By Yetunde Arebi
Is it possible to determine paternity by mere physical appearance and behavioural pattern in these era of DNA testing?
Well, this elderly man thinks so and his family members seem to agree with him. Sometime last year, he denounced two of his four children by his second wife, a woman he had toured the world and partied with the crème de la crème of the society with. He had carried the burden for over two decades and was preparing to write his will. One of papa’s children shares the story with us today. Cheers!
When my father finally made the declaration last year, it seemed to answer all the questions that had always been in the minds of many family members. We had always wondered if father had truly fathered those children. You see, their physical appearance was enough to trigger off doubts about their paternity. The kids looked so different from the rest of us eight children, six from my mother. However, their fair complexion like their mother’s seemed enough explanation and made it easy to pass them off as resembling their maternal side of the family.
Ironically, the last two kids took after us. The resemblance was so striking such that from the hospital, everyone was commending my step mother that she had finally given us Ogunnaike children. It was just assumed that parents had shared the four children equally between them. Nobody really gave it a serious thought until my father called a family meeting and denounced them.
I am the fourth child of my father and was 25 when my father came home to inform us that he had just fathered a child by another woman and that the naming ceremony would come up the next day. It was one of the most devastating moments for my mother, for the two had shared and had been through a lot with each other over the years. I guess no woman in her wildest imagination would believe that someone she had spent over 30 years of marriage with could do such. Only God can help us women.
Mummy Lizzy turned out to be one of those proper Lagos society women. She knew how to wangle her way into people’s hearts. She was such a fascinating creature and soon had everyone eating off her palms. We just loved her and the love was transferred to her child, a girl. Unfortunately, the child turned out to be Autistic and changed everything about our family.
The trauma and problems of her condition almost cost my father and his new wife their relationship. But the woman became pregnant again and everything went back to normal between them. At least, from what we could see. She gave birth to a baby boy who looked almost exactly like his older sister. Two other boys followed him, making all four of them. By this time ,my mother had resigned to fate and had begun to relate more friendly with mummy Lizzy, even if it was just for the sake of peace.
A lot of water had gun under the bridge from then. Fast forward to about 20 years. Both my parents are quite old now, in their 70s while the woman is in her 50s. Lizzy, her first daughter is closing on 25 while the last just gained admission in the university.
Everyone of them educated, raised and catered for by my father. Even the retarded one had spent several years in a London institution, all expenses paid for by my father and which annoyed my mother to no end. So it was a surprise for everyone when my father called a general family meeting and announced publicly that he was not the father of Lizzy and Daniel, the first two children by his second wife. At this meeting was this woman and her three sons. A few minutes after the documents were distributed among family members, the boy got up and walked out. His mother did not raise any objection, she collected her copy and slipped it into her handbag as if the content meant nothing to her. Everyone searched her face to see any traces of emotion but none was visible, so, no one raised any objections too. Then my father got up and told everyone that the document was meant to set the records straight before his death, adding that his lawyers had already been informed. Still, no one said anything and the meeting was forced to move on. Everyone partied as if nothing had happened.
I decided to talk to mummy Lizzy and find out if she was aware of the development prior to the announcement because of the cordial relationship that had existed between us over the years. But she refused to speak about it, referring me back to my father. She only said she was grateful that everyone accepted the last two boys as Ogunnaike and that whatever was given to them as inheritance would be shared equally by all four of them.
My step mother claimed she was not bitter about the announcement and that nothing had changed between her and her husband, and hoped that my mother would be happy now. She also said she did not consider the announcement as a disgrace to her and the children, but as a sign that my father was finally going senile. We both laughed and ended the matter on that note, but I was not in the least convinced and needed to know more. A few days later, I went to my father to demand for answers by virtue of the fact that I am the eldest of his children in the country.
My father insisted he was setting the records straight to be sure that when he dies his property would be shared only amongst those deserving of it, his blood. He said he has given the two children all he felt he owed them during his life time and therefore cannot be expected to look out for them anymore after his demise.
He said that the adage that any family with a bastard child cannot make peaceful progress is very true and that he was only trying to prevent an inevitable evil by bringing the secret to the knowledge of everyone. He told me that the fact that his brothers and other elders of the family did not say anything in defence of the children and their mother was a confirmation that the issue had already been deliberated on and finalised.
His story began from the days he claimed he met her. It had been at a party and she’d been introduced by a friend. Father said he found out much later that his friend had also had a brief relationship with her. According to him, that was not enough to end their relationship as he had not expected to find her a virgin. She had been previously married, though a very brief one and it had ended like many society ladies do their thing.
She was not a very expensive woman to keep, unlike most others he’d dated, as she had some money of her own and was a well connected international business woman. She claimed she just loved him because he was different from most of the men she’d been with. He also enjoyed being with her but marriage was far from his mind, especially as he was aware of her kind of lifestyle. He said he was aware that besides him, she had a lover in England whom she visited whenever she travelled. If there were others, he could not tell.
He said he was surprised when she informed him that she was pregnant. He would not have accepted it but for the intervention of his brother and mother. His brother had met her a few times and he’d taken to her almost immediately too. His wife (my mother) had fallen out of favour with his mother, so when the lady insisted on having the baby and went to her, my grandmother too fell easily for her charms. Together, they prevailed on my father to accept the baby, even if he did not want the mother. However, he was forced to have a rethink when the child turned out autistic, he could not walk away and leave her to face the problem alone. It was in the course of looking for a solution that she took in with the second child, a boy who looked like a copy of the sister.
So, how did he find out they were not his?
My father, his first suspicion was the condition of Lizzy as no one in the history of his family (maternal and paternal)had a record of such a disease. He added that she also did not resemble him in anyway, unlike his other children. Rather, his heart told him that Lizzy resembled my step mother’s London lover. He said he confronted her with these facts at the time, which she denied. He however got his confirmation when on a visit to the hospital in London, he had spotted the guy’s name on some of the documents.
He said he’d asked why the guy signed documents meant for him and she insisted it was a friendly gesture as I could not be available every time my attention was needed. A couple of years later, another document showed that he had donated blood to her and he made up his mind it was more than a friendly gesture as their blood matched. Father claimed he held on to the discoveries as they confirmed what he’d already suspected all along. The fact that the boy also looked like Lizzy only pointed to one fact too.
According to him, he only accepted the second pregnancy because everyone felt Lizzy needed a sibling who would watch out for her in future. Unfortunately, she had two more in quick succession and he was happy that those ones were his.
My father said that as the children grew up, he became convinced that he could not have fathered them. They were not only different from others in looks, but character too. Lizzy’s situation apart, her brother who is medically okay was socially maladjusted, as if raised on the streets. The boy is so dull he is the only one without a post secondary school education of all my father’s children. Everything about him spells trouble.
If the neighbours and strangers were not knocking the gates to report him, a crowd would be gathered in front of the house in his honour, or the police may either come in to ask for him or bring him to show our father what offence he’s committed. He said all these finally forced him to make his mind up about their paternity. Let their mother take them to their real father. Now we are eight children, reduced from 10.
Do have a wonderful weekend!!