The Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress in Lagos State, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, shares his fatherhood experience with MOTUNRAYO JOEL.
What do you enjoy most about being a father?
I enjoy doing my duty as a father; providing for my children, paying their school fees, buying clothes for them, feeding them and giving them shelter. A father that provides for the family does not need to beat his chest because it is the normal thing to do. Providing for them as a father gives me inner peace and it makes me happy. I also enjoy having an encounter with God first thing every morning and in the night before going to bed. This is a must every day and everybody must be at the family altar. Parents are happy when their children’s trusts are rooted in God. No amount of trials can blow down a man and his children who put their trust in God. This is the greatest virtue and legacy any father must leave with his children.
What traditions did your father pass on to you that you have also passed on to your children?
My father taught me how to respect elders. He also taught me to be quick to hear and speak less. My father taught me how to speak words of wisdom and some native idioms. My father taught me to always remember home. He said that a man is not a man if he has no roof over his head he can call his own. My father taught me early the importance of being at peace with God. This I have passed to my children.
Fatherhood is a state of having one or more children. Having a son and spending time with your son, taking him to games and getting to know him, is an example of fatherhood. Naveen Jain said, “Being a father has been, without a doubt, my greatest source of achievement, pride and inspiration. Fatherhood has taught me about unconditional love, reinforced the importance of giving back and taught me how to be a better person.”
Fatherhood has taught me that raising kids is not as easy as milking a cow, it is an excruciating job and sometimes it can be a painful experience. But because God has been with me, raising my kids has never been a thing of regret. I remain eternally grateful to God for making me a father.
Are there things you wish you had done differently as a father?
Yes, there were little mistakes I made in the past as a father and there are things I would have done differently, but they are too insignificant to be narrated here. Since 1990, when I got married and in 1991, when my first son was born, I have put everything I do in the hands of God. When you leave everything in the hands of God, then everything about you and family would be in God’s hands. My deep relationship with God has helped me to fight so many battles, winning triumphantly without losing my head even when others are losing theirs.
What is the secret to raising good children?
As a father, one has to be an honest man. You have to walk your talk and lead by example. Teach your kids the way of the Lord and when they grow up they will never forget. Teach them the virtue of hard work. Tell them that not everybody they meet is a friend and not everybody they meet is an enemy. Tell them that there are three classes of friend: the ones that can pull you 10 years back to their miserable levels, the ones that can keep you in the same level for years without going down or up, and the ones that are like eagles who will take you higher and higher. I always advise my children to follow honest, dynamic, and character-driven friends who know that two plus two is four, but because of synergy two plus two becomes five.
Do you help your wife in the kitchen?
What am I going to do in the kitchen?(smiles). I have people that help me out in that area. But if I need to get anything in the kitchen, I go there to get it. I do not wait for anyone to get it for me.
Which house chores do you do?
I wash plates, sweep the floor, wash clothes, and clean up my room. In fact, I do not wait for anyone to clean my room and the toilet in my sitting room. I am particularly conscious about that toilet; I personally clean it. I do that because if anyone in the sitting room is served food and has to use the toilet, if the person discovers that the toilet is dirty, he or she will not want to eat the food. I do not delegate the cleaning of that toilet to anyone.
I prefer to do it myself. I am a clean person. People in my house, office and village know that about me. I cannot stand a dirty environment. I have trained my wife and children to follow suit.
Which house chores do you do better than your wife?
Cleaning. Anything that involves cleaning is left to me.
You have been married for 25 years. What has kept your marriage going?
Commitment to make it work at all cost. We put God first in all that we do; no amount of trials will blow down a man that puts his trust in God. We usually hold family devotion in the morning and evening. We have been doing so for 25 years. I am a Christian and it means there are certain things I cannot do. I am even a preacher in my church and I mind what I do. I put God first in all I do.
How do you spoil your wife?
When my wife turned 50 years, I nearly brought down Lagos. I did not celebrate my 50th birthday, but I celebrated hers. I am not one that celebrates things but when it comes to my wife and children, I do my best for them. When I turned 60, I had a quiet celebration. I love celebrating people; other people’s happiness makes me happy.
What is the biggest gift you have bought for your wife?
The biggest gift I have given her is our children. There is no better gift than for her to become the mother of my children. I work for them. I put down money and I am to serve them. My prayer is that, being the oldest, if God decides to pick anyone first, it should be me. Between me and my wife, if God decides to choose any of us to come to Him, I would opt to go first because I am older and I have seen more years. The most important thing in a family is love. As a father, one should transfer that to one’s wife and children. The only way one can show one’s children that one loves them is to show love to their mother. If one does not show love to their mother, they won’t believe that one loves them.
You have three grown up boys. How do you advise them about women?
I always tell them to be careful. It is not everyone that comes to you that is a friend, and it is not everyone that is an enemy. One just has to be as wise as a serpent. I tell my children that I searched for my wife; I knew what I wanted in a woman. Another important thing is to constantly pray for one’s children. My wife and I started praying for their life partners when they were babies. My wife and I have stayed in the same room for 25 years. Inside our room, we pray for our children.
How do you discipline your children?
We speak to them. At night, we read the book of Proverbs and each of them chooses a verse in the book to explain to the others.
You do not beat your children?
Of course we do. The Bible says spare the rod and spoil the child. We beat them if they go wrong. Our fathers did that to us and it made us who we are today.
Was it your wish to have five children?
No, it just happened. We are not God to determine the number of children to have. It just happened. We bless God for our children.
You wife is pretty. How do you cope with her male admirers?
(Laughs)I am a strong man. I cherish my wife and give her all she wants. No man can meet up to me. I provide for her and satisfy her with everything. But on a serious note, we do not think about that area. My wife is a Christian, in fact, a Bible scholar. We do not think about infidelity. We are on the same page in serving God and we have no regrets.
Did you nurse any fear prior to your becoming a father?
I had no fears.
What is the biggest gift you have given your children?
Education and good upbringing. We teach them the scriptures.
When did you experience your hardest moment (s) as a father?
That was in October 10, 1993, when l had my third son; it was in the peak of the crisis that arose from the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential elections widely regarded to have been won by the late Chief Moshood Abiola. Then, I had no money to pay the hospital bill, take my wife and new baby home. They had to spend almost two days in the hospital because I did not have the money to pay. Feeding my family and paying house rents throughout the period of the crisis from 1993 to 1999 were big problems. I went to all my friends and my blood brothers to borrow money, but they all failed me.
My wife kept calling me repeatedly saying that they had been discharged; but she did not know what I was facing. She knew we had financial problems but it never occurred to her that my friends and brothers would fail me. When I had made all efforts and failed, I retired to my office to think about my life and all the troubles. A friend of mine, a motor dealer of Yoruba extraction, had an office almost opposite my office in Western Avenue, Surulere, Lagos, and an inner voice told me to go and see him. When I entered his office he saw my face and said, “Agbalanze, what is the problem?” I narrated my ordeal and what he did shocked me. He pulled his drawer, counted the money and gave it to me. The rest is now history.
What are the three happiest moments in your life so far?
My first happiest moment was when I got my first degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in 1985. The second one was when I got married in 1990 to my jewel of inestimable value, Dr. Mrs. Grace Igbokwe. The third one was when we buried our father in 2004 and my mother in 2012. I have always prayed that my parents would not bury me, but rather I should be the one to bury them, and it came to pass. Another one was when the All Progressives Congress defeated the Peoples Democratic Party in 2015.