Written by Adebayo Akande
“My father left when I was just four years old”
“Our father does not want anything to do with us!”
“He would come home drunk, and beat us all up.”
“He would just sit and read newspaper all day, while mummy goes working to make ends meet.”
“When every other person was out, he would come to my room and force himself on me!”
Have you heard such testimonies as cited above before? If you haven’t, then you have probably not met up to ten Nigerian fathers, or you’ve been surrounded by the relatively few exceptional ones. For me, in this quarter of a century plus life of mine, I have seen, and heard, and to a lesser degree I have experienced my own fair share of daddy issues. In my opinion, people can only move on and at best create lots of great memories; seldom do people get over the effects of abusive, absentee, or irresponsible fathers. Just as we can trace a cholera outbreak to a germ infested pond, majority of the societal issues take root from the failure of fathers to live up to their billing.
Presently, I live among the Hausa folks – and in this particular place it appears the men live for just two things – smoked meat and sex! Very little else seem to matter. When they get tired of a merchant’s meat, they move on to another. Sadly, they do same with their women. The end result? Colonic issues, and kids – lots of them! No plan for their future, not even for their present. So these bairns bite the dust almost as soon as they open their mouths!
Now before you make a huge fixed deposit of anger against these folks, just imagine what your own society would look like if contraception was not being used? The main issue here isn’t about the organ between the man’s legs, but that behind his eyes and beneath his hair. Well, rumours have it sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between the two, based on function. Men can choose which to think with!
While it is true that the responsibilities of the man are enormous, it is also amusing that respect is demanded even upon failure to live up to these responsibilities. Central to this malady is the erroneous view that a boy becomes a man, simply by staying alive long enough to develop muscles and a baritone voice; and the ability to sire children. While I am not in any way against women empowerment and liberation, the women movement to a large extent arose due to the ineptitude of men.
A father should provide for the basic needs of his family – food, shelter, emotional stability, a conducive physical and emotional environment for the family to thrive. Simply put, one without the other just would not work! Food and shelter, no matter how good, without a loving environment, is just as fatal as a home full of love, and also of empty stomachs. It is also of great concern that most fathers have created their own shoddy standards, a system of doing the barest minimum and boasting that they’ve “played their part”. When we see one that goes the extra mile for his family, providing all that is necessary, one is almost tempted to give him a Nobel prize!
I am not yet a father. So maybe it is easy to criticize people in whose shoes I have never been. But I’ve had a good feel of some other kind of shoes. Let me tell you a bit about these shoes.
They belong to women who had to single handedly raise children, simply because they wouldn’t abort the product of an act they got pressured into committing. They belong to the teenage girls who had to grow up watching their mother take up humiliating jobs while their father sat playing draughts with other fathers over a keg of palm wine; and then the mothers would return home tired, only to be insulted because food wasn’t prepared early enough. They belong to the boys and girls who had to be comforted, taught, encouraged solely by their mothers because all daddy cared about was good grades in school.
So you may not be a father just yet, but you can choose to be a good one, and that decision is a great place to start preparing.
“Happy Fathers’ day to all women who are working hard to raise their family singlehandedly.” This statement caused a stir on social media many weeks ago. There was outrage, of course from the men. We already had about three Mothers’ days, can’t we just have this single one to ourselves?
We can, we should, but not via this outrage.
We can, by determining to be there for our wives and children. Respecting them and loving them; believing in them and investing in them. I for one, love it (and sometimes envy) when people speak so highly of their fathers, and then I see men who “carry their family matter for head”. Equally disheartening are situations when the families of men I respect and would have considered as mentors turn out to be in shambles. These men go out to work so they could “put food on the table”, they do that, yet inadvertently starve the soul of their families.
Let’s abrogate daddy issues, shall we? How can we be better husbands and fathers? I would welcome our views and thoughts. Meanwhile, here are some of mine.
A family needs nurture, lots of affirmation, and communication. A major attribute to all these is selfishness. Majority, if not all children would say that all they need asides food is just daddy telling them “I love you, and I believe in you. You can be the best!” We should remix that song
“parents listen to your children;
we are the leaders of tomorrow.
Try to pay our school fees,
and give us sound education”.
The best schools won’t do as good a job as a loving father reassuring his kids. And claiming to love the children while maltreating their mother reeks of pure hypocrisy!
I know I have made things so black and white, so simplistic in this article. I can almost hear someone say “things aren’t always this straightforward”. But have you also thought that maybe being a great husband and father isn’t such a daunting task after all? That maybe all it requires is planning for that future with consideration for other people asides just you? That the solace of a happy family outranks any quest for personal glory? Or better still, your family is that personal glory?
We won’t always be perfect. We will make mistakes. But we have our society as a gallery, and our family as a canvas. With every stroke we make, every swish of our brush, we create a picture, our picture. And this picture will have a huge bearing on the entire gallery. After all, isn’t the family said to be the basic unit of the society?