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Whose Child is it in an Inter-Tribal Union? Blogger Verastic Raises this Interesting Topic About Nigerian Patriarchy

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dreamstime_m_11943107A BN Contributor sent this story to BellaNaija and I was quite anxious to get the discussion up and running as soon as possible. It is undeniable that the news of the results of the US Presidential elections has rocked the world, but we have to keep moving.

Yes? Yes!

Nigerian Blogger, Vera Ezimora ( Verastic), shared this post on her blog. She talked about how she is Igbo and married to a Yoruba man. She noticed that people felt the need to tell her that her child is Yoruba.

Yes, I’m Igbo. Yes, my husband is Yoruba. But now that we have a child together, Nigerians are telling me that my daughter is Yoruba. No, sir. No, ma. My child isn’t Yoruba. She is an Igbo-Yoruba girl.

Essentially, she raised a very important issue that stems from raising a child when you’re in an inter-tribal relationship.

Nigeria is a patriarchal country, and children take their roots from their paternal line. So, if your father and mother are from Ondo and Oyo – respectively, you’re essentially an Ondo person. It’s the way things have been and nobody has sought to question it. Although there are a few exceptions in some parts of Nigeria where women ‘take ownership’ of their offspring.

In cases where both parents are from the same part of Nigeria, the issues of what to name your child, and other slight cultural nuances, may not really reveal the difference in parental origins. It won’t really be an issue if you’re someone like me whose parents are both from the same town, we can’t claim mixed-race. Same culture, same greeting, same food! Ahn ahn…Such a bummer! Imagine the world of variety you’re exposed to when you have cousins from different parts of Nigeria.  Parents from the same tribe in Nigeria don’t really have issues of whose culture should the child’s first name represent. Olajumoke Olatudun Onasanya.

Easy peasy!

However, where there’s a marked cultural difference like a union between an Efik man and a Tiv woman, then you start hearing stories like the one Verastic shared. To compromise, people start with things like the name of their child. Uduak Terungwa Iniobong. First name, father’s, middle name, mother’s and last name father’s lineage.

Verastic raised a point which my friend, Amina has always talked to me about with regards her children. My friend is Edo, married to a Yoruba man. Every time I ask about my Ibadan princesses (her daughters) she replies that her children are Wareke! It’s a running joke between us, where she asks me if I’ve ever seen Ibadan children as light skinned as my princesses.  We conclude that all of us are Nigerian and laugh it off – the only complexion that matters is the colour of our passport.

But Verastic’s post really gave me reason to think deep about preserving a woman’s lineage or cultural ways. If everything your child is instilled with should come from the father’s people, then how much of the mother is the child going to have? It may be said that the points raised in the post is presumptive and only gives cause for an unnecessary discourse – especially since with or without a child being given a name from his/her mother’s people, women usually (more naturally) pass on what they know to their child. So, for instance, my nieces are half Yoruba, half Tiv. Consciously or unconsciously, my sister-in-law is going to teach them the Tiv way of life, and general socio-cultural practices. It is immaterial that their first names are Yoruba. They will always be half Tiv, half Yoruba. I do not believe that it in any way reduces their Yorubaness, that their mother passes on what she knows and beliefs.

So, where is the problem in all of this? I believe that the problem stems from the people who feel the need to opine and question a parent’s decision on how they want to raise their child.

Here’s an excerpt from Verastic’s post:

If I had a dollar for every time that people have said or implied that my child is Yoruba and that the Igbo in her is insignificant, I could buy myself that new gadget I’ve been eyeing. “Ah. No oh! This one is Omo Yoruba!” they laugh. Who is laughing with them? And when I introduce my daughter, Ada Verastic by her Igbo name, people are confused. “But I thought her father is Yoruba?”

Yes, he is. But her mother is Igbo.

Hmm! Ah. Okay oh.  Na wa o.   

