Home » Headlines » Raising kids in Europe challenging -Collins Nweke, first non-Belgian to be elected to political office in West Flanders province, Belgium

Raising kids in Europe challenging -Collins Nweke, first non-Belgian to be elected to political office in West Flanders province, Belgium

The Chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora in Europe, Collins Nweke, who is the first non-Belgian to be elected to political office in West Flanders province, Belgium, tells ARUKAINO UMUKORO about his fatherhood experiences

What does fatherhood mean to you?

Fatherhood is about shaping a life at the early stages, then coaching the child midway about how to think and not what to think. The example one sets as a father is like an unspoken word that says to one’s child, “this is what I want you to become.”

What are the major challenges of fatherhood?

The whole business of raising a child into a responsible, happy adult is a daunting, but at the same time rewarding task. Thus, the challenges that come with it are ultimately reduced to nothing. Striking the right balance between being accessible to my kids at all times and allowing enough room to be able to enforce effective discipline when the need calls for it, was monumentally challenging especially from birth up to their teenage years. Of course, as they grew older, the nature of the relationship obviously edged closer to that of friends and mates, but with enough margin to remain a father figure to them. One additional challenge for me was raising my sons in Europe, a cultural environment that is dissimilar to Nigeria, our home country. The values systems of both environments are different and sometimes even conflicting. Finding a common ground could sometimes prove quite challenging. Talking about those cultural conflicts, even when they are not resolved, is very helpful.

What are those socio-cultural differences between raising one’s children in the Diaspora and in Nigeria?

The system and structure in the Diaspora appear to compel fathers to be more actively involved in the upbringing of their children. Of course, some Nigerians in the Diaspora insist on maintaining the traditional way families are run in Nigeria, but that leads very quickly to conflict situations to the point that either the father mends his ways or the family suffers breakup or instability. Even back in Nigeria, men are fast recognising the shifting domestic roles of fathers, more equal rights for women and they are doing well in adjusting to the changing times. In raising my kids, there are certain things they find difficult to understand or accept, but have to comply with because that’s our culture. For example, my boys address older Africans here as ‘uncle’ or ‘aunty,’ even though they insist that it is not normal to do so if they are not our relations. They show understanding and acceptance on other issues. On the economic side of things, I believe there is a slight advantage in the Diaspora because the family support network for the needy is better developed. Also, a bright and focused child, blessed with parents that understand his priorities but have a lean resource base, is more likely to attain his potential in the Diaspora. Generally speaking, an equal level of dedication is required from a father, whether out here in Europe or in Nigeria, in other to guide the children to succeed in life.

What are the most important lessons you have learnt from your experiences as a father?

Being on the same page with my wife in matters pertaining to the children’s upbringing is important. I have also learnt over the years that monoculture does not exist. A family has to develop its own set of core values and as head of the family, a father has a key role to play in defining and establishing those core values and setting the boundaries. Both parents need to be flexible and ready to adapt to the circumstances of their kids, but there are a few non-negotiable values that they need to take with them from home, such as common decency, lack of greed and respect for fellow human beings.

Can you describe your first experience of fatherhood?

We had Tonna, our first son, when I was 29. It was a magical feeling, right there in the delivery room at the hospital, hearing his first sharp scream of life and in a burst of joy I responded, rather unconsciously, “I hear you buddy, I’m here and will always be here for you.” It was a special mixture of joy and pride, but also anxiety. As we watched our tiny creature over the next 48 hours, we started to bond and things began to happen that reassured us that we were up to the task.

How did fatherhood change your perspective on life?

I show more understanding, empathy and I’m more tolerant and patient. As a public policy expert, it has helped me to relate better with young people and families. I see things around social justice from different perspectives. I recall a quiet meeting I had with a Nigerian ambassador. Before the meeting, I had the impression that he wasn’t really interested in what I wanted to talk to him about. All that changed at some point in the conversation when I told him that I was spending my time on the issue in discussion, not for my personal sake, but for the sake of my children, their generation and future ones because it’s a responsibility every decent father, including him, should take more seriously.

How much did your father shape your views on fatherhood?

