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Comedian, actor and skit maker, Ayobami Ajewole, popularly known as Woli Agba, shares with EMMANUEL OJO his journey to fatherhood

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As a young dad, what does fatherhood mean to you?

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Fatherhood to me is about responsibility. You accept responsibility for people who are related to you by blood and some who are not related to you by blood but look up to you one way or the other. As much as you agree to be called a father, you must have agreed to take up the responsibilities of people who call you father to be responsible for their well-being. I always say that one needs a father to go farther in life. So, being a father, you must be ready to give people

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a shoulder to lean on for advice, experiences you have, financial support and every other support that a father would want his son or anyone that looks up to him to get. In simple terms, fatherhood to me means responsibility.

Do you think there are responsibilities that fathers are failing to perform in modern society?

Oh yes, and the truth of the matter is that most fathers of my generation are not even ready to take up the responsibility of becoming fathers. Some became fathers out of pleasure. The task of becoming a father just dawned on them suddenly and they had to take responsibility for pregnancies they never bargained for. So, life threw responsibilities at them, but they were not ready. They were not ready mentally. In terms of finance, they didn’t have the understanding of being a father and that’s why for most fathers of the younger generation, sometimes, there are signs of bachelorhood in their behaviour. A lot of times, some people don’t remember that they have sons and daughters somewhere. They just live their lives with their peers the same way they had been living their lives (as bachelors).

They do not want to accept that they have to be responsible for a child who came out of pleasure, because they were not looking forward to it and that has affected a lot in our society.

Many people do not want to become fathers and now they have children who are demanding a lot from them and they are not ready to live up to the responsibilities. So, they have children wandering around and that has had a very bad impact on our society. For the fathers in my generation, I’m not sure many of them were ready to become fathers when life threw the responsibility of fatherhood at them.

Did you experience family and social pressures to get married and have children?

There is a question I always like to ask. Let’s go into the Bible and let’s talk about the beginning of all of these – being responsible and all that. I will just go there briefly. How old was Adam when God said he needed a helpmate? The truth of the matter is that the purpose of going into a marriage is not because you need to reproduce as people would like to say, or that age is not on one’s side and all that. We have been made to believe that in this part of the world, one’s age should determine when to get married. However, the truth is that it is the number of work and how busy one is that will inform one that he needs a partner. The reason why God gave Eve to Adam was because He said he didn’t want him to be alone. He was busy and God said that it was not good for Adam to be alone. However, if you are single and you can still do your things yourself, you don’t really need help; so, marriage should not be the next.

What is your opinion about starting a family early?

In this part of the world, we are made to understand that by the time one gets married at maybe 29, the person will start eating the fruit of their labour at 53 or 54. So, what happened to people who died before they were 54? Some people think having children on time means that one will live longer. What about children who didn’t live long enough to know who their fathers were? So, one does not have to be under pressure before one can find their soul mate or someone they can lean on; so together, they can bear it because there are consequences and a lot of struggles that come with marriage and they need to go through the struggles together.

There are broken homes today because people are not given the privilege of finding their partners; they are forced by their families and in the end, things don’t work out fine.

As I always say, I’m doing my work and I’m trying to live fine and live for my children, but I do not expect that as I’m working so hard so that they can grow, they will feed me in my last days. I will be fine and everything will go well for me and by the time they are grown up too, they will enjoy life. I don’t just want them to start coming back home (to my house) when they are old enough to take care of their children and family.

How did it feel when your first child arrived?

Well, I was very happy because I had been looking forward to that and I was looking at whether or not the boy would look like me. I was happy and when I was in the hospital and my

son was brought to me, I carried the child and I said, ‘Really? So, now a small boy of that time is a father. So, this is my son and I am going to be responsible for him now’. I felt good and could not sleep that day. I went to check on him now and then and I didn’t want him to cry unnecessarily and it got to a point that I helped his mum to breastfeed him.

How did you do that?

I held the mum’s breast, put his mouth on it and said to my wife, ‘Give this boy this milk’. I was very happy.

Did you wish for a particular gender as your first child or were you indifferent?

Well, I won’t say that I was particular about it, but being a ‘prophet’, I had to show that I had the anointing (laughs). I wasn’t particular but starting with a male child had always been on my mind and was my dream and that’s what God gave me.

What lessons has fatherhood taught you?

