Sunday, June 18, 2006

Character is destiny Part 1 'Of Fathers and Manhood'

" Old friend, can I trust you to look after my eyes so they can see the future"

Emperor Tewodros II in Act 1 of Abyssinia
by Adewale Ajadi

I am not a great fan of Fathers day but it provides an opportunity to talk of the greatest love of all the joy of fatherhood. Much maligned, underated and frankly greatly misunderstood. All over the world men are in different stages of confusion as their roles are being redrafted by emergent changes in the world we live in but the assumption of their power means they are the last to either be consulted or involved.

I am a father of three, they are respectively my spirit Amioluwa, my heart Ifeoluwatari and my brain Olaiya. I am one of five brothers the only girl somehow the alien in the land of testostorone. My father who for extra effect had many half siblings but is one of two brothers. I have always seen the essential qualities of manhood and understood the power when it is fully realised. Unlike women a male can live to be a century and never become a man there is nothing in his biology or his psychology that automatically triggers the necessary transformation. In fact I think one of the best definition of a man is in one of Walter Mosleys book where Easy Rawlins says ' A man takes responsibilities wherever he finds it'. I have been blessed to be a descendant of men who lived this ethic to perfection. My own father Muritala Aderogba was an exemplary Patriach who provided for and looked after a household of over 50 people, extended family most likely in their hundreds and beneficiaries dotted over the landscape of Ibadan and Nigeria. I used to think for much of my life that he wielded power with too much ease but I now know better. I realise that compared to the power he had, his use of it was entirely facilitative. He was an authority who only appeared to be authoritarian to get results. In the end he died too soon because of his role. Carrying the weight of invulnerability and providing so well it became an entitlement to all recievers especially myself. Caring with such ease that for those who lived of the energy it was like breathing you only notice when the oxygen is endangered. He stood in a longline of providers, protectors and procreators all the way from my granfather Ajadi to the Kiniun Onibudo hinself Balogun Ibikunle.

I have lived in the gaps between their footfalls seeking their wisdom and challenging their choices in a time when the three Ps are no longer the exclusive preserve of the male. In all corners of the world the now formalised presence of women in the labour market (Always been the case in Africa), the single rearing of children by women households, the substantial as well as wellcome redefinition of the female role is an everyday reality. Whilst the everday treatment of women is still unjust there has been a total diruption of the assumption of the male role. The question is what does it take to become a man this days?

I thought I had been prepared for this challenge by the partnership of my parents. I was sure I was ready for it because the openess of my heart. In any event that I was schooled into it by the skills of my trade. I have watched how the male pathologies that are ever present devour many of my sex. The violence that is present in all our transactions, lurking and waiting just beneath the surface. Society in its pretence holds its nose and punishes it as a babaric exposition of the unacceptable while rewarding it if we use it to their direction. The lust that precipates from the pores of our hormones, ridiculed in its honesty and reduced to craven perversity only explored under labels, license and control. A lie that we all tell but a desire that gets rewarded married or not. So I struggle to be whole with myself the Paternal, pimp and pastor.Unlike those before me I cannot work my issues without the refrees crying foul. In the end aged 38 I nearly gave in to the confusion and the compassion I was earlier than my father and was about to sign off.

Around me children stand tall like the Iroko showing six packs and booty well before life demands it. Many facsimile of fathers blown away by confusion, compulsion oe share complacency. They rise schildren of Amazon's showing their grasp of masculinity in bump and grind. rebelling at any sign of male authority with visceral hatred. Trapped and threatened the male is now a caricature cowered by sanctimonous outrage and castrated by compassionate streotypes of underachievement. The working class, the black male and any other whose power is yet unconfirmed is quickly boxed lest he might not conform. So now is that all there is to manhood?

I look at the other brothers that life has brought my way the pimp father 11 kids and counting fighting CSA and holding on to his soul to be dad to everyone. He is alone in his battle but was never the opressor. His partners equally ciulpable and excitable, one of him split into many little pieces pussycats fighting for the same ball of thread. The big egungun himself, powerful presence of compassion, a gentle giant exposed for resources and maligned for fidelity in a world that refuses to reward the desire to make a difference. No romance without finance. They are numerous the pastor in the flat longing for his kids and wondering why he is considered immature for expressing his passion for life. The coach in his tracks running ten miles to push away the pain of incessant demands. They all are parts of these times when the eternal battle between male and female has been redefined but somehow the rules keep changing. So they rage for certainty of the past, bombs in rucksack, knifes in playgrounds and bitches or Hos on mixtapes. In the nursery school they sit in at lunch, in primary they are suspended and secondary excluded eventually incacerated. What does it mean to be a man today?

I celebrate the female in me so i can see clearly and engage in successful battles. I fight not to win because if I do i lose. I cannot allow her to win because if she does the it is lost. I must just learn to become a worth adversary without violence and managing my libido but not become impotent.I must evolve everyday so that those who stand next to me can trace my steps and see something to move us forward. We must continue to do battle so that we evolve together or if one sides persishes then all is lost. To be a man today I am responsible for everything I do both good and bad. To be a man for tomorrow I must find what evolves my soul so it shines through my choices. To be a man for all times I must move beyond the certainty of one role and adapt to the ever changing possibilities of my environment. When I become a man then eventually I can look back to satisfy my destiny as a father.

Dedicated to my three teachers, Olaiya, Ifeoluwatari, Amioluwa. Wake up its time to rise.


Tunji said...

Wale,a surreal capture of the XY dilemma. Whether we are talking about the very building blocks of life, or the vertical and horizontal axis of our trajectories as men, we are caught in the evolutionary tailspin of manhood whichever way we choose to define it.
I think fatherhood at least gives us a figleaf to cover our manhood, to re-assert our base Dawinian identity as one half of the lifegiving essence. Beyond this seminal point, it seems as if all bets are off. For now perhaps... but remember that the evolutionary journey is the thing. The challenge for us is to be at once father, husband, lover, warrior, provider, protector, pastor, pimp and brother to all men. No wonder, the message on a Lagos danfo clearly states that "To be a man is not a day's job" Still many days ahead.

Atinuke said...

Dear uncle Wale, I love you. You're very nice.
Love Atinuke

Anonymous said...

Kwabena (my brother) just turned me on to you. share your take on the tragic and complex situation of the man and the need to understand the nature of the fulcrum we must balance on (or be impaled by). not only do you write well, you have fascinating insight. looking forward to meeting you one day or at least talking.