|I was looking for a fitting image then I remembered Lion King|
My father believes he is very modern in his thinking, but when it comes to inheritance hmmmm, I don’t even think he has ever thought, ever wondered “What can I bequeath my daughters?”. Females just don’t inherit and that’s that.
That attitude extends to so many things, e.g. His first son had access to the two family cars from age 17 and Dad bought him his own brand new car at 21. On the other hand, none of my elder sisters learnt to drive at home. No! It is your husband’s responsibility to teach you how to drive and if he is ‘modern’ enough, he might buy you one (imagine then his consternation when my then single 4th sister bought herself a car in the 90s). lolss
Three Christmases ago, we traveled home to the hometown for Christmas, and Dad spoke about renovating the family house. He then asked his girls to rally round and chip in. Huh?? I love my Dad but we told him in no uncertain terms that his first son, the owner of the house should kindly attend to his inheritance.
This brings me to my topic for today male primogeniture. The customary practice that makes it acceptable - in the absence of a will – for the first son to be the sole heir to his father’s property. This is a normal practice amongst the Ibos of Eastern Nigeria - I don’t know much about other tribes in Nigeria. To be honest it has never really bothered me. After all, you can’t long for something you never had can you? But it is a depressing one. Men, Isn’t your daughter a part of you? Doesn’t she bear your genes? Are you not the supplier of her second ‘X’ chromosome? Why then do fathers forget all that when it comes to inheritance?
A commenter defended this sad tradition on a BBC report saying : IN NIGERIA, THE INHERITANCE IS PURELY MALE TO THE THRONE... WHO DETERMINES THE SEX OF A FETUS? IT’S THE MALE SPERM NOT THE WOMAN'S EGG (I have never seen such a whacked understanding of Mendelian laws)...
WOMEN ARE GIVEN OUT TO MARRIAGE... THEY GO AND START THEIR LIFE WITH ANOTHER MAN..IN MY NATIVE HOME IN EDOLAND, NIGERIA, THE FIRST SON IS THE CUSTODIAL OF THE HOME... THE DAUGHTERS THAT GO OUT TO THEIR HUSBANDS ALWAYS HAVE A PLACE TO COMEBACK WHEN THEY ARE HAVING FAILURE IN THEIR MARRIAGES... THE FIRST SONS ARE MANDATED BY CUSTOMARY LAW TO KEEP THE HOME AS A SAFETY NET FOR ALL THE CHILDREN... THE FAMILY HOME PASSES FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION..
This particular aspect of our culture has led me to term the malaise some Ibo first sons suffer from as ‘The Okpala syndrome’. A disease characterised by a strong sense of entitlement, never do wellism and abject disregard for other siblings. He is a son. A first born at that. Why work hard at school – what is the purpose of hardwork – to afford a home, a car, to be powerful? Well, the first born son has that offered to him on a plate. His father is proud to show off the fruit of his (cough) labours, his ‘Y ’contribution to mankind, so he is given all the material wealth he could ever ask for: nice wheels, the apartment, he has the opportunity to get the best of education, automatic VP position in his father’s business.
Furthermore he is the apple of his mother’s eyes (Re: his birth cleared her of shame and reified her superior wife status); the son who can do no wrong. The younger female siblings are taught to defer to him, they wait on him hand and foot, when he visits the mom rushes into the kitchen to prepare his favorite meals etc etc. Among his kindred, he is feted, he is given a seat among elders, he is allowed a say over issues affecting his family and community at large. All by virtue of being the first ‘Y’ bearing sperm that hit the target.
Now you understand how the Igbo society can produce the caliber of first born sons I write of?
What is the effect on the first son? He gets to think ‘why buy the cow when I’m getting the milk for free?’. He doesn’t have the incentive to work hard. To achieve more. What’s the purpose? He’s got it all.
I look around my neighborhood growing up, at family friends and the story is the same everywhere. A huge percentage of firstborn sons have become the black sheep of the family but their culturally elevated status insulates them from deserved insults and from acrimony from the rest of the family.
In the end it comes back to Why daughters think marriage is an escape; Why wives end up giving birth to football size teams in their search for the elusive ‘XY’ chromosomed fetus that will stabilize their position; and Why we have a lot of Efulefus (first born sons who have no purpose in life but to squander their inheritance).
My Sis adopted the neutral-gendered way in training her kids....well maybe not the no 'her' and 'his' style of the school in Egalia, Switzerland. She insisted that no one refers to her first son as Okpala or give him any special privilege as a first son. House chores were shared equally. I remember the weekly Sunday breakfast tradition wherein the kids and the father cooked, while my sister has a lie in. The cooking/preparation was shared equally between daughters and sons - yam peeling, plantain frying, vegetable washing and cutting, tomato grinding etc. The boys learnt early that, cooking isn’t girls' work. And their Dad made sure the girls were savvy with DIY and electronics.
My dear nephew (despite Sister’s effort) has gotten his fair share of reminders from external sources that he is a lucky young man who stands to inherit much. He is alright inspite of it all, but I think the greater success my Sis and hubby achieved was with their daughters. My nieces have grown up with a healthy sense of entitlement as daughters who have rights equal to that of their brothers and they will not be overlooked!!.
I look at them and I have some faith that someday in the near future, daughters/sisters will be bold enough to administer the best cure to the Okpala syndrome – kick ‘em to the curb.
What is your culture like? Do girls have a share?
Disclaimer - I know some of you have perfect first-born sons, brothers and cousins. I am not talking about that minority!! Also there are exceptions 1)if the family is poor :) 2) if the first son came after 2-10 girl siblings. Sisters know how to make a brother behave! lolssss