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Atoke’s Monday Morning Banter: The Legitimacy of Illegitimacy

Atoke

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My cousin, Bayo started his career as a robber by nicking jewellery from my Aunty’s house. Bayo was a loose cannon – every time he came to the house, there was an unspoken red alert: hide all your valuable possessions.

Every time my aunties and parents tried to understand why Bayo turned out to be such a ‘bad’ child, they narrowed it down to the fact that nobody actually confirmed his paternity. His mother got pregnant for my uncle in the late 60s, and the family just did ‘the right thing’. As he got worse – growing more wayward, more reckless – the whispers increased about how his mother was known for having children for different ‘big men’. Iya Bayo was reportedly a professional ‘Baby Mama’. She apparently had a litany of illegitimate children around South West Nigeria – a fact she boasted about. For the Mama Ke!

My Aunties seemed to believe that Bayo turned out the way he did because he was the product of an unverified gene pool. You’d hear them snigger “O tie ti pupa ju” {He’s even too light skinned} As if there was no way there’d be a recessive light skinned gene somewhere.

They refused to believe that a child who was truly theirs would be such a notorious thief, thug and tout! But my cousin had been accepted by my uncle, before he died, so they had no choice but to accept him as one of theirs.

The concept of a ‘Baby Mama’ is a culturally accepted phenomenon; and so, there’s a very high chance that every Nigerian family has one half brother/sister somewhere – outside of the marriage band. We may kid ourselves from now till kingdom come; thump the foreign Holy Books about what’s right and what is wrong from here to the other side of the Atlantic, but illegitimate children have been here from time immemorial – and they’re not going anywhere.

Atoke CheeriosSo, how does the concept of illegitimacy affect the society? Well, other than the fact that the incumbent wife goes through 5 stages of grief, sorrow, betrayal and heart break, there’s the not-so-little issue of inheritance.

There’s also the psychological impact of being an ‘outsider’, which the child might grow up to be. Of course different families have different ways of assimilating the children, thus legitimizing the illegitimate ones; however, ever so often, there’s that thing that pops ups which makes them want to seek validation – to be recognized as more than just “Daddy’s child from his girlfriend in Kano.”

My friend was telling me about his siblings, and mentioned that he had 4 half brothers. I said “Oh, your Dad had more than one wife?”

He laughed and said, “No, Papa was just a rolling stone.”

“Ahn, ahn, and he rolled 4 times in the same direction?”

Although there was no social media in the 60s, 70s & 80s to amplify the concept of having children outside of wedlock, Baby Mamas were a thing! Whether a person then chose to stay and accept the situation, was now a factor for consideration.

In some cases, you’re aware of the presence of the child, and you have to make a choice whether you want to throw yourself into the mix. {Remember I wrote about it here… the choice to date/marry someone who had a child}

At the point of accepting an illegitimate child, it is presumed that that automatically legitimizes the child. But who ensures that the child is well subsumed and allowed to grow up in a ‘normal’ family environment. It will be very difficult to ask that the incumbent partner to willingly stare at the living and breathing evidence of their partner’s betrayal.

Either way, the person who draws the shortest end of the straw in all of this is the person who had no choice in the circumstance of his/her birth.

Do I believe that my cousin was a rascal because he was illegitimate? No! Do I believe that he had a lot of integration issues having to live with people who constantly saw him as an outsider? Yes!

People can choose the direction of their lives – free will, maturity and general common sense, helps with that. What becomes unfair is the idea of selfish decisions negatively impacting the lives of others. Shaming illegitimate people and calling them names isn’t the way to go. How does your being born into the confines of a marriage – good or bad – make you a better person than a person who had no choice as to the circumstance of his/her birth?

It all comes down to doing what is right, just and equitable – always!

Have a great week ahead. Live. Laugh & Be healthy.

Don’t forget to share your thoughts on illegitimacy and the existing social construct.

Peace, love & cucumbers!

Toodles!

Photo Credit: Dreamstime |  Flashon Studio

 

You probably wanna read a fancy bio? But first things first! Atoke published a book titled, +234 - An Awkward Guide to Being Nigerian. It's available on Amazon. ;)  Also available at Roving Heights bookstore.Okay, let's go on to the bio: With a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Swansea University, Atoke hopes to be known as more than just a retired foodie and a FitFam adherent. She can be reached for speechwriting, copywriting, letter writing, script writing, ghost writing  and book reviews by email – [email protected]. She tweets with the handle @atoke_ | Check out her Instagram page @atoke_ and visit her website atoke.com for more information.