It has taught me a lot about nemesis; the fact that we need to live for our children; the fact that I need to make a decision today for them when nobody is looking at me to ensure that they are going to reap good fruits at the end of the day; and it has taught me to cut my coat according to the material. It taught me that I have to be responsible for what goes on in the minds of my children. I have to attend to them, I have to talk to them, listen to them, be friendly to them, look out for what they love and what they don’t, and being an actor, I still have a lot of children as fans.

There was a time I wrote a song and my son made me change the lyrics. The reason was that my son started memorising the lyrics, but I didn’t

want that because the lyrics were not good for his mental health as a child. I felt it was too early for him to start saying what was contained in the lyrics and it made me know that I am responsible for my children’s mental health, the kind of friends that they choose, and a whole lot of them. Fatherhood has also taught me to be a giver. Some fathers are not givers, but it has taught me that.

Are there challenges that fatherhood has thrown at you?

May God always help all fathers to be able to provide for their homes. Once that is solved, there are no bigger challenges. It is not good for a father to be at home and unable to give the children food. It makes one lose value in the eyes of the children and the wife, and that is the greatest challenge fathers can face. If that can be taken away, every other challenge can be managed. For instance, it took me a while to know how to change my boy’s nappy; I couldn’t do it for a long time and when he defecated, I had to look for someone to help me do that. Those are minor challenges anyway. I learned them over time. I also learned to carry him on my back when he cried and his mum was tired of carrying him. It was challenging trying to position my back well for my boy to be comfortable on it, but those are minor challenges.

The greatest challenge of all that any father could ever face is providing for his home. God will help every father to provide for their home. I am grateful to God for always helping me in that aspect.

Do you see any of your children taking after you as a comedian?

Well, they have been exhibiting some of the characters. My children are my first fans because when they are online, what they want to watch is their father. They want to just watch me over and over again. So, I am trying to monitor and be attentive to what they love to do. So, whatever they choose to do and love to do, I will give them the parental support, the kind they need. I will just ensure that they eventually have to do what they love to do because that was what happened

to me. I do what I love to do. I will just make sure that what they are doing is what they love to do and they are successful at doing it. That is the major thing for me.

Do they also call you by your stage name, Woli Agba, at home?

Yes. They call me Woli Agba; sometimes, they call me Woli Agba and sometimes, they call me daddy. I respond and say, ‘Yeah! How can I help you?’ Sometimes, when I want them to enjoy what they see in my video, I dress up like Woli Agba and then enter their room. They will scream and say, ‘See what I’m watching, daddy. It’s you!’ Then I do all my usual dance steps and just crack them up. Sometimes, my wife would even be jealous and she would say that she wished she had some of those skills to crack

them up.

How else do you spend time with your family?

That is one of the responsibilities of fathers. It doesn’t just happen by chance. If I have to wait for it to happen by chance, it won’t happen. So, I have to occasionally be deliberate about it. I just want to spend time with the boys to know what they are doing. If that means I will not be able to go to the office that day or attend any meeting, I will know that I’m giving that day to them and be attentive to them, to hear what they have been hearing outside. I just monitor what they say, even if I’m not talking to them. I monitor the way they reason and all that, just being attentive to the kind of words they consume and the company they keep, just to be sure that they are doing just fine. It’s a deliberate thing and all fathers should do the same.

What kind of legacy would you like to leave behind for them?

I want them to be proud of me the same way I am proud of my dad today. He went through a lot for me to be where I am today. I want them to also be fine even when I am not around, such that when they say they are the children of Woli Agba, doors will open for them because their father was great.

Are there values instilled in you that you would like to pass down to your children?

Yes. Being down to earth, compassionate, a giver, respectful, and humble are values I got from my parents and they have been part of me. They have to be what the Yoruba call ‘Omoluabi’. My children prostrate to greet me every morning

and once they do anything wrong, they know they have to kneel and raise their hands. We thank God. They also understand signals. All they need to do is to look at my face and stop what they are doing wrong.

Is that the way you caution them when they go wrong?

I talk to them and I am grateful to God that I have been doing that since they were born and it has become part of them. I don’t need to pick the cane and beat them, though I can threaten with words and they know I don’t complain all the time at everything they do, and that makes them understand when I do. They know that when I complain, it means that they have gone beyond boundaries.

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