By Michael West
Parenting is all about commitment and responsibility. It is rewarding if dutifully done and could be devastating and regretful later in life if neglected, taken for granted or denied. Some fathers and mothers are guilty of dereliction of parental duties over their children. It is much higher on the side of dads who act recklessly during dating periods and those that indulge in extramarital relationships.
Our society is replete with stories of abandoned, disowned and displaced children. Many homes are nurturing children that are not biologically theirs not through acts of infidelity but as an act of kindness to give life, succour and hope for such children. There are homes where “adopted” children don’t know their true stories. They feel legitimate and comfortable in the family like biological children without knowing what belies their stories.
I learnt of a week-old baby that was found in a sack by the bush path obviously abandoned by his mom for whatever reason. The woman that saw the baby alerted her husband and they agreed to rescue him. Meanwhile, they decided to keep and nurse the baby after reporting the incident to the police. He grew up in the home knowing and enjoying the ambience of caring and loving parents. As at today, the ‘boy,’ an engineer, is married with two children. Yet, he didn’t know his own story. The couple promised never to tell him. The couple had two children aged four and two years when the incident happened. They had one more baby girl later making four children all together. So, none of the children was old enough to remember how the boy became a member of the family. Such sacrifice, love and duty are the attributes of good parents.
The issue of Tope Alabi’s 22-year-old daughter, Ayomikun, which dominated media space last weekend will be our focus this week. I’m privileged to know about the story when it happened. And I believe parents will learn some lessons from it afterwards.
I don’t want to swim in the murky waters of family controversy as both sides are claiming to be victims of each other’s shenanigans. I won’t delve into the crux of the matter for two reasons. One, the matter is in the past, and it should be allowed to remain there. Two, I never met the two of them together either to broker peace and reconciliation or to initiate “friendship in separation” in the interest of their child.
Late in 1998, Tope Obayomi now Alabi came out of a trial marriage with Mayegun Olaoye. The “marriage” was allegedly characterised by abuse, neglect and infidelity. Shortly after separation, both of them moved on in pursuit of their careers, businesses and family life.
However, I knew when Tope was living with her parents at Mafoluku, Oshodi, Lagos. Her mom cared for the baby while she “hustled” at movie locations both to be cast for roles and, primarily, to procure sound track production deals from movie producers. She was a regular visitor at video marketers’ stalls at Idumota, Lagos, to solicit sound track production jobs and also to get sponsorship and marketing deal for her maiden album at the time. Eventually she ventured into fulltime music career. Her first album, “Baba Iwo Lakepe” was released in 1998 by an Idumota movie marketer. Because of the dismal performance of the album, the marketer declined to invest in her second album. That was when Remdel Records, Akure based gospel music promoters and marketers signed her on its label and “Oore ti o Common” which turned out to be a great hit was released in 2000. The title of the album, according to her, was the summary of her story. Her husband, Soji Alabi, is the sound engineer that produced her sound tracks and albums since inception.
The insinuation in the public space is that Olaoye wanted to “claim” the about-to-wed Ayomikun which he “abandoned” for many years as a baby. And that his statement now is viewed as an attempt to “pull down” his ex-lover through what he thought would be a “big scandal.” But the reactions, comments and opinions from the public do not favour Olaoye. Most of the commentators sided with the girl who anchored her decision to drop her biological dad’s name for Alabi on “many years of neglect.”
In a defensive response, Olaoye’s younger brother, Lekan, stated that “We never intended to run anyone down. We all have our past and we believe the past should remain in the past. No one is trying to claim any child or whatever. What my brother did was to clarify issues regarding her paternity to the blogger when she addressed her a bastard simply because she chose to bear another person’s name while denying her real father. We have cleared the main issue of the paternity and whoever she likes she should call her father, no one will be hurt by that, we know whose gene is in her. ”
According to Lekan, Tope admitted that she changed the girl’s surname to Alabi to facilitate her travel documents and she reportedly apologised for it. Likewise, he debunked Ayomikun’s allegation of abandonment saying they could no longer have access to her when Tope took her to her matrimonial home. “My brother is also married with children. I don’t think any right thinking person would advise anyone to be visiting their married ex’s home all in the name of checking on a child.” He added that himself and his youngest brother, Femi, were regular visitors at Mafoluku checking on Ayomikun while she was in nursery school.
Tope and Soji Alabi have chosen to remain silent on the issue. Her message to me reads: “I have no comments at all, but wait for more lies from the pit of hell.”
Three things are needed for single, separated or divorced parents to avoid situations like this: 1). Visibility in terms of communication; 2). Responsibility in terms of provision for the needs of the children; and 3). Commitment to deliver the two at regular intervals. In the process, the child could easily grow fond of the parent in absentia. This applies to both dads and moms.
To parents who derive pleasure in abdicating their parental responsibilities to their children only to show up when the children have come of age, I like to conclude with excerpts from a thoughtful contribution by Adeola Soetan on this matter:
“Economically independent women and mothers are evolving, no more tolerance for “drop your sperm and come back years after to claim your child.” The era of “Baba omo mi” (my children’s father) is going out of fashion. Your licence of parenthood/ownership expires the moment you walk away. It may not be renewable when you decide to come back from your hiding cloud. That’s what Tope Alabi’s daughter is telling her biological father. His fatherhood is not renewable, at least for now.
“My strong advice to all parents at large, most especially “fathers-at-large,” please go and search for your out-of-wedlock abandoned children and reconcile with them now, except there’s a mutual understanding of concealment of parenthood or underground arrangement to “fill in the gap” for “world peace.”
“No excuse that the mother or father (your ex) of your abandoned child blocked you and prevented you from seeing your children. Go and cause unforgettable “fatherly scene” with her or him very early enough for the children to have in their memory so that the innocent children will start asking early question, “mummy, who’s that man?” or ” daddy, who’s that woman?” It’s not all about financial responsibility alone, it’s also about fatherly relationship and emotions no matter how limited.”
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