43 Comments

  1. Tosin

    June 22, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    what is all this?
    at least you tried, you didn’t whip out the b-word 🙂

    let us l-o-v-e love one another

    • Anon

      June 22, 2015 at 4:40 pm

      Hmmm Tosin, did you actually read the post?

  2. Chinma Eke

    June 22, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    I see a lot of struggling single mothers by circumstances, and I wonder why would anyone willfully do that to themselves?

    Unless its deliberate, like planned conception, I just think its irresponsible. And the parents don’t stop to think of the societal stigma the child will face. As much as we like to think we have evolved, deep down, we still carry our traditional views about this things.

  3. that girl

    June 22, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    I think it’s just an issue of ignorance that’s common in Nigeria

  4. mama ovie

    June 22, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    Am not trying to justify baby mama thingy oh but most men that stray at times are only trying to teach their wife’s lesson an most women or men stop trying be sexy and hot for their partners after marriage, some become very rude and arrogant, some become overbearing and irrational some folks cant even have a mature discussion without turning it into a fighting match lol .
    I know of a guy friend who got married in December 2014,hes wife is currently pregnant and he constantly begging his side chick to get pregger and they are not planning on having one oh but two, when i ask him he say from the way his current wife is turning into she will make his life miserable at old age . how do you quantify a woman’s anger to a point where she smashes the husband phone after argument, lock them inside house because and stay outside till 1 am they had to use saw to cut the door in this modern times lol , if she is angry the man will go and hide all the knives or else na him body , my friend kukuma na soft person lol he says when she will realize that he has two family then her body will come down or she will go
    some men see having a child outside as some sense of security, I know of a family that has just one Male child and 6 female children this only son would have been better washed up via monthly cycle the guy goes around town saying he can wait for his father to die so he can inherit the house in owerri lol (FRED) but the twist there is he his unaware that the father knocked up a woman and has two sons who is doing well in their various field (POOR FRED)
    every time if the father is discussing with my mom he says he thanks his stars for the two sons he has outside of wedlock.
    LIFE is not all black and white but there are some grey areas
    sorry for the epistle and typos lol

    • LotusFlower

      June 22, 2015 at 3:47 pm

      Your friend sounds foolish.

    • NaijaPikin

      June 22, 2015 at 7:44 pm

      As in extremely foolish. Or he is a horrible liar trying to validate his stupidity.

    • D

      June 22, 2015 at 5:40 pm

      @mama Ovie, I think you are missing the point of this article. It is not about the selfish adults involved who are the parties you have focused on but on the kids born out of wedlock who had nothing to do with the situation through which they are born but end up stigmatized by society. Both examples you have given unfortunately not good examples because both men sound like weak and selfish men. For the first man why can’t he just leave the wife that is making his life so miserable? Why does she have to be the one to leave? Why not make an honest woman out of his side chick so are children don’t have to face the stigma society is bound to place on them, since said side chick is so perfect? The answer is because your said friend does not care about anyone but himself. He is only thinking about his own comfort and good. Not that of his wife, side chick or the kids both born and unborn. Which brings me to the conclusion that he is just selfish and weak.
      For the second example, how did said kid become a nuisance? Was the man sleeping while this boy was being raised? So he refused to do his due diligence has a father and somehow, having a side chick, who most likely raised her boys by herself for the most part is now the man to be praised? So who exactly needs to be taught lessons? The selfish men or the kids who majority in our society are bound to place a stigma on for a lifetime? Because like Atoke said the kids,(not the man or his “winch” of a wife are the ones who suffer). I don’t get this legitimate or illegitimate issue but I guess it is in the English dictionary so it is not only Nigerian issue but a worldwide phenomenon. I mean we hear of baby mama drama all over the world.

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      June 23, 2015 at 10:28 am

      Well said, luv. The adult males in both examples sound incredibly irresponsible and, clearly, dear Fred’s on his way down the same path…

      As an aside, I sent you an email about a month ago, in response to your post where you dropped an contact address for Bleedblue and I. “Perraps” it got automatically relegated to your junk mail folder as the address would’ve been unrecognized. If you decide to do a search, its title was “Re: BN Comment”. 🙂

    • Doxa

      June 22, 2015 at 5:55 pm

      Can you see how stupid your friend’s decision is? Is it not better for him to divorce his wife since he is scared for his life? This is how people compound their problems. Mstchwwwwww.

