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A former Special Assistant to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan on Public Relations and Chairman, Centre for Ethics and Cultural Orientation, Dr. Olusanya Awosan, tells ARUKAINO UMUKORO about the nexus between fatherhood and good leadership
What does fatherhood mean to you?
The family is the basic unit of the society. To restore the moral values that have gone down in society, fathers have major roles to play. At his own micro-level, each father is a governor of his household. And if he governs his household well, the nation would benefit from that. But if he doesn’t govern the family well, the nation would suffer for it.
How was your first experience as a father?
The experience was exciting. I was on a trip when I was called that my wife had given birth. Immediately, I returned home. When we first got married, we had some challenges, but when we overcame it, it was a thing of joy.
What other things have you learnt from your fatherhood experiences?
I think the education of the children must be of paramount importance to fathers. Fathers must love their wives because the unity and love between couple would impact positively on the children. Both the father and mother must bring up their children with one voice. They must jointly agree on how to properly raise their children.
President Muhammadu Buhari is a father figure. Do you think Nigerians should trust him and give him time to get things right?
In terms of integrity, Nigerians should trust him. But I dare say integrity is not enough to bring the country out of her present predicament. We need knowledgeable leadership. The government needs to do more in terms of policy formulation. We need to know their policy direction. But I can say that his integrity has impacted on the system and helped to recover stolen funds. If we have to fight corruption in this country, we must identify the institutional and systemic drivers of corruption. When they are identified, then one can formulate long and short-term strategies to fight corruption. First, we must cut down the cost of running government.
Would you link poor parenting to greed and graft in the country?
Yes, the roles of the father and the mother are very important. But the father must show leadership and direction. He must also be supportive of the mother and the children. That is the philosophy that we have adopted in my home.
Lack of proper fatherhood is one of the major contributory factors to social malaise. It has direct impact on the quality of leadership and the society. Generally, the kind of system that we run is one that promotes individuals ahead of institutions. We do not have the culture of building institutions. We tend to promote the rule of man rather than the rule of law. That is one fundamental problem of our political engineering.
How do you think responsible fathers can help raise good leaders for the country?
The father-figure in the house is the first major role model for the children. A responsible father will engender responsible citizenship which will impact on various aspects of our lives. In my case, I took after my father, a politician and one of the first people to win elections under the old Action Group led by the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. My late father was a humble and private person. He was social, a Christian and a political leader.
My father, the late J.O. Awosan, was not only a father to us but also to all the children around the area we lived. He was a lay reader at the Anglican Church and he conducted the christening ceremonies of most of the children that grew up in that area. Our house was always full of children and they called him father. That role is missing in our society today; people tend to concentrate on their own children at the expense of other children.
I imbibed these attributes from him and also served as a social, Christian and political leader. Whatever children see their father do will affect their growth and what they eventually become in life. For me, at home, I take it as a matter of importance to show good example. One area fathers also miss it is over indulgence of children in material possessions. These children grow up with the philosophy of ‘to be is to have.’ Material wealth is not the source of happiness or fulfilment in life. There are some people who are extremely wealthy but they are not fulfilled and their impact on the larger society or at home is not felt. It is not a function of how much one has, but a function of the type of discipline a father imbibes and exercises at home. Also, the fear of God is lacking in our system today.
How can the country reshape its system?
The change has to start with the ruling class and the political elites. I have observed that Nigerians are very loyal and patriotic. They respond to good leadership like flowers respond to stimuli and they are always very supportive of their leaders. But over time, our leaders have disappointed us. I have observed that our system is such that promotes people beyond their competence and it is worrisome. Look at a lot of our governors today, who see their responsibilities to include simply receiving allocations from Abuja and then sit on the allocations.
It is the responsibility of the father to promote love and unity in the family. This has been made easy for me by my God-fearing wife. She is dutiful and very understanding. Her training as a psychologist in education has also been very helpful in making sure that our daughter is amendable to discipline.
It is at a tender age that children should be set on the path of God and if they grow up, they will not depart from it. The problem in our society today is that family values have totally broken down. As a father, my duty is that I must provide responsible and responsive leadership. If fathers wake up to this responsibility, it will go a long way in helping to respond adequately to the many challenges facing our society.
My wife and I agree on this and this is an established philosophy of our family. We are partners in progress. We are open to the financial situation and transactions of each other. This unity of purpose has helped greatly. Our hope and trust in God have helped us triumph over many challenges. Oftentimes, if a father fails in his responsibilities at home, such may not appreciate his responsibilities in public office.
If responsible and responsive fatherhood is well established at home and brought to bear in public sphere, our ruling class, we then begin to serve with empathy and absolute commitment to the good of all. The role of the father in the family is critical as a pathfinder for the children. A good father at home will mostly likely be a pathfinder in public office. Not only have many failed in responsible and responsive fatherhood at home and in the society, we are also confronted with failure of eldership. The words of our elders are beginning to depreciate in wisdom. Many in positions of eldership at home, in the church, mosques and society in general, have abused their eldership.
We must accept our general failure and let change begin with the ruling class at home, the church, mosques and the society. Fatherhood is a God-given position of responsibility and service. A father figure must act in the image and the likeness of our loving and caring God at home and in society.
How do you discipline your children?
If anyone of them errs, I do not spare the rod. But a lot of counselling does a lot of good. Punitive measures, sometimes, do not necessarily translate to positive behavioural change. That is the mistake we are making as a nation. We think that by throwing people into jail, when our prison system is not reformatory, would solve the problems. We have not achieved much in that regard. I think counselling must be done firmly and with control because it would help our children. Juvenile delinquency can be traced to lack of proper upbringing.
How did fatherhood change your perception about life?
The Bible admonishes us to love our neighbours as ourselves. Whatever one wishes for one’s children is what one should also wish for other children. If people in leadership adopt that style, it would impact positively on society. For instance, no matter how wicked a father is, when he realises that his children need a particular thing, he would struggle to ensure he provides it for them. So, if our leaders see people they govern as their own children, it would go a long way in helping them to take care of the people.
Also, a man should have time for his family no matter what he does. We are all managers in one way or the other.The ability to manage one’s time properly so that no aspect of one’s life suffers, is what makes a man. As a young man, I learnt that from my father, that one must manage one’s time well. That has been my philosophy.
What is your advice to fathers?
They should see every Nigerian child the way they see their own children. We should be concerned about other children as we are concerned about ours.
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