Lecturer and performing artist, Tunji Sotimirin, shares what fatherhood has taught him with GBENGA ADENIJI
What does fatherhood mean to you?
Fatherhood to me is a male person who takes up the responsibilities, commitments and knowledge to lead a family. He has children and a wife and takes care of his household, extended family members including those staying with his family. He is the ‘arrowhead’ of that collective and must be responsible.
When did you become a father?
I became a father as soon as I got married even though I had experienced fatherhood under the tutelage of my late uncle who had three wives. I saw how he administered his wives, children and others who lived with him. Specifically to answer your question, I became a father 23 years ago. My first child is 23 years old.
Did you nurse any fears prior to your becoming a father?
I didn’t nurse any fears. Like I said, I already had a background from my uncle who had three wives. I saw him as a model in his ways of caring for people. He did that effortlessly and it was a kind of motivation and inspiration for me.
What have been your challenges as a father?
The thought of having to think of where the next meals and school fees would come from are parts of my challenges as a father. One must fend for the family and think of how to cater to the needs of one’s children. I don’t want my children to lack or beg for anything. I am happy that I don’t regret it because God has been providing for me through His grace.
How do you discipline your children whenever they misbehave?
I don’t beat or smack my children if they offend. I talk to them on how I want them to behave. If I realise they did anything wrong, I go to the bottom of the matter to analyse deeply the location of that misbehaviour. That is the way I discipline them and it touches them not to want to move in a path I had corrected them not to tread. They continue to correct themselves and it becomes much easier to fall in line.
What values did you learn from your father which are helping you to train your children?
My father, Samson Somitirin, from Ijebu Ayepe, Ogun State, was a businessman. I learnt family dedication from him. I learnt from him the show of deep sense of love to one’s family. He didn’t do that only to his family members but anybody who encountered him. He was a giver and everybody loved him for that. It was something I learnt from him. There was no Automated Teller Machine card during his days but his children knew the amount in his drawer. It was natural for me to adopt that kind of life. My wife, children and those who live with me, as a matter of trust, have access to my ATM card and know what to do whenever they need money for various needs.
You are a lecturer and performing artist. Is any of your children taking after you in any of the aspects?
I can see traits of artistic expression in the three of my children. The first, Seun, who studied sociology, has produced a musical. He worked with some professionals who groomed him. From that point, he has been working with cameras. He likes to experiment with graphics, sounds, videos and photography. As a matter of fact, he has taken photography as a career.
The second, Yetunde, is a writer. She is the writer in the house and was inspired by her art teacher when she was at the University of Lagos’ staff school. Her first novel is ‘Not too far to reach’, while her second is ‘Perfect Together’. Eniola, who is the last born, has expressed herself in singing. She has a knack for presentation. She anchors events. These talents manifest in various degrees in the three of them.
How do you reward their good deeds?
I write a letter to commend any one of them who does any good thing. It is a way of rewarding some of their good deeds and things that impress me in their attitudes. Sometimes, I can add to their pocket money. Sometimes when they design their birthday celebrations as I am not given to birthday celebrations, I can add some money to whatever they plan and encourage them to have fun but not to overdo things. Those are the ways I reward their good deeds and I believe that they can easily remember that I appreciate them.
Do you create time to take them out?
When I am holding any programme either at Terra Kulture, Freedom Park or other places, I encourage them to attend even though they are also busy with what they do. I don’t deliberately tell them, “You, come with me to an event.” If I go to deliver a talk on moral in a school for example, I can also encourage them to attend.
What would you have loved to do differently as a father?
I love what I do, but if I have enough money, I would have explored more and created more ideas to engage them with things to help them with their dreams. But lack of money restricts one. For instance, I would have loved to take them outside the country when there are unique special cultural events. But when the money is not available, one is restricted to one’s environment. That is one thing I think is missing.
How do you appreciate your wife for taking care of the home?
I commend her by talking to her. I write letters to her too. It may just be a line and she appreciates that too. I don’t have any big money to give. But I try to add to whatever I give to her whenever I have money.
What I do mostly is to express myself in words. If she packs some food for me to take to the office, once I have the time to eat it and I realise it is sweet, I pick the phone and tell her even though she is in the office. I will say, “This food is very sweet o.” But if it is not as sweet as I expected, I would call her and say, “What is going on with this food?” She will apologise straightaway. I don’t hide my feelings and they know.
Did you have a preferred gender prior to the arrival of your first child?
No; I have never been that kind of person. What I had in mind was a baby regardless of the gender. But God gave me a male child which Yoruba call arole. If it were to be a female child, I would have taken care of her in the same way.
What is your advice to children without a father figure?
They should look around and find someone who fits into their vision of a committed and reliable father, who they can depend on in terms of needs and advice. When one lacks that kind of person in one’s life, one can adopt from the principles of role models all over. Many people have been inspired by great minds such as Prof. Wole Soyinka; the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo; and the late ex-South African President, Nelson Mandela.
How do you combine your roles as a lecturer, performing artist and father?
It is something that one can say one doesn’t know how one does it. But because God has given one the talent of a creative person, one applies that to teaching. As a parent, the creativity also helps one to manage and administer the lives and relationships of those that one moulds. Arts is so deep and I always say that if one is deep in the arts, it will show the aspects in one’s life like a mirror.
Specifically, my artistic talent gives me a sense of coordination, organisation and structure. You can plan your activities though everything may not occur as planned sometimes. In your mind, everything is structured, you just add or delete as appropriate.
How did you earn the nickname, Konkere and do your children call you by the name?
Yes; once in a while, Yetunde and Eniola tease me with the name. The name came about in 1984 when I created a musical style of fusing apala, fuji and traditional African beats. As a dancer and performer, every art that I practise is eclectic. I then decided that I should concretise it.
As you know, the combination of cement, gravel and sand, when one is building a house, is to make it concrete, to make it solid. That was how the name Konkere came about; a fusion of my artistic expressions. It is a Yoruba version of the English word, concrete. I am the Konkere exponent just like the Russian actor and theatre director, Konstantin Stanislavski, made naturalistic and realistic acting.
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