It was a few months ago when I logged into my google reader and saw a sweet interview Lola Omotayo, girlfriend to Peter Okoye for over seven years and the mother of his two children, gave a Nigerian newspaper about her relationship with him. Peter Okoye is one of Nigeria’s music superstar and the other half of the band called P-Square. Omotayo talked about the challenges of dating a celebrity, the fact that Peter was always on the road for work and at times during the holiday seasons, and the impact, emotionally and psychologically, his absence and demanding career had on her and the children. She also presented him as a really sweet, very caring, adorable loving partner and father. I thought the interview was sweet, very sweet.
However, social media/blogosphere apparently had a different reaction. Many who read the same interview thought and said, “hello woman? If he is that great a father that you have to begin doing PDA (public display of affection), why hasn’t he married you yet? Two kids later? Common!” The web was on fire and apparently from further news reporting, Omotayo felt she needed to defend herself so she went on social media and engaged in one-on-one battles with Peter’s fans.
The fans had a fair and legitimate question. . . Why hasn’t Peter Okoye married Omotayo, if he is that great a guy? For me, the answer was straightforward. Peter was not ready and he truly believed, based on his actions, that marriage would jeopardize his fan base. Of the two twins that make up P-Square, Peter, despite his good looks, toned body and great talent, is always eager to thrust his pelvic on unsuspecting fans and media alike by way of photos that somehow focuses on that part of his anatomy.
He seems to want to sell sex and does so by any means necessary. Why? You will have to ask him. But I think that his conduct and belief has in turn affected his stalling/popping the question to his baby mama, Omotayo.
As a fan, would you want to romanticize about Peter if you knew he was married with two kids versus if he was unattached? However, we all gotta grow up at some point and pass on the baton. It’s called life. Peter was overdue to pass on that baton.
In any event, I thought Omotayo would ignore all these hoopla. But, here is where it got interesting for me. She engaged in a back and forth and in one particular instance, Omotayo attacked a fan. She said the fan “needed” marriage to validate herself, and that she, Omotayo, did not need marriage to validate her. She ultimately told the woman where to go.
Her response really struck and stuck with me and I made a mental note to discuss it with you all. I felt it was either she was intentionally naïve or just doing a terrible job at pretending she did not care. I mean no one asked Omotayo to grant such interview. No one asked her to dote on how great a guy her man was. Her guy was a superstar and she should expect if she rubbed her great fortune in the faces of others, people would ask what was a legitimate question, at least in my view.
When I read her defensive response I thought to myself, “are you for real? A Nigerian woman dating a Nigerian man with two kids born to him, out of Wedlock, and you are saying you do not “need” marriage to validate you? Who told you it was about you? What has your “needing” marriage or not “needing” it got to do with the equation?“
So much for all that defensiveness because today, Peter Okoye proposed and Omotayo said, “yes.” She could have said “no” and carried on with the status quo. What happened?
Why Marriage Matters and Should Matter in a Lola Omotayo Type of Situation
Let’s compare Nigeria’s Family & Inheritance Laws with that of the USA’s to see why being married in Nigeria actually matters; for a woman with two kids from the same man, like Omotayo.
In the USA, if you have a child out of Wedlock, there is a high probability, in most states, that upon proof of paternity, you can get court ordered financial and medical support (child support) to aid you in raising that child. If the father of the child fails to comply with the order, there are criminal and civil ramifications/penalties for such disobedience that forces him to take care of his responsibilities.
Equally significant, as to inheritance rights under US laws (wills), a child born out of wedlock, can inherit from his/her mother’s estate. Further, he/she can also inherit from his/her father’s estate, upon proof of paternity. This is a constitutional right.
Therefore, if you have a child out of wedlock for an American man, there is a high likelihood that even if your child does not have the emotional and psychological support that every child needs from a father, s/he can at least have some financial support.
