Paternity fraud. What makes a child yours?

 

Your Wife and I. 

Nigerians have the cruelest humour. We banter and satirize like no other. Pity such creativity seldom shows in our advertising. 

In the last couple of days, Twitterverse has been awash with the alleged indiscretion of a bank MD. As expected of senior management, this good sir had spotted promise in a married employee. Since where a man works is also where he ‘chops’, an amorous relationship soon ensued. If we believe the blogosphere, this good sir had even sired two strapping kids from said adulterous relationship. Kids the husband of the unfaithful wife thought were his. Sadly, the good husband has deprived us of his side of the story, having succumbed to a heart attack. 

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked,” said my homeboy Jeremy.

That is Jeremiah to you.

But how Nigeriana seethed! You’d have thought we were a pious lot. Men wielded pitchforks. Women got on their brooms. The MD has blood on his hands. He has coveted Bathsheba and killed her husband. We want his head on a pike. 

I am angry myself. The story rings home. A close friend was in a similar spot several years ago. 

But I have a solemn question: what makes a child yours? 

We’ll get to that in a bit. First the story about my friend.

We were in our second year at the university and the philandering of my homeboy had come home to roost. He’d knock up a girlfriend. We’ll call her Two-Time. 

Naturally, my homeboy, whom we shall call Marvin, denied responsibility. One, he learned he was going to be a pappy six months into the pregnancy. Two, the maths didn’t tally. He knew when last he was with Two-Time. Third, he didn’t have two pennies to rub together. He was so po, he couldn’t afford the other two letters. 

So, yea, no way we were going to be a daddy. 

But Two-Time swore with her life that the child was Marvin’s. She hadn’t been with any other.

She had allies in Marvin’s mum and aunts.  

“What do you mean ‘it is not your child’? You two have been fornicating wantonly before Gomorrah. She is always cooped up in your room like a hen hiding from a hawk. I don’t think you two were studying Efficient Markets Hypothesis in there! And what do you mean the math doesn’t figure? What are you now, an obstetrician? You now know how God works? These things happen, son. Don’t deny your child. Don’t let your child suffer. We have your back. We will all raise the child together.”

Mothers and aunts. They talk a better game than snake oil salesmen. 

But to assuage any doubts, Marvin’s mother went to enquire of some prophet. The verdict: the baby was Marvin’s.

Armed with such incontrovertible evidence, the family pressurised Marvin into accepting paternity.

In the end, he did. But he would not see the child until three months after her birth. The child was born in Jos and Marvin lived in Lagos. 

Oh, she was a cute she-Marvin. His spitting image. Same ears, same face, same complexion. An angel. We’ll call her Munchkin. 

Munchkin lived with Marvin and his mother at their face-me-I-face-you apartment in Lagos. All the fellas hung out in that house. So we contributed to raising Munchkin. The money we should have used to buy second-hand Timbolo (Timberland boots) and fake Ralph Lauren shirts. But she was our child. Marvin took on odd jobs to raise extra cash. 

And Munchkin was coming along mighty fine. She was precocious. She called the boys by our nicknames. I was Jydo Weere(Jide The Mad One). Another friend was Junkie. Marvin was Elemu (Drunkard). 

In the year 2000, when Munchkin was 7 years old, Two-Time came to pick her for the holidays. Nothing unusual about that. She did that often during the holidays. Only on this occasion, she did not return Munchkin even when the school had resumed. There was no GSM in those days so Two-Time could not be reached by phone. 

Marvin stomped to her house. 

She had moved.

Along with her mother with whom she lived.  

The neighbours didn’t know where they’d moved to. 

Houston, we have a problem.

Most of the boys had started working by now. Marvin worked in a bank. So Saturdays and Sundays were the only days available to search for Two-Time.

After a few weeks, Marvin got hold of the address of a Two-Time aunt. He constituted himself into a proper irritation to this woman. He’d show up at her house every Saturday morning at 6 am. He claims he only went there to ask the whereabouts of Two Time but I suspect he crouched beneath the woman’s window and sang Saheed Osupa and Dauda Epo Kinkin. Drove the woman mad. The aunt eventually spilled the beans and told Marvin where Two-Time was. 

Marvin stormed the address and found Two-Time. But Munchkin was not with her. 

She was with her real father. 

Say what now? 

Two-Time told Marvin Munchkin was not his child. 

You two-timing, lecherous and treacherous wench! 

And she wasn’t going to tell Marvin where Munchkin was. 

Over the course of several days, Marvin became suppliant. He apologised for his sins and the sins of his ancestors. He promised to marry her and be the love of her life. He’ll change. They even shagged. 

So, Two-Time fessed up. She told him Munchkin was with her real father in Jos. She had got pregnant for the bloke but he’d rejected paternity. She told her mother who then asked her to explore the possibility of foisting the paternity on Marvin. So, she’d turned to Marvin.

We had all been suckers.

All you lot whose mothers go to enquire of some prophet which of your suitors to marry, best tell them to stop. Those prophets don’t see squat!