    • D

      June 22, 2015 at 6:42 pm

      Your friends wife need to meet my mum she knows how to handle straying men.popsy tried it years back strolled out to get 1 but met a promo buy 1 get 1 free(twins) . today he can’t even mention it to us his kids even though momsy use to threatened us then with stories of how we not the only one in popsy’s life and we should work hard and be independent today am grateful to her cause we all have a career and we doing great and she made sure he sent us to good schools both home and abroad, She encouraged him to go for respected position in church today he is a role model to young couples but can’t open his mouth to talk about what he did.she told him not to bring them home and pointed out the fact they don’t look like him.. She is not everywhere fighting him but made sure his conscience was dealing with him on her behalf.
      popsy gives good advice and all but still have no clue on how to tell us and she won’t tell him she did already.hell has no fury like a woman scorned though.

    • Renix

      June 22, 2015 at 10:09 pm

      I fear your mummy o. See strategy….Make him go for higher positions in church. Lol at BOGOF.

    • S!

      June 22, 2015 at 9:57 pm

      So because his wife becomes irrational you go cheat, not only cheat, you want to conceive? Who is being more irrational? Has he ever considered her irrationality to be hormones? Some people are sha being followed from the village!

    • chydee

      June 23, 2015 at 12:05 pm

      Hmmm… you really have “some” friends

  5. Eni

    June 22, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    I guess it’s more of Nigerian thing. Where I come from, no one really cares

    • jayluda

      June 22, 2015 at 3:27 pm

      …And where do you come from?

    • le coco

      June 22, 2015 at 5:06 pm

      what is more of a nigerian thing? nd where do you come from?

    • Eni

      June 23, 2015 at 8:47 am

      I am not Nigerian but I am African. And what I mean is where I come from, no one cares if someone was born out of wedlock or not. No distinction is made in the family, no one mentions it. From time immemorial, women have been the breadwinners – practising small scale agriculture and having small businesses to take care of the children. Most of the men don’t even care. Generally, if a woman can take care of her kids, she might well be a single mum.
      There are a lot of single mothers and no one really cares. No differentiation is ever made between kids anywhere anytime. And families are committed to taking care of the kids. The extended family is considered to be more important. Women are advised to have kids by a certain age if they are financially capable even if they are not married. And because that is the way things are seen/done, children grow up without this so called ‘trauma’ you guys are bent on insisting exists. Abortion is frowned upon. Some families are ready to even place curses that whoever aborts should die. Any girl who becomes pregnant gives birth. I’ve never witnessed any stigma towards unmarried single girls close to 0.001% of what I see on Nigerian blogs
      There are others still, who have decided to do the right thing and have kids only within marriage.
      What I’m I am trying to say is that, we have a different culture. That’s all. And yes, we are African too. Reason why I say this entire ‘mountain out of an anthill’ issue should be a Nigerian thing.

    • curious

      June 24, 2015 at 9:03 pm

      what country is this please….

  6. le coco

    June 22, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    the baby mama issue wont go away anytym soon.. nd yes atoke is right.. there hv been baby mama’s since bible times.. but i do appreciate tht nigerians recognise tht it is a problem.. nd tht we rnt celebrating it.. as much as the child doesnt ask to be born, nd no1 should ostracize any child simply because he/ she wasnt born within wedlock . that being said, naija is just getting started, unfortunately baby mama syndrome is nothing new over here( SA) nd other parts of southern Africa.. nd no baby mama is hiding her face( not tht think they should). Baby mama’s in nigeria seem to be almost exclusively young ladies, maybe thirsty, irresponsible or even gullible.. but meeehn in this country im living in.. you will meet a baby mama who is in her 30’s or even 40’s, dragging her big belle to her well paying job.. yet no signs of a father. i wonder whether men can succesfully deceive such succesful women..

    one thing i hv to give naija women. is tht they r forever clever. These girls r having baby’s for rich men, celebrities, politicians etc. which most times means they r taken care of. over hear, no such thing. i know a number of women who have babies for jobless(literally) men. a friend of mine who works for a big company was dating a guy, nd when i asked what he does for a living she said, ” he is a hustler. ” these women are educated o, or in school, but you will jst c one guy tht cldnt even get it together to get an education deceiving them.
    my former roomate in uni was an accounting student, nd her boyfriend ddnt even finish highschool. simply cus he ddnt wnt to. nd she wants to have his child, nd she literally said ” i want to have a child but i dnt wnt marriage”.. asiiiin i was shocked.
    unfortunately i am immune to feeling sympahetic. because it seems like majority of ppl over here have one daddy issue or the other. so me, i jst dont ask family questions, cus i want to avoid hearing the usual, ” my dad doesn’t want me” or ” my parents had broken up before i was born”..

