It happened sometime in the early 60s at one of the Abẹ́òkúta villages, there I once witnessed a harsh form of paternity conflict resolution.
Nowadays, the DNA test has gained ground and it has become difficult to think of any other means of resolving paternity issue than the DNA. But there happened in our village when we were very young.
We knew Bàbá Alagbẹdẹ (the blacksmith). We knew when he got his third wife from a neighbouring village. We called her Àǹtí Àṣàkẹ́ Onírẹsì, for she sold cooked rice for us during break time at our primary school. And she was late in having a child.
We knew when one of our teachers, Mr Dábírí, came. A young, handsome and gaily-dressed fellow. We saw Anti Asake go to his office with a covered àwo-ọlọ́mọrí, the type seen only during Ìkórè Ọmọdé.
We knew that was his own special food. But no one added anything to that because Mr Dabiri was in charge of food provision for the school pupils.
Then Anti Aṣake became pregnant. We knew when she had her boy. Then there was a serious argument in the headmaster’s office one day, it involved Mr Dabiri and some elders from the village. We saw Baba Alagbẹdẹ in our school for the first time. He never came there, and none of his children was a pupil. The following day after the meeting, Mr Dabiri left our school. We the pupils never knew what happened.
It was some two years after that I, for instance, heard there was a paternity issue: the boy by Anti Aṣake resembled Mr Dabiri beyond doubt, but Baba Alagbẹdẹ insisted the child was his.
When the boy was about three years, Anti Aṣake ran away with him. We were told she had gone back to her father’s house.
Some two or three months after, we heard Baba Alagbẹdẹ had been summoned to Ifọ̀. That was scary! For when you were summoned to Ifọ from any of the villages, it meant an appearance in the area court there. I think the court is still there today in Ifọ̀, on the way to Abẹ́òkúta from Lagos. My own father went with Bàbá Alágbède, and by this I was able to learn that it was actually Mr Dabiri that went to court, claiming that the boy, Dàpọ̀ (Ògúndàpọ̀), was his own son.
The court adjourned to some date but my father agitated for so many days, lamenting: “Àbírúu kí leléyìí, ajínidó fẹ́ẹ́ d’ọkọ; àìtétè mólè, olè mà ń mú olóko ò!”
They returned to the court, and Anti Aṣakẹ testified against her husband, saying Baba Alagbẹdẹ could no longer father a child because she had been with him for over three years without being pregnant before the arrival of “Dábírí ẹkùn!”, her benefactor.
Baba Alagbẹdẹ, as we were told, did not argue. He simply said the child was his, but if the woman said he belonged to Dabiri, they could have him. And the court ruled: Ìyá ọmọ ló mọ ẹni tó fóun loyun, and gave the child to Dabiri.
Mr Dabiri now left the court with the mother and child and took them straight to Abẹokuta where he had relocated.
But by the time Baba Alagbẹdẹ and his friends returned to our village after the judgement, another news was waiting for them. Ogundapọ had died! It was the first time Dapọ was taken to Mr Dabiri’s home. But as he stepped inside the living room of the house, he slumped, and never returned to life.
When the news came out of the school, what I heard my father say was: Ògún ti mú un! Ògún ti mú un! Èèyàn kan kì í gbé ọmọ Ògún lọ sílé ẹlòmí-ìn, àfẹni tó bá fẹ́ẹ́ pa’rú ọmọ bẹ́ẹ̀!
As I grew, I never stop wondering what type of judgment was that from Ògún. Wasn’t that too harsh? And now, in these days of the DNA Test, can this still be used, or the Yoruba have a softer DNA facility?
Our fathers, where are you? Share your experience with us, please.
By: Alao Adedayo