By Tego Wolasa
Recently, I came across a jobless lad who was hardly making it through life. He had a sick child and couldn’t get money to hospitalize the kid.
My curiosity made me have chitchat with him. I came to learn that he was a sixth born in a family of seven.
He told me that he does casual jobs in Nairobi to make ends meet and that he had not been very lucky since Covid-19 started battering the economy.
He says that he was not lucky to get formal education since his parents only educated the first three siblings.
Upon the death of their father, his eldest sibling, who was lucky to get a formal education and a well-paying job, ironically inherited all the wealth.
I was compelled to put down this article because it occurred to me that there could be thousands of other such unspoken cases.
So, What is Primogeniture?
Primogeniture is a principle of inheritance in which the firstborn son inherits his parents’ entire property upon their death.
The practice is part and parcel of the ancient Burji. Many other communities across Kenya, Ethiopia, and globally practiced and still practice Primogeniture.
In medieval Western Europe, the land-owning aristocracy developed the practice to prevent the splitting of estates and the titles and privileges that went with them.
Germans practiced ultimogeniture during the Nazi. This is a principle where all the property is inherited by the lastborn son.
The practices were abolished by major religions and by most countries of the developed world.
Islam, for instance, outlined a detailed guideline for equitably sharing the deceased’s estate among all the children, to both male and female over 1400 years ago in the year 609.
The state of Georgia in the US abolished Primogeniture in 1777, while their British counterparts stopped the practice in 1925.
Why Am Speaking Against Primogeniture
I am not saying that every family of our great community practices Primogeniture. I am speaking against the practice because of those who still practice it.
In addition to being unfair, here are other reasons why I speak against the practice.
Historians have reliably reported that Primogeniture is one of the major reasons why the Burji immigrated to other areas in the 1890s.
Access to the properties by younger siblings depended on the generosity of the firstborn son. You will agree with me that not every firstborn is kind and considerate.
Competition and the feeling of unfairness had, in some cases, led to inter-sibling conflict.
The third reason is that the practice is repugnant to religion. I was not lucky to find someone to share with me about Christian teachings.
From the Islamic perspective, the Quran, in verses 11, 12, and 176 of chapter four, outlines equitable formula to be used in inheritance should the parents, child, or even a sibling dies.
The fourth reason is that the practice contradicts government legislation which encourages the equal division of heritable resources among all the children.
The practice is thus unfair and goes against the national law and religious teachings. In addition, it has caused discord among families.
Despite the above clear setbacks, and despite prohibition by the laws of the land and the religious teachings, several families still practice Primogeniture.
Let us join hands in preaching the gospel of equity. Let us join hands in speaking against the practice so that those who are still practicing will abandon the practice. Won’t we?