Susana, Mazi Onyeije’s wife came back to her senses. She consulted her elder brother who advised her to report the matter to the eldest man in her husband’s extended family.
Being that an elder would not be home while a goat in labour gives birth while tied to a stake, the eldest man or Onyeihi (also known as Onyeshi in some Igbo dialects) convened an extended Ụmụnna meeting to this pick the simmering pimple before it grew into a cancer.
Seated in the meeting were all the ụmụ nwoke kwụ amụ (or full fledged men, both married and bachelors). Married women were also in attendance. The issue to be deliberated was topical. It had become a gossip item too.
Mazi Onyeije’s children sat together with their mother, several seats further from their father. Nwokeabịa, the love child was also in attendance.
All these happened when old men who knew their fathers were still alive; the men who knew the tradition as it should be and who would not see black and call it cloudy or opaque. They would say the truth the way it was. They were never ambivalent nor condoned rigmarole.
Surprisingly, Mazi Onyeije was never asked in the meeting whether he was actually the father of Nwokeabịa. The elders skipped that all important question because it was like asking someone whether Okeke was born on Eke market day or not.
Ichie Okwuasọiru rose and stated the Nnewi pristine tradition as it was and shall ever be.
“Mazi Onyeije, you are welcome back home. Not that you have just returned home but because one of the fruits of your manliness has just returned. Doubting whether Nwokeabịa is your son is like someone doubting whether you are our brother or not. He looks like a younger you hence, he is our brother and we can’t discrimate against him. He looks very much like us therefore, he is part of us.
“The only issue we need to clarify is that Nwokeabịa, who you have just introduced to the wider family by bring him here today, was born today hence he has become your last son even though he is numerically older than your sons from Susana, your wife we know. Our tradition doesn’t and will not reward premarital procreations otherwise our young boys will run riots with their pants down”, the old man concluded assertively without minding whose ox was gored and sat down.
For the sake of our teeming youth, it has become necessary to pen down the Igbo tradition as practised mostly by those Igbos inhabiting the area now known as Anambra State as it concerns the status of a male love child who is older to his father’s other sons born by his father’s legal wife.
I, Ikenga Ezenwegbu from Ezeoguine Royal family of Nnewi, hereby affirm that:
1. a child becomes a member of his father’s family and that of his father’s clan if born after the bride price of his mother was paid or the very day his father introduces him to the extended family meeting that is, if he was a product of unauthorised sexual acts.
2. a child born out of traditional wedlock cannot return at anytime (either when his father is alive or when his father has died) to assume the role of diọkpala or to claim seniority over the children whose mother was properly married.
3. a returnee son is traditionally treated as a son of another wife of his father who is junior to all other sons born before the date of his introduction to his father’s kinsmen.
4. a love child naturally belongs to his mother’s people and not to the the family of a man who impregnated his mother.
5. the acknowledgement or adoption of a love child into the membership of a man’s household or ụmụnna is only open to those whose single mothers are not from Nnewi because no child born of an Nnewi girl outside marriage is released to the impregnator who we believe had worked in vain.
6. once bride price was paid or ịdọnye mmanya or “pledge to marry” was done, any child born thereafter is considered legitimate and is qualified to assume the role of the first son upon return, even if he was raised outside his father’s house.
If you’re an Igbo boy from Anambra State, who has sired a baby boy through a Baby Mama or out of wedlock, do well to ensure that the male child born is not only introduced on the social media but also to your fraternal extended family or ụmụnna to avoid making the poor boy a junior to his younger brothers from your future legimate wife hence putting your own house on fire with your own brokus.
Anayo M. Nwosu