People carry on as if I’m just her surrogate mother, as if my child does not have my blood, and as if I simply did Igwe a favor by helping him to carry his child (and now I’m here to also simply take care of the child for him). Long before I ever knew of the word feminism, I was already unconsciously uncomfortable with the [Nigerian] female narrative. I was – and still am – uncomfortable with being relegated to the back, simply for being female.  

If I ever were to find myself with a group of astronauts discussing life as astronauts, I wouldn’t have anything meaningful to contribute to their conversation because I am no astronaut, but for the issues that concern me and/or my daughter, yes, I have a lot to say. I’m not raising a Yoruba girl.

Maybe it is because, as Nigerians we really don’t understand or believe in the concept of boundaries and personal space (real and virtual); or maybe it is because we strongly believe it takes a village to raise a child – and so we take this mantra literally and decide that it is imperative to scold erring young mothers who don’t know ‘our ways’. I do not know.

My Ugandan roommate has assured me that this is not a strictly Nigerian ‘problem’, although in Uganda, their style of naming children isn’t exactly following the paternal line – stricto sensu. They find an important person in the father’s lineage and BOOM… name problem solved!

In any case, let me open the discussion to the house, while I go find me some nice Canadian man to give me some nice half Rosedale- half Ogbomosho babies.

Peace, love & Celery sticks.

Photo Credit: Wavebreakmedia Ltd | Dreamstime.com

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.

33 Comments

  1. B

    November 10, 2016 at 2:04 am

    Well, you raised good points. If we are to preserve the woman/mother’s lineage, are we not still indirectly preserving that of our father’s?.

  2. EE

    November 10, 2016 at 2:09 am

    They are Nigerian.

    Children of such marriages (like my cousins) are personally my hope for national unity. They rarely speak the local dialect, their knowledge of local culture is minimal and they will be outsiders to their maternal group, hence, hopefully they will cling all the more to their Nigerian identity.

    “Igbo-Yoruba girl.”??????? Do Igbos see it that way, people often forget, claiming an identity only works if you are accepted by the group. Let’s be honest here, which is more confers the more healthy long-time benefit for a child? A unitary identity accepted by our culture, or an imported binary one.

    You talk about preserving the Mother’s culture, except when it doesn’t mesh with your views, that is the anti-thesis of cultural preservation. Igbo culture has sent her to her Husband’s house, to bear “his” children, what exactly is being preserved by doing otherwise??? Culture isn’t playing dress-up.

  3. You can only wish

    November 10, 2016 at 2:59 am

    When she is filling forms, tell her to fill Igbo Yoruba you hear? So your rant is supposed to change the fact that Nigeria is patrilineal? If you wanted Igbo identity for your kids so bad, you should have married an Igbo man. I hope with this your rant here you child is bearing your father’s name and your inlaws understand a tribe called Igbo- Yoruba in Nigeria. Lmao. Wait, it doesn’t exist

    • le coco

      November 10, 2016 at 9:21 am

      you really are a mumu…. legal documents aside.. why cant her daughter identify as both.. she is not hiding any part of her and that is a good thing.. stop being bitter

    • Corolla

      November 10, 2016 at 12:38 pm

      @You can only wish, so the best you can do is tell she should have married an igbo man? Lol! Your simplemindness is appalling and your lack of verbal reasoning skills is quite worrisome!

  4. Netizen

    November 10, 2016 at 3:07 am

    This topic is not even restricted to feminism only. I just wonder why Nigerians think it’s their place to tell you about your heritage. I mean, it is MY heritage not YOURS. What happened to minding your business. I would be a millionaire if I had to save one naira for every time someone tells me I’m Yoruba because I have a Yoruba surname. It doesn’t matter that my parents are from the same place in the north or that my culture, language, etc is far from the Yoruba culture. it doesn’t matter even when I try to break it down to them. It is very offensive to try to take someone’s heritage away from them or to demean it just to suit your own ego. Is it just about culture? You wouldn’t believe the number of people that tell me that my name is not a name but just a title. This menace is common with Yoruba people, always claiming what is not their as if it’ll increase their bank account balance. It is not by force to be Yoruba. Please leave me alone!