Now let’s look at Family & Inheritance Law For “Illegitmate” Children in Nigeria
When a Nigerian woman chooses to have an “illegitimate” child/children i.e. for a Nigerian man, what is the impact, in terms of the inheritance rights of that child, under Nigerian laws?
The quick answer is that this area of law in general is complex and volatile, but what remains clear is that the “illegitimate” child is unaccounted for in the equation under Nigerian laws. This compounded with the stigma and ridicule for that child that comes by virtue of being an “illegitimate child” from children and adults alike, is a bit much for any parent to ask their child to shoulder such burden, if they do not have to.
First, as to family law, these children do not have the luxury of having the state, or government force their fathers to provide financial and medical support for them. There are a few states (Lagos included) that have enacted some laws to protect these children, but these laws are the bare minimum, at best.
Second, independent of the lack of protection under the family law system, under the inheritance system, these “illegitimate” children are unrecognized. The vast majority of Nigerian men who die, die intestate (i.e. die without a will). This means, for the most part, customary laws come into play (although there are other laws at play including Sharia law) and the estates of these deceased men are divided in one of several ways: a)in some tribes, the estate is distributed to the eldest son of the deceased i.e. eldest son from a legitimate marriage; or b) if there is no child or the children are minors, the property is left for the brother of the deceased; or c) within some tribes, the property is divided equally among the legitimate children of the deceased or some other derivative forms.
The point is “Illegitimate” children are generally NOT recognized under Nigerian laws in terms of inheritance rights of their fathers. Further, their unmarried mothers are certainly not recognized nor entitled to any inheritance from these fathers. It might explain why the wedding industry is such a huge industry in the country. Bella Naija weddings anybody? 🙂
So, let’s come back to the Peter Okoye and Omotayo situation. Here is a man worth at least one million, in US dollars, if not more. His financial portfolio includes extensive real estate and other financial holdings.
He has two “illegitimate” (not a fan of the word “illegitimate”) children, of which the first child is a boy, all from one woman. To date, there have been no reports that Peter is abusive either to Omotayo or his children. So, going back to the questions posed by his fans, and extending it a bit, why would any Nigerian woman, who has two children for this man or any Nigerian man for that matter, given the customary laws that would automatically deprive these children of the inheritance rights that they would otherwise be entitled to, not want to get married to protect the interests of her children?
I submit to you all that if you are a Nigerian woman involved in a relationship with a Nigerian man, you are probably better off, if you are concerned about the best interests of your child/children, not following Omotayo’s example and waiting for him to put a ring on it, before having his babies.
There is the weird notion and message being passed these days to a lot of our young girls that they can be like Ann Idibia, Omotayo or even Genevieve Nnaji, Waje and Omawumi (single parents who work their tush off) and all will be well. I think these ladies are not the norm. For all of these ladies, I would venture to say you see the glory but you don’t know half the story.
For me, as the child of a marriage whose father was ultimately absent from the home, I can tell you growing up in Nigeria was tough in general, from experiencing and observing a single parent (mother) go it all alone, not by choice.
Indeed, women, in many states, are not entitled to any inheritance from their fathers’ estates or their husbands. We are disproportionately unemployed, uneducated and lack political, economic or social power. Therefore, I am unsure how knowingly having children out of wedlock, in a country like Nigeria, for the Nigerian man furthers or advances our cause. No disrespect to Omotayo but I’d hate to even have any young girl in Nigeria think that she is the blue print to follow. That is simply not the reality of the matter and hitting gold like Peter can be a long and futile effort.
No matter how progressive we claim to be, well traveled or exposed, the fact is that the family/inheritance laws of Nigeria are simply not in line with the lifestyle projected by Peter and Omotayo to protect the rights of the Nigerian woman and her so called “illegitimate” child.
By the way, before you go castigating all of Nigeria’s inheritance and family laws, you should know that even America’s laws has a limit as well. Common law marriages in some states, for example, are unrecognized and it is simply a too bad, so sad shrug if you stay in a relationship and take on the role of a wife when you simply are not.
My 50kobo for all it’s worth. 🙂 I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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