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Give me the old time father please!

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PHOTO: erickkasysavane.com

He is a retired general, former Chief of the Army, the dream of every soldier and crowned it up with a political appointment as a minister of defence. Recently his call for self-protection by Nigerians in the face of ruthless killings by herdsmen which no political persons who swore to protect lives and properties have been able to tame has been denounced as the rant of a soldier calling for mobocracy. While this is not about that general, and the merit of his histrionics, I wish his accusers bothered to vent spleens on contract killers, killing helpless Nigerians and to political persons so weak that they negotiate with bad people. The general strikes me as the old time father not known for diffidence, not known for being wooly-minded, those who spoke truth to power and rallied around with other fathers with their sharp cutlasses hidden under the bed and drawn to chase bad people out of communities. That general is a man indeed. There are only a handful of men now.    Time it was when men understood the universal truth: equality does not mean the subordination of all sense of duty to women. Men provided for the needs of their families apart from moments of physical and economic troubles. Women were in charge of running the home, disciplining the children, providing direction but men were in charge of the home for administrative purpose and there was order. Order is one vital thing that is missing today in many homes.

You see men happy to be fed by women, give them the latitude to make all decisions without men’s contribution and with official sanction and let women take care of all bills for self and children. The old time father hardly borrowed money from his wife and when he did, he paid back. Seldom did you see them scolding their wives to give account of their moneyed interests as men do nowadays. Cocky they were and saw themselves as defenders of the home. Children towed the line. They asked their children what they were taught in religious homes whether they were there or not and filtered adulterated messages quickly, same with goings-on in school. The old time father’s prayer is for the lives of their offspring to be better than theirs. The child belonged to all and can be reprimanded by all; after all it takes a village, to raise a child. Not anymore. Sequestration is the order of things now. And the child belongs to one family. These days boys have learned to throw bombs, and many have settled for abnormal ways to make money no-thanks to fathers who do not care any longer and the silent majority with love for stillness and the minding of own business. Almost not do you see family units now with real men, there is disorder all over the place and the society is worse for it. Teenage pregnancies abound, girls breeding for different men whilst remaining in their girlhood homes are celebrated in many parts of Nigeria (I saw too many in Port Harcourt) and the sickening reality is that society has accepted this as a fashion. We hear cheerily of Abuja marriages, implying that couples cohabit without the paying of bride price.

Children challenging old people are everywhere. The days when traditional values mattered are long gone. Self-reliance, respect for elders, respect for oneself, hard work, the love for universal brotherhood, moderation in all things including religious views et cetera. Today you have fathers who are skilled in Jesuitical lying. They do not have the skill to negotiate promises but break them without shame thereby leaving their children disconsolate. How come men see their girl-children as investment to be traded off for good sums and for higher sums after completing higher educational assignations? Real men value all children not minding their gender. Because they know that both gender have different roles to play in society and both are blessings from the heavenlies. Both compliment the efforts of the other. In many homes, the paying of school fees and responsibilities for the taking care of siblings has been assigned to older children by many fathers not by choice but as a duty to be borne by these children. I know a father who shared the responsibilities of all children to older children along pecking order, freeing him from any duty.

Sometimes, I wonder why young girls who should be in school address themselves as single mothers. Here is not mentioning girls raped and with children arising from it, widows, failed marriages, but girls who choose to breed for runaway men, nurturing children alone, destroying the lives of children they cannot look after. Here is what angers me: Many repeat the process many more times with their biological fathers nearby and escaped men who put them in the family ways far-away. I have issues with these runaway men and their acts of idiocy. Why are there aren’t family courts to try fathers who turn children loose on the streets with bowls begging for bread? Today’s men love the crime but not the term. The old fathers did not commit the crime and those who did never ran away. Some of their marriages failed, yes! Divorce was only a last resort, but they never moved away from responsibilities and defend their badly behaved attitudes. They paid societal dues. They paid dowries and married nobly. Those who had children before marriage never deserted mothers and children. They married the mothers consequently and those who couldn’t for serious reasons sent those articles and food to them however distant they lived because they were their responsibility.

This lady very near me is proud to have a four year old daughter; such a cute four year old, clever and bright and I love the kid. I have heard another single mother asked the mother of the child, who she will tell her child the father is when the child starts school. It was upsetting. Such a brilliant kid need have a father around.

What is sad for me is to see the mum socialize with different men chatting over uncooked crudities in the presence of the kid, so rotten for print. Could the father of this lady have done a poor job of fathering her? She is too vulgar and lives a life so tasteless. Might he not have known that all behaviours are learned and can be unlearned and that fathers of old use positive punishment such as vocal reprimand and increased house chores, they never indulged children without cause but removed privileges. The likely effect on this kid is a disoriented child in future and I hope that she does not pick libidinous scents from her mother. The child prays for the mum to have money so she can start school. I was moved. This should have been the job of a responsible father but the men now have chosen to be undependable. They love good times and visit women in their houses before noon never in the late afternoon, unlike the old time fathers with love for hard work and study. These lots don’t speak carefully in measured tones, always seeking the limelight instead of allowing it come to them naturally. They do not believe in the community of man, timid, cannot compete, venture to other lands, learn languages other than theirs and taste other people’s diets. They call other people who are Nigerians dwelling in their locality, strangers. And many so spineless have questioned their ladies on why they should date these, strangers
It is hard to fathom the vision of many fathers in our day and how their character fits with that vision. Sometimes this little kid sizes me up without greeting me and I have to teach her how to greet with the requisite sir.

Who can blame her?  The mother in her thirties cares for nothing. Children are turned loose to the streets without the control of men who have chosen to run away and accepted by society. Maybe society will be saner if people begin to gong off men who abandon little children on their mothers and run away, these children who did not bargain to be born. These men should be sent to the quarters of peripheral nature. Some women are also guilty of desertion. Same applies. Maybe society will be well-balanced if men become men indeed and religious homes harp more on duties and responsibilities of both men and women to family first, then to society and country instead of on prosperity without justice.
Where are the old time fathers please! Society needs them.

• Abah wrote from Abuja


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Simon Abah

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