There is usually no controversy about the biological mother of a child for obvious reasons except in rare cases where issues of inheritance, mischief and adoption are involved. This is not a commonplace occurrence in our environment. What we do have here are cases of paternal dispute that can be as simple as denying a pregnancy in a casual relationship to as serious as denying the fatherhood of a child and disinheriting him. This has been known to cause serious disaffection in and among families even on to the next generation. The mental trauma of illegitimacy suffered by the victim could be very overbearing and has lead individuals to become social misfits and psychopaths.
In our environment in most of the culture the acceptance or legitimacy of a child is by simple proclamation of the father and if there is no other claimant, the issue is settled. But in many instances the alleged father may be very vehement and adamant in his denial of his paternity of the child. A typical occurrence is a case that happened in the sixties. This lady had been sent as a wife to a man domiciled in the western part of the country from the village. Those were the days when courtship before marriage was not in vogue. Those at home just sent you a damsel, pronounced her your wife; and that was it. On this occasion, it backfired; for just six months after arrival this wife gave birth to a bouncing baby boy.
The husband shouted ‘blue murder!’ There was no way a woman who he never had premarital sex with and never had courtship with will have a bouncing baby just six months after coming to his house. And by every standard then and to date, termination of pregnancy at twenty four weeks was nothing but an abortion! But the wife insisted: you done it! To save both families from scandal and embarrassment, the young man’s father decided to accept the boy as his own son and pleaded with him to allow the damsel to stay and have other children and let all see whether there would be some semblance to the disputed child. This was possibly a strategy to buy time hoping that all would gradually come to live with the reality after tempers must have cooled down. It was not to be.
The marriage lasted for eighteen years with additional siblings, four in all and none having a semblance to the disputed boy. The man remained adamant especially after the death of his father and the lady wouldn’t change her story. At the end the family decided that the lady should bring the son to the family shrine, place her hand on his shoulder and swear to his paternity. As expected Nigerians don’t fear God as much as they fear the potency of shrines. So on the appointed date, the lady just refused to show up and took flight. The bitterness, hatred, acrimony and division in the family continued for all of four decades to the wire as both parties passed on. The issue continued raging in the next generation.
Well you might consider this an extreme unforgiving ego problem. So many of this type of story are abounded but a great many are resolved amicably and some could keep the secret to their chest and take it to their grave.
Lately, from the nineties the paternity dispute resolution has become very easy in some developed countries of the world. Thanks to the adventure into the world of genetics and DNA testing. First credit must go to Gregor Mendel who noticed in 1866 that biological variations are inherited from both parents and grandparents. Mendel’s work, which he did with PEAS, was largely ignored for almost four decades before it was rediscovered and flagged off the study of modern genetics. This has now zeroed into the dynamics of DNA.
With Mendel’s mode of inheritance the concepts of genotype and phenotype were well established. The GENE, the term though not first used by him, was considered to be where the physical attributes and behavioral characteristics of an individual resided. When these traits are fully expressed in the person, it is described as PHENOTYPE. In furtherance to this, genes expressing different phenotypes are known as alleles. These are located on the same position on the genetic tree or chromosome. For instance, you have an allele that expresses red and dark hair. Now each of these genes is contributed by a parent making them a functional pair in the allele. If both carry the same trait like red hair they are referred to as HOMOZYGPOUS; but if they carry opposite traits, in this instance red and dark hair they are said to be HETEROZYGOUS. A very good example is the sickle cell gene. In its heterozygous form, which is often designated as AS, the person has no trait of the disorder. Hence the A gene is regarded as being dominant over the S gene. The disorder only manifests when you have SS homozygous. In this case there is no dominance over the S gene and it is aptly described as being RECESSIVE.
The functional unit of a gene is the DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid which is made up of three components: nitrogen containing nucleobase, a sugar molecule and a phosphate group. The nucleobases found in DNA are GUANINE, ADENINE, THYMINE and CYTOSINE. These macromolecules are also known as purines and pyrimidines. On them are anchored the sugar, in this case a DE-OXYRIBOSE, often described as a PENTOSE because of its five sided structure and finally a phosphate group. The sugar and phosphate group that bind on the opposite side of purine and pyrimidine provide the backbone of the DNA structure which is a paired spiral shaped configuration often described as alpha helix. Each DNA strain comes from each parent of the individual and they are held together by strong HYDROGEN BOND.
In here resides the genetic code of the person which actually is a sequence of DNAs that would influence the phenotype of the individual. This sequence would ultimately define the messenger RNA (ribonucleic acid) sequence that would translate into a particular amino acid sequence in a protein. The aggregations of DNAs in various shape apart from the typical alpha helix in most eukaryotic cells is the chromosome. DNA at a particular temperature can be split into its two components in vitro and with the enzyme DNA POLYMERASE re-synthesized into a new DNA. This has offered a window of elastic possibility for genetic engineering in modern day medicine.
We will pick it up from here in our next outing.