A couple of years ago, Parenting Now! Editor-In-Chief, Kingsley Obom-Egbyulem had the rare opportunity of discussing fatherhood, raising girls and the challenges of parenting the 21st century child with Sam Adeyemi–
arguably one of the most influential voices to have come of out of
Sub-Saharan Africa. Adeyemi is Senior Pastor, Daystar Christian Centre
–a dynamic 44,000 man congregation comprising young purpose-driven
Nigerians, budding leaders, thriving public and motivational speakers
What is your perception of fatherhood in Africa?
I will say first of all, there is a dimension to fatherhood that we
have excelled in as Africans and that is in enforcing discipline. The
role of a father is that of a leader. That is why a man is described as
the head. So fatherhood in our culture aligns with our concept of
leadership. In fact in Africa leaders are served and men expect just
that from women and their wives. Children also are to be seen and not
heard…and that is if they are even seen at all. So in the area of
building the self esteem of our children, we may not be doing
fantastically well. Some people have powerful fathers but that power is
not credited into their own accounts. That power is not something they
can leverage on. I grew up to know that fathers in Africa take
responsibility for their family. I saw my own dad take responsibility
for his family . I didn’t grow up to see men shirk responsibility for
their families. And talking about responsibility I’m beginning to see a
disturbing trend that I’m uncomfortable with especially being a pastor
and that is seeing nice looking young men who looked good to be husbands
and they get married and are not willing to hold the ball and take
responsibility for their families. And that breaks a woman down
completely. It doesn’t matter how wealthy she is financially. At the
beginning out of love she can try to cope and assist here and there. But
she can only take it for so long after sometime it affects her esteem
because she is expecting the man to play the leadership role.
I grew up to know that fathers in Africa take responsibility for their family.
Looking back, what would you have done different if you were Chief S.B. Adeyemi raising the boy Sam Adeyemi?
I think one thing that was missing which interestingly has been made
up for now is building intimacy; getting to talk one-on-one with ones
child and creating a bond that makes it easy for the child to discuss
anything. By the time I was a teenager, I realized that sometimes my dad
would be in the living room but we would feel more comfortable staying
in the bedroom. It’s a cultural thing. The things that children have to
say doesn’t sound important enough for adults here. But I would say that
my dad tried, he did quite well. I think about the values I grew up
with-for instance I never thought stealing was an option for me, lying
was no option -they had serious repercussion in our home. But that area
of intimacy was a huge gap. But I also feel whatever he didn’t do well,
it because he wasn’t a believer then. After he got to know Christ, he
really tried to make up for it. For instance, I didn’t grow up hugging my dad. Now we do!
getting to talk one-on-one with ones child and creating a bond that makes it easy for the child to discuss anything.
What difference does it make now?
It makes a world of difference.
What was the price you had to pay for this gulf or lack of
father and son intimacy that existed between you and your dad? And what
could it have cost your siblings as well since it wasn’t just you?
When a child does not get open display of affection from his or her
parents, the child becomes vulnerable, when that affection is provided
elsewhere. I think that being hugged by people outside our home had a
great impact on me. People have different love languages, one of mine
happens to be physical touch. It’s even fair that I’m a guy. When it’s a
girl it makes it worse. If a father doesn’t hug his daughter, show her
affection and create an atmosphere for her to be free and have intimate
discussion with him, if somebody else provides that affection, it can
tilt the child suddenly. The child may not even be conscious about it,
she may understand why and the parents may be completely surprised that
their child had changed suddenly. I think that was where I was
And we had that issue with our first child. She is a ‘touch and feel’ person.
Do you think the average father today is prepared and
equipped with what it takes to raise the kind of children that will take
us into the Nigeria you have been preaching about?
I must admit that is one subject that scares me about our country. We
try to underestimate the impact of the environment on individuals. Just
like a tree draws from the soil to grow itself, that is how a human
being draws from its environment. The political environment created over
two decades ago has caused awful damage to our psyche as a nation. I
give you an example: a young man goes through public primary school
which I went through by the way; and anyone who goes back to that same
public school now will feel like shedding tears and children absorb this
environment like sponges. That mediocrity, lack of standards, lack of
values, the poverty is getting into their mind. They go through
secondary school and enter the university and they don’t even know what
is going to happen. A young man told me weeks back that he graduated
four (4) years ago and he has not earned anything, marriage can’t be the
next thing he will be thinking now. At the end of the day, this person
is going to become a father and in a system that makes people hopeless, a
system that makes it difficult for people to dream and plan and that
reality is taking its toll on the men and even families. Considering the
fact that the average man really loves his child, I see a situation
where some men are willing to beat the law, beat policies to make sure
their children succeeds. They are willing to give bribes, they are
willing to pay lecturers so that their children can pass exams, some are
willing to hire mercenaries to write exams for their kids. Most people
vow that their children will not have to go through what they went
through. Over a million candidates write JAMB, universities take less
than 200,000 and parents are desperate over their kids getting these
admission. That’s why I say I’m afraid because in the course of this
process the values systems are eroded and still eroding.