    • Author Unknown

      November 10, 2016 at 7:11 am

      You admittedly have a Yoruba surname, even though you’re not one, but you’re upset that people constantly think that you’re Yoruba. You must be upset at something else.

    • Netizen

      November 10, 2016 at 7:53 am

      Oh please don’t patronize me! Imt upset because even when I tell people I’m not Yoruba they still impose it okay? I’m upset when they start being offensive about it. Not every thing in the world is black and white okay? Intelligent people sounding silly?

    • Voltron

      November 10, 2016 at 7:55 am

      No she is not upset that people think that she is she is upset that after she clarifies they disrespectfully insist that she is

    • Author Unknown

      November 10, 2016 at 3:32 pm

      @ Netizen. If what you’re doing, as you’ve done here, is telling inquisitive people that “my parents are from the same place in the north and my culture, language, etc. is far from the Yoruba culture”, it is still no explanation as to why you ended up with a Yoruba surname, and I’m not surprised that they’re probing further. This is Africa, you just don’t end up with an ethnic surname from a group you have no historical connection with.

    • le coco

      November 10, 2016 at 9:32 am

      @netizen, i cxompletely agree with you… havin a yoruba name does not automatically make you yoruba.. and it is normal or people to assume.. but once you have corrected the,… they should comply… i know a lady with a yoruba name.. nd guess what, she is not even NIgerian, i know some igbo girls with ghanaian and south African names.. guess what.. both parents in these cases are Nigerian..
      i find that when it comes to this issue.. the people with the problem tend to be outsiders.. i dont know too many inter tribal couples who dont give their children names representing both cultures… but what i do find is that its randoms who have nothin to do with the relationship that complain.. which makes zero sense to me.

      i have particularly found this prevalent amongst the yorubas.. i appreciate their need to preserve their culture.. nd their love for culture is admirable.. but you can not shove it down my throat.. you cannot demand that i speak yoruba because i have a yoruba name.. even when i have indicated i am not actually yoruba.. you also cannot demand that my children only speak yoruba even though their parents arent even yoruba..

      the reason why i say this is because patriarchy aside.. i hv found that children who are born to inter-tribal couples where one partner is yoruba tend to gravitate towards the yoruba culture.. whether the said yoruba partner is male or emale.. a lot of the yoruba women i know who are married to edo, urhobo and even igbo men tend to push the yoruba thing… some of them even give their child yoruba name as the first even though the father is not yoruba.( its not wrong sha).. but i find that the people that surround these couples are often the ones that want to push this thing.. and frankly its none of their business… let parents teach their kids how they feel, and raise them in whatever culture they choose.. and if they choose to raise them to identify with both cultures.. that can only be a good thing..

  5. Ajala & Foodie

    November 10, 2016 at 3:36 am

    My heritage is not tied down to a specific geographic location, I find my heritage in the values both my parents raised me with and instilled in me. That is my heritage!!!!

    Sometimes I wonder if my parents are just plain aliens in Nigeria. My parents always called us indigents of Lagos, because we were all born and raised in Lagos. Neither of my parents were raised in Lagos. My mum was raised in Oyo although her mum was from lagos and her dad (not sure but he claimed Ogun), My dad was born and raised in Osun but i did not know the name of my paternal local government until i needed to face the american consulate for the very first time by myself. It was always Lagos, Ikorodu local government to be precise. Why do we have to complicate things in our country? What should it matter what people say or do not say, if we have a dime for every time someone tries to define us or our being we will be broke and rich at the same time. Why? because we have all done the same to others at some point and vice versa. As long as the child is confident in who she is, who cares??? Patriarch/Matriach society or not.

  6. Nunulicious

    November 10, 2016 at 5:02 am

    Hmmn. This is going to be an existential discussion…I guess folks who grow up in biracial/inter-tribal families have some things to contend with that doesn’t even occur to mono-heritage folks.

