By Uche Amunike
Today, I bring you excerpts of an interview with my very dear friend, Kayode Ajulo. He is a popular lawyer and human rights activist and as well, a former National Secretary of Labour Party (LP). He is also the founder of a non-governmental organisation, Egalitarian Mission of Africa. In this interview he spoke about fatherhood and the thrills, challenges and joy that come with it. It is really, all about his journey into fatherhood and his experiences as a father.
Please read on:
How would you describe fatherhood?
Let me describe fatherhood from two perspectives – one natural; that is someone who conveyed a child or children to the world. But fatherhood will not be complete by that definition and that is why the issue of baby daddies and baby mamas is rampant these days. You don't become a father just because you impregnated a woman. Fatherhood is beyond that because it connotes responsibility and gives financial, emotional responsibilities and guidance. Fatherhood is about leadership. A father is a role model, a compass and a pathfinder giving people direction.
When did you become a father?
I fathered my first child while I was in my 20s. I believe I had become a father even before then; I had been mentoring many people, giving counsels and helping them to find their footing in life. For me, that was the beginning of my fatherhood journey, not necessarily when I got my wife pregnant.
How did you feel when you held your first child?
It was a dramatic experience that cannot be explained. For me, it came with expectation. It was like a bottled-up excitement and at the same time anxiety. It was a feeling of joy, excitement and anxiety. When the Yoruba people say, Ayo abaratintin, it means a lot. It is more of a spiritual thing seeing a child that comes out from one's loins. I have been used to getting awards right from primary school days and I know how exciting it is for me when I get accolades, but for me seeing, my child was the greatest award or accolade I ever received.
Were you in the labour room with your wife when any of your children was born?
No, I can't stand it, I must confess. What I do is to drive her to the hospital and then I drive away, switch off my phone and do a calculation of when the baby would have arrived. Then, I will put on my phone and answer phone calls. This has been my practice even when I was in school whenever I wanted to receive any of my results. I usually ran away and would wait for someone to inform me or congratulate me on my success. I can't stand being in the labour room with her. You won't understand until you are there.
What are some of the values imbibed from your father, which have assisted you in training your children?
It is now that I begin to understand some of the things my father used to do, back then. I know my father is human and he must have had his faults too. But throughout the years I lived with him, I never saw any fault of his. My father lived up to 82. Throughout my staying with him, I saw him as faultless. It is now that I understand that it was a part of the role of a father. I have also been trying to do this with my children. I try to place myself in a position where I am worthy of emulation. My kids should look up to me and want to be like me in every aspect. In order to achieve that, there are some of my friends I don't expose my children to. I am very protective of them. I also learnt from my father that one should not shun one's children. My father never turned me down on any of my requests irrespective of what I demanded from him. If my demands were things he could not provide, he would just give me hope. Even if he could not provide them, he had a special way of talking me out of it and this is what I do with my children too. I never snap at them. If they ask me for anything that I cannot provide, I would give them hope that everything is possible and if it is something I can't meet up with, I discuss it with them and let them understand why it would not be possible. My father also hardly beat me and that was what I do with my children. I can count the number of times my father used the cane on me but when he tongue-lashed one, one would never recover from it. I believe that there is power in words. They bite more than the cane.
Does that mean you have never used the cane on any of your children?
Truth be told, I have flogged them on one occasion or the other but I realized my emotions usually overtake me and I might beat them more than necessary. So, I avoid using the cane.
I believe there are many other ways to discipline a child. Corporal punishment doesn't shape a child. My father did something that I also took from him – he overlooked serious offence. But the simple ones that one didn't expect him to sanction one on was the one he would take very seriously. He often disciplined a child when the child didn't expect it.
What measure do you take to correct them?
I have many ways of dealing with them. I have what I call the hotspot – I tell them to stand in the middle of the dining table and put their hands behind them. Everybody in the house would see you; so, you are on the hotspot. I also deprive them of many things like locking them in the room for some hours; like not going out to play with friends and the rest. It is on such days that I will invite people to the house. Of course, every child loves to play with their friends and that is why they try to avoid such punishment. When I tell them I will lock them up in detention for two hours, they quickly sit up. For instance, recently, one of my daughters offended me. I seized her tab for two weeks until she promised to be a good girl. Another one did something to me and I told her to bring me all the clothes I recently bought for her. All these are little things of instilling discipline in them and it is very effective.
How do you celebrate them when they do things that make you proud?
I appreciate them. One of the biggest ways to motivate them is to make them feel appreciated. Apart from food, clothes and shelter, human beings like to be appreciated and that is what I do with them. Beyond my children, I do that to people who work with me as well. Sometimes, I just exaggerate what they do in order to make them feel good.
How do you combine fatherhood with your job as a lawyer?
It has not been easy particularly in a country like Nigeria. They are all in boarding school, but when they are around, I try to spend time with them. Every little opportunity available, I use it to catch up with them like going out to the movies. We once went on cruise for six days.
Do you and your wife hold different views about raising children?
We complement each other. Our goal is to raise responsible children and we are on that already. We have never complained about the way we both raise our children.
Are any of your kids showing interest in your career path?
My children are still very young but somehow, most of them have shown interest in my career. They all want to be lawyers except one who said she would want to be a doctor. Another one wants to be a pilot but she said she would like to study law first.
How many children do you have?
I am a Yoruba man and we don't count the number of children someone has. But I will tell you that I have a very large family; I have both biological and adopted children. I deliberately adopt children. I love having children around me.
Why did you decide to immortalize your late son Kayikunmi?
He wasn't my first child but he has a special way of winning my heart. He was special in many ways. The drama that resulted in his death is painful. He was just six years old and had already started charting a path for himself. He was very intelligent. He told me what he wanted to become and had started working towards it as young as he was.
For example, there was a time I wanted to buy a house in his name. But I didn't want to be seen as partial. So, I told them that the house would be in the name of the child who got there first. Along the line, I already planned with him to sit by the door and when we got there, I would lock the other door and leave his own door open for him to get down first. When we got there, Kayikunmi refused to come down of the car despite the fact that his own side was open while the other door was locked. When I asked him why he didn't open it, he said they were her sisters and there was no need to fight for property with them. Besides, whatever they have, he also owned it. I was shocked when he made that statement and that taught me a life lesson. It was more painful because the accident that killed him could easily be avoided.
What has fatherhood taken away from you?
Fatherhood has taken away my freedom because I have made up my mind that my children would not see faults in me. Whenever my children are home, I must be home before 10pm.I learnt that from my father too, he never stayed outside the house after 9pm. Sometimes, I want to let loose but whenever I remember that my children are around, I won't be able to do that. So, that just set a good example to them.
What is your advice to children without fathers?
Fatherhood is beyond a physical father. It is about mentoring. If you don't have a father, look for a father figure who can mentor you. I pray that God will bring them good and responsible fathers. That is one of the reasons why I go to motherless homes to adopt children. I love to raise responsible children in society.
What's your take on the increase in baby daddies and mamas in society?
It should be condemned and not encouraged. It is an act of irresponsibility. Whatever will bring you to a woman to plant a seed in her should make you responsible enough to take full responsibility for the child.
Thank you very much for your time