A Conversation With A Young Friend

Ben, the son of my friend who is an Associate Professor of Fine and Applied Arts and who retired as a College teacher recently informed me that his wife had finally joined him in the United Kingdom from Nigeria. He apologised for not telling me about it earlier and said the entire process had been quite stressful, especially as the young lady was pregnant.

I said it was good news and that I had been in Nigeria on a working vacation in the last six weeks and would probably be back in London in the first week of January as I had quite a bit to sort out with my pet project: Imo State Business Link Magazine.

I said I knew how stressful the immigration process could be sometimes and congratulated him on his wife’s pregnancy, poking the joke: “I hope he is a boy”.

I advised him to remain steadfast in prayer with his wife and that our good Lord would see the both of them through the period, in Jesus’ name.

Ben asked if it actually mattered whether the child is a boy or a girl. “I am not into this gender stuff, uncle”, he told me. Confirming that the child is a boy, he now informed me that his parents were on vacation in America and that his mother would be coming from there to stay with the new baby when he is born by December. We then fell into a very

interesting conversation which I thought I could share with family and friends.

Ben: Thanks, Uncle, for the good wishes. And, yes, it is a boy. But, Uncle, we should stop making it look like boys are more important than girls, because they are not.

Uncle: Ben! We are Africans. Don’t ever forget that. Point to note is that the Devil is waging a massive war against traditional families (of one male husband, one female wife and their children, if they have any). He is determined to steal their values and their happiness. So, the so-called civilised world now has homosexuals, lesbians, transgender, queer gender and all of that. And these are legal to them. Man has become such a mockery of God’s image that he has failed to see that all other animals are in conformity with the natural law of male and female species. Ben, I refuse to follow them. I will stick with the traditional Igbo value – AHAMEFULE (meaning: My Name will never be lost)

Ben: Uncle, I disagree. I am the only son of my parents. So was my father, the only son of his parents. And I have seen how important women are. That a man is not less important than a woman is a wrong view. I refuse to be part of that idea. I am not talking about extremities of the new age and all the gay people and deviants. No. If God gives me only two girls, I wouldn’t clamour to get a son. A child is a child, irrespective of gender. But this is just my opinion. I stand to be corrected.

Uncle: And where does that place Ahamefule in your compound if the girls get married? Or should one of them stay home and have children for you, as in ‘Nna ga alu’ (literarily meaning: My father will marry me.)

Ben: Ahamefule is a thing of the past. Anyone can uphold the ‘aha’ (name). It is a metaphorical thing. I don’t answer Ajoku. And very soon I will drop my family name. People have sons who are vagabond and irresponsible and there are those who don’t produce offspring. Uncle, having sons doesn’t imply Ahamefule. I think we need to be operating an Ahamefule that implies upholding the great values of the paternal (or maternal) heritage and value. So, if I come to the UK and become gay and I am into drugs and all that, it would mean not only tarnishing the good name but destroying it. Now, that means ‘Ahamefuole’ (my name is

lost!) This is what I think we should be teaching now. So, people should uphold the moral virtues impacted on them at home by their parents.

Uncle: People who have irresponsible children have a share of the blame. Teach a child the way to go, and when he is grown, he will never depart from it. Remember the Bible teaching? I think it is a curse not to have an offspring, nothing to be proud of. And if you drop your family name which has been established over generations, what name would you answer? Look, Ben. Read Deuteronomy 30. And note that descendants are a very important aspect of culture we Igbo share with the rest of the Eastern world.

Ben: Uncle, you make sense. But I don’t know who originated my family name. I never met the patriarch of my family. I know Ben is me. And I know my father. And so, I would prefer to answer my name and that of my father, and not someone I never knew or met or even loved. I could even go for my father’s Igbo name, Chika.

Uncle: Take me for instance. Uzari begat Eze. Eze begat Njoku. Njoku begat Ohia. Ohia begat Maduneme. Maduneme begat Asunugwo. Asunugwo begat Benson. Benson begat Emeka (that is me). Emeka begat Noble. Noble begat Kamsi. You can count the generations. But what we did when my father went to Dennis Memorial Grammar School (DMGS) Onitsha in 1936 and Bishop Patterson advised him to change his family name to Asinugo because Christians should dissociate themselves from ‘ugwo’ (meaning hatred), was to use the international yardstick of upstairs to demarcate between our family ‘Old and New Testaments’. My father was the first man in my town to build an upstairs in the village. So, my father’s generation is G1. My generation is G2. My son’s generation is G3 and his son’s generation is G4. In that way, there is continuity and we are able to administer the families that make up the big family in unison. Laws relating to values remain intact from generation to generation. And sometimes we lend some of our ideas to willing Nigerian governments.

Ben: Your first son begat his own son. What of your younger son? How come you omitted to count him? What about your daughter? Is she also not in the equation? Uncle, you see where it all falls apart for me? I can understand it when it is all about inheritance but life has to move on. It is no longer about inheritance or am I missing something?

Uncle: My father used to tell us that a tree without branches is not a normal tree. I was not concerned about branches at the time. My younger son had his own son before his older brother. But if there is something to share in the village, like my parcels of land, my son’s son will take a share before his older cousin because his father is the older son. We are a patrilineal society. In places like your maternal home (Igbere Area), they are matrilineal. That means that if a man dies, for instance, his property will not be inherited by his wife and children but by his siblings from the same mother. In some cases they throw the man’s wife and children into the streets. So, if I was to be all inclusive, I would add that Uzari had several sons which included Ndugba (Amandugba), Igbo (Amaigbo), Aku (Amaraku) Nkwo (Umunkwo) and Inyishi. Nearer my age, Maduneme had two sons, Asunugwo and Osuchukwu. And Asunugwo had four sons, Gideon, Benson, Israel and Herbert. Gideon had four sons. Benson had five sons. Israel had four sons and Herbert two sons. The family tree would be too large for this medium of chat.

Ben: OK. You are making sense, Uncle. My question is this: what benefits society really? Do any of these matrilineal or patrilineal values really benefit us or should it be a matter of fairness (equality in some sense)? Or should people deserve what they get and if you want to share your hard earned estate, for example, you can decide who gets what, as in the case of writing a will? The Igbo society is not founded on fairness and it has done us more harm than good. We should move on from all that now. Fortunately or unfortunately, we are actually moving on anyway, whether we like it or not. People like your grandchildren and my son (when he is born) will not care much about these traditions, would they? So, in a sense, we are not preserving it for them because they won’t care.

Uncle: Igbo culture was based on fairness and equity. When people say things like Igbo enwegh eze (meaning that the Igbo have no kings) it is because of the republican nature of the society. It is assumed that every son is the king in his compound or in his father’s compound. His siblings must see him as their heaven. After the Nigerian civil war and with the introduction into the society of new technology, values began to slightly change. The society tended to blend more with Western values where individualism rather than communalism was the norm. For instance, in

Igbo culture, if a man dies owing a debt, his son is required to clear his father’s debt. He is held responsible for his father’s indebtedness. But in the Western world, the man dies with his debt, no matter how much. He is seen as an individual. So is his son. So, the original Igbo culture may have shifted slightly from strict communalism towards emphasis on the individual. But again that is one of the ways the Devil wants to take away parental responsibilities from traditional families. Teach a child the way to go…We must preserve our traditional values for oncoming generations. If we fail, no one is going to do that for us. Our descendants deserve to know their history. To know where you are coming from is to have an idea of where you want to go to.

Ben: You said it. Uncle, thank you.

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SOURCE :The Nigerian Voice (opinions)

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