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Prize for Satire

Nigerian parenting: A small handbook

Nigerian parenting: A small handbook

By: Jadesola Ajao

The first thing you need to know is that you have to give birth to many children. Omo ni ade; they are your wealth, they carry on the family name, they take care of you when you are old. If you decide to have one and that one dies when he is twenty – remember that story of that boy that died during his graduation? – what will happen then?

Your children are unpolished clay; you have to mould them into awon omoluabi. The ones that were moulded well become lawyers, accountants, doctors or engineers. The ones that weren’t become agberos. If you don’t train your children well (and start early!) they will ignore the narrow path of righteousness and go down the broad road to destruction.  

Before your children are born, decide what profession they will go into. Choose prestigious fields that promise money and a good reputation – medicine, accounting, law, or engineering. Do not entertain arrant nonsense like music or visual arts. Not only will it disgrace your family name, your children will remain eternally poor. You do not need to tell your children this profession; they will pick it up from the conversations you have about them with your friends as they grow older.

After your first child (preferably a boy!) is born, buy a koboko, the whip Fulani herdsmen use on their cattle. You will not need it now – except, of course, you gave birth to a goat – but prices are increasing every day, so it is best to buy early.

The first instrument you will use is your cane. Children are blank slates; it is important to whip the common sense into them. Whip him if he doesn’t prostrate properly when he greets you. Whip him if he forgets to greet you. Whip him if he is visits the neighbours too often; what is he going to look for in their house? Whip him if he accepts meals from the neighbours. Whip him if he shouts in the house. Whip him if he is too quiet. Whip him if he is rude to his mother. Whip him if his report card ever says anything other than “well-behaved child.” Every time you whip him for doing something wrong, he will understand what he did was wrong, and will never do it again.

Remember that your child is not your friend; you do not need to sit down and have long conversations with him. This kind of “friendship” leads to disrespect. If you need to relay a message, either use your wife or your cane.  But, if the message is so important you must speak yourself, be careful. Make sure you don’t look directly into his face. Never say his name. Maintain an irritated look throughout, no matter what the topic is. The correct posture for your child while you are talking involves hunched shoulders, a sombre expression, and head tilted downwards. Give him a slap if he crosses his arms or his legs, interrupts you while you talk, or looks directly at you.

The only other kind of conversations you need to have with your child are about his school results. Make sure he is standing in front of you as you peruse them. If he gets scores lower than average, lie him flat on his back and whip him till he bleeds. If he gets average scores, tell him you are not slaving at your job to pay school fees for a mediocre child. If he gets from the second to the tenth position, ask him if the person with the first position has two heads. If he replies or tries to justify this in any way, pull out your koboko. If he gets the first position, concentrate on the individual scores. There must be a score that you can tell him to improve on. Make sure you let him know that he can do better. 

Your child must also be a useful member of the house. He must get up early, sweep, wash plates, clean, assist in cooking. If you ever see him seated in front of the television, ask if he has done his chores. If he has failed in any respect, cane him. If not, think of other duties to assign. If he has managed to complete every chore you can think of, sit down and change the channel to a news channel. Ask him to go and read his school books. Remind him you put yourself through school, that you didn’t have a house as comfortable as the one he lives in, that the first time you even saw a television was when you bought one after graduating from the university.

Send your child to a boarding secondary school. This will give him added strength of character. Opt for federal government boarding schools, or even better, military boarding schools, the Navy, Air-force, or Command schools. The advantage to this is that he will receive training fit for soldiers. The disadvantage is your own whipping will not be of any use anymore. This is when you will stop whipping and use your words to inflict blows. If he fails, call him a disappointment, a waste of time and money, a bad influence on his younger ones. Threaten to make him repeat a class if he does not behave himself.

When your child is sixteen, he will buy his JAMB form. Tell your wife to tell him that this will be the only JAMB form you will buy for him. You will fill out this form yourself. Write down your preferred course along with the second, third and fourth choices you think might be good enough. Also pick the universities you think are the best for him. He can fill out the rest himself.

If he gets below 200 in his first JAMB, do not mince words about how disappointed you are. He is a failure and a disgrace. Also tell him that you do not have the time or money to beg for admission for him into a private university, whether or not you do have the money. If his score is just above 200, ignore him. If he gets a higher score, tell him to not congratulate himself too whole-heartedly; everyone knows JAMB is useless anyway, the real exams are yet to come.

When your child gains admission into the university, it is important that you realise that he is reaching another tangential point in his life; neither words nor whipping will prevent him from not listening to you. This is when you will introduce your last weapon; money. If he starts to fail his courses, fails to return home, or starts to do something other than what you sent him to school to do; reduce his allowance for some months. If it is a major transgression, threaten him with not paying his school fees. This should also happen if you catch wind that he is trying to make money or build a business while in school, like most young children nowadays. Tell him, “Since you have money, you don’t need mine.” Do not relent until it comes back to you, grovelling to be forgiven.

When he is finally about to graduate, let him know that you will not attend his graduation ceremony if he is not on a first class. If he somehow finishes with a first class, ask your wife to ask him why he is not the best student in his department. If he is the best student, ask her to ask him if the best student in his faculty has two heads. If he is the best student, ask for the best graduating student in his set.

When he finally graduates, you can wash your hands off him and congratulate yourself. It will be his job to send his younger siblings to school. You can now reap the fruits of your labour.

Jadesola Ajao is a student of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Ibadan. Her works have been published in the MANI anthology and Creative Freedom Magazine. 

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The only thing you need to know about me is I speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth ―― well, except when writing.

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