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April 20, 2024

The Owaran(Heir Apparent), by Francis Ewherido

Francis ewherido

I am no feminist. I don’t even understand what some of them are talking about. In some of these feminists all I see is confusion and frustration. I am a realist. I like justice. What is good is good and what is bad cannot be good. I am a man deep in culture, Urhobo/Isoko culture, to be specific, but I am also a freeborn not a slave. So, I cannot be a slave to culture. I believe culture is part of life and life is dynamic, so culture cannot be different. Nigeria is a patrilineal society.

I am also a Christian. Much of the bible is based on accounts of a patrilineal society. The bible from Genesis is specific: the man is the head of the family and the wife is a helpmate.I believe and accept that. But being a head of the family goes with concomitant responsibilities, but that is not our focus today. Our focus is not even in the relationship between the husband and the wife in the family. I have written a loton that and I stand by whatever I have written previously. 

My focus today are the products of the marriage, the children. Because our society is patrilineal, male children have some advantages over their sisters. In many parts of Nigeria in the past, fathers did not send their daughters to school. They felt it is a wasted investment because they would ultimately get married and drop their maiden names for their husbands surnames. Unfortunately, in many parts of the country, especially rural areas, some fathers still give out their daughters out in marriage at the first sign of puberty: beginning of menstruation or sprouting of breasts (It is called kpogh’ivien in Urhobo).

But generally, things have changed. Many fathers now give the best of education to their daughters. As far as education is concerned women have been essentially liberated. There are still issues, but many of the barriers have been removed for women willing to put in the hard work and reach great heights in many sectors of life. Parents are also becoming wiser in the area of inheritance. They jettison the obnoxious culture of daughters not being entitled to inheritance. They share their properties while still alive or write wills so that their daughters are not short-changed after their death.

We have so far settled two issues: one, the man is the head of the family and two, Nigeria is a patrilineal society. My concern today is, in the absence of the father and mother, who should take charge of the family? For me, the eldest child should as long as he/she has the capacity. But it is not so in many families. In Urhobo/Isokoland, and many parts of Nigeria, we have the overhyped owaran (heir apparent)phenomenon.

These are the areas where I have a problem. One, where the first child is a female, she is bypassed for the first male child in leadership. What is her crime? She is female. I have read many books and literature on leadership qualities. None has possession of a penis as a leadership quality. The penis is for sex (pleasure and procreation) and urination, not a determinant for leadership positions. Corporate Nigeria today is filled with many chief executives who are females. Many of them are doing excellently well.

So, what is wrong in doing samething at the family level? Mind you, I know families where the eldest daughters are like mother-figures to their younger siblings and are doing a great job. They glue the bigger family together in love and unity. That does not take away the roles that tradition has reserved for the eldest male children. The point I am making is, do not deny competent females leadership opportunities based on their gender.

Two, I do not have any problems if the owaran has the leadership qualities and capacity, though I still have issues with bypassing the eldest child and her only crime is that she is female. But if you prefer your eldest son to lead your family after your demise, you must prepare him for leadership. Groom him. Teach him leadership skills.Some extended families are disorganised today because the very competent eldest daughters were shoved aside and leadership handed over to eldest sons who are ill-prepared and ill-equipped for leadership.

Some were spoilt by their parents when they were alive because they are the eldest sons instead of grooming them for leadership. Once the parents died, the families fell apart. The wealth that the parents worked all their lives to accumulate was squandered in a twinkle of an eye. These guys are incompetentand the nemesis of some families today. All they bring is selfishness, division, destruction and liquidation. You see adults introducing themselves as the son of so-so-and-so. You are proud of your father’s name. What value have you added to the brand (name)? I have serious problems with a system or culture that has no regards for merit.You cannot run your mouth about incompetent political leadership at the local, state and federal levels and turn a blind eye to same on the home front. That is Afghanistanism.

Some people say their preference for male children is because of perpetuating the family name. William Shakespeare, Cadbury, Mercedes Benz, Ford, and many other established brands are actually names of the authors/founders. For some of these great men, it is the brands they established not the children that are making these names globally known. To the best of my knowledge, Aliko Dangote has no male child. He only has daughters who have dropped or will drop the Dangote name after marriage, but as long as the business is well run, the Dangotename will endure long after he and all of us are gone. The truth is, your legacies can keep your name alive after you are gone, just as your children, if not better. 

 I see families of five or more children. All the children are daughters, except the last who is a male. Apparently, the parents were looking for a male child (heir apparent) and got one as the last child. I have no issues with that. The eldest daughters would have graduated from the university when the last son is still in primary school or secondary school. Then he will grow up to boss the eldest sisters who helped to raise him, abi? I am not questioning our culture o! I am just wondering aloud.

More laughable are Christians with this perpetuation of family name mentally.  When we depart the earth, we would either be in heaven with God, his angels and saints triumphant, or in hell with all its torments. Wherever you end up, you would not bother with worldly stuff like the perpetuation of family name.

I also find the argument that the daughters would take the wealth to other families laughable. Are your daughters’ children not your grandchildren? They carry your blood and DNA, so what differentiates them from the grandchildren through your sons? The matter don trouble me tire. Make I talk before I die in silence.