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How He Knew His Wife Was The The Right Woman, His Experience In The Labour Room, Parenting Styles And More, Bob-Manuel Udokwu Bares It All

How He Knew His Wife Was The The Right Woman, His Experience In The Labour Room, Parenting Styles And More, Bob-Manuel Udokwu Bares It All

Veteran actor, Bob-Manuel Udokwu, in a recent chat with PUNCH shares amazing love story of how he met his wife and tied the knot with her within one year.

During the chat, the 54-year-old proud dad of two also opened up about fatherhood, his parenting experience and how everything about him changed after his experience in the labour room.

How did you know your wife was the right woman for you when you met her?

I had the kind of specification I wanted for myself. I wanted a woman who would be able to hold down the home while I was away. I needed someone who could make a decision. I wanted someone who would be a partner in this business.

I met her at the University of Lagos where I went to do my master’s. She was doing her first degree. So, it wasn’t as if I went looking for women to marry. I went to study for a degree but came out with two – my master’s and my wife. She is one woman who holds intelligible conversations with me and I enjoy it.

She is also homely. Her mother was a teacher and the discipline was obvious in the way she spoke and acted. There was also the physical attraction. She is beautiful too. The space between the time I met her and the time we had our wedding was not up to one year. If a guy is serious about getting married, you would know. There are no excuses.

How old were you then?

I would not say. I can give you an idea. I had already obtained my first degree and, of course, Nollywood started with ‘Living in Bondage’.

What was it like when your wife told you she was pregnant?

I cannot describe the experience. It is better experienced than being talked about. My life changed that day. That Monday morning when she was in labour, the matron told me to get something to aid the delivery. When I got back, she told me to enter the labour room.

By the time she motioned me to come into the labour room and I was literally dragged in and the door behind me shut, the baby came and the matron handed the girl to me after cleaning her up. The experience was like magic. I held the baby in my hands and I didn’t even know what to do with her.

When I looked at the baby, I wondered about what life was all about. That day, psychologically, emotionally, my life changed. I knew it would no longer be the status quo anymore. It was a fundamental experience that changed the dynamics of my life.

What would be your definition of fatherhood?

Fatherhood, to me, means for the man of the house to be in charge and take responsibility for providing for the family not just financially but also physically and emotionally. An ideal father is one who provides leadership and guides the family in the direction that he wants the family to go.

He is the captain of a ship in a vast ocean. In today’s world, even with the navigational aids, it doesn’t remove from the personal inputs from the captain to aid the smooth running of the ship and navigating through obstacles in the vast ocean of life and finding direction.

An ideal father is like a farmer who plants crops. He wouldn’t just go away and leave the crops like that to be overgrown by weeds but he would come around every time to check the progress of the crops, nurture them, water them when there is a need and weed out unwanted plants and give the crops a good lease of life and a chance to blossom into what they are meant to be. It is sacrifice.

In your experience as a father, what are some of the sacrifices you have made just for your family to grow?

The sacrifices are a lot. I am still sacrificing. One thing I have found out is that when you get married and begin to have children, you begin to think less about yourself and more about your family.

I am from Anambra State, which makes me Igbo, and even though it is not clearly stated anywhere, as old as I am now, I can clearly tell you without fear of contradiction from any quarters, that the success of the Igbo man is seen through the prism of the family.

If people see your family as being uncared for, it would show the kind of man you are. If they are not properly coordinated and do not behave well, then you have failed as a father. Fathers must do all they can, sacrifice in any way to make sure that your family comes first.

There has been a gender war of some sort as to what roles belong to the father and the mother in parenting. How exactly do you view this in the light of being a father?

Modern-day parenting is supposed to be a partnership but in that partnership, there is always a leader. That is why I laugh when women’s groups talk about gender equality. It is not our thing. It is not African. That is what is disrupting our marriages today. A woman has her place in the family. The same goes for the man. The children also have their places in the family.

Ultimately, the children are the ones who both parents need to watch out for because they need guidance, training and support – financially, emotionally and psychologically. There are things we went through as kids that our parents didn’t even know we went through them.

We had cases of bullying in school, for instance, we went through all that during our own time in school. If we complained to our parents, they would tell us to man up. They’d tell the girls to behave lady-like and not talk about certain things because it takes away from their girliness.

Many times, children grow up defeated psychologically because they are forced to ram down in their psychological space that which should have been voiced out and dealt with. It can also lead to some people being unsure of themselves and that is some kind of personality disorder. It is a delicate balance for both genders.

To me, Bob, fatherhood is not easy; it is work. I want my children to turn out to be the best that they can be. I am making sure together with my wife I amalgamate all the experiences I have so that they can get the best out of what life throws at them and be able to manage those things even when they are not with me.

SEE ALSO: 16 Years Married and Counting, Bob Manuel and Wife, Cassandra Share Their Love Story

As an actor, it is given that you’d have to be on set even late nights a lot of times. How have you been able to manage all that with your role in your family?

