Ex-Senior Special Assistant (Research and Communication) in The Presidency, Adeolu Akande, tells OLUFEMI ATOYEBI about his fatherhood journey
What does fatherhood mean to you?
To me, fatherhood entails providing spiritual, physical, mental and moral growth for the children that God has put in one’s care.
In the African context, a child does not belong to the nuclear family but to the larger family. It means that our responsibilities as fathers cover the extended family and one’s neighbourhood. The African sense of fatherhood is developing a communal responsibility. You have a duty to every child you meet. That is the context in which I grew up.
When did take up fatherly roles?
It started early in life for me. I started taking care of my younger ones whenever my parents were not around. It could be for a few minutes or longer. Even if one takes one’s sibling along while running an errand, one has to care for him or her. That is a way of imbibing fatherhood responsibility in the junior ones. As soon as one is conscious of oneself, one begins to be conscious of the people around one.
You studied at a stretch until you earned a doctorate. Along the line, were there no pressures on you from parents and peers to get married?
I committed a number of years to my studies but by the time I was 25, the pressure to get married heightened. My parents were not literate. When I went home and talked about earning a doctorate, my parents were talking about marriage, so the pressure also started early for me. I did not marry until I was 36 years old. It was a pressure I had to endure for a long time.
I also have friends who got married as early as when we were in secondary school because they were fully grown up by the time they came to school. Those who started raising family after secondary school put us under pressure but I was young and focused on the future.
How long was your courtship with your partner before marriage?
We were friends for two year. It was enough for us to know ourselves.
What major difference did you notice in your life after you became a husband and later, a father?
The first thing is that you start feeling a sense of responsibility. There were some things that I did as a bachelor that I would not do after marriage. There are some things I still do but with moderation. If you study my career, you will notice that I was leaving one job for the other because of some reasons. That was because as a bachelor, we did not give a damn about decisions. Marriage gives you a higher sense of responsibility and organisation. Being organised comes with responsibilities. In the family life, being a father changes some things about you. With a wife beside you, you have the opportunity of a second opinion on issues.
How many children do you have and did you agree with your wife on the number of children to have?
I have three children but in all, under my roof, I have seven children.
Please explain further?
I have four children who belong to my late siblings.
Does this put extra pressure on you?
My father has 18 children and I am the first born. I have lived with that all my life.
How is your wife coping with it?
This is not giving us any problem. The parents were people we related with before God called them. It is not difficult for her to cope with it.
How does your career interfere or influence your roles as a father?
It does a lot because I am like a nomad. In the last 10 years, I have moved from place to place working and consulting for people in government, state governments, agencies and international bodies. Luckily for me, my wife manages the home perfectly in my absence.
Does that affect your roles as a father?
There are things I have to forgo but whatever happens, I have to create sufficient time for the family. I spend my spare time with them. I have managed this over the time in such a way that anyone that is not close to the family will not know that I am not always in Ibadan.
Can you recall anytime you came hard on your kids for acting up?
I have a liberal approach to discipline because of my background in teaching. I will rather sit down a child and talk to him when he or she makes mistake than beat the child. I try to bring them up as African children than expose them to the western life where the tendency to stray is higher. It’s my wife that does not spare the rod.
Do you help in house chores when you have the time?
I do minimal house chores but I don’t cook.
Is it true that you are planning to contest Oyo State governorship?
It is true. My life has always revolved around politics and the delivery of public good. I believe that I have had the theoretical experience as a student of political science, and having worked at the federal and state levels as special assistant to the then vice president Atiku Abubakar and as a former chief of staff to Governor Abiola AJimobi, I am in a position to put my thoughts together and offer it to the good people of Oyo State.
Oyo State has a peculiar way of picking its governor. Most of them are either senators or deputy governors. Do you think you have enough political strength for the position?
If you look at governance in a state, after the governor, the next person that has the helicopter view of the state is the chief of staff. This is because you work closely with the governor. Nigeria runs a federal system of government that is peculiar because it is not a textbook arrangement. I have the advantage of working in the presidency so I have experience from the two centres of power.
Oyo has a voting pattern that favours Ibadan. You are coming from Oke-Ogun that has not produced a governor in the state. How do you want to break the jinx?
I have not heard of any meeting where it was decided that a governor cannot come from outside Ibadan. All parts of the state have the right to produce the governor just like Ibadan. For peaceful co-existence and mutual respect, it will be good if all parts of the state have the opportunity to produce governor.
For other parts of the state to produce governor, they also have to do what it takes to be governor. It takes a lot to win governorship election in terms of resources, media presence, contact, networking and building goodwill. When Bola Ige won, his chief promoters were from Ibadan, the same was for Adebayo Alao-Akala. There are parts of Ibadan that are more under-developed than areas in Oke-Ogun and Ibarapa. It is not as if Ibadan has a huge level of development over others.
To move the state to a greater height should be our priority and not where the governor comes from. The fundamental issue is how to fund the government and deploy economic strategy that will guarantee workers salary, functional hospitals, refuse disposal, functional education system and youth employment. All these should not be based on where the governor comes from. It should be based on competence and capacity to deliver.
What is your favourite family holiday destination?
I like taking the family to Yankari Games Reserve in Bauchi State when there is an opportunity for us to go on holiday.
How do you relax at home?
Like I said, I am a busy person because of a number of things I do. I also travel around the country a lot in the line of my work. But when I am at home, I like sitting down with the children to watch television. I also enjoy playing with them a lot.
What values do you try to teach your kids?
I like to raise the children in the Africa way. That entails godliness, honesty and patriotism.
What difference do you observe in your upbringing and that of your children?
I have a more liberal in approach than my parents. For instance, there were questions I dared not ask my father that my children ask me today. My dad was eager to use the cane, I am not.
Who makes the decision in your home; you or your wife?
Both of us take decision concerning the home. We work like a team and decide things together.