What would you say is the greatest challenge facing fatherhood today?
Hmmm…I would say it is that of inculcating values into our children
in a changing world. Fathers now have competition; they are competing
with the internet-it’s a different world. Before, your community is made
up people living around your neighbourhood and they help you to
discipline and raise your child. Today you have invisible people,
virtual people all over the world helping you to groom your child. And
that’s a serious matter.
So what’s your experience with regards to confronting these challenges of fatherhood you just referred to?
First making sure that the voice or voices our children hear the loudest are my voice and that of my wife.
They are hearing many voices but I want them to hear ours loud and
clear and we realize that people don’t care how much you know until they
know how much you care. So, we are loving them in ways that are
unmistakable, loving them fully. The love includes telling them the
truth, showing them affection and giving them discipline-that’s a major
part of it and also ensuring they get best quality education they can
get. Secondly, teaching them Gods ways. Ultimately, the
most important voice they need to hear is God’s voice. If they can
recognize that voice and obey it, I think our job is done. Thirdly, we
pray for them. You can do everything you know how to do right and
something will still go wrong. So, we pray for them daily, we can’t
we realize that people don’t care how much you know
until they know how much you care. So, we are loving them in ways that
are unmistakable, loving them fully.
You are a pastor and motivational speaker and we know that charity doesn’t always begin from home. What is the reality for you?
I try to craft a personal statement of purpose for myself; like “to
inspire millions of people all over the world to discover their
potentials to fulfil their destiny beginning with my family.” So I ask
myself ‘why would I want to change and inspire millions all over the
world if I can’t inspire my family. So we have exposed our children to
our library and to reading. When my son was nine I remember him asking
his mom ‘how come all my mentors are pastors?’ and the mom said ‘name
them?’ He said ‘Myles Munroe, John Maxwell, my daddy and you’. Moses
emphasised in Deuteronomy to make sure they passed on all the things
that God was teaching them to the next generation. So, we share with all
of them what the Lord is telling us. And knowing that each of them are
different ,we discuss their personality and temperament and I’m happy
that they are reading books on temperament and taking temperament tests
and they are getting to know who they are. These are books and materials
I came across in my 20’s so we are trying to give them an early start
to discover their strengths, their careers, not forcing anything on them
but closely working with them on their academics. Our educational
system is not designed to take in different learning styles. And we had
that issue with our first child. She is a ‘touch and feel’ person.
That’s how she learns and our system is designed to be very theoretical
and abstract. Imagine teaching Agric. Science without a school farm and I
had a farm as a student.
Do you have any recipe you can share for programming children for success?
I think the number one thing is for you to be the kind of person you
want them to be. Every living thing has the power to reproduce after its
kind .Be the kind of person you want your children to turn out to be.
Almost every other thing will follow naturally .Secondly, love your
children genuinely .If you love your career or business more than your
kids, you will discover at the end of the day that you made a big
mistake. Thirdly, discipline them. Discipline doesn’t mean beating. The
word discipline is from the word Disciple which means “to tell them
exactly what t do and how to live”; give them boundaries. Jesus said
narrow is the way that leads to life and broad is the way that leads to
destruction. If you look at the narrow way what characterizes it are
restrictions. Obviously what Jesus was saying there is that the more
latitude people have the more they are likely to go wild. Let there be
rules clearly stated and when they are violated let there be
consequences. That’s one of the ways to prepare a child for life. If
they have to live in a society that has laws they need to know that
there are consequences for obeying or disobeying the laws. Then give
them the best education you can afford. If parents think very well about
this they will consider carefully about the number of children they are
going to have because they will think about the cost of university
education and career choices too for that number of kids and the
financial planning involved.
Can you relate with the importance and the place of a father in the success of the girl child?
