By Sola Ogundipe, Yetunde Arebi & Evelyn Usman
A DNA test revealed that Christopher Johnson wasn’t the biological father of the three children he had nurtured and invested in for almost two decades. The children, Esther, 19, Shirley, 17 and Stephen, 15, were born by the same mother who unfortunately was deceased.
Christopher, a successful but retired architect, was compelled to find out the truth about the paternity of the children after a stranger turned up one day to claim he was their biological father and challenged him to a DNA paternity test.
Christopher received the shock of his life when the result proved that the stranger was indeed the children’s real father. It turned out that the man and his late wife had been involved in a long-secret love affair that produced the three children he erroneously assumed belonged to him.
DNA paternity tests are unraveling a lot of buried family secrets. Keeping family secrets isn’t as easy as it used to be and just one DNA test could change everything for better or for worse.
Many children are experiencing paternity scandals by learning that their father is really not their biological father.
The perception that paternity fraud is high in Nigeria is not unfounded. Reports have been making the rounds that Nigeria has the 2nd highest rate of paternity fraud in the world after Jamaica. Many men have been unknowingly raising children that are not theirs and to curb the trend, there have been calls for introduction of mandatory DNA testing at birth
“The issue of paternity is a trilogy. It’s moral, scientific and legal issue,” a concerned commentator noted. “Series of DNA tests carried out in laboratories are showing that a number of children are being fathered by men who are not their biological fathers.”
Saturday Vanguard investigation revealed that traditionally in Nigeria, paternity of a child is commonly determined by acknowledgement, presumption or by proof.
Probably the most common mode of paternity is by acknowledgement. Once a man admits he is the father of a child, the case is closed.
A man is presumed to be the father of a child once the child is born within wedlock.
It is often said that a woman is in the best position to identify the father of her child, so once a woman fingers a particular man, case closed. However, developments show that proving paternity is often not as straightforward.
But rampant cases of denials, disputes and counterclaims of paternity have been making the rounds.
When the DNA test of their children failed to match with that of the men believed to be their fathers, several women were accused of unfaithfulness and condemned into the abyss of marital ignominy, but the resulting scandal snowballed into one of the most shocking revelations in the history of parental disputes.
But for the confession of a dying Zambian nurse, Elizabeth Bwalya Mwewa, who owned up to swapping about 5,000 babies over 12 years “for the fun of it”, these women might never have restored their ruined homes or removed the garb of unfaithfulness and adultery as the truth behind the genetic discrepancies of their children’s paternity might never have been unravelled.
Meanwhile in Nigeria, according to available data, at least four out of 10 men are not the biological fathers of their children. Lagos-based DNA experts confirm that many men do not know that they are not the biological fathers of their child.
One expert noted that currently, the situation in Nigeria is quite high and the majority of first-borns are affected.
According to the American Association of Blood Banks, globally, a third of all men are not the actual fathers of their presumed children.
“My life has crumbled. Living means nothing to me now than a pack of trash. It would have been better for me not to be born than to face such miserable and uncanny situation.”
These were the shattering words of Mr Shogunle, who recently discovered that the four boys whom he witnessed their birth and catered for as a loving father would be, after all, not his biological children.
The startling discovery has not only betrayed the trust and confidence he had in his wife of 12 years, Betty, it has also stolen the happy atmosphere in the family.
The genesis of this startling revelation began in October 2017, after a heated argument between the couple over Betty’s refusal to perform her conjugal responsibility. Her husband, a banker, had to involve their pastor, having endured sex starvation for seven months.
His decision to bring the matter to their pastor’s knowledge was mainly borne out of news making the round that his wife was having a clandestine relationship with their former driver, a Master Degree holder, identified simply as James, who later got a job with one of the leading Oil & Gas firms in the country. This was after much confrontation and persuasion for his wife to tell him the truth.
According to Shogunle, “ Each time I confronted her, she would rebuff me. At a point she told me to do my worst. And as punishment, she deprived me of sex for six months”.
But the truth came to limelight on November 30, 2018.
Explaining how he received the news that plunged him into a world of confusion, psychological and emotional trauma , Shogunle said,
“ I had come home early because I was not feeling too well. I also did not drive because I was too weak to do so. I did not know they were signals to danger ahead.
“ I tiptoed into the sitting room to surprise my wife. Just then, I heard her speaking with someone on the phone. She was telling the person that she did not know how to break the news to me because it would destabilise me. She begged the person to let me have ‘them’. By then it did not dawn on me who she was referring to as ‘them’.
“And then the bombshell! I heard her say ‘James darling, please leave him and my children out of this since you still have me’.
“I was still glued to the spot I was, waiting to allow her finish her conversation. Then she said: ‘ you put yourself in his shoes. If you were told you’re not the biological father of four wonderful children, all boys, that have grown to call and know you as daddy, how would you feel?’ She burst into tears at that point, begging the person at the other end to let her husband and the boys be.
“ At that point, I screamed and fell on the floor unconscious. By the time I woke up, I found myself in our family hospital with my four children of ages 11,8,5 and 3 years respectively, by my bedside, with my elder sister.
