My mum is the last born of four girls. Her father, as she narrated to me, was a very wealthy man. He had a growing business in Anambra; he imported cosmetic and beauty products. And his establishment extended to Lagos, Imo State, Enugu State and some parts of Kogi State. As a result, he had cars, lands and several buildings scattered around the East and the South-west of Nigeria like black hairs over the floor of a barbershop. Indeed, he was very influential and was even more popular for his philanthropic acts than his amassed wealth. But he wasn’t happy because of an unfulfilled want — a male child.
In most of Anambra State where I come from, a male child was and is sometimes being considered more important than earning the best-wrestler title in the market square. In other words, so much emphasis is placed on having a male child in such a way that a man, no matter how accomplished he is, would not be regarded as a complete man if he doesn’t have one. And so, my mum’s father, Mr. Emmanuel, had to justify his completeness; he had to marry another wife (it was erroneously believed back then that the women were the determiner of the gender of an unborn child. Now we know, as science has proven, that it is the X or Y chromosomes of a man’s sperm cell that determines if the child would be a girl or a boy respectively. The ignorance of this back then, however, pushed the blame on the women and this was most likely his reason for remarrying a second wife even when his first wife, Cecilia, was still alive and his Christian faith did not permit that).
Her name was Victoria and as though marrying her was the solution he was awaiting, she gave him his sons — at least Grandpa Emmanuel later became a complete man, right?
A few years later, back in the late ’90s, my mum’s mother passed away. I wasn’t even born by then; my mama and papa had probably not even met on the altar of the thought of marriage. I could only see how beautiful my mum’s mother was through an old photo album of her burial ceremony that wrinkled and discoloured with dust and age.
After that incident, according to my mother and her three elder sisters, the love which their dad had for them was like the rapid transition of a vigorously lit match stick into burnt ash that only emitted grey frameless smoke.
All his love were channelled into the woman that made him a “complete man”, and her seed — the reason for his completeness.
My mum and my three aunties had to struggle to pay the fees for their tertiary institution — they all went to UNIZIK (Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State). The firstborn, my eldest, started a tutorial in the evening with a black chalkboard using a public primary school nearby. The second, according to her, became a salesgirl for a woman she stumbled upon by the “grace of God”. She went there after classes to not only make a stipend as her salary but to also learn the business of sales and marketing. The third-born went into sales as well. My mum sold clothes, pants, scarf and feminine perfume to sustain herself in school while she read Physics Education at UNIZIK. Later on, under the umbrella of her eldest sister, she started teaching as well. They did this not because they needed to, but because they had no other option — their dad, cared less about them because they weren’t male children.
For years this went on until each of my aunties was being stolen into the sight and hands of their husbands one by one in the holy union of matrimony. My mum was the last to get married. When I was two years old, I heard, for I can’t recall things from then, that Grandpa later came to see his grandson. He said I was strong and agile like he was, and as my mum can testify, I was also as hairy as he had always been. I heard he loved me so much, just like he did for my cousins as well. He was getting old, but he could still carry himself like a man in his mid-thirties. Mama told me that we played football together one year when we travelled the East for Christmas.
Many years after our last travel to the village in the East, my mum got the news that grandpapa had passed away — I was only eight years old then when I watched my mother lose a lot of water from her eyes. I saw the watery red eyeballs of my mum dart at me. She was supposed to beat me as usual for staining my cloth with soup after eating but she couldn’t even move a bit.
It was a moment my own heart was crushed as well. That was probably the first time I would shed tears because someone else was crying. I sat on the floor in front of her and starting weeping silently. I didn’t even want her to notice me crying; as long as my mum, who I have always seen as the second man of the house, was crying, I was pained. She raised her head from the sofa when she heard me sniff in my catarrh; she quickly carried me up to her laps to pacify me.
“Mummy,” I recall seeing my face reflecting from the brown pupils of her wet eyes, “who beat you?”
She began to cackle even while weeping, she told me that nobody flogged her. She said her dad was gone.
“Don’t worry,” my little right hand patted her head, “he would still come back.”
Mama looked at the innocent me in the eye and amidst her wet face, she smiled. I didn’t understand what it meant to be gone.
“He’s dead. He can’t come back,” she said.
I remember the look on her face when she said it.
Some months passed and she had to travel for his burial in the village. In the Igbo land, a man must be buried in the land of his origin.
Fast forward to a few months into the future, there was an issue with my grandfather’s will. The will stated that all his properties in Onitsha, Anambra, Lagos and in a few other states should go to the mother of his sons. And there was a full stop after that statement. What happened to him? Was he brainwashed by his second wife? What about his four daughters — my mum and her three sisters — weren’t they his children too?
This case has been dragged for a very long time. The case probably started since I was in JSS 3 and even to this moment, it is still an overly adjourned case in court.
This issue has long dwelled in my head. Why? Why would he have done such? To me, it is a clear betrayal of one’s offspring — whether they are male or not. Interested in this type of case, I have done my little research and found out that my mum’s family is not the only one entangled in such cases. I have come to realize that this scenario occurs widely in Nigeria and many other African countries which practice male-child dominance and preference. This has been a major contributor to female stagnancy in the development of the economy. In other words, it has led to a nasty societal stereotype of female children not being capable to do what men can do. My mum and her sisters have been affected by this wrong stereotype and I’m most certainly against it. This is why I am ecstatic about women who make the effort regardless of the societal resistance to do things that have been attributed to men alone. I am glad to have seen a female bus conductor, a female mechanical engineer, to have a female carpenter as a school mate, to know of a female president — from Liberia, and many other nations.
I believe women are as strong as most men. My mum, Mrs. Florence, is a living testimony of that. Her lifestyle has taught me from a very early stage that I should not be dependent on anyone; she has taught her kids to hustle regardless of gender or age.
Despite what my late Grandpa did, I might not pelt him completely with stones of blames for his actions; I think if the society he grew up in did not emphasize male importance greater than the importance of the female child, he would not have been pressurised to remarry even in the first place.
I believe that the object to be crucified is the ideology of woman’s restricted relevance. I believe that every member of our society should peep into this case, and understand that equal chances should be given to men and women alike. I am Ezeadum Ebube, a male human, and I say no to the suppression of the rights of females.
Ebube Ezeadum, a lover of creative writing wrote via firstname.lastname@example.org