The Director General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr Muda Yusuf, shares his experiences, challenges and lessons of raising children with PUNCH.
From his traumatic experience and lessons learnt raising a sickle cell child despite compatibility test, he shared some wise words with intending couples.
Read excerpts below…
What is fatherhood to you?
Quality fatherhood is about being a role model and a good example for the entire family to emulate. It imposes enormous responsibilities and demands that the right values be always demonstrated by the father. However, the matrimonial context is important for a father to play the role expected of him.
One key success factor is couple’s compatibility. Where the compatibility quotient is very high, say, about 70 per cent, there is a good chance that the father would find a good partner in his wife. This creates a fitting environment for the father to play his role.
But where there is weak couple compatibility, the risk of a rancorous and acrimonious marital life will be high, which would consequently undermine quality fatherhood. Such relationships are characterised by matrimonial instability, nagging, intolerance, and marital tension.
The point to underscore here is that partnership between the husband and the wife is an essential ingredient for a father to play the role expected of him. The husband needs the support and cooperation of the wife to build a good and stable home, conducive for good children upbringing and quality parenting. There should be shared values between the couple around issues of integrity, love, service, hard work, selflessness, and sacrifice.
Fatherhood is about providing quality leadership, being a role model and being a source of inspiration to the entire family. In most cultures, the father is regarded as the head of the family. Much of these would have to be demonstrated through the examples that the father provides, rather than preaching about it.
Children often take cues more from what they see than what they hear; example, they say, is better than precepts. A good father symbolises the values of love, integrity, hard work, service, and the fear of God. Fatherhood is also about having an inclusive mindset so that no member of the family will feel discriminated against.
There is also the economic factor. Weak economic empowerment of a man could pose a significant downside risk to effective fatherhood. It could weaken the authority of the man as a father.
When did you become a father?
Generally, it is marriage that marks the beginning of the transition to fatherhood. There is also the place of destiny and providence. There are people who have been married for a long time and are not parents. The timing of being a father is therefore to a large extent a design by God. What is clear is that it is the aspiration of every man to be a father; procreation is one of the main objectives of marriage. But the timing of having children is not squarely within the control of man.
When did you have your first child?
I had my first child in 1998. Unfortunately, I lost the child at the age of five. She died of complications from sickle cell anaemia. It was a very devastating and traumatic experience.
Can you describe the experience of becoming a first-time father?
There were several anxious moments. This started from the stage of pregnancy, the challenges of prenatal care and the anxiety that comes with the delivery of the baby. These are typical anxious moments for any father. We all know what maternal mortality is like in Nigeria.
Nigeria has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. In my case, there were medical conditions that further heightened the anxiety because it was a situation that could easily degenerate. It was also a caesarean birth.
But thank God, we were able to survive it because delivery under such conditions was a matter of life and death. There were also some challenges after the baby was born, there were issues with the nursing management of the baby in the first three days of birth. But thank God, He took control of the situation.
Was the gender of your child ever a concern for you?
I am not concerned or worried about the gender of a child. For me, every child is a blessing from God, irrespective of gender. What matters is to pray for a child that will be a blessing to the parents. That, for me, is what is paramount.
Whether the child is a male of a female does not really matter; it does not really make any difference as far as I am concerned. What is important is for the child to be a blessing and I think that is what should be important.
What are the values you learnt from your father that have helped you as a dad?
Fatherhood demands responsibility and such responsibility also demands some behavioural disposition. There is a responsibility of always being a good example to your children and the entire family. There is the lesson of tolerance, irrespective of the condition in which one finds himself or herself.
There is a lesson about inclusion so that every member of the family feels loved and no one feels discriminated against. There is the lesson of patience because, from time to time, there will be issues that will test the patience of a father.
There is the lesson of the economics of the household, how to manage the household with the appropriate budget and how to carry everyone along within the constraint of family budget. There is also the lesson of the responsibility to provide leadership in the home.
How has fatherhood impacted your career?
The responsibility that fatherhood imposes are valuable lessons that are useful for one’s career and this includes the values of discipline that a father must have patience that fatherhood demands – patience with the entire family, the wife, and the children. Just as the commitment to the principle of inclusion is significant in the home, it is a valuable attribute in the workplace. We need effective inclusion to be able to manage the diversity in the work environment.
How do you relax with your children?
The demands of survival in a city like Lagos can sometimes impose a big limitation on time and opportunity to have sufficient time for relaxation. Nonetheless, I find a bit of time to go out with my family to Ikoyi Club to which I belong. But the reality is that the demand of day-to-day living, the stress of traffic and all the other challenges of urbanisation have severely limited the time available for relaxation outdoor.
Is any of your children following in your footsteps?
On account of the kind of career, none of my children is taking exactly after me. They have different passions and different competences. My policy is to give the children the space to determine what they would like to do in life within the limits of an intelligent analysis, assessment and appraisal. But I would avoid the temptation to impose a career on them.
They know themselves; they know what their passions are; they know what their competencies are. I believe that this is what should guide their choice of career. It is in this context that they can flourish and excel, rather than imposing a career on them.
I do not advise anybody to impose a career choice on their children because people are gifted differently. Even identical twins are gifted differently, just as the father and child are gifted differently. These are the things that should determine the choice of career of the child.
How do you discipline your children?
I discipline them by scolding them, by issuing warnings and by threat of sanctions or withdrawals of some privileges. I do not believe in beating a child because for me I believe it is an abuse to beat a child.
What is the most challenging thing about being a dad?
For me, the most challenging experience of being a dad was the day I realised that my first child had sickle cell. It was very shocking, and very devastating. It was shocking because my wife and I had done a lab test to determine genotype compatibility before marriage and the results showed that we were compatible.
Apparently, there was an error in the result, which we did not know until we had the experience of my child that had sickle cell. It was a very traumatic thing for me as a father.
Managing the condition was very challenging. It was very hectic; it was a period that was full of anxious moments and uncertainty. I eventually lost the child at the age of five to sickle cell complications.
The lesson of this experience for the younger ones, particularly those that have yet to be married, is to diligently check their genotype compatibility before the relationship gets deep.
Even after they have done a test at a medical lab, they should double-check at another laboratory. I would also advise that intending couples should undertake this laboratory test in reputable and standard medical laboratories. In matters like this, one cannot be too careful, and one cannot be too painstaking.
I will also propose that evidence of genotype compatibility should be made mandatory before any marriage is certified either by the church, mosque, or marriage registry. It is also desirable for genotype compatibility awareness to be undertaken at the secondary and tertiary levels of education in the country. Similar awareness should be created in our religious houses of worship.
What are some values that are important to you as a father?
As a father, I espouse the values of integrity, honesty, hard work, love, service, sacrifice and the fear of God. These are the values that I cherish. These are the values that I have endeavoured to embed in the family.
I believe that these are the kind of values that our country needs to ensure that we have a society that is stable, inclusive, and sustainable. We need a society where we are our brother’s keeper; where we care about our environment, and where we care about fellow citizens.