Abdulrafiu Yusuf insists that the human mind is doubtful and it is for this reason he would carry out a deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA paternity test on his children if ever he comes to suspect his wife of infidelity.
Yusuf who works in a construction firm holds in high esteem the genuine paternity of his child and he is of the belief that if paternity fraud should happen to him then he would accept his fate and disown his family. He said, “If it turns out the children are not mine, there is nothing I can do rather than to just accept my fate. I do not need to disown them when they weren’t mine before.”
Recently, paternity fraud was a trending and highly-debated topic across social media platforms after a man accused his wife of paternity fraud, an allegation which turned out to be false, and the First City Monument Bank (FCMB) Managing Director’s Adam Nuru saga. Nuru was accused of having a romantic relationship with Moyo Thomas, a staffer at the bank which allegedly resulted in the birth of two children that were unwittingly taken care of by Tunde Thomas, husband of Moyo, as his own.
But the Nuru-Thomas saga is not the first of famous DNA cases in Nigeria. Moshood Abiola, the winner of the June 12 1993 Presidential election and flamboyant businessman, used DNA testing to secure his inheritance for his biological children by inserting the DNA clause in his will. In Abiola’s case, it was allegedly discovered that 25 of the children which bore his name were not biologically his. Musa Gowon, son of Yakubu Gowon, Nigeria’s former military head of state, used the DNA test to confirm to the world and the former head of state that his mother, Edith Okongwu, was right all along when she said that he was his father. Dr. Abiodun Salami, a forensic geneticist and Chief Medical Director of the DNA centre in Lagos said, “Several surveys have shown that approximately three men in 10 are living under the deception that they are the fathers of another man’s children and with advances in genetic testing, they are more likely than ever to find out the shocking truth.”
This claim has been classified as false by Africa Check as there has not been any national survey on “paternity fraud” in Nigeria. Chris Olashunde, a representative for the United Kingdom-based DNA testing firm EasyDNA UK said, that there was no data on paternity fraud in Nigeria because most of the paternity tests carried out in the country were done to allay the doubts of the purported father, or to resolve conflict, or for immigration purposes. Although unproven, this claim has become quite popular and has created a class of believers who agitate for the legalization of mandatory paternity test at the birth of a child so that paternity fraud can be reduced in Nigeria.
Marquis Young, a Twitter user said, “Paternity fraud is real within marriages and DNA tests should be mandatory.” Maybe this call for mandatory paternity testing at birth can be summarised by the comment another user of Twitter said when asked why women were demonized for cheating. He said, “Men don’t love kids, generally speaking. They love their kids and will die for their kids or those they consider their own. So certainty, parentage has evolved to be an important thing.” France, in 1994, banned paternity tests and such a test may only be done with the approval of a judge and the consent of all parties involved.
But testing carried out in secret is what some Nigerian men want, like Yusuf who hopes to do it without provoking the anger of his wife but damning the consequences even if he does. Olutosin Adetola was of the opinion that he would end the relationship with his wife in the case of paternity fraud but not with the children. “If my suspicions are confirmed and rational, then I’d have a logical reason to go for a DNA test. If the outcome of the test lends credence to my suspicions, then that’s the end of the whole thing. But the children would still be loved and treated like nothing happened. I’m a Socialist, I think the society should collectively own children” Paul Johnbosco, a Julius Berger worker, told New National Star that he would at no time consider testing his children for paternity because he trusted his wife.
“I think those who consider DNA testing don’t trust their wives. I trust my wife 100 percent and I would not advise my friends to do so,” he said. “Before you choose a wife, I think you should know the kind of wife you are choosing, so you can have 100 percent confidence and assurance. I cannot even have a friend who does not trust his wife.” Some women agreed with Johnbosco that if trust actually existed, then there was no need for a DNA. Janet Silas told this newspaper that paternity testing would not be an issue if one married the love of their lives.
“The kind of person I am is that if I am 100 percent sure that they are his kids and he still wants it, I guess I will start acting up after the whole thing but I won’t ask for a divorce,” she said. “If I get married to the love of my life even if he asks for something like that he will definitely coax me into it and I won’t mind. It depends on your relationship,” she said. Marvelous said, “I would mind if my husband went ahead with testing. I would feel he is doubting me and all and it would hurt me.”
The DNA is a long chain of molecules containing information necessary for the life function of a cell. It is a complex system that can tell biological history, genes and determine parentage. And determining parentage is what DNA testing is mostly used for. A Google search put the cost of a single DNA paternity test in the price range of 50,000 naira and 150,000 naira, an amount that metropolitan men insist is a cheap price to pay instead of a lifetime of ache and depression when it turns out later on the children are not theirs.
It remains to be said though if paternity testing is a noble cause and justifiable or a tool that is being weaponized against women as some claim. The immediate call for the legalization of paternity testing at birth made some people say that if only men menstruated, then pads would have long since become free commodities or sold at very subsidised rates and abortion would be legal in Nigeria and not tied to the clause of the mother’s life endangerment by the foetus. In Lola Shoneyin’s debut novel, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, the protagonist, Baba Segi found out through the most humiliating way that none of the children of his three wives was biologically related to him.
The first wife, Iya Segi had made a decision at the beginning of their marriage to be impregnated by another man when she found out that her husband could not sire children, a knowledge that was hidden from Baba Segi. He only found out because of the fourth wife, Bolanle would not become pregnant no matter how hard they tried. He had believed that the fault was her promiscuity during her university years. Iya Segi had refused to let Bolanle in on the secret of getting a child for the patriarch because she did not like the latter and saw her as an interloper. This dislike then led to the disclosure of her secret of many years. But when Baba Segi found out, Iya Segi convinced him that the children were his after all despite biological statements. They had grown up in his house, they were fed by him, he bore their responsibilities and they bore his name.
If he disowned them, he would not be able to bear children of his own and no one would take care of the children either. He gave in to the plea as it seemed the most reasonable. There is a saying in certain African cultures that maternity is hardly debated, only paternity is unsure. DNA genetic testing has come to prove that paternity can be and maybe must be proven. The debates will continue to go on and many will turn it into gender wars.