It all felt like some B-rate Nollywood movie.

Only it wasn’t.

This drama was playing out before our eyes and we were part of the cast.

Now, at the same time Marvin was schmoozing Two-Time to know Munchkin’s exact location, Marvin’s mother had swung into action. 

You see, Marvin’s mother, whom we shall call G-Mama, was gangsta. On her own, she had tracked down where Munchkin was. How she did that is still a mystery. She discovered that Munchkin was not in Jos but was in fact in Lagos with an aunt of Two-Time. 

Hell hath no fury like a grandma pissed. She barrelled to that address. 

She saw Munchkin. 

She.Gave.Them.Hell. 

She invoked Sango, Ogun, federal law, state law, Thor, Fadeyi Oloro, MC Oluomo, Voldemort, Osama Bin Laden, the Host of Heaven, Roy Keane, and just about any other peril that came to her mind.

The aunt simply handed Munchkin over without an argument.

There. We have our Munchkin back.

Marvin took Munchkin for a DNA test. The test confirmed what we’d all feared. Munchkin was not Marvin’s child. 

G-Mama didn’t want to give her up though. “How could she not be ours? She looks like Marvin! The test must be wrong. Something must be wrong. We’ll fight for her! Lai-lai, I no gree!”

But the emotional toll on Marvin was too great. His life was spiraling out of control. He wanted the drama over with. After a few weeks of struggle, he drove Munchkin to Two-Time and handed her over.

This is the part where you cry.

Then Munchkin’s real father showed up. 

Same ear, same nose, same forehead, same complexion. 

Munchkin looked more like him than she looked like Marvin!

What witchery is this!

Folks, don’t ever believe that because a child looks like you, s/he is your child! Biology can be cruel!

Munchkin’s father came with his family to apologise to Marvin and to offer compensation. The guy was a good dude, only caught in the web of some jiggery-pokery. Marvin turned down the offer of compensation and told them he was OK releasing Munchkin to them. Only they’d better come good in her life.

Man, I’d have loved to be a fly on the wall when Two-Time went back to charm Munchkin’s father. 

“Hey darling, guess what? Remember that your spermatozoa that hit home run? It is now a beautiful 7-year-old daughter in Lagos. I was going to tell you but on my way a meteor hit me and I lost my memory. We are dying to come to you and be one happy family.”

Oh, I forgot. Flies don’t have ears. And even if they do and I heard everything she said, nobody will listen to me. Nobody listens to a fly.

Bugger.

But one thing is for certain; she must have spun a good yarn. I mean, it’s not every day you wake up and realise you have a 7-year-old kid in Kathmandu. 

Anyway, the bloke didn’t marry Two-Time. Bummer. He accepted Munchkin but married someone else. Munchkin lived with the bloke’s aunt and grandma. On Munchkin’s account, her stepmom didn’t take to her. She had a torrid time living with family.

Marvin also didn’t marry Two Time. Double bummer. He married someone else and has his own kid now. ‘Own’ kid because he did a DNA test. He passed.

Munchkin is now in her mid-twenties and in Canada. She relocated with her father over a decade ago. Marvin had also moved to the US in the early 2000s. She and Marvin keep in touch.

But she’s pretty messed up. She has a host of psychological problems and is on some serious medication. She’s dropped out of four colleges and amassed huge debt. She now lives in a shelter. 

Our Munchkin.

I was with Marvin at his home in the US recently. He showed me a recent convo between himself and Munchkin. A line brought tears to my eyes. She told him: “you’re also still my dad….” 

Which answers the question I posed earlier: what makes a child yours?

It is not your blood coursing through the child’s vein or you share DNA. Neither is it likeness in looks or mannerism.

It is belief. 

The belief that the child is from your loins. For s/he may well not be. After all, you didn’t do any paternity test, did you? 

It is all mind over matter. Your child is your child only because you believe s/he is your child. Blood and DNA are secondary. 

So, should you do a DNA test? Only if you don’t trust your wife or you’ve been sowing your wild oats in dubious farmlands.

But what if you do the test and it confirms the child(ren) to be yours? How will your wife feel? Trust is shattered. And when trust is gone in a marriage, everything else is gone. 

I guess the question then is: what is trust worth to you? 

“For in much wisdom is much grief, And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.” – Ecclesiastes 1:18

 

7 Comments

  1. Fash

    Well, women dont have to second guess maternity do they? I ask, why cant paternity DNA test be standardized and required at birth before a man signs the birth certificate? It’s justice for men, prudence and certitude for women in case of doubt, and certainly justice and certitude for child. Beyond this there are health implications for the child. Adoptive parenthood is another question entirely which is moral and just but should never be done ignorantly. These are my views on this subject and I am open contrary arguments and to be otherwise educated.

  2. Anonymous

    I absolutely loved this! What is trust worth?! Hmmmm… food for thought!

    And the Bible verse- increased knowledge is increased sorrow. Like the popular saying goes- what you don’t know won’t kill you.

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