Somebody told the young man about me. Somebody told him that I used to be a friend of his dad, sorry father. He asked for my contact information and was given one of my email addresses. So two weeks ago, I received a message from the 23 years old undergraduate asking me to plead with his dad, sorry again, father, to help verify his paternity. “Send me your number and I will call you”, I told him.
He did. He sent me his number in Nigeria and I immediately called him. He told me he was the child that my friend, Mackson (not his real name), had fathered out of wedlock while we were students at the University of Ibadan in 1985. As soon as he mentioned his mother’s name, his story rang a huge bell in my head. I remembered the time that Mackson got one of his girlfriends, Ronke (not her real name), pregnant and told her to get rid of the pregnancy. He said Ronke was trying to “tie” herself to him with the pregnancy because he was a university student with a bright future and she was not; and that she wanted to “get ahead of the game” against his other girlfriends by claiming ownership of him with the pregnancy. I saw the girl once or twice at that time, but that was before she got pregnant. Soon, her story receded to the background and Mackson continued his randy lifestyle.
The young man that asked me to help convince his father, Mackson, to submit himself to a blood test to verify his paternity – Seyi (not his real name), turned out to be Ronke’s child – the pregnancy that Mackson rejected in 1985! I asked Seyi for Ronke’s number and called Ronke. I wanted to ascertain the veracity of his claim. Here was a guy I had never met who claimed to be the child of a notoriously violent and corrupt politician, and who wants me to intervene in a paternity case that was bound to embarrass my erstwhile friend who is now happily married with children. I thought I should talk to Ronke; ask her a few questions from the past that only she would be able to answer because she was there. When I was done with Ronke, I was convinced that she was the girl, back in 1985 that my friend kicked to the curb because she was “inferior.” She told me that members of her family had tried to get Mackson to submit himself for a blood test ever since he returned to Nigeria from the UK, but that Mackson threatened them all with hellfire and brimstone. He accused her and her family of trying to sabotage his 2011 ambition to run for governor of Osun State by scandalizing and blackmailing him with a child.
After listening to Ronke, I promised her that I would talk to Mackson. Although we used to be friends, we no longer spoke because I disagreed with him privately (and publicly, when privacy didn’t work), about his nefarious political activities. That night, I placed a call to Nigeria and told Mackson that I had been contacted by Seyi, and that I wanted to know what he planned to do about the issue. His instant answer was: “I do not know anybody by that name and I don’t want to know anybody by that name.” I pressed further. “Hey man, I am not trying to be mischievous. I am just trying to help. Are you sure you do not know this young man?” He replied in the affirmative and we ended the conversation. He lied. I knew he lied because I remembered the case clearly. I knew he lied because Ronke had told me that mutual friends of Mackson’s and I had tried to talk to him, and she named names. She challenged me to call and ask them.
I rolled the issue over and over in my mind. Forget that Seyi claims to be a spitting image of Mackson (paternity still has to be decided by blood test); forget that the kid is now 23 years old; forget that only God, through his mother and her family, nursed and nurtured him into a man; forget that he is the ONLY (!) child of his mother – yes, the only child of his mother; forget that he has asked not for money, but for recognition and affirmation of his identity; forget that Mackson, unlike the time he lived in near penury as an undergrad, now lives in some degree of opulence and so can afford to take care of Seyi even if on charity. Forget all that and ask yourself: why do men of cratered morality thrive in our society?
Knowing Mackson, I tried to search through his life and “status”, looking for a cogent reason why he not only denied this young man the right to know his father, but did so in such a cold and callous manner – like visiting Ronke’s family to issue stern warnings and even openly threatening the life of Seyi, who, after a blood test is performed, could very well be his son. I searched, and regrettably, the only adducible reason is Mackson’s current wife. She is the only one that has something to lose should Mackson bring home an adult child. The eldest of her three children is in the early teens. All these years, she had settled on the assumption that being a male child, he would be the cynosure of Mackson’s eyes. He would be the de facto family head, the Dawodu, if you will, should, God forbid, Mackson were to leave this world and leave his new-found wealth. To find out this late in her marriage, that Mackson had sired a child that would relegate her own son to a lower position in the family hierarchy, would be devastating. It would be more so devastating since she was one of his numerous girlfriends in Nigeria back in 1985 that also happened to have British citizenship. She plucked Mackson from the jaws of searing poverty in Nigeria and facilitated his relocation from Nigeria to the UK, from where he was able to launch a successful political career. Why would she sacrifice all that for another woman to collect through an “illegitimate” child?