    • D

      June 22, 2015 at 6:22 pm

      @le coco It is more common among Blacks that were highly under the white master for a long time and have lost all sense of what is right or wrong be it Yankee or Caribbeans. naija girls tear eyes o na business 101 for them.

    • le coco

      June 22, 2015 at 9:07 pm

      @D you r so right… lol.. you knw i think as much as baby mama no good… atleast benefit small from it. if you MUST open your leg.. hehe God forgive me sha.. i jst see this baby mama thing as normal.. since a large number of my friends are baby mama’s

  7. Olayemi

    June 22, 2015 at 4:02 pm

    You want to impregnate someone outside to teach your wife a lesson. When it’s time to pay double school fees, who will eventually be taught a lesson. Mumu contributor.

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      June 23, 2015 at 10:39 am

      Hahahahaha! And you know for damn sure that these are “educated” men we’re talking about here, who still haven’t figured out the simple mathematics of intentionally fertilizing their mistresses. Complete jokers…

    • The real D

      June 24, 2015 at 8:07 am

      @ Mz. S.A, just realized you had left a message on here for me. I did go back (after reading your message) to my Email and searched through both my Spam and inbox but was unable to locate any message with that subject line. I guess I don’t know how long ago you’d sent it, I guess “the master of the worldwide web” has it now and I unfortunately can’t access it anymore. If it is not too much trouble can you please send me another mail to the same Email address. I will try to look out for it this time around.

    • The real D

      June 24, 2015 at 8:14 am

      If only I could confirm you have the right Email address.

  8. Noms

    June 22, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    This article here is one of the problems of children from “illegitimate parents”.
    My parents were never married, I grew to find out that my I had just my sister and I.
    I was told about my father who came visiting ones in a while.
    My mum footed all our bills.
    I met my other siblings at a point in life and our relationships is great not to say I don’t have those moments when I have to explain to a family relative whose daughter I was in respect of my mum.
    Do I think I am Illegitimate? No.Rather I have illegitimate parents who for whatever reasons chose to do the do without legitimizing their union.
    Will I want same for my children? NO,that’s part of the reasons my legs are closed like a mermaid.
    There is the general notion that children from broken homes/raised by single mums normally are a nuisances to the society but I tell you that any sensible person from such homes try as much as they can to avoid such circumstances.
    So, while your cousin’s behavior might be as a result of him been born out of wedlock it also has to do with his choices and values.
    Someone mentioned that you Atoke didn’t use the “B” word, well, the meaning of Bastard has to be reviewed. I have never seen myself as one though because I was never told my father denied me.
    Wa doooooohhh

    • le coco

      June 22, 2015 at 7:11 pm

      @noms, your mother is the definition of a strong woman.. kudos

    • Lisa

      June 24, 2015 at 1:04 am

      I agree with you oh… Reasons why my legs are closed until marriage. your case is even better sef. When I was 8 years old my biological father took my mother to court to get custody. But he did not take me to leave with him. He left me with his sister who did not want me there. The emotional pain I endured in my lifetime because of this mess I will not wish on my worst enemy. reason why I don’t even one a mistake child. Legs closed till marriage don’t want any body to go through what I went through. But despite all this woes God was faithful so there is hope for all

  9. NaijaPikin

    June 22, 2015 at 4:15 pm

    It’s just so sad and irresponsible. 2 people i went to school with found out their father’s had a seperate family when a new student landed with the same last name and described the same man as their father. that’s just shameful

  10. mama ovie

    June 22, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    @olayemi what make you think only legitimate children are well catered for? if only you go into your so called legimate families. then you will keep quite.

  11. Mrs_ID

    June 22, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    This reminds me of a naija designer that gave a father’s day shout out to Bishop TD Jakes and that HOTR pastor, must be very sad not knowing who your father is.

    • mimi

      June 23, 2015 at 8:55 am

      chai! but did she tell you she doesnt know her father? Aunty Amebo!

