I believe that there is a plague on every first male child in Africa. It may sound outrageous but if one calmly approaches a first male child of any African family and finds out his challenges, you’d be amazed at the size of the problem, the root of his moodiness. I’d not guess correctly if I mention that providence put it there. Saying it is a social construct may be closest to the truth. The male figure is a beast of burden. He sweats it out and it is invisibly written that he works out the salvation of everyone and every African woman can quote it.
I presume that that condition is same across Africa. I am keen on the African continent because I think I can speak more accurately for the region. I don’t know how it is in Asia but I can guess that the men work really hard too. I have been to Ghana and I have experienced it. This plague is called ‘family responsibilities.’ You grow into them. You did not ask for them at birth. You inherit them. You are not spared for being weak. When you can’t meet up you’re declared a failure and less of a man. And a lot falls apart from there.
To be from Africa and not be bothered by this bunch of responsibilities is to be a very special child. The worries have driven a lot of men into crime. They have to provide and must live up to expectations. But to not be bothered means that your rebellion is so off the hook and you’re truly special. But most times, to achieve personal goals, you may have to look a little bit inwards and take care of yourself first. If you lose your mind while worrying about family, no one would be there to speak for you.
The first child in an African family is the alternative father. This is announced the day he is born. The celebration that follows such birth is not necessary for the appearance of penis but of the weight of the load to be carried. When the father is not there, the male child becomes the breadwinner. He must lead his siblings and mother to a better life. His dreams are to be dropped. He must take up that of his family and do it without complaint. This could be tough on the individual as it alienates him from social gatherings and even causes doubt and lost in personal beliefs but who cares. No one sees how much he puts in, especially contemporary society.
On the other hand, the African woman does not get to be laden with so much expectations aside marriage. The society wants her to get married and build her home, keep her home and that’s it. Whatever challenges that arise from the marriage becomes a family affair. And if the challenges extend to her extended family, then her brother, the male child would act as father again and settle such dispute and give necessary advice to enable a smooth home. He is to be do without complaint. It does not matter if his personal life suffers.
The African first son has ‘responsibilities’ as a sub-tag. Maybe today’s modern African man would sit and discuss the possibility of shared jobs. It should not just be for the man. Every child should take responsibility too. There are cases where the first male child cannot get married while his father and mother are yet settled in a proper house – rented or built. He cannot build a house for himself unless he has fixed a place for his parents. He must make enough money to run his home and extend some to relations. He is the face of all-things-responsibility. But that may not be the problem. The problem may lie in under appreciation of the male figure, especially the first male child. However, we need to push for a debate to see how we can end this heap of responsibilities.
Bura-Bari Nwilo lives in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. His first book of short stories, A Tiny Place Called Happiness is available on Okadabooks.com.