Becoming a father stopped me from mingling with some friends – Gani, Lagos PDP spokesman
The Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party in Lagos State, Taofik Gani, speaks to TOBI AWORINDE about his experience as a father
When did you become a father? I became a father relatively recently. As youths, we had so many relationships, so we can only confirm the ones (children) we know of. We just hope that we are not going to be shocked that there are many coming to say, “This is my father.”
How did you feel when you had your first child?
Of course, I was very happy. I glorified the Lord and I felt fulfilled. It was a confirmation that I am a man after all. I gave thanks to God. I thanked everybody who was eager to see me become a father because we had so many distractions going on. I am among those that got into fatherhood at a relatively late age, but I am happy that fatherhood eventually came.
How recently did you welcome your first baby?
Like I told you, we had so many relationships but we can only confirm those we call our children. The oldest is 12-years-old.
At the time your first child arrived, were you apprehensive that you might not be able to handle the responsibilities of being a father?
No, I was never apprehensive. Like I told you, I was long overdue for the role because I had distractions. I had also undertaken the role by proxy because I was already training my siblings, nephews, and nieces. We have lawyers and engineers among them who, to the glory of God, I trained. It was not something I was scared of. The only difference is that they (my children) would bear my own name. But it was not because I was scared of what they would eat, how they would go to school and so on (that I didn’t become a father early). I was psychologically ready and fully prepared for fatherhood.
How old were you when you had your first child?
Relatively, I was not young. I didn’t have my first child until I was in my late 30s.
Did you want a boy or girl?
A child is a child. Whatever the sex you would be called a father if you have a biological child. The truth of the matter is that once you are gone, you are gone. We only know that we will die one day, nobody knows how or when. After that, we don’t know anything. You don’t even know who will bury you. We all just believe as religious persons that there is a heaven, which we wish to enter. But nobody knows who takes care of one burial.
Did anyone counsel you as a new father?
Of course! You had the formal and the informal (counsel). For the formal part, I had my father before he died. I still have my mother. Also my elder sisters were all eager, so I was already learning from their experiences. For the informal, you read things, watch happenings on the television, and you have your peer group and associations. Also, because I am a lawyer, I am fortunate to be involved in some family issues where I am tasked to resolve issues before we talk about going to court for divorce and so on. So, I’ve been fortunate to learn many of those lessons from other families.
How did you celebrate the arrival of your child?
Like everybody would ordinarily celebrate, I was happy. I laughed and jumped. I felt fulfilled, like I said.
Did you throw a party?
Yes, eventually. As a Yoruba person, it’s part of the custom. We say we did christening. We had the religious one early in the morning; my Alfas came and we had the naming. Eventually, friends forced me, saying, “We must have a party.” So, we had a party.
Did you pick the baby’s name?
Yes, I like Muslim names for my children. My first child’s name is Fauziyat, but the mother prefers the Yoruba one, so she calls her Ayobami. I already liked the name (Fauziyat) but then I also have some others for the ones that are coming after. I like to keep a list of names that I would love my five children to bear.
Has fatherhood affected your career in any way?
Not really. Perhaps if I had started fatherhood much younger, between 20 and 25 like some did, I may not have been so free to get involved in some things that I eventually got involved in. I probably would have been so conscious of the baby and mother. Outside that, I was already mature and fulfilled. It is not really affecting the continuation of my life. I thank the mother who is taking care of things on the home front very well. I still have my freedom to do politics and practise my profession as a lawyer in the normal manner of having multiple streams of income. This is Nigeria, so you can’t stick to only one opportunity. You have to go and “scavenge” – if I may use that word – for so many opportunities to live. But I thank God that even at that, I do my work and have the consciousness that the children and mother are at home.
Has fatherhood prevented you from doing certain things?
Like I hinted, if not that I am a father now, I may have been involved in some other things. I am conscious now because in the last few years of becoming a father, I can no longer travel out of the country at will. I don’t stay out at odd hours, nor mingle with some friends, with due regard to them, because I don’t want such peer influence anymore as a father. To God be the glory, I don’t think it has affected me negatively in any way. It’s just to help me gain more sense of responsibility.
Are there traits you look forward to seeing in your children?
It’s part of the training. People say to a child, “You are brilliant and intelligent.” Basically, you want to see those traits in the children. You want to see them pass in school with flying colours and do some house chores even without telling them, to reflect their mental alertness. You want them to play well when they are with their peers and you don’t want them to do such things that will make you wonder, “Am I the father of this child?”
Of course, the fundamental is that they should also fear God in the sense that you see them ready to show that they understand your religion and they show that they have compassion for human beings and even animals. For instance, when the baby finishes their food, you see them take the bowl to feed the dogs with the leftovers. You begin to see from there that they are exhibiting some of these things you want them to imbibe, that is, showing compassion. If they can show compassion to animals, it means that they can be compassionate to human beings.
What are your main duties as a father?
Even in my religion, it is there in the Quran that you don’t just bring children into this world, you must also take full responsibility for their care. Above all, you must bring them up in line with the religion, to know how to serve God. Nowadays, you have so many teachings in their schools and you don’t just put them in any school; you pray that you have the finance to put them in such schools that will make you happy at the end of the day.
You pray that you have the finance to put them in good homes. You pray that you have the finance to give them good medical care.
They should have toys and so many learning materials.
They should also be privileged to travel abroad as tourists. If the opportunity presents itself and if they wish, they can also go abroad to study and even stay there. Above all, they must not forget home. By my own ideal, the basic thing I am interested in is the relationship between my child and the next neighbour.
Do you want your children to follow in your footsteps or forge their own career paths?
When my dad was alive (may his soul rest in peace), there were three things that he never forced us to do. He said them to our hearing while we were growing up, so everybody that reached that stage of making that choice knew that they were going to make it on their own. My father would tell you that he would not force on you whom to marry; he would not force a profession on you; and even as a Muslim, he said he would not force a religion on you. So, I think I will adopt that approach.
What is the most challenging aspect of being a father for you?
I think it is the fear of the unknown, especially in these days when you are not comfortable until you get home. With the way I go out early and come home late, I often have that feeling. Though you hope that everything is fine, at times, you might get a call from your wife out of the blue just to tell you, “I will have some pepper soup prepared for you tonight.” But you will be scared on seeing the call alone because you have her and the children at home.
For me, that is the most challenging because, to the glory of God, we are not wealthy but we are not hungry either. We can take care of everything that we need. The only challenge is that whenever I see a call, fear comes into me. It’s not about not having faith in God that my family is in safe hands; it’s just because of the reality on the ground. With the challenges we have in this country now, everybody is at risk. So, one needs to be
very careful and alert at every point.
What was the happiest moment for you as a father, apart from the day your child was born?
It’s still that same day. But of course, every other day since my fatherhood journey began has been very good. I give glory to God. Even when we have hard times as a family – because there can be reservations at times between the mother, father and children – I still give thanks that we always manage every point in time like the moments of joy in the family.