  7. Author Unknown

    November 10, 2016 at 6:23 am

    This is an issue of Self Identification vs How Society Views You. Quite frankly, if your parents are from are from different ethnic groups, from a heritage point of view, you’re mixed. Our surnames can often be misnomers, as it only identifies one side of us. Half of one side even, and so on. At the end of the day, you will most likely identify with that side that you’re most exposed to. Beyond that, what’s natural for humans is to identify with the culture of the society in which they were raised. If your parents are Tiv and Ibo, and you were born and raised in Lagos, mehn forget that Tiv and Ibo business. I think this is one thing that Yorubas have done quite well, which I attribute to their liberal social culture. Many Yorubas have family connections elsewhere, but you couldn’t tell in the way they interrelate. It’s normal for them. Once you can speak their language, they have no problem identifying you as Yoruba, even if your name is Ngozi. They really do get carried away. Lol.

  8. Disu

    November 10, 2016 at 7:29 am

    The problem with today’s marriages and cause for soooooo many divorces is people are tryng too hard and aggressively too to prove a point to their husbands, husbands family and the community.

    It’s a no brainer that her child will be more Igbo than Yoruba and will most likely only speak the Igbo language. You and your husbands child, your marriage, your rules. You don’t need to prove anything to anybody. Just face your children that you have control over now, and imbibe the kind of cultural and traditional values you and your husband agree on into them.

    Wisdom is profitable to direct. Arguing with people all the time, does no one any good because you can’t shape smoked fish. Ensure you train your children so well, even they begin to find these comments laughable..

    • Amara

      November 10, 2016 at 8:17 pm

      @Disu
      So true. Not trying to prove anything goes a long way, just living your life. I’m Igbo and husband is Yoruba. I will like to teach my children more of Igbo culture but I can’t speak the language. My in laws were around our children more growing up, and hubby also speaks Yoruba to them. So, they picked up a lot of Yoruba culture.
      My thing is, it’s better for them to pick up one than nothing. It also helps they are exposed to both cultures whether through songs that we listen to, and experiencing the different cultural events we attend. I think Yorubas preserve their culture more and have more materials out there to learn from.

      We were at a Nigerian party recently, someone made an interesting comment to our daughter, you are so pretty and fair, and asked her name. She said, Ayo. The lady was shocked and said, I thought you are Igbo because we are very fair people. Ayo answered, yes I am both. I was happy she acknowledged both sides. Funny enough, our first daughter resembles me, but Ayo took after my husband’s mother in everything who is naturally very light skin with similar mannerisms. Another explanation that I get tired of doing is, why is Ayo so fair, but the rest of us are dark. Is she adopted? She must have taken after my Igbo side. I’m like, Ayo is all daddy’s girl, and is even more Yoruba than the rest.

  9. hadiza

    November 10, 2016 at 8:18 am

    Why should society impose that the children belong to the man? what is the woman?? just a factory with no rights?? I hate this misogynistic society, all they do is suppress women. So the man is the one who get pregnant and pushes the children out abi?? I pity women who agree with this nonsense. Sick society

    • nunulicious

      November 10, 2016 at 9:14 am

      @Hadiza, which misogynist society precisely? Do you mean the 195 countries in the world (out of 195) where children adopt the paternal name by default? sounds like you need a rope or a knife. Pele, all that hate within must be so overwhelming. I have never read a positive comment from you and just so you know, it gets boring.

    • tunmi

      November 10, 2016 at 1:29 pm

      Rope or knife? Be careful when posting online, you don’t know what people are dealing with.

    • Ready

      November 10, 2016 at 6:54 pm

      Not all countries or cultures mandate children to adopt their parents’ names. Check out Latin America for examples, where kids take on their mothers’ last names…or new surnames are created altogether.
      Not necessarily disagreeing with your basic point, just wanted to point that out.

