Until the turn of the 19th century when westernization made a lot of sin out of pregnancy without marriage, the core Igbo communities had made provision for this inevitable occurrence. A pregnant girl and children born out of wedlock served useful purposes.
Even though pre-marital sex was not tolerated in the early days in Igbo land, no girl was killed for getting pregnant without being married.
Elders knew that there could be occasional overflow of hot blood in the youths making them to desire and actually eating the forbidden fruit. Elders were and still aware that some young boys and girls have itchy pestles and mortars and had constructed a framework to manage the eventualities.
When an accidental pregnancy happens, it would be clear to everyone that “ife bara a ba abago!” meaning “that which has entered has entered!” At that time, abortion was never contemplated.
“Nwa Mkpuke” or “Nwa Amụtalụ N’ime Enete” (or children born out of wedlock) are those conceived and born by unmarried girls while they are still in their parents’ guardianship, whether the man responsible for the pregnancy is known or not.
A child so begotten by an unmarried girl remains a love child as long as the impregnator of the mother didn’t perform any traditional marital rites on the “head of the girl” before the baby is delivery.
In the traditional Igbo towns of Anambra State, a love child belongs to the family of the paternal grandfather and is regarded as the last born in the lineage of his or her mother and as such, bears the mother’s surname.
Until recently, pregnant unmarried girls had their usefulness as they were very sought-after by men who had not been able to impregnate their own wives after many years of trials. Such a man would be encouraged to go marry an accidentally pregnant girl at a discounted bride price and take her home.
In Igbo tradition, the man who paid the bride price of a woman is the owner or the father of her children.
Anybody who impregnates another man’s wife or an unmarried daughter of another man has worked in vain because bride price is the only paternity test in Igbo land.
Getting pregnant by accident in one’s father’s house and a successful delivery, in some Igbo towns (especially in two towns near Asaba in Delta state) were regarded as a proof of fertility. Hence, parents who have an only son would encourage their son to marry a young woman who has successfully given birth than to gamble with a virgin.
I’m guilty of not going for or dealing with the inexperienced or a rookie . I go for the experienced or someone who had done it before!
I would rather employ an experienced staff in my team than a fresh graduate without work experience expecially when I don’t have the luxury to wait for so long for results.
I can’t gamble with my employers’ lack of patience as I have a huge performance targets to meet.
Rookies or the inexperienced may never deliver in their bosses’ career lives. And that’s the fear of the parents with only one son.
It happened that in early 1970s, a billionaire and my townsman was in dire need of a male child having sired many daughters. At that time, every reasonable man needed a male child to continue or extend his lineage.
It is a big cultural burden for a man whose children are females only to have his ancestral light quench in his hand. He fears that when all his female children get married, the patrilineal gate would be closed unless he would be prepared to persuade one of his daughters to stay behind (i.e to remain unmarried) and be impregnated by one or many willing men of her choice to beget male children that would main the family’s name in a ritual known as “ịhachị Nwanyi”.
For my billionaire townsman, a townwide search was commissioned and the lot fell on one of my unmarried cousins who not only had had a love child at home but a male one. Her baby was still a toddler when she was identified and selected.
My lucky cousin was deemed to have a demonstrable ability to beget a male child for the needy wealthy man. Marriage ceremony was organised and bride price paid in full.
My cousin kept her marriage promise.
She delivered the male child the rich man needed. Even as wife number two, she got promoted to the owner of the compound. Her male child would inherit the man’s business.
But times have changed.
Sound education and empowerment of the girl-child has brought about a new culture in Africa.
Very independent ladies and their male cohorts have now domesticated the frightening western practice of Baby Mama and Baby Papa while the elders watch in awe.
Some “lazy youths” nowadays even have the boldness to make the resultant love children, from unlawful sex glitch, bear the surnames of the illegal male bunkerers of communal honey pots.
By Anayo M. Nwosu