A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Prof. Taiwo Osipitan, tells ARUKAINO UMUKORO about the challenges of fatherhood
At what age did you become a father?
I became a father in my early thirties. The experience was a very pleasant one. Being a father gave and still gives me joy and a sense of fulfillment.
What does fatherhood mean to you?
Fatherhood means being responsible, disciplined, dedicated, loving and caring. It is also synonymous with being responsible for the welfare, well-being and all round progress of one’s children and younger ones. Fatherhood is also about being a mentor and role model.
What are the most important lessons you have learnt from your experience of being a father?
I have learnt personal discipline and responsibility. As a father you have to lead by example. Children learn by imitation; they do as you do. You cannot say one thing as a father and do the opposite of what you say. Such behaviour would make the children disrespect their father. Patience, understanding and the need to support our children’s dreams and aspirations are some of the lessons I have learnt as a father. Fatherhood has significantly altered my perspective about life and living. I now know that life’s journey is not solely about me; it now includes my children. It has made me more cautious in my relationship with other people. I make deliberate efforts to live a healthy life and be available to witness the growth and achievements of my children. The major lesson in being a father is my appreciation of the fact that children are gifts from God and parents are trustees of their children. As trustees, parents must faithfully discharge their duties by ensuring that their children embrace the right values.
How much did your father shape your views on fatherhood?
I am fortunate to have been blessed with a dad who is a friend, confidant and mentor. My dad is disciplined, caring and loving. I have embraced these core values, which I have also transferred to my children.
What are the major challenges of fatherhood?
The major challenges of fatherhood can be narrowed down to financial, emotional and spiritual challenges. From the angle of financial challenges, it is the desire of every responsible father to be able to cater for the needs of his children. As a father, one desires the very best for one’s children within one’s resources. One wants the best education, best environment for them, and so on. I also say there are emotional challenges because a father needs to be emotionally mature in order to ensure the sound development of his children. Emotional maturity requires the ability to manage the home by providing leadership, direction and guidance for the child/children. Also, a father must be prayerful. Long hours of work and time spent in traffic hinder the achievement of a proper balance to fatherhood and being a provider for the family. But a father should strike a meaningful equilibrium between his busy schedule of work and paying special attention to the proper development of his children in their formative years.
How can fathers help to build good citizenship and leadership in a society?
Fathers, as head of their respective families, are in vantage positions to lead their children in the right directions. If fathers behave responsibly and offer leadership at home, their children would become better citizens and the nation would be much better for it. Fathers have primary responsibilities of ensuring that their children embrace the right values. Messages of love, peace, kindness, avoidance of greed and corruption should be preached by fathers to their children. Most unfortunately, on account of economic and social pressures, some fathers have been unable to discharge these responsibilities. Primacy is being given to money, material things, corruption and bad conduct by some fathers. If the nation is to produce good citizens and leaders, the starting point is the home, which is headed by fathers.
What is your advice to prospective fathers?
They should “be prepared” to lead their children in the right direction, to share their time and resources with them. As a father, one must be prepared to ensure that one’s children are good citizens.
What laws should be established or amended to encourage responsible parenting in Nigeria?
The Child Rights’ Law and the Matrimonial Causes Act can be amended and improved upon in order to address the current predicaments being faced by children of tumultuous marriages.
Do you think our education system help to raise men who become good fathers and leaders?
It is generally accepted that our educational system is flawed. The system needs to be improved upon to emphasise the role of fathers in nation building. The awareness that will be created from such teaching would go a long way in helping to build a better society. Education should be total. It should not be confined to academic work. Education is about learning and character. But the society places high premium on the academic side and neglects character and strong moral upbringing. The various faith-based secondary schools, until they were taken over by state governments, were able to take care of academic and character development. A return of such schools to various religious bodies will ensure that the aspect of character and moral values are restored.
How have you been able to balance being a responsible father and a prominent lawyer?
I have tried to apportion my time in such a way that I do not rob Peter to pay Paul. During weekends and holidays, I try to make up for lost time by ensuring I use that time to bond with my children. I have always felt and seen myself as a responsible man who has a role to play in moulding the lives of the younger generation. Today, it is practically impossible for a man to retain and abide by what is perceived as a traditional role. Men have to become more involved in running the home. Fathers cannot leave the task of raising children solely to mothers. It is a joint responsibility. Raising children and homemaking are collective responsibilities of both parents.
What is the most important advice you have given your children on relationships?
There is no perfect person or perfect relationship. The young ones must be patient and appreciate each person’s strength and weaknesses. They should avoid forcing their partners to behave in a particular way. When there are issues, they should be discussed and resolved amicably.
What are some of the things you appreciate most as gifts from your wife and children?
I value good conduct. I can hardly tolerate misbehaviour. Good conduct and ceaseless prayers are the precious gifts from my wife and children.
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