Couples irrespective of color, religion and age have the tendency to conceal all kinds of issue from each other Many relational issues such as feelings, crushes, and attraction to others; sexual issues such as masturbation; as well as infidelity and paternity, dating and married couples hide from their partners through lies and deception.
In the home of Mr Akinade Olorunda (not real name), life was blissful until one of the children was found to have sickle cell disease. The father, a civil servant, who claimed to have an AA genotype, could not accept that his son would turn out to have sickle cell disease. This, invariably, led him to sending the boy out of the home.
But Chief Henry Okon’s case was slightly different. As result of a casual relationship with a school teacher in Lagos, Chief Okon got the surprise of his life when the lady showed up in his home saying she was pregnant and that he should claim the pregnancy.
Unfortunately for Chief Okon, his wife insisted that he should rent another apartment for her outside rather than let her move in with the family. As luck will have it, Chief Okon’s mother insisted that the baby, when born, should be tested to be sure he was fathered by Chief Okon. Alas, the test revealed that Chief Okon was not the father the baby.
What does it feel like to discover that a child or children you have laboured over since cradle are not yours? Is paternity becoming an issue in Nigeria? Rising cases of deception, infidelity and adultery among couples have made the need to popularise Deoxyribonucleic Acid testing, otherwise known as DNA test, inevitable.
Interestingly, there is a big difference between women and men when it comes to issues of paternity. Women never have to question the maternity of their children. Because women are responsible for giving birth, they always know if a child is theirs. Men, on the other hand, can never be as certain.
In Nigeria, the awareness for DNA testing is on the increase. T he testing now reveal many well-kept family secrets while also raising a host of complicated legal issues. Surprisingly, statistics have revealed that more children are living with parents that are not biologically theirs. Three out of every 10 men are not the fathers of their babies. Similarly, three out of every 10 children are not fathered by men they have always known as their biological fathers.Why the increasing cases in paternity disputes and deceptions? Does this have anything to do with the cultural practices of many communities, infidelity, adultery or increase in sexual recklessness among Nigerian couples? Recent trends in sexual health, especially in Nigeria, suggest that unprotected sex and multiple partner relationships are a common occurrence. Aside the issue of poor family planning among women, Dr Adigun, a consultant obstetric and gynaecologist, Ring Road State Hospital, Ibadan, Oyo State, said, increasing incidence of male fertility and the stigma associated with inability to father a child makes the issue of paternity a big one in Nigeria.
Nowadays, he said, “male causes of infertility are about the same as that in females. And it will be a shame in the society to be impotent. The man knows the child is not really his, he would not go on to do any paternity test that will show his nakedness to the whole world.”
Dr Adigun, pointed out that those cultural biases even make adoption of babies difficult and unacceptable, “It is an abuse culturally for people to know that a man is impotent. So, if someone is giving you a child and not reporting to the society that you are impotent, then you are okay.”
With increasing cases of infertility in men, “if a man acknowledges legally fathering a child or a woman acknowledges a man as the father of her child, people take the case to be so. How do you say that you are not the father of a child for whom you held a naming ceremony ? It will be a shame.”
Although between three and five out of every 10 men are fathering children that are not their’s biologically, Dr Adigun said this is something many people are not aware of in the society. “Even for those who are aware that the children are not theirs, there is no accessibility to the Deoxyribonucleic Acid, also known as DNA testing. Also, the cost of the test is high and the men cannot afford it,” he explained.
DNA profiling is a tool to identify an individual’s unique genetic makeup with the sample collected from the individual (blood, hair or mouth swab).
There has been an increase in awareness on DNA issues, after late MKO Abiola directed in his will that his over 100 children must undergo the DNA testing and with the DANA air crash which occurred early in the year in Lagos.
Issues bordering on identity can be resolved using DNA testing, according to Professor Durosinmi because the DNA is a unit of heredity which is unique to every individual, just like the finger print.
“It is because of the uniqueness of DNA that it is used for identification because it is not shared with any other person,” Professor Durosinmi said. “So, on issues such as paternal and maternal problems, DNA testing will give 100 per cent certainty. Genetic testing does not lie.”
“Under normal circumstances, two men can lay a claim to a particular child because the woman has not been able to identify who actually the father is. Of course, this might not be as a result of the irresponsibility of the woman, maybe it is a case of rape. Also, in some circumstance, the husband might say a particular child is not his even though the child resembles him.”
Nevertheless, Professor Durosinmi said the first approach to resolving issues of identity is using blood group. “The blood group of the child is compared with that of the mother and the two men laying claim to the child. But the use of blood group, including rhesus factors and sickle cell, has not being very useful. It is about 25 per cent accurate.”
However, he said, DNA testing is the best method to unravel the identity issues, whether of children or forensic cases, adding that it can give 100 per cent certainty that one person is a relation of another.
To prove or disprove the biological relationship between a child and an alleged father or other persons, samples are taken from the child and the alleged father (and the mother if she is available) using painless buccal swab which is taken to the lab where the DNA is purified and prepared for a battery of at least 16 DNA markers, producing a genetic profile for each tested individual. The child’s genetic profile is then compared with the profiles of the mother and alleged father for possible match or mismatch.
Although individuals may see resemblance and other physical attributes and on the basis of this assume a particular child is biologically fathered by a man, he said, only DNA testing can prove this to be so accurately.
But issues of paternity could be stressful, especially in Nigeria where men will never own up to be impotent because of stigma. It is also a stressor both for the families, as paternity disputes continued to arise.