Fuji music star, Alhaji Abass Akande, alias Obesere, speaks to EMMANUEL OJO about his parenting experience.
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What does fatherhood mean to you?
The most important thing about fatherhood is that one should be a responsible father. Being responsible is not all about money. There are times you might not have the financial capacity to meet your children’s financial demands but you can still have advice and patience. When you don’t have, there’s a way you present it that your children will understand and they will be patient with you. Not all responsibilities can be immediately met at all times. At times when your children come to you with a financial need and you are not capable at that moment, what you can do is to calm the child down and request for some time to meet the need. As a parent, you must also present it in a good manner. The fact that it’s your child that is making the request does not mean that you have to talk to him or her anyhow. Make them understand and they will love you. Also, make your children know the right thing to do and the right way to go at all times. As a parent, you are to show them the right path and not ignore the wrong things they do. If the parent ignores the child, the consequences will later haunt the parent in the end.
At what age did you become a father?
I became a father at 21.
Age 21 appears relatively early to become a father. Did you find starting early advantageous?
When talking about the age I became a father, you know that being a father does not necessarily mean that you are the biological parent of the child. If you are talking about being a biological father, I became one 31 years ago. I am 57 years old now, the difference between 57 and 31 gives you that age, please help me out with the calculation. That’s 26.
Were you under any form of pressure, either from family or society, to become a father?
There was no pressure because I had been on my own for a long time – since secondary school days. I left home and stopped being under my parents since then. My parents actually didn’t want me to do music but I have been practising music since school days and I come from a lineage of musicians. Once this thing is in your blood, you can’t help it, but my parents wanted me to further my education and were ready to sponsor me to any level I wanted but music had gone deep into my system and there was no way I could have been able to manage both, so, I had to let go of one and I chose to let go of my education and held onto music.
What was the experience like for you when your first child arrived?
On the day my first child was born, I had no penny on me, not even one. I looked left and right, there was nothing. I cried on that day. I thought of what I could do.
Were you already a musician then?
Yes, I was but I had not been known then. I hadn’t made it. I was still struggling then but thank God for my mom who was there for me. She took care of everything.
Were you particular about the sex of your first child?
No. I never even gave it a thought.
Did you give your wife any form of support or assistance during pregnancy?
Yes. It’s a normal thing for one to give his wife some form of assistance during pregnancy. Apart from pregnancy, women always need assistance. They are not slaves. We are for each other and each other’s helpmate. Women are our partners, not our slaves. You have to see your wife as your partner, not your slave. That she married you does not imply that you should maltreat her, no. Let her know that you are there for her and the more you treat her well, the more favour and blessings you will obtain from God because she will constantly pray for you. Let her know that you care about her, let her know that you appreciate her so much. Trying to help her out does not reduce you in any way. Make her feel important. Just the way the culture is abroad, you can’t see a white couple walking on the street and the woman will be the one carrying the luggage, the man takes it from her. You should appreciate her but let her know when she goes wrong or correct her.
A man has to take care of his lady and pamper her like an egg but it doesn’t mean that when she does something wrong, she shouldn’t be corrected right away. That’s how I do it.
What has fatherhood taught you?
It’s not easy to be father. To be a father, you need to be calm, be a good listener, don’t jump into conclusion easily. In a scenario where you have some of your children at loggerheads and they come to you to make a report about something, you must be the middleman that will listen to both parties, one after the other and make peace between them and you must not take sides. Also, don’t give one child preference over the others. Don’t ever show to your children that you like one more than the others. Even if you do, keep it to yourself because it can cause crisis in your home.
What are the values you learnt from your parents that have helped you as a father and you intend to pass onto your children?
My dad is someone that doesn’t bear grudges and he’s not a hypocrite. I like that about him and I followed suit. He doesn’t backbite and all that. If he says he’s not interested in something, then he’s not. I am someone like my father.
