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The Male Child Syndrome in Igbo Land

Updated on July 3, 2014

One of the greatest curses you can lay on any Igbo man is to wish and pray for him that his pregnant wife delivers only girls all the time even if he is not married or expecting a child.

Without wasting any time, he will certainly tell you “back to sender!” and if he is stronger than you, he might be tempted to beat the apology out of you instantly.

Why is this so? Don’t bother to ask; most of them are suffering from what I call the male child syndrome. I’ve heard that this is the also case across many tribes in Africa but I can only talk about the one that I know so well.

Just closely following behind the severe and abominable problem of barrenness in marriages in Igbo land, is this male child syndrome. In the eyes of the Igbo man, if you don’t have at least a son, you don’t have anything in this life!

And this terrible anomaly together with the problem it is causing has continued to spread and spread. Even amongst the so-called educated.

I believe the main reason why this is so in Igbo land is the issue of inheritance. Under “normal” circumstances, the unstated law or tradition is that a woman cannot inherit anything from her father. Which is way too abnormal, if you ask me…

Thus the man with no son/s is in a very big dilemma. He is already fighting a losing battle. The ridiculous reasoning behind this is that no man will like to see “outsiders” benefit from his sweat and fruits of his labor. Even when those outsiders are still blood relatives!

Granted there have been many reported cases of where a widow is thrown out of the family, sometimes with the children, after her husband’s demise with the dead man’s evil relatives seizing everything the man had especially if she never had a son for the man but is that enough reason for the man to raise all that hell…?

I mean, think about what such a man will be going through, I mean, all those internal wranglings? Just imagine all those energy sapping worries! Oh!

In my own opinion and as a word of advice to such man or men, why bother so much about who and who is going to inherit your earthly possessions when you won’t even be there? One sure thing, someone must and will!

Don’t you think it will be better if you concentrate on training the girls so well so that they will grow up and make good names for themselves, for their husbands, for their children, for their country and most importantly for you too?

Furthermore, if you have the means, why don’t you make everyone around comfortable such that no one will come after your wife and kids when you are gone instead of leaving behind a host of disgruntled hawks and sharks posing as relatives behind?

And you are busy thinking about a male child…? * sighs *

Anyway, sorry I digressed. I’m just thinking out loud.

One other outside reason why people, in this case the men, fret over not being able to have a male child is the issue of others seeing them as “not man enough”. In other words, they are a failure to themselves and humanity in general because they just can’t seem to get this very simple thing right.

I don’t know why but some people are of the view that there is way in which you will “attack” the woman at night on the bed using under some types of precise positioning, if you know what I mean, and nine months later the doctor will proudly announce to you that “it is a baby BOY!”


Maybe it’s true. When I find out, one thing you can count on, I will never forget to tell you.


There was this man I know whose wife had earlier given birth to five girls. They continued to try their luck for that elusive male child. When the wife was about to put to bed, fear never left both of them.

Even though both of them wished for a male child, they were doing so for different reasons. Of course, the man wanted an heir but the woman wanted more. She knew that if the baby happens to be a girl, that will be the end/death of the marriage because the man had said that in many times with his words and actions too.

So a lot was really at stake.

And do you know what happened when she gave birth?

I won’t tell you now. Just keep on reading.

No one suffers from this male child syndrome the more than the woman involved and that’s because strangely though, this cause of this problem is attributed to her and her alone.

Yay! It's a baby boy!
Yay! It's a baby boy! | Source

A woman who can’t give birth to a male child knows what it means. First, their position as the only wife is seriously threatened because their husband will definitely get the advice from many “concerned” people like his parents, friends and well wishers to do “something” before “something” happens…

These somethings could be getting another wife or wives as the case might be. It could mean the perfect cover for the man to start engaging in extra marital activities. It could also mean sending the current wife packing back to her parents…

Thus creating a lot of pressure for the man and his wife.