  10. Vanessa

    November 10, 2016 at 9:16 am

    My dad is Yoruba and my mum is Igbo. Both parents never fail to remind me I’m from two tribes. I also won’t consider myself to have any self identity issues. I have an igbo first name and and Yoruba surname.

  11. M&

    November 10, 2016 at 9:30 am

    I’m Igbo, my husband is Yoruba so same dilemma. But I always identify my children as Yoruba, though in ‘reality’ and ‘practicality’ I think they are more Igbo. They are still little but they understand more Igbo than Yoruba language, even though we live in Lagos. My Mum always complains that my husband does not speak the language to them so they can learn, but he’s not just interested. My husband does not go to his hometown any more, for him Lagos is the place forever. So going home to the ‘village’ for the children is my own village in the East, and they actually say ‘we are going to OUR village’, and I tried to correct them that it’s not their village but mine, but they just don’t get it. Recently I told my girls that they and their Dad are Yoruba, while me and Grandma are Igbo, and they opened their eyes in bewilderment and asked ‘WHY?!”…like why can’t we all be the same thing? No answers to that! But we have are trying to infuse the good aspects of both cultures in raising them. Their Dad likes Igbos, and some aspects of the personality of Igbos, so he doesn’t mind. He even calls the girls Igbo women, especially when they hold on to their little money and refuse to give it up!

    • nunulicious

      November 10, 2016 at 9:41 am

      Lool! I can picture their eyes opening and the “WHY” makes me smile. Children don’t often know classes or distinction till we adults educate them lol.

      More often than not, mothers raise the children and the kids would usually adopt whatever influence they are exposed to. I even envy folks who are exposed to both parts of their heritage and are able to embrace it. I count them fortunate.

  12. kilipot

    November 10, 2016 at 11:45 am

    Aha! ?. See setup for the lashing of Yoruba people today.

    I don’t have much to say cos I’m not in this kind of situation. But isn’t this the reason why people give their children for example Igbo first-name and the Father’s last name using Verastic as an example. Isnt that enough form of Identification.?

    It’s believed in the Yoruba culture that a man “owns” the children. For example, that is why it’s your mother-in-law that comes for Omugwo when u birth a child. It is believed that the child is “theirs”. But times have changed, nobody got time for that anymore lol.

    • Panda

      November 11, 2016 at 4:56 am

      imagine, how did this even start? a woman carries a child for 9 months and culture then says it’s the husbands family’s. why not put logic and common sense and say it belongs to both?

  13. le coco

    November 10, 2016 at 11:48 am

    M& i love that ur children consider themselves igbo.. there is nothing wrong with it… i think it would be awesome if your husband got on the bandwagon so ur kids will have a sense of belonging to both cultures.. bt whats most important is that they have some sort of cultural identity.. nd u should be more than proud when they say “our village” lool.. i cn imagine them saying it lool.. cute

  14. Interesting

    November 10, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    Hmmmm… very internesting

    I’m Yoruba and Itsekiri. Yoruba mum and Itsekiri dad… maybe its cause my mum is yoruba, but I’ve always identified with my Yoruba part. Like if you ask me, i’ll tell you I’m itsekiri, but really that only started when I grew up. I’ve always seen myself as a Yoruba girl. I think its because its the mothers culture that the kids really identify with.

    But here’s my dilemma, if we were to identify both the mother and the fathers tribe, as the OP suggested, don’t you think that it will get a bit complicated eventually? e.g. your daughter is yoruba and igbo (and not just yoruba) and she marries someone that is Itsekiri and Edo – thier children will now be yoruba, itekiri, igbo and edo. Then they marry someone that is hausa, and their kids will now be……etc. Do you get what I mean? Maybe it’s easier to stick with the fathers tribe in public but the mothers in the home – cause that’s what tends to happen anyways. I may identify more with my Yoruba side, but when I fill forms I put down itsekiri, and I know my wedding will be itsekiri… well to some extent. I know my mum will make sure I wear Iro and Buba for at least one of my outfits lol.

