Charles Okocha, the popular Nollywood actor, has talked about his life and fatherhood.
The actor who is also known as Igwe 2Pac, tells EMMANUEL OJO about his parenting experience
What does fatherhood mean to you?
Fatherhood basically, like they say family first, is a thing of joy. It’s being responsible for my kids and people that are under me. It is something I do happily without even thinking that it is overwhelming. It is something I do freely and happily. So, that’s it for me.
Were you particular about the sex of your first child?
I wasn’t particular about the sex of my first child. I have always been of the opinion that whatever comes from God, I accept. You can’t question God. Children are from God but if you ask me, I’ve always been that person, even before I grew up, that wished to have a girl child first. That’s why my daughter and I have this bond. If you see us together, you might think that it’s something else. I have a great bond with my son also but the bond is more between me and my daughter. You know that father-daughter kind of closeness. I’ve always wanted a girl first. It’s always been there even before my child came into this world.
I’ve always been very close to my mum, so, that bond also transferred to my daughter and it made me to want to have a daughter before a son.
How did you feel when your bundle of joy arrived, since you’ve always wanted a girl-child first?
The feeling was awesome. I wasn’t even at home that day. I was somewhere when I just got a call. It happened late at night at about 12 midnight or 1am. I was at the nightclub, I won’t lie. When I got the call from my mum that it had happened, I left the club immediately with the next available taxi because I wasn’t driving at that time and I met my mum at the hospital where my baby was delivered.
It’s like getting what you anticipated. It was a good feeling. I left all my friends at the club that night. It was a thing of joy and I will say that my daughter brought me good fortune. I wasn’t rich and I didn’t have much before her arrival. I was only hustling and going for auditions around before she came but the moment she came into this world, a lot of things changed and I could do things I couldn’t do before then. I started having good roles in the industry. I tell people sometimes that God blesses you when he knows that you have responsibilities on you. He blesses you for you to be able to meet up with your responsibilities. For me, I could tell that it happened to me when my daughter came in. How it happened, I can’t say. It just started happening. Things that were pretty difficult for me, I just snap my fingers and they start happening. Things were just flowing and to God be the glory, I have no regrets whatsoever.
Are there lessons that fatherhood has taught you?
Yes, there are lessons that fatherhood has taught me in the past. Fatherhood is some sort of responsibility and when you have responsibilities, it makes you responsible too because there are things you were used to that you can’t do anymore the moment you start having kids.
When my daughter came in, I had to slow down on the kind of life I was living. Back then, each time I had money, I teamed up with friends and we went to the club, popped bottles and did things with the little money we had and all that but the moment my daughter came, my life took a new turn. I stopped living that kind of life. I concentrated more with my hustle because I knew I would have to buy my daughter’s SME Gold (baby food) and it mustn’t finish. I tripled it just to make sure that it was always available and there was no reason for my daughter to lack food. So, that shaped me, shaped my well-being, shaped my lifestyle and made me responsible.
At some point, I was a temperamental person but the moment I got my daughter, I got soft and became more tolerant. Even some of my friends couldn’t believe what had become of me. Those were the things it taught me at that point.
It also taught me how to save. I quit the extravagant lifestyle I lived. It’s not like I don’t spend anymore but I spend wisely. It was when I had my daughter that I thought about having a second bank account for my savings.
Would you say that you attained fatherhood early or late?
I was a young father. I had my daughter in 2005. I was pretty young then and just got into the industry then. I got into the industry 1999 and the industry then was more like a family thing. We looked out for each other and assisted each other unlike how it is now. There was much love and less competition with each other then.
Do you have other children apart from your daughter and son that you have mentioned?
I have just the two of them. All my kids look like me. My gene is very strong. I have two kids – a girl and a boy. Well, I don’t know about the future but these two got me grounded.
Your profile online hasn’t stated in clear terms what your marital status is. Are you married?
No, I’m not married yet but I will someday. It could be this year or next but just know that something is on the way.
Did you have your two kids from the same woman or different women?
I had them from different mothers. My daughter’s mum is different from my son’s mum but people don’t really know because of the way I take care of them and their upbringing. I’m saying this to you publicly for the first time. People don’t know that my children are from different mothers. I bond them together and all that, so, people can’t tell. My kids are my responsibility and I don’t joke with that. Anything that has to do with my kids, I don’t play with. They are my responsibility and I take care of them. I have friends who had ladies that got pregnant for them back then too but they refused to take responsibility for the act and they are regretting their action now. I even have two friends like that now that if I should mention names, you’d be surprised and one of them is even yet to have a child till now. Look at that. My daughter is 16 already and will graduate next year from high school.
What’s the age difference between your daughter and son?
I had my son the year after I had my daughter. They came after each other, back to back (laughs)….. and since then, I decided to respect myself. I have always wanted to be this responsible father that will get married and have kids but this happened out of wedlock. Sometimes, man proposes but God disposes. It happened like that but it doesn’t mean that I should reject those responsibilities. I just said to myself that no matter what, I would take up my responsibility and I started playing safe since then. Imagine I’ve been playing safe in the last 15 years now in order not to get into the trap of having children here and there but when I get married, then I could possibly decide to just have like two more to that and then rest.