The woman may even go as far as visiting prayer houses in search of miracles to solve this great “problem”. Some may even involve themselves in some form of extra-marital affairs a.k.a “away match” in ordinary Nigerian parlance.

I remember I once reminded a friend that the last three US presidents starting from Barack Obama all had female children so why the fuss?

You know what his response was?

He blatantly told me that that is the US we are talking about and there their women have a say not like what is obtainable in Nigeria.

He even went as far as telling me that I should just stay there and continue reciting the rosary and counting my chaplet beads while praying that my wife will only have baby girls. Only then I will come to realize the real meaning of being “blessed amongst women.”

Damn! Such an acidic tongue coming from a guy!

But I didn’t feel like beefing. I know what ignorance can do to our sensibilities sometimes. Besides, what he said about Nigerian women not having any say in issues like this was the gospel truth.

It’s not like I am praying to have only girls but if my wife and I happen to produce only girls, I know I won’t even bother at all!

Oh yes! No fretting whatsoever!

In fact, secretly, I would even love it but please don’t tell my mother at least until you hear my reasons.

I know for sure that when they finally grow up,

  1. Girls look after their parents in old age better than the guys. And they can do this so well even from their husband’s house. There is a saying that when you train a girl, you train a community and it is so true.
  2. I will have a full house of in-laws. More girls…more in-laws. My dear Igbo brothers reading this you know they say Igbos love money so much so that means you already know what that means in terms of future monetary investments and gains? Instead of paying out bride price, I will be the one receiving the bride price and many other goodies that comes with it from left to right to center! Before nko?
  3. Girls mature fast so that means they will make my wife and me grand parents earlier. I’d really love to hear the cries of “gran’ pa, gran’ ma!” rend the air and I don’t think I can really count of those unserious skirt chasers and mommy’s boys of sons to do that for me that early…i.e. inside wedlock!
  4. I will like to feel what it is like to have a Nobel Prize award winner as (a) daughter(s). Most people will always want to believe that ours is a man’s world but I know that women can benefit from that warped thinking if only they knew it. When a man achieves some great feat, it is a normal thing but when a woman does a similar thing, I bet you, it is going to be something out of this world!That is why people celebrate it when a woman invents something or even successfully flies a plane. I wonder how nice it will feel when my old bespectacled self is standing beside my girls and smiling to the world and at the cameras as we receive the joint award in both physics and medicine due to a major breakthrough in completely substituting or even replacing human memory with artificial intelligence or something like that…You know I love to daydream a lot but this one is going to happen…you bet!
  5. I will have the ultimate joy and satisfaction in watching the guys start trooping in to my place in search of that all important scent of a woman, looking at me in that strange way, always somewhat afraid and tensed up, always wondering if I ever have any idea of what they are really doing (with) to my girls when alone,*rolls eyes*, always ready to do my bidding and please me just so as to remain in my good books because they know that just one word or one disapproving stern look from me could send them packing and running with their tails tightly tucked in between their legs with their youthful heart broken and shattered to pieces! Oh, you think you are the only one that loves playing God? Of course, I think I’ve already mastered how to perfectly feign a serious protective father on the outside while mischievously laughing my head off on the inside. *Evil grin*

And believe it or not…

6. My lovely wife will never have any reason again to ask me to help out in the kitchen - once my girls are grown!

You know I hate anything that has anything to do with the kitchen and cooking and cutting onions, don’t you?

But that does not mean that in any way that I hate eating a well prepared food, because I don’t! Never will!

You get?

OK. So back to our story. When that woman I was telling you about delivered, she gave birth to a set of twin – one girl…

annnd…One BOY!

Everybody was in a joyous mood. Everybody except the man. He may be trying to hide behind his mechanical smile when people come around to say congrats to him but me, I am not fooled. Sometimes, I believe I have this ability to read people’s mind.

I was able to see that it has finally dawned on him that there are now many more mouths to feed! Seven to be precise minus the wife and himself!

I am not sorry him. Obviously, he allowed himself to suffer from the male child syndrome!


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