While speaking in an exclusive with PUNCH Newspaper, celebrated Nollywood actor, Hafiz Oyetoro, popularly called Saka, shared his fatherhood experience and much more.
Below are excerpts from the chat:
What age did you become a father and how did you feel holding your first child?
I became a father when I was close to 41 (laughs). It was not too late. But it was late. However, I felt so fulfilled. I am also grateful to God that I was able to join the league of fathers. In the same week that my child was born, a friend of mine was giving away her daughter in marriage. You can imagine the gap.
Where were you when your wife gave birth?
When I heard the news that my wife had been delivered of a baby boy, I was elated. I was not around when my wife gave birth. I was on a movie location. I saw my first child the third day he was born. I called my mother-in-law to visit my wife at the hospital.
What did you do when you heard the news?
I called my wife to congratulate her. I told her to place the phone by the ear of the baby. Whether he could hear me or not, I insisted I wanted to talk to him. I said to my child on the phone, “Hello my son, welcome to Nigeria. I am your father. I am not around now but as soon as I come back, I am going to see you. You are welcome to my family.”
I think he heard me well because when I got home, he didn’t cry. He smiled when he saw me. God made everything easy for us. All our three children were born without complications. Within five minutes in the labour room, my wife gave birth. My wife didn’t go through much labour pains. In fact, my last child was born at the reception of the hospital. I thank God for His mercies. I have two boys and a girl.
What accounted for your lateness in being a father?
I can’t specifically say why. For a very long time, I was more committed to my career. I was carried away by the demands of my profession. Another factor that could have led to that was poverty. I never wanted to rely on people to take care of my children. I decided to get married at a point that I was able to take care of myself and my family.
But many people assumed that you are a rich man.
You don’t just grow up one day; it is a process. I am not a millionaire, so to say. But I am very grateful to God that I can afford bread and butter on my table. When I said poverty delayed me, I meant that I hustled for a long time. A few years back, the entertainment industry was not recognised. It was our passion that kept us going. It was about five or 10 years back that entertainment started getting lucrative. I was only popular back then but poor. The idea of self-dignity, not wanting to rely on people for support, accounted for my delay.
How did struggling prepare you for fatherhood?
It made me to be properly ready. I learnt about fatherhood from friends who were already married. I had elder brothers who had gone through various family challenges. So, when I got married, all those challenges were not new to me because I had prepared well for them. I was mature to resolve all those challenges. I wish I married early.
What fascinates you about fatherhood?
The major challenge with marrying late is that my children are still in secondary and primary schools. It means I have a lot to do for my children. Children of my friends have finished their education. I used to attend the weddings and convocation organised for such children. But at my age, I am still paying school fees. While my colleagues can afford to buy cars and mansions worth millions of naira, because they are no longer paying school fees, I am doing more of investment in my children. I cannot afford to copy their lifestyle or afford such luxuries. I believe that I still have a long way to go. My children are my investments. When some people say, ‘Upon all the money wey Saka get, e no do this, e no get plenty cars’, I laugh. I am investing my money in my children because I don’t want them to pass through what I went through in life. I put more into their training so that they can be successful. I am giving them the best of education. When it comes to investing in other things and enjoyment, it is affecting me. While other fathers are getting gifts from their children, I am still paying school fees at my old age. I am not too old anyway (laughs). I am just 54.
What specifically are you doing to prepare your children for a better future?
First and foremost, I don’t joke with home training and education. I also ensure that they are close to God. Those are my priorities. I let them understand the realities of life; that one needs to work hard to be successful. I want to thank God that I know one or two people. But I don’t want my children to rely on people. I am giving them the best education that I can afford now. Knowledge is power. If they have the knowledge, they will know how to manage their lives. Once you equip your children with knowledge, you have done everything for them. I started school at nine. My children started school at age three or four. They would finish their education on time. I want to train them to be self-employed or employable so they won’t start afresh like me. I started from the scratch. I started from point zero. I want my children to start from point 10.
What kind of father are you at home?
My wife, children and I watch Saka together on TV. Saka is a different person from Hafiz Oyetoro, the husband and father. My children know their father, Hafiz Oyetoro. They know Hafiz Oyetoro, who acts Saka. It’s a professional grace for me. I want to thank God that I passed through good lecturers who trained me to differentiate my personality from the role I play in movies.
What do your children say when they watch you on TV?
My children are my first critics. Sometimes, they ask me, “Daddy, why is Saka doing like this?” “Is this how to wear the uniform?” Sometimes when I do something, I let them see it first and listen to them. My wife and children understand me most. When I am away for a long time and come back home, I loosen up. I organise dance competition and crack jokes. I do perform for them to cover up for the lost time. I really want to be close to my children. I try as much as possible to do so. My children are free with me and their mother. They are free to express their feelings. We give them disciplined freedom of expression.
How do you discipline your children?
I don’t cane my children. I feel that I don’t have to use the cane to get things done. I was brought up by my uncle who caned me. I didn’t like that. I lived with my father until age nine when I started primary school. From age nine, I was under the care of my uncle. It was really interesting because he was strict. I didn’t have freedom of expression. I didn’t want my children to experience that. I play with them and tell them stories. Once they misbehave, I could say, “You, because you have done this, don’t talk to me in your life again.” When I change my attitude, that child will feel odd and apologise. I used to tell them to kneel down and raise up their hands.
What is the most important relationship advice you give to people?
I will advise would-be couples to have jobs before getting married. It took me time to get married because I wanted to be able to withstand the financial cost. When the man is jobless and the wife is jobless, how do they maintain the home? Self-maintenance is a continuous responsibility. The marriage will not last if both would-be couples are jobless. Even if it’s the wife that is employed, they can still manage. They don’t need to have government jobs. But they must have a means of sustenance. If there is no butter on their bread, let there be water, at least, after taking the bread. I do not support a marriage where both couples are jobless. There will be tension. When there is tension, there will be misunderstanding. When there is constant misunderstanding, the marriage will collapse.