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You can’t be a good father if you don’t love your wife – Okon Lagos

You can’t be a good father if you don’t love your wife – Okon Lagos

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Nollywood comedian, Ime Bishop Umoh, popularly called Okon Lagos, shares his fatherhood experience with TOLUWANI ENIOLA

How would you describe fatherhood?

Fatherhood implies a state of being a father. Being a father has to do with procreation and also taking responsibilities of nurturing your kind in the world. These responsibilities include making provisions for them, caring and guiding them as well as providing exemplary leadership that will help a child to become an adult, contributing to the betterment of his or her own life and to society at large.

What age did you become a father?

I became a father at the age of 31.

Did you wish to marry earlier than that?

Late or early marriage for me is a relative term. I got married at 30 and had my first baby at 31. I have a second child now who is some months old.

I got married at 30 but I believe I was three years late because I planned to marry at 27 and complete childbirth by 30 so that I can spend a good part of my life raising them to be responsible citizens. There is much energy and vigour when you become a father at a young age.

Were you with your wife when she gave birth?

I was nervous. I was not in the hospital. My mother and mother-in-law were around to take care of my wife and baby. I fidgeted a lot when my wife and my family were under pressure. I could not stand being with her in the labour room to witness the birth. The birth of the baby was an action that matched my expectation. It’s not an expectation that is not fraught with panic. I stood firm and was hopeful that no harm would befall the mother and the baby.

Your two children are girls. Do you desire a boy too?

I don’t have a gender preference when it comes to children. I am not saying this because I want to whip up sentiments or be loved or appear unbiased gender-wise. I don’t intend to have more than three children. If the third child is a girl, so be it. I am not going to be under pressure to have a male child. What is a male child anyway? Well, some believe male children keep the family name or immortalise it. The only thing you owe your children is love. Also, work hard so that you can be an enviable dad they will always be proud of. This is why I strive hard to give them basic education and confidence to succeed, regardless of the gender.

What kind of father are you at home?

I am like an examination paper which says, ‘attempt all questions.’ I attempt to be everything to my children and wife. I attempt to make them happy. I crack jokes at home. When you see me outside the TV, I am working in exchange for money. Sometimes, I am working to keep my brand alive. I find jokes in everything because of my sense of humour. Inasmuch as I am devoted to making Nigerians happy, I try as much as possible to make my children and wife happy as well. When I don’t make them happy, I feel bad. Charity, they say, begins at home.

Do some people sometimes misunderstand you because of your comic roles?

Arguably, every good comedian that has a good mastery of his craft would have experienced that once in a while, if not all the time. It is a natural thing. Even the most intelligent tend to forget that the TV personalities are not the same as the person they relate to in real life. They do ‘copy-and-paste’ effect; some don’t look at you as a responsible man.  Some think I am an idiot (laughs). They see you as that clownish character they watch on TV the previous night. They are beclouded. You don’t actually blame them. It is a bittersweet experience. The only disadvantage of this character misconception is that you struggle hard to be understood and taken seriously. When I am serious, some think I am not. By the time they realise the truth, it may be too late. What if there is a situation that has an adverse effect? You are in for it because many misconstrue your words because they think you are joking when actually you are not.

What lessons has fatherhood taught you?

I lost my father when I was a little boy but my father had a lot of influence on my life. My father died when I was in Junior Secondary School 3. He was the comedian of the house and very hilarious. He was a lawyer. I imbibed values such as tolerance, perseverance and orderliness from him. He encouraged us not to write off any man. He sprang surprises anytime.  I remember that he was well organised. He would come in especially when we had littered and disorganised the living room. He would pull my ear, saying, “A thing for a place and a thing without a place should be committed to flames.”

My father was also very gentle and tolerant. What I can remember from my ‘small-pikin’ eyes was that he had the utmost respect for womanhood. I would have learnt more from him but death snatched him. My mama dey funny too.  But a lot of my mannerisms, gesticulations and vocal modulations were taken from my father. He was a jolly good fellow and the comedian of the family. My mother is a proud mum who is proud of my achievements.

How do you create time for your family despite your busy schedule?

The term busy is relative. You are only too busy for what you don’t pay prior attention to. No matter how busy one is, one sleeps and eats. If there is something you are too busy for, then it means it’s not important to you. I create time out for them.

What is the biggest challenge you face as a father?

The biggest challenge is making my children outdo my achievements in life. I attended the University of Uyo and graduated with a Second Class Upper Division in Philosophy. The challenge I have is to make my children beat my academic record by obtaining degrees from Harvard as first-class graduates. The onus is on me to work harder.

I have to give them all they need to make that happen. I have to give them more time and pay more attention to their works. If any of them is interested in acting, I can begin to help them to attain the height of Eddy Murphy. If they want to be doctors, I should be able to help them be like Ben Carson. If they want to be professors, I should see to it that they get all they need to win a Nobel. When one has that talent, one has to brace for it.

What are the funny moments you can recall at home?

I don’t really know which one to cite because there are many. I used to be a mischievous kid and I pray that none of my children become mischievous as I was. It will be difficult for any child to beat me to any form of mischief.  The things they asked me not to do as a child were what I did. The ones they asked me to do were what I didn’t do. I remember bringing down louvers in my house because I was stoning lizards with a catapult. I remember taking my mother’s wrappers patterned on horses and stars. I carved out all those horses and stars and pasted them on the wall as decorations.  You can imagine the caning that followed.

What are you most happy about as a father?

What I am most happy about as a father is the fact that I am a father. There are many people who wish to be like me but they can’t due to one reason or the other. The good Lord will use this interview as a point of contact for fathers and mothers looking for the fruit of the womb to have their children in Jesus name.

What’s your mode of disciplining a child?

It is simply capturing that child mentally and making that child love you wholeheartedly and uncontrollably. You can’t hurt what you love. If you want to spank, there will come a time that the child will outgrow it. There would come a time at the adolescent level that the child would be left with choices and then he says, “I can’t do this because if I do this, I am going to kill my father.” The child considers how his father or mother would feel before engaging in any wrongdoings. You can capture the mind of the child to do right things. It is very easy to do this when they are young. That is why you can turn a little girl into a beast depending on your choice.

Would you feel more fulfilled if any of your children go into comedy?

I will always encourage my children to do what they want to do. The much I can do is to give them the right counsel. Why should my children do comedy? They should not be under pressure to immortalise me as a father. They can choose their own paths.

What is your advice to aspiring fathers?

You can’t be a good father to your children if you don’t love your wife. It is very difficult to do that. The best way you can actually love your children effectively is to love your wife. She is closer to the children. If you love her, that love will flow and permeate and then envelop the children.

If you think you can be a father without loving your wife, you might be wasting your time because, before the children know you are a good father, that is when they must have begun to have a mind of their own. While they are still young, their minds are within the reach of their mother to be shaped. Whatever you give their mother is what she would communicate to them.

What would you have been if you are not an actor?

I actually would have been a lecturer. My immediate elder brother is a lecturer. I ventured into acting and I am stuck here.

Do you watch your comedies?

I hardly watch what I do. I am a serious critic of my works. I only respond to stimulus. I don’t think I have done well enough. I criticise my work so much. I find fault with everything perfect. I thank God many people like me. I am happy about that and grateful to God. I enjoyed talking about my fatherhood experience. Since I was born, I have never been interviewed this way.

How old are your children and what’s their perception of your comedy roles?

One will be four while the second is just five months. My first daughter knows I am a comedian. She used to say, “My daddy is funny…my daddy is funny.”  Anytime she watches me on TV, she sometimes asks me, “Daddy, why do they always beat you every time?”

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