|Dr. Ona Ekhomu|
President, Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria, Dr. Ona Ekhomu, shares his fatherhood lessons with MOTUNRAYO JOEL
What does fatherhood mean to you?
Fatherhood is a serious responsibility; a responsibility endowed on man by God. I consider it a job that some people look up to you to execute no matter the challenges you face. As a father, you are expected to be good and perfect. Fatherhood is a grave task – one that doesn’t permit mistakes. As a father, your children look up to you, expecting you to be a perfect role model to them. Unlike your co-workers, your children are with you 24/7. They imitate you. Whatever standard you set as a father is what your children will imbibe.
Can you recall your most memorable experience as a father?
My most memorable experience would be the birth of my third daughter (but second from my wife). This was in 1987, in United States. I had to be in the labour room with my wife. My wife had been in labour for some time, and I kept sympathising with her. While we were in the labour, my wife began to push our baby out, but the nurses tried to push the baby back in. They wanted to take my wife to the delivery room where the atmosphere was warmer. I happen to be an active person; I figure out things quickly. I felt that if they pushed the baby back in, she may suffer stress or develop a complication. I knocked the nurse’s hands off my wife’s body and blocked her from having access to her. I insisted that my wife put to bed right in that room. I didn’t want to take any risk. What makes that experience special was the reflective action I exhibited on that day.
Is she your favourite child?
That is what everyone says; they say we are close. Honestly, we both understand ourselves; we have a psychic connection – we think alike.
Why didn’t you cite the birth of your first child as your most memorable experience?
During the birth of my first child (a boy), I was in Nigeria while my wife was in the US.
What did you learn from that experience?
I learnt a lot – all my life I have been respectful of women and their intellect. But that experience made me realise that women are stronger than men. I was humbled by what my wife went through during labour. I used to think childbirth was a ride in the park. It was a humbling experience indeed – I see it as a life and death situation. It is always good for men to be present in the labour room with their wives. They should help their wives in little ways such as holding their hands during labour. Birthing another life is not an easy task.
How did you help your wife in taking care of the kids while they were young?
Unfortunately, my line of duty was not changing diapers and feeding babies. My wife was on top of her game in those areas. But once in a while, I would sing a lullaby or rock them to sleep.
Has fatherhood changed you?
Yes, in various ways. Fatherhood is not just about giving birth to a child; it is about fulfilling your responsibilities. I don’t see fatherhood only as being able to reproduce; bringing your children up in the right manner and being their role model matters a lot to me. Your job as a father is to provide for your children, defend their reputation and be their greatest cheer leader. They need to see that they are the greatest in life. If you train them up in the right manner, you will celebrated.
Are there things you would have loved to do differently?
I wish I had attended all their graduation ceremonies. I wish I was present during the early years of my first two children. I was in Nigeria more of the time, trying to build my business. That affected their sense of identity and security because they had to deal with the mother factor most of the time. I wish I was available to watch them grow during their early years as I am now for all my children. Things have changed now; then I was trying to build my business.
Are you the type of father that has a preference for a particular gender?
I know scientifically that women are superior to me. I was very close to my mother; I never had an issue with the female gender. When my wife and I got married, I told her our first child would be a boy; and she did have a male child. After him, we had girls. But my wife kept insisting that we have a second male child. I told her I was satisfied with the fact that I have a boy and girls. I am extremely happy with all my children – I love my girls. If you have a girl and she is responsible, she can do more for you than 20 boys. Gender is not important to me.
How would you have reacted if your wife had a girl as your first child?
I would have been fine with that; I don’t have a problem with having a female as a first child or having all female children. What is important to me is how my children turn out to be in life and their impact on society.
What are your children’s professions?
My first son is an accountant (a financial consultant). He is based in the US; he has a son. My first daughter is a paediatrician. She is based in Lagos. My second daughter is a company executive. She works in one of the top multinationals in the state. My third daughter is a general manager in my company. My last child is studying chemical engineering and will graduate next month from the University of Chicago; I’m not one that influences the career choices of my children. My daughter who is a paediatrician decided that she wanted to purse that line of profession at the age of six.
As a granddad, what advice did you give your son?
He should know what to do. I tell him to take care of his family and that he should lay a good spiritual foundation. I tell him he must love his wife and his children must look up to him as a role model.
There are reports of fathers sexually assaulting their daughters. How do often you feel about it?
I feel bad, I think it is silly and those men should be in mental centres. They should be thoroughly flogged. Those are not fathers; they are sick people pretending to be normal.
Did you give your children pocket money while they were growing up?
Yes, I did but I see myself as one who is conservative in that area. I taught them to live responsibly and within their means. I taught them to have value for money but I made sure they had enough.
How did you discipline them whenever they erred?
I flogged them whenever they misbehaved. The reason I did that was because I did not want them to spoil the family name. I believe in instilling discipline in children at an early age so they would make one proud when they are older.
What lessons did you learn from your dad which you adopted while raising your children
My aloof home leadership style was what I learnt from my father. My dad dedicated home management to my mother. I think women have nurturing instincts. There are a lot of things my wife handles so well that I cannot.