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									DNA test, Abiola's Will and those 'bastards'

It's a fact my brother that some bastards want to rubbish this family.
We won't allow them to live with us -Mubashiru Abiola, Champion,
August 8, p. 6.

PERHAPS the most exciting story of the week is that of the result of
the DNA test conducted on late Chief MKO Abiola's children as
reported fully and with suspicious ceremony in the ThisDay
newspaper of Monday, August 6. There are many lessons to be learnt
from the entire episode. And let it be noted that since the Abiolas have
chosen to wash their dirty linen in public, no one should complain
about the invasion of privacy, (please), to the extent that the DNA
politics in the Abiola family is now a matter of public interest. Chief
MKO Abiola is known as the martyr of the struggle for democracy in
Nigeria; he was the man who won the June 12, 1993 election but who
the military denied the benefit of victory.

This resulted in a long-drawn out battle between the military and civil
society forces, the killing, maiming and incarceration of many
progressives and the eventual detention and death of Chief MKO
Abiola, while still in government custody, on July 8, 1998. But MKO
Abiola was also a great Nigerian: a billionaire philanthropist, a man of
the people, a supporter of sports and other social causes, a publisher of
great newspapers (all sadly defunct). In his private life, he was also
quite a phenomenon. He married women by the dozens (over fifty of
them!) and allegedly sired 113 children. Abiola was so rich, he
himself once boasted that his wealth could never dry up. He was the
Croesus of our time and the people who benefitted from his many acts
of generosity across Nigeria called him "Baba Alaanu" ( the generous,
kind-hearted giver). He had a chieftaincy title from every corner of
Nigeria, including churches, mosques and traditional conclaves. He
was both man and legend.

This background is necessary because I have heard in the last few
days someone asking the question: what about the Abiola family? It is
painful that nine years later, some Nigerians are already forgetting
how important this man is to our contemporary history. In the African
tradition, the worth of a man' s life is often assessed by the character
of his household after his departure. In Abiola's case, there has been
turmoil in his household. The catalyst is his Will dated October 25,
1989, in which he had insisted that all the children bearing his name
and who have been presented to him as his biological children should
undergo DNA testing before they can inherit any part of his estate. He
made exceptions for only six of his children; the five children from his
childhood love and first wife, and one other child.

This caveat in the Will immediately caused so much furore within the
family with the wives divided into associations of pro-DNA wives and
anti-DNA wives, But once a man has written a Will, it is axiomatic
that his last wishes should be respected. For nine years, not much was
heard from the Abiola family on the matter of the man's estate, until
this week, when Thisday and the administrator of the late Abiola's
estate shared the result of the DNA test with the public. It is quite an
interesting report. A quick summary: 25 of the children (already about
25 per cent) failed the DNA test, forcing younger brothers of the late
business mogul and politicians to declare that bastards will not be
allowed in the Abiola family!

About 21 children are yet to undergo the test but they have been
advised by the administrators to do so post-haste (only God knows
how many of them will pass the test). And there are at least two
children who had been disowned by Abiola himself, I guess by merely
looking at them, and seeing that they do not look like him in any way!
So far, 37 children have been confirmed as DNA compliant, plus the
six exempted children, and another seven who passed but are
excluded from the Will. It means that for now under the terms of the
Will, there are 50 MKO Abiola children, the final figure to be derived
subsequently from the results of the DNA testing of an outstanding
figure of 21 children. Curiously, there are also 15 other children who
are described as not qualifying under the terms of the Will. We are not
told whether these 15 children passed the DNA test or not, their
classiification is uncertain. Hun, orisirisi!

Now the lessons: it should be clear to everyone that if Abiola had died
intestate (that is without writing a Will), his estate would have been
shared among both rightful heirs and bastards with everyone
pretending to be a principal member of his family. MKO Abiola must
have attracted so many children not his own because in his lifetime he
was the great philanthropist who helped anyone that came along. It
was even said that any woman who had a child for him got a
handsome gift calculated in real estate and millions of money. This
was an incentive for any woman at all to dump a child on him.

