Home AFRICAN STORY Why African Fathers Battle Suffering, Abandonment At Old Age, By Samuel Ogungbesan

Why African Fathers Battle Suffering, Abandonment At Old Age, By Samuel Ogungbesan

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African Father

A recent finding has shown that about 75 percent of fathers in Africa particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa suffer an apparent degree of abandonment from their wives and children they hope to depend on at retirement or old age.

Some social experts have disclosed that behavioural factors causing fathers’ abandonment and sheer suffering in their old age are rooted in African culture itself. For example, some of these behavioural factors include high preference placed for African mothers in the society where they are cherished in the Southwestern part of Nigeria as “Wura Iyebiye” meaning- “valuable Gold”, while fathers, on the other hand, are called “Dingi” meaning “Breakable Mirror”.

The provision of special care for the elderly in old age differs from country to country and clime to clime. For example, Africans and Europeans are not similar in culture, as each family in Africa caters to their own aged people in their space, it is government agencies in Europe that cater to all their elderly through Home Care Policy.

Placing the provision of the aged in Africa in the hands of the children and extended relatives, prompted most African parents to place more emphasis on child welfare, education, development, and empowerment so that they can reciprocate their kind gesture in old age.

This, therefore, underpinned the inherent silent battle raging between the fathers and mothers in the course of training their children to have firm control over them in old age.

From the findings, mothers usually outplayed the fathers in the game of wooing the favour of the children. As mothers take advantage of fathers’ high-handedness and bullying tendencies in training their children, mothers most times appear sympathetic in placating the children with emotion. This strategy is one of the common operating theories of some mothers in Africa, thereby exposing their husbands to unwarranted prejudice and contempt in old age

Besides that, African mothers are culturally biased and often short-change their husbands for their children. This they do by being overprotective and eulogizing their child as Lord. This is a common strategy in Southwestern Nigeria where mothers are known for calling their male child “Oko mi” meaning my Husband. Mothers have won the heart of many children through this ploy.

This tactical approach of eulogizing their children more than their husbands have left many innocent fathers to keep acting as ‘Bull Ant’ to their children in the name of training them.

Another reason why fathers are more prone to neglect at old is the factor of who goes to take care of the newly born grandbaby known as “Omugo” in Igbo. Findings have shown that mothers are culturally privileged to travel down to take care of their newly born grandchild, leaving the father to languish in hunger and in complete loneliness. Most fathers have suffered seriously in this regard when their wives pretentiously overstay in the course of catering for their grandchildren. This among others has led to the untimely death of many fathers who have spent their hard-earned money in training their children only to be neglected to suffer due to cooked-up and spurious allegations tabled by their mothers in the course of having firm control over them.

The report of a survey carried out in recent times to determine who is more preferred between fathers and mothers in a family became evident, especially at wedding receptions, where Masters of Ceremonies (MC) revealed that fathers who have higher responsibilities such as; payment of house rent, children upkeep, school fees from the basics to higher institutions, hospital bills among other bills than mothers.

When it comes to who should pass on first between the fathers and the mothers in a family, the survey showed that fathers preferred to pass on first with 71 percent votes.

Considering the evidential fact that African fathers are endangered species, they should learn fast, and prevent suffering in old age by investing more in themselves and by having extra savings for the unexpected.

Fathers should also wake up by being responsible, homely, and caring playing along with their wives who have ganged up to sideline them against their children in the scheme of life at retirement.

A female colleague who shared her experience concerning the bullying nature of her father said her father operated a ferocious policy in the course of training them. She said it was so scary to the extent that despite being a graduate and working for over 8 years, she found it almost impossible to take her fiance home for the introduction. She narrated her father’s display of pigheadedness on the morning of her wedding as pathetic. She confessed that she prayed with her siblings severally that their father should die of an undisclosed accident anytime he traveled due to the phobia they had for him.

African fathers should drop the mentality of bullying their children and call it discipline. Some fathers go as far as tying children to the tree while flogging them to stupor.

Recently a man was reported to have starved his three children for 3 months for stealing and during which two of them died. This was too extreme. No surviving child would overlook such wickedness and take care of such a cruel father in old age.

Fathers should stop being standoffish with their children. Father’s role in the family goes beyond being a protector, provider, and disciplinarian. They should also be accessible, approachable, and compassionate to their children. They should give them full attention and stop being abusive so that they can build perfect relationships with their children.

As a matter of fact, fathers’ should not allow their congeniality to alter their other roles in the family but should be in pari-passu. According to a Yoruba adage which says ‘Ti a ba f’owo otun ba omo wi, a si fi osi faa mo’ra’, meaning, when you scold a child, it is expedient that you embrace such child afterward.

Fathers should build solid relationships with children and let them know that they are responsible as a father and they should forever protect them to achieve their future destiny.

Fathers should show love to their children. Let them know that their fathers genuinely love them. Always say “I love you” as this will have a major impact in sustaining long ties between the fathers and their children.

Fathers should have listening ears, and cultivate the habit of playing together with their children: Create time out of their busy schedule to have a lighter mood with them. Fathers should also share their life experiences and challenges with their children and expound ways of tackling them and showing them the pathway to greatness in life.

These among new approaches to ensuring peaceful co-existence and well-being of the family will secure the tomorrow of thousands of African fathers and save them from suffering and abandonment in old age.

Ogungbesan is an Information Officer at Ogun State Ministry Of Information & Strategy, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, Ogun State

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