How do you spend time with your children?
Good. I am a very responsible father and in everything I do, I put my family first. I have schedules for everybody. I don’t apportion a greater time to my daughter than to my son. I apportion same time to everyone because everyone is equal. They have no reason to miss their dad because they are all I have and I make sure they don’t lack. I guess having those kids was a blessing, even if it was out of wedlock and I never wanted them. It wasn’t something I wanted at that time. I even suggested abortion then to my girlfriend when she told me that she was pregnant, I won’t lie. I did that but I owned up to my action of getting her pregnant and I never disputed for once. I suggested that because I wasn’t prepared or ready for that but she went ahead to tell her mum about it and when my mum eventually got to know about the situation, she took her (my girlfriend) in and took good care of her until she was delivered of my baby. My mum took care of everything for my daughter and it was same for my son. They had no reason to lack. I don’t only take care of my kids, I also take care of their mothers.
Because I take good care of my baby-mamas (the mothers of my children), they had no reason to come to say any wrong about me. We communicate well and one of them is even married now. Marriage was not really my thing at that point. She moved on because she felt she wasn’t getting any younger at that point and it’s okay but what I won’t accept is having another man to take up my responsibility. That’s why I work very hard and do things to put food on the table and make my kids live a better life.
My mum played a big role in all of these. My mum is a strong Christian and when she heard about the situation, she said it would be over her dead body that she would have any of her grandchildren aborted. She encouraged me to keep moving on even when things were not all good for me. She encouraged me not to get into shady deals in my bid to achieve whatever I wanted to achieve. My mum’s advice kept me from illegitimate things that some friends went into and are in jail for now. I am living a legitimate life and today, I have those things I aspired to. I have houses, landed properties, cars and many of those things I aspired to have. I’m not lacking. I am doing pretty well.
Knowing that you are not married to any of your children’s mothers, how are you able to manage the situation to help your children have a total parenting experience?
They have the privilege of seeing their mothers. My son stays with me but my daughter stays with her mum. The reason is that my son is a man and I can relate with his gender quite well. I let my daughter’s mum take care of her because she can do it better but I take responsibility for everything. It was my mum that raised my son. My son was with me all through but my daughter, I had to let her be with her mum but I played a major role in her upbringing.
My son’s mum also checks on him regularly and picks him up sometimes. I told her that she doesn’t have to even call me if she feels like seeing or picking him up, especially during holidays, but she still tells me because she is quite respectful. I told her that the same way I am the father to the boy, she is also the mother to the boy. We contributed together in bringing the boy into this world, so, there’s no reason why I should keep her from seeing him.
Do you see your son or daughter toeing your path in the movie industry?
I will say that my son is actually on the path of becoming a professional footballer. He is in a football academy at the moment. That’s where his passion is and I am putting this information out for the first time. I would like to see him move to England after his high school to continue, same for my daughter. I want her to go abroad for her higher education. I want them to live a better live than I did.
How do you correct them when they do the wrong things?
Well, they know me that I am dual. I have a dual personality. I play a lot but at the same time I know where to draw the line. Remember I told you that I could be temperamental. My kids know their dad and they know how to act. Even when they act wrong, they know how to correct themselves. When I see that they are not doing it right, I sit them down and talk to them. I talk to my kids like we are friends.
If you hear me talk to my daughter, you will think that she is my girlfriend. Yes, there is a place for that daddy-children kind of thing but when I talk to them, I talk to them like mature people. I don’t treat them like kids. I let them know the implications and consequences of their actions and they apologise for their actions and don’t go back to them. I play the fatherly role in a way that they won’t get scared of me but at the same time, they get scared when they do things they know I won’t accept. I talk a lot with my daughter and let her know that it’s not yet time for her to get involved in some things in her life. She is supposed to be academically-inclined at the moment. That’s just it basically. They call me on the phone to ask for my advice on anything they want to do.
Is there a limit to the kind of discussion you can have with your daughter?
My daughter can discuss almost anything with me. I play with my daughter a lot. I love them so much that they are so free with me. There was a particular guy my daughter told me about in her school and has always invited her to their house but I told her that if there is anything they have to talk about, they can have it in school and end it there. She opens up to me and that’s why I don’t hesitate to spend or give anything to her that she needs.
Are there moral values your mum imparted on you that you’re passing down to your children?
One value my mum imparted on me, which has flowed to my children is having the fear of God. Prayers too. She sends prayers and Bible verses to my phone everyday and I in turn pass them unto my kids. I let them know that they should put God first in everything they do. They have to say a word of prayer before they eat and upon arrival from any journey, no matter how short it is, they must thank God for safe journey back. I imparted all of those things because I learnt them from my mum. Even times when I forgot, my daughter reminded me that I didn’t pray. I am happy when I see those things happen. My mum really shaped me a lot and that’s why I hold her in very high in my life.
Source: The PUNCH