  15. tunmi

    November 10, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    Culture changes. Claiming one side and not the other is really harmful. The kids are both, period. And if someone says they are not Yoruba, kúkú leave them. But it really may be a Yoruba thing to want to share and promote that culture. It seems having the name alone, which is kinda the most important aspect of an identity (to Yorubas at least), is in invite to the culture. I realize that we do overdo it. It seems it would be a disservice for you to have the name and not the rest of the culture.

  16. ibimina

    November 10, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    It is not that complicated jare, my dad is isoko, mother ibani .I consider myself to be half and half. I can make a mean banga and starch, plus owoh soup and banga rice. I am also a mistress at opopo(pounded ripe plantain and yam with palmoil) and the accompanying spicy fish and tomato peppersoup. I greet my dad in isoko and say thank you to my mum in ibani .
    At the end of the day i am a Nigerian first, especially living outside the country,no one is really bothered about the nitty gritty of your nigerianess.
    P.S-for cultural day i always used to do a mash up, my mum’s george wrappers and intricate beaded blouses from my aunty in warri.

  17. Temto

    November 10, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    Lmao @ “…half Rosedale, half Ogbomosho”!!!! T-Dot! Stand Up!

  18. S

    November 10, 2016 at 7:37 pm

    Same problem! I am a yoruba woman married to an igbo man. When we had our son, my husband graciously let his first name be the yoruba name I gave him. We both figured at the time that since his surname would be igbo, a yoruba first name would reflect the entirety of his identity. I think a few years on we have both come to regret our naivety. The truth is that people have harangued us, most especially him, about how he could let that happen. The criticism he received has made him so sensitive to tribal connotations concerning our son. So much so that he is against me speaking yoruba to him – my husband is British born so he never learned to speak igbo. We are so at odds about this that I end up only speaking yoruba to my son when his dad is out of earshot. We’ve had raging fights about it. And I often envy immigrant mums married to other nationalities here in the UK where we live who are able to teach their kids Polish or Romanian or Hindu or French. Why has my husband made this the price i and my son have to pay for a Yoruba first name? I carried him in my womb, went through labour, only for people to say my identity shouldn’t be reflected in my child’s! I agree with the poster I consider my son an igbo-yoruba or yoruba-igbo boy (I really don’t mind where you place the emphasis). But he’s both. Not just igbo!

  19. serendipity

    November 11, 2016 at 12:14 am

    Although my parents come from the same state they are from different tribes, my mum is Ijaw and my dad is Ogba, they have nothing in common culturally and do not typically intermarry, not even a syllable, anyone familiar with Rivers state knows it’s the tower of babel. My siblings and I have English first names, two tribal names from each side and my dads surname. My parents communicated in English because of the language barrier, so I can’t speak either language, I spent Christmas growing up in my mom’s hometown. An inter tribal marriage is work, its the little things like my mum can’t make her traditional dish at home because its key component is cocoyam which is forbidden by my dads tribe. My extended family on both sides have reservations based on stereotypes like my mum’s sister who always reminds I and my sister not to marry from my dads tribe and one of us has to marry an Ijaw man as compensation, my dad’s family told him his marriage wouldn’t last as my mum’s tribe have a high divorce rate. When I get married I’m definitely infusing both cultures, my dad’s tribe performs the traditional wedding ceremony at night, my mum says there’s no way that’s happening, I can’t wait for the drama. Personally I identify as equal parts Ogba-Ijaw, I love and hate certain parts of each culture.

  20. Panda

    November 11, 2016 at 4:53 am

    woah, even before i knew what feminism was or patriachy and even before turned 10, i remember being very annoyed that people would ask me where i’m from and i’d start saying both the places my dad and mum come from (and they’re both freaking yoruba!) and they would NEVER FAIL to tell me, i should answer “the village my dad came from”. That pissed me off, like are you trying to wipe out the contribution my mother made in my life and my history or something? gerrout jo!

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