My family is based abroad and whenever I need them, I go to meet them and whenever they want to come to Nigeria too, they come. I have the documents that allow me to travel abroad whenever I want to and I worked hard for it. My wife and I made a lot of sacrifices. It’s not easy to stay away from your spouse but we had to do that so as to secure the future of our children.
Why did you choose to relocate your family abroad?
Well, with the way things are going in Nigeria, it’s only God that can help us rectify everything going wrong with Nigeria but it’s also good to have the opportunity to move from one place to the other.
Does any of your children have your kind of musical talent and is taking after you in music?
One or two of them are trying to do music but I always tell them that education is very important and it should be given priority. I tell them that even if they want to go into music, education is first because it will help them more.
Are you willing to let them follow your footsteps as a musician?
Well, destiny has been written. There’s no way you can change someone’s destiny. Even if you decide that you will not let your children get into music or do music, once the destiny has been written, there’s nothing that can be done about it. All that has to be done is to give them the right support and good advice but I keep telling them that education is the first, after which they can do whatsoever they want and I will give them the support that is required. Education helps a lot in everything one does.
How do you correct them when they go wrong?
I talk to them. I don’t beat my children. I simply talk to them about what they have done wrong. I call them, sit them down and talk to them. Beating them will not make them to listen to you. It will get to a point that they will get used to it (the beating) and will say that beating is the worst thing that would be done to them but when you keep talking to them, they will eventually reason with you and that’s the culture practised abroad. The whites believe that there’s a way you will talk to your children that they will listen to you.
Being raised abroad, are you not concerned that your children may be out of touch with your culture, as a Yoruba man?
There’s no way you can sideline your culture. It doesn’t matter if they are abroad and the children are not doing everything as it pertains to our culture. My children are very respectful, they don’t look down on people, they don’t misbehave and we talk to them always, especially their mother. She is a mother indeed. We still instill the African culture into them despite being abroad.
Do they speak Yoruba language?
Yes . I told them that when they are at school, they can speak English but when they get home, I don’t want to hear anything English, so that they can understand both languages because there is an age that one can learn different languages but when they go past that age, they won’t be able to learn the language again. It’s usually very easy to learn many languages between age one and 12.
What moral values do you instill in your children?
My children are good children and I’m so proud of them.
What do you consider your biggest challenge as a father so far?
There’s no challenge. I wouldn’t say that there has been any challenge. I work and all they need from me, God has always provided. No much challenge. The only one challenge I can recall that I’ve had was when my family relocated abroad. I was the only one left in Nigeria and I didn’t have the opportunity to always travel abroad to see them but when I got my papers that would allow me travel as much as I want, I am able to go see them as much as possible.
Is there any career path that any of your children would choose that won’t get your approval?
If it has to do with something that is bad, I won’t approve of it. As long as it is something that is legitimate, I will give my approval and support but if it’s something that is illegal or unlawful, I can’t give my support. By the grace of God, all my children are good children.
Do you have expectations of the kind of spouses they should have?
Well, that’s totally their decision to make. Whatsoever decision they make, either white or black. There is an English proverb that says one man’s food is another man’s poison. Their choice is their choice. All I have to ask is if they have done their findings well about the person. Once they’ve decided, there’s no coming back to deny the person or say that they can’t go on with the person anymore.
What legacies are you striving to or hope to bequeath to your children?
Hmmmnnn… God has created me as a legacy already because of all the attributes I have. If there is anyone who has a bad attitude, the person should come and live with me for one or two weeks, the person will change for the better. I don’t take life too hard. I’m an easygoing and calm person. I don’t disrespect people. Even when people do annoying things to me, I keep my calm. Sometimes I tell people that I’m an institution on my own. I’m like a school that you can go through and learn. I have friends who tell me sometimes that they have learnt a lot from me when it comes to relating with other people. I don’t get angry so easily but it doesn’t mean that I don’t get angry at all. When I get angry, it becomes obvious that the other person must have gone beyond their boundary.