At least two women on the DNA list have some children passing the
test and one in each instance failing the DNA test. In his lifetime,
MKO Abiola accommodated both the bastards and his own children,
but he has now used his Will to show that he was not stupid at all, and
that philanthropy has its limits. It is a powerful statement from the
grave. Only God knows how many men in our society are fathering
and nurturing children who are not their own. And I guess this is not
limited to polygamous situations like MKO Abiola's. The effect of the
Abiola case is that more men are likely to write Wills, and are likely
to ask for DNA testing.

Thus, what the MKO Abiola Will has done is not just to make the
writing of Wills advisable, it has also popularised DNA testing. First
established in 1985 by Sir Alec Jeffreys, DNA testing or DNA
fingerprinting has become a popular means of establishing identity
and a useful tool in criminal investigations. Methods adopted include
polymerase chain reaction and fragment length polymorphism but in
simple language, through DNA testing, accurate genetic information
can be established. The interesting thing is that it is cheap: between
$99 and $125, the more expensive options are not more than $500, but
the results in all instances are reportedly accurate and conclusive.

The MKO Abiola DNA report also shows the dangers of polygamy.
The man was an investor in all fronts. He was so prolific on the home
front he even had children whose mothers' identities could not be
established. In the report, some children were identified as "possibly"
belonging to some women, and in at least six instances, the children 's
mothers were described as "unknown to the administrators". This all
things considered is not a good advertisement for motherhood. The
only women who can stand tall in the Abiola household today are the
ones whose children passed the DNA test particularly the ones who
scored 100 per cent. But tell me, what kind of woman would give
another man's child to some other lover just for pecuniary gains? Such
a woman deserves no respect at all. And what kind of woman would
claim to have a child within a family and no one would know either
her or her children. Such a person is despicable.

There have been cases at burial grounds in which women just showed
up with children that no one had ever seen claiming that they belong
to the deceased. Did this happen in the Abiola case? All the women
who are tempted to behave like the discredited mothers in the MKO
Abiola list should learn a lesson from this. But there is another lesson
for men too. MKO Abiola was a fantastic entrepreneur in the romance
department: he gathered the women and he was determined not to
waste anything that he shot across in the heat of romance. He alone,
with over 50 children at the present count? He makes other men look
like weaklings, who are busy wasting useful biological weapons all
over the place! But it is better to be prudent to avoid his kind of
collection of bastards: 25 per cent and still counting!

The MKO Abiola family DNA report is a melodramatic collection of
heroes and villains, but the poor victims are the innocent children who
have now been saddled with an identity crisis. The list as earlier
reported is full of DNA rejected and failed children who have been
bearing the MKO Abiola name and have been told by their mothers all
along that they are indeed children of the late legend. The publication
in ThisDay has placed s stamp of stigma on their heads. They could be
scarred for life.

They will be taunted by their friends in school; society will treat them
with suspicion. They can no longer go near the Abiola family either.
That family is meeting in Abeokuta on Sunday to separate the
bastards from the real ones. These children will need counselling. But
because there are no illegitimate children in Africa, many of them will
confront their mothers and ask them to identify their real fathers.
Those women have explanations to give, and they had better start
preparing their stories. But what kind of women are these? What kind
of mother would lie about her child's paternity for mercantilist
reasons? Men have to be careful too about the kind of "away" games
that they play.

The greater burden that all MKO Abiola children would now have to
bear is that when anyone comes along bearing the name, we are likely
to rush to the DNA list to be sure that we are dealing with a rightful
representative of that family. I suggest that the family should come up
with a roll of honour. All the children who passed the DNA test
should henceforth have behind their names in brackets, the suffix
(DNA). For that family, DNA is now after all, a badge of honour. But
the story is not over yet.

Some of the women whose sons passed the DNA test but are
classified as disinherited are threatening to go to court. Isn't it better to
keep one's home-front simple to avoid this kind of messy situation?
Here is MKO Abiola:: a man of history who ought to be remembered
in more elevated light, but whose legacy has been reduced to the ugly
politics of the chamber of desire and fatherhood. Unfortunately, that
was his life, but the living are still free to make their own choices or
make possible amends.

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