IKE UKU (INHERITANCE)

There are many types of marriage in Ika culture. Ika tradition permits a man to marry many wives as he can maintain. The first wife is regarded as the head of the other wives. The man’s first son could come from any of these wives married in the traditional way. There are cases where some men got children from other women before their formal marriage. This does not exclude these children from their birth right in their fathers’ houses because the Ika marriage tradition does not regard any child more legitimate than the other.

A man’s first son or daughter, therefore, could come from any of the wives, or from a woman outside the customary marriage arrangement. The first son is regarded as the representative of the father after his death. He takes his Ofo, and assumes the position of the leader, idioma or diokpa, of the family. After the performance of their late father’s burial rites, the cost of which was born by all of them, they share his assets (ike uku).

The first son inherits, ‘stool property’, or sits on the family house, and all other property are shared among all the children including those outside the wedlock according to the traditionally laid down rules. Every child of the deceased has the right to own his or her father’s property. It is not uncommon to see children going away satisfied with just a penknife or a cup, as an inheritance from a father. His farmlands are shared among the male children including all those male children legitimately shared to their father from the families of his sons-in-law.

The man’s male children shared out to the families of their mothers are excluded from inheriting his farmlands. If at all, they do not demand that as of right but as of privilege. Before the farmlands are shared, one is kept aside for the first son for being the head, (stool land) and the rest are shared by all of them. Daughters are not given any share in their late father’s farmlands, unless of course, their sons shared to their father. The claim of these shared children to their grandfathers’ farmlands is a right rather than a privilege because they have no place in their primary families’ farmlands.

From time, landed property sharing in Ika culture has been the exclusive right of the male children. The females are regarded as ‘passive’ members of the family, who are not allowed to benefit because marriage changes their nomenclature, status and place of abode automatically. The males are privileged permanent citizens by birth. Okonyen wen/wu ulo, depicts that the male’s nomenclature, status and abode remain naturally the same throughout life time.

Nowadays, things are changing. The claim of the family house by the first son is seriously threatened, so much so that now, at best, only a room and parlour may be given to him. The daughters now want the available plots of their late fathers to be shared along with the other properties. Even now, some daughters claim equal right with the sons in their late fathers’ farmlands. They claim that they are entitled to shares in their fathers’ farmlands because they all contributed towards the burial expenses. However, the elderly ones still oppose the idea as they say, ‘it will make your children to claim from your father and their own father.” The recognition given to the children legitimately shared to ogbe in matters of inheritance is now a thing of the past. Children are no more shared in marriages nowadays. Most relations who have not been able to share their late fathers’ property successfully have become enemies. Some have found themselves in Courts. Before, daughters inherited the properties of their mother’s all alone. This was an era when women had no landed property. The whole scenario is changing as sons and daughters now claim equal right to their mothers’ property.

The Ika methods of sharing the property of the deceased differ in some kingdoms. For instance, all children of different mothers stand separately as a unit to share the property of the deceased father. If a man has five wives and each has children, the first child of each wife stands to bear the expenses of burial on behalf of his or her junior ones. But the most senior brother of all of them takes charge of the father’s home. If a female is the only one, she assumes responsibility or if no child, the Ofo is held by her lineal brother or uncle who buried the deceased.

Generally, if the father had given anything to any of his children with the knowledge of other children of his, such gift is legal but if no one witnessed it, or there is nobody who confirmed the gift, the child takes an oath; if not, other children will refuse to approve of the gift. The sharing of the deceased property is according to the presiding elder.

Civilization and modern development seem to be proving wrong, the neglect of females in traditional Ika family setting in recent times. The exclusive males’ inheritance of parents’ estates have caused docile behaviours and laxity in some young men who hope in their parents’ estates. As the females are struggling for emancipation from the traditional deprivations, it is pertinent to reconsider the estate sharing system to include the females, since females have now more urge to care for their parents while they are alive.

(Concluded)

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