“ To cut the long story short, I insisted we went for a DNA test to ascertain the paternity of my children. Lo and behold, the result showed none of them was mine.
“ It has been four months now, my children are with my elder sister and her family while my wife fled, saying she was too scared to face me. She confessed to my sister that James was her boyfriend in the university and that she never enjoyed sex with me. This may sound as a Nollywood story but it happened to me. “Now the problem is how do I start relating with the four boys? Each time they come around and ask where is mummy, I would secretly look for where to cry”.
The Shogunles are not alone in the this, as another couple are at the moment experiencing dark clouds in their marriage , owing to a claim by a man who just returned from Europe that their 22-year-old son, who just graduated from the university, is his.
The Germany based Nigerian claimed he had a relationship with the woman while he was preparing to leave the country, adding that she was few weeks pregnant before she married her present husband.
The claim has sparked up an issue , that is threatening to break the 22 years union. A DNA test to determine paternity had been carried out, with proof of the result favouring the stranger.
There are more cases.
After his marriage of 13 years came to an end on a very traumatic and ignoble note, Toyin was more relieved than sad. The divorce ended several years of living with a cold and uncooperative partner who under the guise of the slighted excuse would take time off from her matrimonial home to cool off outside the country.
He had always been grateful to her boss who’d also tolerated her tantrums and allowed her to walk in and out of her job as she wished. Being an old family friend, he was like an uncle to Bisi, his wife and had practically watched her grow up, so Toyin had assumed they were all making sacrifices towards achieving a common goal, the success and wellbeing of Bisi and her children. His illusions came crumbling when he woke up one morning to realisation that his wife was pregnant. By all calculations, the pregnancy could not have been his, since they had not been intimate for many months.
Her cold confirmation of his observation was mind bugling and he wasted no time in telling their parent and close family friends what was brewing in his marriage. Definitely fed up with hiding, Bisi told everyone that the pregnancy belonged to her boss and parents’ friend of many years, technically bringing the man’s marriage down with hers. Unremorseful about her actions, she returned to London away from the condemning eyes and tongues, taking all three children of the marriage with her.
It was a very traumatic time for Toyin who succumbed to mild depression. It affected both his social life and business such that he had to abandon everything and returned to America to start life all over again. He decided he would take his time with women since he already had three children from his failed marriage.
Little did he know that Bisi had more up her sleeve in store for him. After his first child, a boy graduated from high school in London, he decided to cross him to the USA for several reasons.
It would be cheaper for him as a citizen, he would have some time to bond with the boy and probably from there his two other children, and also secure American citizenship for the boy. So, he applied for the boy and tests were carried out to ascertain his claims.
Alas! Toyin received an invitation by the police. He was charged with attempted child trafficking and several other counts. His main offence being that he’d lied under oath that his son was his.
DNA tests taken by the immigration department had proved that he lied. But for the divorce papers and the proof of Bisi’s previous adultery which had produced a baby girl for her boss, Toyin might have been jailed. It turned out that both his supposed first child and his wife’s last child were fathered by the same man, her boss at the office.
Another case in question. Why would a man keep quiet for over two decades before renouncing paternity of his children? And why would his wife not contest such a shameful accusation but rather accept it as her fate?
These are some of the questions the Ogunnaike family and their friends have been trying to find answers for since Chief made the announcement at a family gathering over a year ago. Chief had explained that he was doing it because he did not want to leave anything for the children in his will and wanted everyone to know why, so that no one will contest his will or abuse him after his demise.
He explained that when he took the children’s mother as his second wife, it was not planned. He’d thought he was just having another fling. Attempts to deny paternity at the time was difficult because of the intervention of friends and family. Besides, abortion was not a common option as it is today. So, he accepted. He would have reconciled with his first wife and moved on but for the poor health of the child. In their pursuit to find a solution to her problem, the lady became pregnant with a second child and he concluded that it to be his destiny.
However, visit to the clinic where the child was receiving treatment in England led to a big revelation, someone else was listed on the documents as the child’s father.
He was only paying the bills. His wife explained that since the man listed as father lives in London she had appointed him as guardian, besides, he’d donated blood for her during an emergency in the past.
Chief said his suspicions were confirmed with those document and the fact that the child looked nothing like him, all his children from his first wife and no member of his family, adding that even her condition was a first in his family history. He was even more surprised that the second child looked exactly like the first and both of them like the man whose name appeared on the hospital document.
As fate would however have it, the other two younger ones looked exactly like him and different from the first two. He said he kept all these in his heart all these years and was convinced by the way the children turned out that they just could not be his.
When asked if he had carried out a paternity test on them, Chief dismissed the idea and insisted he did not need one to know his child and that his wife was free to prove her innocence.
It was interesting to note that Mrs Ogunnaike sat quietly in the hall and avoided eye contact with everyone during the discussion. Afterwards, she simply announced that she was glad that her husband at least acknowledged two of the children as his, and that it was a pass mark for her. End of story!!!
By Sola Ogundipe, Yetunde Arebi & Evelyn Usman