  12. FasholasLover

    June 22, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    Wash it, dust it, powder it which ever way you like. I strongly believe that if a woman is good enough for you to sleep with, without protection, they should be good enough for you to make it legal. The trauma children from such careless union go through is just so unfair to the children.

    • TA

      June 23, 2015 at 4:29 pm

      My view too. If a woman is good enough to sleep with, then she is good enough to be your wife. If you don’t think so, then zip up,consensual sex comes with consequences that both partners should be always ready to handle and live with.

  13. Lois

    June 22, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    Apparently he didn’t

  14. mo

    June 22, 2015 at 8:36 pm

    My mummy raised me all by herself. The man responsible for me don’t want to have anything to do with me. I graduated and got married. He was absent. Some of his family came some did not. I traveled out joined my husband abroad, have kids. Doing good for myself Now he won’t let me rest. Always calling and praying for me and asking for forgiveness. Do I feel bad abt my birth? Yes in the past. But not anymore bcos I discovered God’s plan for my life. i know my mummy made a mistake simply bcos she wanted a child and she went a wrong way. Did I hate her? Hell no. She had suffered for her mistake and now enjoying the fruit of her labor. I have taken her to place she can’t ever think of being too. I am a bastard? May be yes. But I prayed to God that I don’t want to have a repeat of my mummy’s life. And he blessed and compensated me not only with a man of my dream but also with a brain. I am what I am today only by Gods grace not by the circumstances of my birth.

  15. oklid

    June 23, 2015 at 1:03 am

    “wow you are just like your dad”.i had resented this statement growing up.my dad was “legendary” ,i saw him once in a while but heard so many stories growing up.i am the only son of my parents and the only child of my mum.from playing recklessly as a kid destroying stuff and people forgiving me because i was “ol” son to to evoking respect from from street boys/miscreants once they know my father.he now lived abroad,took care of me but..he finally filled my papers to leave with him when i started becoming quite “legendary” in uniben too.how many children my dad has?? ,i know of three other girls.do i think there are more?? yes, do i know them? no .does he know them ?? hell no.he never got married to any of the women and i met some of my sisters when i will be in in a random city and he will be like ohh call this number and meet your sister lol,he takes care of all his children and tries to be present as much as possible . Presently my no 1 weakness is WOMEN, and i resent this fact especially after every casual conversation he says “i am so proud of you you are just like me”.

  16. lacey

    June 23, 2015 at 2:54 am

    Atoke I do not understand how you evaluated your cousin and linked it to his being illegitimate! Sometimes the way you writers on Bella Naija reason is very archaic and illogical! I guess it’s even your family’s attitude towards the Bayo that even turned him wayward! When your family members made it clear that he was not wanted! I do not see any child as illegitimate, so far they survive d and c and made it into the world and God allowed it,it is overly legitimate! And to all those silly women out there who believe they have the ring and can now treat their men anyhow,get ready for him to bring in an intruder to battle you! All I need is to love my man and let him be and pray to God who gives good gifts to continue to be my help! Women submit to your husbands and marry a man you can submit to and do not ever give up!

    • Mnena

      June 27, 2015 at 12:21 pm

      I’m not sure you read the article to the end. Let me help you with an excerpt.
      “Do I believe that my cousin was a rascal because he was illegitimate? No! Do I believe that he had a lot of integration issues having to live with people who constantly saw him as an outsider? Yes!”

  17. Tosin

    June 23, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    esp for the only son Fred story, GOD BLESS YOU.

  18. TA

    June 23, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    My view too. If a woman is good enough to sleep with, then she is good enough to be your wife. If you don’t think so, then zip up,consensual sex comes with consequences that both partners should be always ready to handle and live with.

  19. the hot one

    July 3, 2015 at 8:43 am

    Like I have read here on BN, actions come with consequences. If you are sane enough to have sex without protection, be sane enough to accept the pregnancy. I have 2 close friends with the ‘illegitimate’ tag on them – friend 1 whose mum didn’t want to marry the man for reasons best known to her sent him to be with his dad who is overly capable to take care of his son. Today this my friend is doing well for himself and taking care of his mother. Friend 2, ended up with her mother because her dad for some reasons didn’t want her and her step father doesn’t fail to remind her that he’s not her father . Please men ooo claim your pregnancy! This world is already a bitter place biko.

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