My father taught me that both quality and quantity of time with your children leave a lasting impression. I was blessed to have grown up with a caring father, one who was not ashamed to show his affection for his children. Despite the fact that he was a highly-placed civil servant, he was, most definitely, not an absentee-father. Whenever he wasn’t at a meeting or out of town/country, he was always home with us. He did “lesson” for us, daily, overseeing the doing of our homework. After that, he would either read our comics to/with us or watch TV with us. He was always there. Our weekend schedule included my father taking us to Kingsway to get our regular supply of comics (Jack and Jill et al.) and thereafter, sometimes, take us to the swimming pool at Onikan, Lagos. He never swam (and neither did my siblings and I really; it was more like splashing around); but in between conversations with his friends, he frequently walked over to the children’s pool area – just to make sure we were okay. We always went to Holy Cross Cathedral as a family, always to the Yoruba mass, which my Daddy dubbed Children’s Mass. I really don’t know why for a fact; but I think he probably figured (and rightly too) that Yoruba would be easier for his children than Latin. What I do remember about those masses was that my father was always the only adult who sat in the back with all the children (I do believe that is the area to which we had been relegated). Even my mother, and other adults in attendance, sat in front, closer to the priest. After our family lunch every Sunday, he would go over the scripture verses with us, asking questions to further enhance our understanding of the church service. My father always played all our childish games with us: Ludo, Snakes and Ladder, Boju-Boju.
My father imparted that telling the truth was always better than right or wrong. He was a man of integrity. A man of his word. An honest man. Even though he was one of the so-called “Super Perm-Secs”, I can confidently say that not a kobo of Nigeria’s money was pilfered by him. I could stake my
life on that too. He was always saying, “Ti gbo gbo wa ba ko’wo je, ilu a baje” ( if we all steal money, the country would go bad). How prophetic! His record is clean any day. Check it out.
My father loves people, and he shows it. This, I must confess, is an attribute I’m still trying to catch up with. The love M.A. had for his children overflowed to an outpouring of affection for our friends. Weekends, our house was a beehive of activities. All the neighborhood children gathered to watch television, and chitchat with my daddy. It was a known fact that children around Olatunde Close would run and call, “Daddy, Daddy” as soon as they heard the ice-cream truck! And…it made no difference whether his own children were home or not. Every Friday, from about the time I was eight years old, a blind female beggar came to our house, where she and her two children were fed. This went on for years. Sometimes, the children would come alone, eat, and take their mother’s portion home. My father always spent time with them. We also had one or two regular families who ate with us every Sunday.
And I mean every Sunday! And then, there was “Iya-Elepa”, whom anyone who grew up in the Falolu-Ogunlana quad. in the 60s/70s would know. She was a daily visitor to our house, where my father would by his daily dose of ground-nuts. She would then sit and chat with him for a while. My father even had an “account” with her whereby she would always leave his groundnuts whenever she met with his absence. Sometimes, she would leave messages for us to tell our father that she had something to discuss. It was many years later that I found out that my father was always advising her about how to raise and educate her children. I’m also too certain that our house was the only one in the neighborhood where house-helps frequently sent their employer’s children on errands!! They felt
that free. All our domestic helps have always sat down in the living room to watch TV with us, and I never once saw my father treat them any less than he treated us, his children.
My father is now 83 years old, and has recently published his fourth book! He is actively trying to bring the medical and well-being of senior citizens in Nigeria to a national attention.
Brevity has never been a word to describe me. But, in waxing lyrical about my father, I am going to be brief because there is just too much to say. But the bottom line is: I am proud of my father, and not because of his achievements. I am proud to be his daughter. It was easy for me to come to the Lord a few years ago, all because of my father. Just like the Bible says of Father God, that we love Him because “He first loved us,” that’s the way I feel about my earthly father. He is the only one I know on this earth who loves me regardless of what I do/don’t do If I believed in reincarnation (and I don’t) I would still want M. A. Tokunboh as my father. I love my daddy.
So, please, let us learn to express our love and appreciation to and for our parents.