That is a very good question, and I hope people learn from this. First of all, I have a family that understands that their father, the head of the house, is not an ordinary person. In other words, he doesn’t do an ordinary job. My work comes at odd times, odd hours and odd days.

It can be unexpected or on the spur of the moment. My children, they were born to see that their father is known all over the place. So, as you are driving with them to go get a drink or something and your movie posters are everywhere and people are calling your name and waving at you, that would be the point you tell them that it was the reason you were away for the times you had to be away.

Even as kids, I always told them about my work and when I had to travel. So, they were born into it. Some of them will come back from school and tell me about how people did not believe them when they said Bob Manuel-Udokwu was their father (laughs).

Balancing it would be me making extra efforts to bond with my children. When I am not doing any movie, I make sure I take them out and be with them as long as I can. If CCTVs are installed all around my house and you see what I do with my kids, you will marvel.

Sometimes, I am on all fours and they climb on my back and ride me like a horse. We watch cartoons together, laugh and joke together and just make them happy. When I travelled abroad those days, I bought them a lot of children’s programmes and I made sure I watched the programmes with them and make scenes out of the characters.

Even today, we still re-enact some scenes from the cartoons we watched years earlier when they were kids. When I used to anchor Gulder Ultimate Search, they would not fail to watch it every night. So whenever I returned, they would talk to me about everything they felt about it, and I would listen.


How have you taught your children to handle fame so they don’t bring your name or brand into disrepute?

One thing I don’t fail to do is to bond with my children. They tell me what happens around them and in their lives when I am not there. I am a very disciplined father, and I made them understand that. I sometimes employ the tool of emotional blackmail. It is a secret.

I would say something like, “You know out there everybody knows your dad. Do you want the whole world to see you do this and have to talk to your father in ways you would not like? The blogs, newspapers and the entire world would insult your father because of you. Is that what you want?” You would see them melt because they would imagine the scene playing out in their heads.

I have taken them to some shows and they had to get a good choice of seats just because I am their father. They know it is a privilege to have somebody like me as their father. They meet governors, senators and those who are high up there in society. So, they know they have to be careful.

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They know it would be in their best interest that I am trying to guide them on what to do and what not to do. Having grown much older, they would not be economical in telling me that they are so proud and grateful to God to have a father like me.

In your own opinion, what is the best way to discipline a child?

For me, as my children got older, physical discipline became less.

So, you used to spank them?

O yes! I used to spank them. We are African. My parents never spared the cane, because it has been what shaped us into who we are and it was done with love. I don’t necessarily use canes anyway. Sometimes, you would punish them by telling them to stay off the TV for a number of hours or days.

You may also tell them to do some household chores. I also found out that talking to them worked more. It happened also with my mother. My mom would call you up at 3am to talk some sense into your head when you messed up.  It is very effective. If they do some things, I would ask them if they are proud of it.

Being an actor, I would watch out for the emotions and you will see their countenance will just fall. Their body language would show you that the person is really contrite and the next tone of voice to say sorry would be mumbled and almost broken. Having hit that point, then you can ask them if they would do that again. You would hear and see what their response would be. It works like magic. It is not every time you scream at your children, especially as they grow older.

What is the most enduring gift you have ever shared with your children?

I don’t think it would be physical gifts because they age with time and fade away. That doesn’t mean I don’t buy things for them and they don’t buy things for me. That is not what I would consider an enduring gift. I also stress it with them that education is the best gift one can give a child.

The best gift I am giving them right now is to give them sound advice, which I give out of my totality. I tell them I want them to be bigger and greater than myself.

The impact I have made in society through the things I do is one thing I would want them to look back at and smile. As a creative person, it is when you are gone that people get to truly understand the truest values of your work. Most people weren’t born when Bob Marley was alive, but they listen to his songs and can connect to his creative spirit and it endures.

Same as Martin Luther King Jnr and (Nelson) Mandela; these people were not known for money, but they were known for their virtues. I tell my kids that the most enduring thing on earth is the virtues that would make them stand out amongst their peers.

There is a proverb that says, “If you are good at what you do; even if you live in the forest, footprints of human beings would pave a way to your house.” What would make you rise above the ordinary level above your peers is being extraordinary. When we go out for events, they see the way I am respected and they are in awe. I want them to remember the way I taught them to conduct themselves.

When was the last time you took them to your hometown, Ogidi?

Ah! Are you kidding me? I am a proper, total Igbo man. I take my family home. Incidentally, Ogidi is the same town in Anambra where Chinua Achebe comes from, so there is a lot of history. They went to Ogidi before they clocked one year.

They feel excited whenever we have to go to the village. I try to balance this township life with the fact that we have to visit our roots. One amazing thing I found out is that whenever we are in Ogidi, they are so relaxed and happy. When it is time to leave after the holidays, you will see long faces. This further affirms the fact that home is where the heart is.

At what point in your life did you think it was the right time to settle down; did you have to wait till you were pressured by your parents?

Nobody put me under any pressure. It was the right time. The way we were brought up as kids, we all knew how to cook. At a time in my life as a bachelor, I just needed to settle down.


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