Recent finding has shown that about 75 percent of fathers in Africa particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa suffer 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 at their old age are rooted in African culture itself. For example, some of these behavioural factors include, high preference placed on African mothers in the society where they are cherished in Southwestern part of Nigeria as “Wura Iyebiye” meaning- “valuable Gold”, while fathers on the other hands are called “Dingi” meaning “Breakable Mirror”.
The provision of special cares for elderly at 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 cater for their own aged people at their space, it is governments’ agencies in Europe that cater for 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 the child welfare, education, development and empowerment so that they can reciprocate their kind gesture at 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 at old age.
From findings mothers usually outplayed the fathers in game of wooing the favour of the children. As mothers take the advantages of fathers’ high handedness and bulling tendencies in training the 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 at old age
Besides that, African mothers are culturally bias and often short-change their husband for their children. This they do by being over protective and eulogising 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 eulogising 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 for the newly born grand baby 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 regards when their wives pretentiously overstay in the course of catering for their grand children. 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 were 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 at old age by investing more in themselves and by having extra savings for the unexpected.
Fathers should also wake up by being responsible, homely, 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, working for over 8 years, she found it almost impossible to take her fiance home for 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 undisclosed accident anytime he travelled 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 cruel father at old age?
Fathers should stop being standoffish to their children. Father’s role in the family goes beyond being 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 a perfect relationship between their children.
As a matter of fact, fathers’ should not allow their congeniality 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 afterwards.
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 among the fathers and their children.
Fathers should have listening ears, and cultivate the habit of playing together with their children: Create time out of 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 show them 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 at old age.
Ogungbesan is an Information Officer at Ogun State Ministry Of Information & Strategy, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, Ogun State