“Illegitimate child”… “Bastard” – those have been the kinds of names that Seyi has been forced to endure, sometimes as prefixes to his real name. Some very creative people have even managed to coin suffixes and infixes for him, using such derogatory appellations. But Seyi is not an illegitimate child. I don’t know what an illegitimate child is anymore. How can a man and a woman copulate with eyes wide open; with no contraceptives, and claim to be surprised that they have a child? How can anybody describe such a child as illegitimate? And he is not a bastard either. A bastard, at least in Yoruba interpretation, is a child whose mother does not know who impregnated her. In Seyi’s case, his mother swears by God’s name that Mackson is the father and she challenged him to submit himself for a blood test…at her own expense! So, I explained to Seyi that he is not a bastard at all. He has a father who is an absentee dad. I drew the distinction between a father and a dad for him. Every man who is biologically able to impregnate a woman may go ahead and become a father. But it takes a man, a real man, to be a dad.
It also takes a real man to look a wife directly in the eyes and say: I am sorry, honey. I know I should have told you years ago, but I was afraid you’d leave me. I got a lady pregnant in my university days (when I was also dating you and hordes of other ladies), and the child is now 23 years old. My heart aches every night I sleep in this plush house and this comfortable bed; when I look at our beautiful children in their nice little rooms, knowing that I have another child out there that may be sleeping on cold, hard floors; that may go without food because there is none; that may be missing school because his mother is unable to pay his fees; that may be avoiding social events for fear of people calling him a bastard; that may be depressed because he does not have his father; that may be sick and need help from me; that may just need his father to put his arm around his shoulders and say “I love you
, son.” Honey, I beg you in the name of God, to forgive the life of a lie that I have lived with you all these years and let me bring this child home.
Only a real man would rise up to such a difficult occasion. Of course, the wife would be disappointed; even dejected, or outright furious. But the storm would come to pass because common sense would eventually prevail on her. Would she castigate her husband for a sin he committed before he married her? Would she leave her husband and turn her three children into “fatherless” ones just because he brings home a child he’d had when he was naïve? Men, who are too afraid to stand up, hold their heads up and tell their wives that they have sinned and are sorry and need forgiveness are nothing but aprons or wash towels of their wives. They are men who either are very dirty and have done extremely dirty things in their lives, and their wives are the custodians of their dirty secrets, or they are simply spineless and toothless bulldogs who bully and bark at strangers, but who family members know their weaknesses.
I called Mackson and said to him: “Look man, you owe this kid a blood test, and you will give him one. You will give him one because you do not have the monopoly of power to decide his paternity. You will give him one because it is his inalienable right. If you are too destitute to pay for it (and I know you are not…heck, you are gearing up for Osun state gubernatorial elections in 2011), his mother said she would pay for it. If she can’t, I will pay for it.”
Mackson told me to back off. He told me it was none of my business. He told me that I was stepping onto a dangerous path and he would “deal” with me. I know he can deal with me. He has police escorts now, and remnants of Adedibu’s thugs from Molete, Ibadan, now form the core of his small army of guards. These were the same Molete boys that he and Baba Adedibu used to terrorize their political opponents, maiming many and killing some.
I then sent him a letter so he can have a record of my intent. I told him I would be in Nigeria in April. I told him that he had up till the middle of March to either give Seyi a blood test or accept him as his child, failing which I would take the boy on a round of television and newspaper organizations in Lagos and Ibadan to tell his story. I promised Mackson that I would buy a full page advertorial in at least one national newspaper, telling the boy’s story to Nigerians, especially the people of Osun State who might have to consider this rabble-rouser for Governor one day. And I am writing this piece, deliberately omitting his real name and the names of other parties in this sordid saga, so that he can have some time to make a decision, hopefully the brave and right decision. Otherwise, the next time I return to this issue, my entire readership will know about this chicken that laid an egg and then flee the coop.