Although he is not well educated, my father, Obi (Eze) Adigwe Nweke, is perhaps the greatest philosopher I have ever met. He has a great mind, is deeply thoughtful, always calm and a stoic leader. I can only aspire to be like him, especially the inner tranquillity that he exudes. Sometimes in conflict situations, I ask myself, how would father handle this or what would he advise? He shaped any good you may find in me today. Up till now, I still dip into the reservoir of wisdom he deposited in me to guide and mould my boys right.

As a busy person, how have you been able to balance being a good/responsible father, a management consultant and politician?

I think what I have managed to do well enough is not to leave my wife and kids in any doubt that they are my first priority. I am only a phone call away even when I am thousands of miles away. Sometimes in the middle of a meeting, I drop a message, a joke or comment on the WhatsApp forum for just the four of us. I’ve always made it clear that having a meal together as frequently as possible is not a goal in itself but a means to a goal. The main goal is being together.

Can you share some funny experiences in raising your children as a father?

There are quite a few, but the one that readily comes to mind is a recent interaction with one of the boys. He had been spending a lot of time on computer games, which was fine because it was the holiday/ Christmas period then. I interrupted his game time and told him to start focusing more on his studies for the next semester. He agreed and dashed off to resume playing his games. When I called him back and sat him down, he remarked that his last semester results were fantastic and that maybe I should begin (the talk) by showing appreciation for his efforts. I said I did, but he said I didn’t, at least not sufficiently. I then apologised and pointed out that I deeply appreciated his efforts. Later, we laughed about it and talked heartily about his workload for the second semester. Fatherhood teaches one how to climb down from the high horse if one wants to make progress on important family issues.

In the African setting, fathers are expected to play the traditional role of simply providing for the family while they leave the home front to the woman. Do you agree with this?

Times are changing and we need to change with the times. There was indeed a time when homemaking was the exclusive reserve of the woman. This was not true only for Africa but even out here in Europe. As a matter of fact, back then in Europe, the education of majority of women was limited to home management or home economics. Coming back to Africa, the average African woman is an upwardly mobile, a strong, working class person with the right to have big dreams, and that must be encouraged. I don’t have a daughter, but I always tell and encourage my nieces to aim as high as they possibly could and the man that has a problem with that has no business being around them in the first place. Roles have changed drastically in our society today. Every family should determine for themselves who does what. In an environment of love and care, I’m sure no partner would be happy seeing the other being domestically overworked and one simply lets it be because of the ‘African culture.’ That is not right. Also, the earning power of women is increasing dramatically and they are consequently stepping in to the rescue on major family expenditures.

What is the most important advice you have given your children about relationships?

It is important to cultivate the habit of communication in a relationship. There will certainly be conflicts and misunderstanding, but talk it through. When asked the secret behind a 75-year-old marriage, a 101-year-old man in my constituency said, “When I was a young man, we fix things when they get broken. Now they just replace them.” We need to start fixing things again, relationships included.

What is the best gift your wife or children have given you in appreciation of you being a good father?

It was a birthday celebration in Lagos with members from both sides of the family, including nephews and nieces, who used the opportunity to bond with their cousins, my children. We had our wonderful mother-in-law over at our place throughout the period of our rather long summer stay in Nigeria. I guess it was the longest time she had ever spent with her grandchildren, our sons, which was a really good thing in terms of getting to know her grandchildren better and vice versa. The thoughtfulness of my wife and kids in putting the birthday dinner together was the best gift I have ever had.wp_posts

Related Posts

Website Pin Facebook Twitter Myspace Friendfeed Technorati del.icio.us Digg Google StumbleUpon Premium Responsive

Short URL: https://newnigerianpolitics.com/?p=47326

Posted by on Feb 20 2017. Filed under Headlines. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Leave a Reply


Browse National Politics

Featuring Top 5/1350 of National Politics


Read more

Browse Today’s Politics

Featuring Top 5/38 of Today's Politics

Browse NNP Columnists

Featuring Top 10/1560 of NNP Columnists

Browse Africa & World Politics

Featuring Top 5/2378 of Africa & World Politics


Read more






July 2024

© 2024 New Nigerian Politics. All Rights Reserved. Log in - Designed by Gabfire Themes