There is a point in the life f a child where the greatest influence
comes from the parent of the opposite sex. And fathers should realize
that they have very important role to play in the self esteem of their
daughters and women. I read in James Dobson’s book “What wives wish their husbands knew about women”
and he cited a research carried out by psychologists in the US trying
to find out the ten most common problems that women have. Top on this
list was low self esteem. Every woman battles with the issue of low self
esteem although some have overcome it. And every father has a role to
play in helping them overcome it by what they have to say to and about
their daughters. So, fathers must name their daughters not as in given
them names but building confidence in them, telling them who they are
giving them a sense of identity. It is in a fathers place to tell his
daughter that she is the most beautiful woman in the world; that may
sound strange for an African father. We must hug them. I’m told the
average woman needs about 13 hugs a day. Men should feel the emotional
state of their children and daughters. If we don’t, just one stranger
telling her things like “you are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever
seen” can work her emotions up if she hasn’t heard that from her dad
before. I met a lady some years ago who told me that she had serious
problems with her mom and what helped her was her relationship with her
dad. She said she went to school and had an infection and she wasn’t
sexually active and could not tell whether the infection came from the
school toilet or not. But she dared not tell her mom because she would
kill her and say she was going out with men. But she could confide in
her dad. It was her dad who took her to the doctor and she was treated. I
was so inspired and encouraged by dad. For a young lady to be able to
talk to her dad as to share and describe something so private with him
was inspiring. If her mom and dad were not there whoever showed up at
that moment in her life could leave a lasting negative or positive
Domestic violence robs the home of its creative energy and potential to offer a safe haven from all the issues we face outside
What’s your relationship with your daughters like?
(Laughter) I don’t know what it is between fathers and daughters but I
have enjoyed this unusual affection between me and my daughters. We
talk very well and I paid particular attention to that. Our first
daughter is a teenager now and we can discuss anything. I made sure we
got to the point where she can discuss anything with me. I guess the
time we spent doing school work together brought us close because we
also discussed what happened in the course of the day. Each time she is
going back to the boarding house, I make sure I take her out-just the
two of us.
I think fathers need to know that the best thing they can do for their kids is to love their wives.
Do you do that regularly?
Not so regular, but I try my best
What’s your favourite spot?
Usually hotels…like Sheraton and… she looks forward to it.
Would you want to recommend that to fathers?
Absolutely! I recommend that to all fathers and I’ve found out that
people talk over food and our daughters are not exception and with that
we set standards for them and paint pictures of what it means to be a
responsible man and they know what to look out for as acceptable conduct
from men because they have to make choices and build their own homes
and they can quickly pick out when something is going wrong.
Would you say your daughters trust you?
I think so!
Do they look forward to marrying a man like you?
I believe so! (Laughter)
What gives you that impression or conviction; have you got any proof?
(Another prolonged laughter) Wow! This is a tough one! Anyway, I
haven’t asked them directly. But I think our children have this picture
that our family is a good one and they want to have this type of family
when they grow up. They’ve told us so. And I try to work hard to sustain
this and be their role model. One important thing about children is to
create memories .We make out time for their school’s PTA meeting and
even their teachers are shocked when they see us at such meetings given
our busy schedule. And our kids are happy that we are concerned about
the things they are concerned about. Several years ago, I was bothered
that almost every evening I was going out to speak. I knew something
wasn’t quite right with that. By the time I was home the children were
asleep and the following morning they are up and rushing to school. I
didn’t quite like it. That was not how we grew up. Our parents were
always around. And then I felt that if I don’t go out to speak, aren’t I
depriving people of the call of God on my life? But I was wrong. So, I
had to cut down on those engagements. Now, when I sit down to plan my
yearly schedule at the beginning of every year, I block out our family
days and vacations and nothing; I mean absolutely nothing can take those
What are your opinions on domestic violence and its impact on children?
It makes the home hostile and tension prone and that’s not what the
home is designed for. Domestic violence robs the home of its creative
energy and potential to offer a safe haven from all the issues we face
outside. I think fathers need to know that the best thing they can do
for their kids is to love their wives. So when men beat their wives,
they not only demean the woman they disrespect their kids; they are
modelling what their daughters should expect from men one of which is to
be beaten. And when such ladies marry, the boys beat their wives and
the girls expect to be beaten and they lash out at their husbands and
demonstrate hostility which is a hangover from home. Some women even go
as far as deliberately marrying men who look gentle; men they think they
can control but they often miss it.
Some men have attributed the fear of incest as an excuse for not being close to their daughters, what your take on that?
The fear of incest should not deter fathers from getting close to
their daughters. If you have issues with self control and sexual sins be
accountable to your wife; don’t hide it so it doesn’t fester and rob
your kids especially your daughters of one of the most important
relationships in their lives. You can use words and hug your wife openly
before your kids as a way of communicating affection to your kids
especially your daughter.