A former minority whip of the Federal House of Representatives, Mr Samson Osagie, tells ALEXANDER OKERE how his journey into fatherhood changed him
Would you say you became a father early, late or at the right time?
I think it was at the right time because whenever you take a decision to get married and start having children, that time is determined by your readiness and preparedness. So, at 31, I decided to be a husband, a father and I started having my children. So, I want to consider it as the right. To say it was early would not be right in the sense that in the old times, men had wives at 25 or 26 and became fathers. I cannot also say it (becoming a father at 31) was late because everybody has got their own right time. There is no standard for measuring what time is right and what time is early.
How long did it take you to consider starting a family?
Of course, I had my timeline when I was in school. As soon as I was in my final year in the Law faculty and I was leaving university for the Nigerian Law School, I projected that I should have my life partner either at law school or during my National Youth Service Programme.
Was finance a factor you considered?
I never considered that. I only considered the fact that I would have been emotionally and physically mature for that stage in life. One way or the other, I felt I would be capable. I never had any doubt in my mind that I would be able to fend for my family. I was never nervous. I never nursed any fear. I have always been a man of faith. And at any point in time, I believed that at any stage I got to in life, I didn’t need to have the resources kept anywhere. But I know that God provides.
What does it mean to be a father?
Fatherhood means responsibility. Like it is said, becoming a man is not a day’s job; it’s not easy to be a man. It’s your ability to fend for your wife and children, and in the African setting, your extended family. So, fatherhood is not just the ability to have a wife and children. It is a stage in life when you take responsibility for the affairs of other people you have brought into life, by way of fending for them, training them and giving them the opportunity to look forward to a greater future.
Where were you when you had your first child?
I was a private legal practitioner. On the day my wife had a child, I think I was in a meeting somewhere. There was no mobile phone, so there was no way to communicate with me. When I got home, I met one of my sisters that said my wife had gone to hospital and had been delivered of a baby.
What was your first impression when you received the news?
I was in a state of ecstasy. I felt that, finally, one of my life dreams had been achieved. The ability to have a child is the biggest gift you can ever have. I was filled with joy such that I couldn’t wait to see the child. I followed her (my sister) to the hospital.
Some men become emotional and cry when they see their children for the first time. How did you react?
No, I hardly cry. I was even more excited. I could do anything positive for anybody that came around me at that moment.
In the African culture, naming is important. How did you name your kids?
The circumstance surrounding the naming of my first child was based on the situation of life I found myself in. As of the time I had my first child, I was already an elected member of the Edo State House of Assembly, though a practising lawyer. But I was waiting to be sworn in. So, I named her Honour, the short form of honourable. The Bini interpretation of that name is Uyioghosa, which means ‘Honour is God’s own.’ In other words, her name reflected my circumstance as of that time.
Are there virtues you learnt from your father that you are passing on to your kids?
Yes. I teach them to be hard-working, committed and not depending on any person. My dad was a hard-working man who never depended on anybody. From my mum, it was hard work and commitment to family. But I also picked other values here and there and added.
Do you believe in the adage, ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’?
Yes. I’m a disciplinarian. I don’t believe in pampering a child.
How do you instill discipline in your children?
I do that as it was in my time.
When I did something wrong, my father would flog me with a cane. I give my children the strokes (of a cane) when they do anything wrong. But I try to talk more to them.
Have you ever regretted flogging any of them?
No. If I have my way, I would still flog them. If they tell me that I don’t need to flog them, I tell them that if they don’t listen to what I say, I would flog them. So, they try to listen.
How do you reward them when they impress you?
Any time they impress me, I feel like giving them the whole world. I am a person that appreciates good behaviour and standard. When they perform well, it is easy for me to reward them and I am always ready to do what they want. When my children make good grades at school, I give them extra allowances and buy them new things. Motivation is very important.
What important lessons has fatherhood taught you?
It has taught me how to cope. A man who cannot manage his family certainly cannot manage society. Fatherhood taught me that as a father in a home, I have a huge responsibility, irrespective of the size of the family. It has taught me to be a more responsible person. Fatherhood also taught me how to relate with other people.
Once you become a father and don’t stop your negative habits, it means you are not prepared to be responsible. There are a lot of habits you need to give up. Everybody has got their own frailty and fatherhood has taught me to shed some habits. A man who continues to do the things he cannot defend before his children will not have the moral authority to put them on the right track.
How do you manage your family and political lives?
My family has assisted me to be more cautious, knowing full well that I have people who depend on me. If I were not a father, maybe I would have taken steps regardless of what the implications are. For example, I have grown in politics to such a level that people know me. But I have never been called to a police station to write a statement. I have not been invited by any anti-corruption agency for any investigation because I try to do things with the fear of God so that I will be able to defend my actions. I don’t engage in actions and activities that will bring shame to my family. Fatherhood has, in a way, assisted me a great deal to behave myself in a manner that will not bring disgrace or bring my family name into disrepute.
There is no doubt that political activities take time and that means that your family will have to lose your company on a number of occasions. But it is something they need to understand and appreciate. And I think I have got understanding from my family and have been able to cope without jeopardising their welfare. Whether I was in Edo or Abuja, my family and I were never separated because I couldn’t imagine why we would be separated on account of my political career.
How do you relax with your children?
I am a very busy man but I try to strike a balance between my activities and my family. But we have had many holidays together, travelling together. I also tell them jokes often.
Your children are young. Do you seek their advice on certain matters?
We have discussions. But in the modern age that we are in, you will be shocked that they have more knowledge, especially on matters related to technology.
Do you counsel your kids about relationships or the kind of friends they should keep?
Yes. But with respect to the female children, I don’t do much of that. I think it’s in the domain of their mother. But for the male children, yes, I discuss that. The kind of friends they keep is important because, given the name I have made for the family, they should not engage in bad association that will drag the name of the family into unnecessary challenges.
As a lawyer, are any of your kids toeing your career path?
Yes, one of them is.
Did you influence that?
No, I don’t do that. They make their own choices. Why should all of them be lawyers? Law is not the ultimate in life. I want diversification; I want a situation where my family is made up of as many professionals as possible.
Some men find it difficult to get married and have children due to socioeconomic challenges. What would you say to such men?
I think that is based on ignorance. For every man, there is a woman and for every woman, there is a man. That is destined by God. So, any man that is afraid to start a family on account that the economy is poor is closing the opportunity to become a successful man. This is because there is a woman meant for you, and until you find that woman, you may not be able to realise your own destiny because it could be tied to that woman and you have a common goal with her. So, if you are running away because you think you don’t have money, you are missing a significant part of yourself that will contribute to the attainment of life objectives. If you didn’t take to celibacy or a consecrated life and you are living alone, a part of you is not with you. Every couple has mental, physical and spiritual contributions to the upkeep of a family.
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