Recent findings have shown that about 75 percent of fathers in Africa, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, suffer an 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 father’s’ abandonment and sheer suffer- ing 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 South-western part of Nigeria as “Wura Iyebiye” meaning- “Valuable Gold”, while fathers on the other hands are called “Gingi” meaning “Breakable Mirror”. The provision of special care 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 caters for their own aged people in their space, it is government 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 the game of wooing the favour of the children.
As mothers take the advantages of fathers’ high handedness and bullying 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 biased and often short- change their husbands for their children.
This they do by being over protective and eulogising their child as lords. This is a common strategy in South-western Nigeria where mothers are known for calling their male child “oko mi” meaning “my husband”. Mothers have won the hearts 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 ants’ to their children in the name of training them.
Another reason why fathers are more prone to neglect at old age is the factor of who goes to take care of the newly born grand baby? Known as “omugo” in Igbo. Findings showed 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 regard when their wives pretentiously overstay in the course of catering for their grandchildren.
This among others have 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 Master of Ceremony (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 side-line them against their children in the scheme of live retirement.
A female colleague, who shared her experience concerning the bullying nature of her father, said her dad 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 eight years, she found it almost impossible to take her fiancé home for an introduction. She narrated her father’s display of pig headedness 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 in the name of discipline. Some fathers go as far as tying children to trees while flogging them. Recently a man was reported to have starved his three children for three months for stealing during which two of them died. This was too extreme. No surviving child would overlook such wickedness and take care of such a cruel father at old age! Fathers should stop being standoffish to their children. A 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 to 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 osin faa mo’ra’, meaning: “When you scold a child, it is expedient that you embrace such child aftermath”.
Fathers should build solid relationships with their children and let them know that they are responsible as a father and they should forever protect them to achieve their future destinies. 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 between the fathers and their children. Fathers should have listening ears, and cultivate the habit of playing together with their children: Create time out of a 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 a 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.