What ‘Mummy Okwa’ family tells us about Igede today
Anyone who wants to understand the full implications of one of our society’s ills such as the culture of indiscipline that so troubled Gen. Muhammad Buhari , now our president-elect, to the extent that he broke down in tears for the nation, after he was robbed of election victory in 2011, should study this story that I have chosen to title ‘baby factory’ in Nigeria.
For this case perfectly illustrates the moral degradation that is bringing increasing sections of our society to its knees.
Twice-divorced Mummy Okwa, as she is popularly known, lives with her three daughters and three grandchildren. There is not one committed father for any of them. Two of the babies’ fathers are teenage boys, while the third is a 38-year-old man.
Two of Mummy Okwa’s daughters, 14-year-old Uduma and 15-year-old Rachael – mothers of 15-month-old boy they call Ijoni (John) and five-month-old Aricha respectively – are well below the age of sexual consent.
Her third daughter, Okom, mother of six-month-old Ode at the grand old age of 18, has previously had two miscarriages and an abortion.
The most disturbing thing about this disastrous situation is that everyone blames everyone else and no one takes any responsibility.
One might expect Mummy Okwa to show some shame or contrition for what has happened.
After all, she has signally failed to protect her daughters and allowed them to be sexually active – one of them, at least, before she even reached her teens – so that as a result, two children have given birth to children, while the third daughter became pregnant no fewer than four times by the age of 16.
Such a mother is surely guilty of the most reckless neglect. Yet instead, Mummy Okwa passed the buck first to her daughters’ school for inadequate sex education and then to her ex-husbands.
Mummy Okwa clearly thinks her family is someone else’s responsibility, isn’t it?
She appears to have no concept of what the maternal role involves, no idea of duty towards her own children and no understanding whatsoever that the single most important reason for her daughters’ plight is the values they have imbibed from their own parents’ behaviour.
She is not alone in playing the blameshifting game.
The mother of David, who was 14 when he made Ire pregnant at the age of 12, says she is ‘very annoyed and angry’ – but only because Ire changed her phone number and stopped her son from seeing the baby, and that David and Ire ‘were being allowed to sleep together’, a fact of which she says she had no idea until she was told Ire was pregnant.
Did it not occur to Mummy Okwa that she should be angry and ashamed with herself for having so little control over or even knowledge of what her 14-year-old child was up to – which according to her neighbors was the talk of the neighbourhood?
And then there is Job Omanta, father of two of the three teenage mums, who claims that he also had no idea any of his daughters had given birth until he read it on a facebook page.
Unlike the mother of his daughters, he doesn’t blame the school or anybody, but her. ‘I think they have only copied what they have seen at home,’ he proclaimed.
‘They should have been set a better example. Having one pregnant daughter could be an accident, but three seems irresponsible.’
Seems? There can be surely not an iota of doubt that the whole grisly situation is the very quintessence of irresponsibility. What does not seem to occur to Job Omanta is that he is very much part of that irresponsibility himself.
When he claims his daughters only copied what they saw at home, he never spoke a truer word – but not in the way he seems to think. For what they saw at home was a father who wasn’t there.
And what they also knew was that their mother had herself given birth to them all out of wedlock – Okom by another father altogether – before entering into two marriages which both ended in divorce.
In other words, they have indeed only copied what they learned at home – that fathers are disposable, sexual partners serial and that someone else will pick up the tab.
And the tragedy is that their babies will almost certainly follow the same dismal pattern of failed relationships, early pregnancy and an infinite range of other problems.
Let us be clear about why this case is such a disturbing emblem of our society. There are many households that do not fit this pattern, in which lone parents are struggling heroically to bring up their children.
Their families may be broken through no fault of their own. They do the best for their children, bring them up carefully and responsibly and often produce model citizens.
But there is another type of family where all standards of restraint and civilised behaviour have broken down: a pattern of recklessness which is increasingly being repeated throughout Lagos, even Benue, where ménage hails from.
Mummy Okwa and her ‘baby factory’ might be a particularly ripe example, but fatherless children are now being produced on an industrial scale, with generations of female-only households which think they can do without fathers – the single greatest cause of the ‘prostitution’, banditry, other related social vices and the breakdown of civility and order in the country today.
It is very disturbing. My wife has severally told me this story and I have always waved off with fingers until a certain neighbor of ours on Raji Oba Street who knows knows very well that I speak the same language with Mummy Okwa had to reinforce the bizarre story to me.
How can this have happened to an Igede woman, one of the most cleanest tribes reputed for her decency and moral rectitude?
There was a time when standards of behaviour were upheld to which all would aspire and by which they would be judged. Sobriety, sexual restraint, hard work and abiding by the law were all held to be vital for civilising the indigenes.
These virtues were policed by a combination of taboos and informal sanctions such as shame or stigma. But now all that is slipping away. Constraints on behaviour are construed as an assault on the sacred right to immediate gratification.
Shame and stigma are considered far worse than any crime or anti-social action. Upholding notions of respectability is seen as elitist and oppressive so that even the taboo is routinely disregarded.
In a society that was truly concerned to prevent children from being sexually abused, under-age sex would lead either to prosecutions or to the children involved being taken into care.