Nollywood actor, Jude Chukwuma, 56, in an interview with PUNCH talks about fatherhood and how it has impacted him positively.
According to the 56-year-old, he dropped his violent behaviour after becoming a father.
Would you say the kind of childhood you had influenced your approach to parenting?
I was born on June 23, 1965 at around 9.10am. My mother made sure she kept the record. There are eight of us in my family – six children and my dad and mom. I am the fifth of the six children. My parents were both royalties. My father was a prince of my village, Idumuje Ugboko, Aniocha North Local Government Area, Delta State.
My mother was also a princess in one of the villages in the Aniocha South Local Government Area. By my recollection, they were very humble people despite their status. They didn’t indulge in anything that would dent their names. Both of them believed in earning from what you can do with your own hands.
I attended St. Thomas Aquinas Primary School, Surulere, Lagos. From there, I moved on to Archbishop Aggey Memorial Secondary School, Mushin. In between, I went to do one year at Ekuku-Agbor Grammar School, Ika, Delta State.
I then attended Federal Polytechnic Ilaro to study Accountancy, where I obtained a National Diploma. I had my HND (Higher National Diploma) at Yaba College of Technology, Lagos. The estate where I resided was quite metropolitan, and it influenced the polyglot in me today. It really influenced the way I parent my children.
Besides the environment, did the way your parents raised you also have an impact on the way you raised your own children?
I would say the kind of parenting I had really influenced my style of parenting. Though in some areas, I would say I have failed because of technology, but generally, I borrowed from them. Growing up in our own house, you wouldn’t dare speak any other language apart from our own dialect, Ugboko, a variant of the Delta Igbo.
They call all of us in the area ‘enu-ani’, including Ika, Kwale, Oshimiri and Aniocha, because we have a lot of things in common. That was something I borrowed from my father. From my mother, I borrowed tenacity. I also borrowed sincerity and live a life of contentment. My mom would always tell me, ‘Don’t run on other people’s timetables!’ When other people are getting rich, it shouldn’t get one bothered.
This doesn’t mean she didn’t want us to be ambitious. I also learnt dedication to marriage from my mother. My father was never there. He was always flying around Nigeria. He was an electrician. Anywhere he went, he started a family there. But that didn’t make my mom to begin to do what other people were doing.
I was the closest to her at some point in her life, so we would always have some deep conversations. She’d say, “Jude, I would have been better if I had a partner that would encourage me in whatever decision I want to take.”
From that day, I felt so ashamed of my father, but I also took a lesson that any woman I marry, I would support her to be the best she can be, even at my own detriment. We all have troubles in our marriages, but then breaking up is not an option. Those are the qualities I borrowed from my parents.
When we talk of parenting, those things I have learnt from them, like speaking the truth at any time, knowing and living according to your means, the value of time are a few of the things I am also inculcating in my children. If I give you my children’s number now and you ask them what their father hates most, they’d tell you ‘lying’. Those were the values I got from my own parents. Their influences come to bear on my parenting style.
What exactly does fatherhood mean to you?
Fatherhood means the whole world to me. I have three children now. In all honesty, I have never missed one antenatal session for any of my children, not even for one day. That is to tell you how much fatherhood means to me. (And it’s because of) the way God has helped me shape my life – the highs, the lows, the plains; and I have been through all of them to be who I am today.
I use my life as an example for my children. I teach them that failure is not the end of the world; it is how one manages failure that matters. That is what life is about. My relationship with my children means so much to me. I would be there for them. I started out as a science student, studied Accountancy and I am living the life of an artist.
This makes me a well-rounded father who can teach my children almost anything without external help. I have a wonderful relationship with them, even in their academic pursuit. When my daughter wanted to take WASSCE, I made sure I took her to her class for three weeks.
How have you been able to balance being a husband to your wife, father to your kids and an actor?
It is very simple. We don’t have standards. If you draw a standard for your life, it makes things much easier. If you say, “I cannot go below this; I can’t do this;” it makes your life much easier. It doesn’t matter where you are as long as those standards are well-defined for you. I made a conscious decision not to miss my wife’s antenatal sessions.
That is the condition I put for myself that I appreciate my children. It would not be when you see the newborn that you would begin to say something is triggered within you. After standards, what are the other things important to me? More than anything in the world, the most important thing to me is the laughter of my children.
These are things that money cannot buy. You can buy toys for them, but will you be there to share in their laughter? For me, my children’s laughter is the biggest reward. That is how it is easy for me to find a balance, because I have created for myself both a standard and a priority.
I have driven from Lagos to my daughter’s birthday (party) in Akure, Ondo State, just because I didn’t want to fail her. I was not this popular then but I knew that it was important to keep a relationship with my child at all costs.
