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The International Writers Magazine: Life in Africa

Surname: Why Not Mother's Name?
Odimegwu Onwumere
In any ancient African family where there is no male child, emotional disturbances and feelings of being bereft, become rampant, even if all the female children are notable people in the society. This contemptuous attitude towards the female child is caused by foolish tradition that forbids women from inheriting from their father’s property, as the male children do.


Every year, the African father, especially the Christian, celebrates what is called ‘Fathers Day’. But, not all fathers are fathers, some are husbands. An African father feels that when the female child inherits from his property, she would prosper would-be husband with it. He feels that training the girl-child is useless to him, but beneficial to her future husband. What a primordial nonsense! This is a child he flogs and sends on errands the same manner he does to the male child. This is a child that calls him father.

This is girl who was not asked to shy away from certain work in the family because she was a female. Yet, he would not father her, but would erase her name and deny her inheritance because of tradition. He only calls her, “my daughter”, but when it comes to training her or making her an heiress of his property, he gives his son more preference. How bizarre!

In many homes today, it is the girl-child that spearheads the family financially, even from her matrimonial home. She does not mind the problems besetting her immediate family, but the problems in her father’s house becomes first in her priorities. She supports the family in many ways, to see that she maintains her roots - whilst the male-child that is often held in high esteem, may turn out to be a criminal, a prodigal son, a hooligan, or contemptuous person, yet all the family legacy may go to him because he is a man.

This girl-child begins another phase of labour in her matrimonial home, working to please her husband. Swallowing all forms of debasements upon her integrity. She begins to cope with man’s greedy nature, many concubines he keeps out of matrimony, how many bottles of beer he drinks, people he “dashes” money.

While the man lives on in marriage, the woman dies slowly in it. Because, it is a man’s world. She goes to work in the morning, like the man, only to leave office before the office closes in order to cook for the man. She washes in the house and still carries her crest at hand, not knowing if she had pleased Mr. Right so much if he comes back.

Mr. Right would not appreciate this woman for her immense efforts towards the welfare of the family, but would begin to nag, asking, “Where is my food? Why is sand on the floor of the room? The home smells! Why did you not do this? Why did you not do that? Not minding, the amiable woman would obey her man and return to the kitchen. While the man relaxes in the sitting room watching television.

The woman begins to prepare the children for dinner and for sleep, by washing them, by dressing them up, by making sure that they are secure, while Mr. Right would be snoring in deep sleep in the sitting room. The woman won’t still ignore him, she would wake him to come and take his bath, so as to be prepared for the night’s sleep.         

While sleeping, Mr. Right does not want to know what happens to the children, it is the duty of the woman. He often complains at his family, “Woman! You and your children are disturbing me!” He might leave the room for them to seek comfort elsewhere.

After battling with this in the night, the woman wakes before Mr. Right for the morning chores. She would wash the plates used for eating the night before, prepare the children for school and even comes to prepare “Mr. Right” to take his bath, eat and dress him for his office. Yet, Mr. Right will not say “thank you” to the woman. What women see in the world is much, and it’s only God that knows why it is so.

When the children need maximum care and training from the man, he would not be available. And when they remember that dad is rigid, a nag, they won’t go again to tell him what his responsibilities are, thereby resulting in the man being freed from his responsibilities. It is still this woman that the children would run or turn to.

The woman would not force them to meet their father, rather she might sell her valuables to ensure that the children are trained, not even minding that they are not bearing her name, not even minding that if she dies, no body remembers her name; everyone remembers the man’s.

The man’s paramount happiness in life for shying away from his responsibilities is that his relations have seen that he has paid his duty, at least, by marrying and bringing the hapless children he can not cater for into the earth. He may go from one beer parlour to another drinking to stupor. The man has no blame and should not be blamed, but the society should be blamed for seeing any unmarried man as a fool.

When the woman must have finished struggling to train the children and God blesses them and they are prosperous, Mr. Right comes back to claim ownership as their father. And if the children want to do anything funny to him, the amiable Mama would plead on his behalf. The children will forgive because the woman (who cannot stop loving them) has spoken.

When the woman is pregnant for this man, he may have no respect for her. He may go to “chase” other ‘fresh’ girls outside matrimony. He leaves the woman to solely bear the punishment his amorous libido had caused. The woman begins to carry the foetus happily. She does not leave her home chores, she still does them. She carries this for a period of nine months, while the man practices his usual infidelity. But assuming he were the woman, the whole world would hear of it.

When the woman goes to the labour room, it is another experience. She begins to call Jesus Christ. If that does not work, she begins to call Jehovah. These and more suffering the woman bears only for the man to have a name. Why not the mother’s name?

© Odimegwu Onwumere, Poet/Author and Media Consultant, is the Founder of Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA), Rivers State, Nigeria.
Email: apoet_25 at
(1st Published in 2007),

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