I had told her that morning that I would make sure I attend her birthday (party), so even though I left my seat at 4pm that evening, I still made sure I drove down to meet up with her for her birthday (celebration) at about 9pm.
She was so pleased when she saw me and she told her mom, “Shebi I told you my father said he will come?” It was so sweet that she trusts me for my word and knows I wouldn’t fail her. That kind of confidence pushes me to do the right things.
Do you have to use your name to create some space for your children?
That is not me. When one of them wanted to take UTME, I told her that my own mother did not leave the house to go bribe any lecturer or teacher and I, too, would not do it for any of my children. This didn’t mean I couldn’t visit the school and show my face.
I knew the registrar and if I wanted the VC to know me, all I had to do was book an appointment and I would see him, but that is not me. For education, I made it clear that I would not leave the house to do anything for her. Because she knew I was serious, her letter came to her for her post-UTME; I did not follow her to the university; I won’t do it.
Now, she is almost graduating and she’d look back at this moment and laugh. These are things that make life easy. Define standards and make your priority and God will help you to maintain them.
Are there some lifestyle changes you have made since you became a father?
I used to be a violent person growing up. Once I had my first child, when I was provoked, I would just look at the person, and my life would fly past my eyes.
What if I fight this man and I am arrested and spend some time in the police cell? What if I am charged to court? So, I won’t see my family? How will my children take me? Once I ask myself these questions, it makes me calm down. I would just leave the person. When you make your family your priority, it guides every other thing you do.
How do you discipline your children? Do you scold them or spank them?
I use a combination of both. I spank my children. I do. It is essential. It hinges on that part of the scripture that says, ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child!’ But I am not the ‘flog-you-till-you-bleed’ kind of father. I went through that. I had an older brother who beat the living daylights out of me. But that didn’t influence me to say I would not spank my children.
Now, in retrospect, I would say, he was doing the best he knew how to do in his time. But for my children, when they wrong me, we discuss it and discuss their punishment as well. When we are done discussing what wrong has been done, we’d have to talk of how best to punish you so you don’t get to do it again.
When we are done, they’d either present the palms of their hands for some strokes of cane or straighten themselves for a few strokes on the butt. This will make them remember that things like that should not be done.
I remember one of these days, my children’s cousin visited and I was in the sitting room trying to sleep while they played. I am not the kind of father who tells my children to shut up because I want to sleep. If their noise cannot make me sleep, I leave.
They were washing some bowls in the sink and one of the china plates hit the floor and shattered. I heard the sound but I acted like I didn’t. The conversation that followed shattered my heart. His cousin said, ‘Let us clean this place before anyone notices.’ My son said, ‘Let me go tell my daddy.’ His cousin said, ‘If I tell my daddy, he will kill me.’ My son said, ‘If I don’t tell my daddy, he will kill me.’
You can see the difference in upbringing. When he came to me and told me what happened, I went like, ‘Oh my God! Hope it didn’t cut you. Let us go see it so I can clean it up!’ This is a way of rewarding his honesty. His cousin then told me, ‘Daddy Jude, please, can you be my daddy?’ He had seen the beauty of telling the truth.
These are experiences I got from my parents; I am not too afraid to tell my parents the truth. In my own house, truth saves people, not punishes them. Parents need to teach children there is a reward and reprimanding system that should function in a home.
At what age do you think it is best to teach your children about sex?
That is a serious thing. When my daughter was in Primary One or Two, their teacher asked them to ask their parents how babies were made. So, when she told me, I was almost confused; I had to compose myself and tell her in the most less-graphic manner.
I told her to tell me the difference between her brother and her. She did. I told her to tell the difference between me and her mom. She began to laugh, but eventually did. Then, I told her that babies come when a man my age lies with a woman her mother’s age.
She then asked how come we don’t make babies every day since we always lay together. I told her it was not that kind of lying, that when she grows older, she would understand. As she grew up and saw her menses for the first time, her mom took her in and told her that if a man lies with her now, she may get pregnant and all that.
I knew it was time to tell her what she needed to know. I told her all the functions of the body, and the ones nobody else should touch so she doesn’t get distracted and drop out of school. Fast-forward to this day, I am so proud of the woman she has become. She is married now and has her own child. So, you start from when they are young to talk to them about sex.
How did you meet your wife?
I met her on the set of a movie. She was quiet all the while as we were shooting and I had gone to joke with her. After a while, she sent a request on Facebook, and we began as friends, and after a while, we aligned our priority.
Our first outing was Saheed Balogun’s 50th birthday. I got all the media attention because she was by my side. I loved that feeling and I loved how she made me feel.
I loved the fact that the whole world turned their attention on me when I walked in. Since that time, I developed this soft spot for her that I have not been able to overcome till now. So far, we have had a beautiful life together and I wish it never ends.