• Thursday, May 30, 2024
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BusinessDay

I think I still owe Lisa godfathering responsibility

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How do you know what a twelve-year-old whose godfather you are supposed to be thinks of you? You can’t possibly know, can you? Especially if you, like me, are someone who really feels ashamed of yourself each time you fall short or are caught out not performing your role as you should!

Sometime ago, on this very square table, where chronic indulgees gather to throw banters at each other and things we see going down or up around us, I sent out a cry for help. My cry had to do with what I considered an ‘irresponsibility’ on my part in the performance of my role as a ‘godfather’ to Lisa, daughter of my friends Richard and Nola Ochiobi. Twelve years ago, when Richard and Nola had Lisa, they took a good look at me and thought I was worthy to be her godfather. I lost no time accepting the honour, actually humbled that I had been so chosen from all the men in their lives. Richard and I were together at Manchester University. We met in Manchester, and then found out we had also attended the same university back here in Nigeria, the one and only Lions’ and Lionesses’ Den, the University of Nigeria.

I guess the idea of being ‘installed’ a godfather did not really sink in then, as I had actually wondered what the role entailed. “Do you know what this really means?” I had consistently asked myself at the time. “Of course, I don’t. I haven’t been made one before and nobody has volunteered to teach me what I was expected to do.” That was me moaning at the time in response to my consistent questioning of what my responsibility should be. I must have found myself overtaken by my confusion, so much so that I couldn’t take out quality time to find out and understand my role as a godfather.

Okay, I know some of you must be laughing your heads off wondering why I had been so confused about being a godfather. “After all,” some of you would say, “there are enough cases in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to help you come to an understanding of what you should have been doing all this time.” To which I would reply: “How dare you compare the godfathering I am talking about with the type that goes on at the Fee Dee Fee (I mean PDP)?” And I can tell you point-blank that you are on your own (OYO) if you decide to think fee has any monetary value in the godfathering they do at PDP.

I had gradually become disconnected from Lisa following my lack of godfathering experience, but more especially because I had moved from Manchester to Stockport, and had thereafter become consumed by my research work and doing journalism like crazy – part of which led to my returning to Lagos to be ‘on the ground’. If diligent indulgees can recall, it was this state of things, as it were, that made me cry out for help so I could reclaim my godfathering identity. You weren’t helpful, I must say. I guess you all went and covered your faces in shame from me – wanting, as usual, to treat me with that proverbial long pole for what you might have seen as an abomination for a chief indulgee! You can be sure I really didn’t mind your lack of support, even though I had been the one who asked for it. I thought you were truly ‘reliable’ for other things apart from just making sure you entertained yourself every Friday getting your weekend enjoyment started on this page. Not even the lady downstairs offered any help at the time – I guess she too was amused at my shameless behaviour, not taking my responsibility seriously! And you wouldn’t really begrudge her; she must really feel comfy having a laugh at my expense.

But all this has come about because of Lisa. For a long time I hadn’t seen her because I found myself always postponing a visit. I guess I had been thinking it is just okay to make the occasional calls to Richard and Nola and ask how she was doing. Once I managed to get that out of the way, I thought all was well. “It’s all good. It’s all O.K!” As soon as I said that, some sort of confidence came upon me that I had done my bit.

It’s actually the kind of mistake some adults get to make about young people. They are so little and, therefore, there is often no need asking them how they are, once you have asked their parents. It’s what you’d call disengagement, really. We adults like to disengage the children because our culture often suggests they should only be seen and not heard, part of the reasons why we tend to lose out on catching our whiz kids while they are still young.

But I guess I can understand such a mindset if you have not been chosen as a godfather to a child. However, once you have been so named, I think it’s all a different ball game.

So, having not seen Lisa for a couple of years, I decided to brace it and face my fears. That was five years ago, in 2009, when I had the opportunity to take time out and visit the UK. I never knew there could be such a powerful connection when a child is conscious of who and what you are (or should be) in their life! Imagine finding yourself on the way to see your godchild, whom you hadn’t really seen since she was four (after she had just turned seven), and all the questions come in a rush: “Would she still remember me?” “What would she say of me and my irresponsible behaviour?” “Would she blame me for abandoning her?” “Or would she just accept me and my explanations?” As these questions went through my mind, I suddenly found I was in front of the house, waiting for this momentous meeting. Somewhere in my mind, though, was the thought that she’d probably forgotten how I looked and had no idea I was her godfather – or probably didn’t care! It turned out that I was totally wrong in all my assumptions. She had been looking forward to seeing me again after such a long time.

In September of 2009, Nola, Lisa’s mum, had told her I was coming and it was so heart-rending to hear her mum say: “She waited and waited; she especially kept cakes and food for you, and kept looking out for you!” Now, that elicited two emotions. The first was to feel all the shame that I could muster at really shirking my responsibility. The second was one that brought about a sense of reconnection to little Lisa. When I asked her later whether she remembered me, she said “Yes”. But I guess it was her penetrating gaze which seemed to me like she was asking many questions but not really putting voice to them that made all the guilt come upon me. She seemed to be asking: “Where have you been?” “Why didn’t you come on my fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh birthdays?” I was happy, though, that she seemed cool about it. She didn’t want to take prisoners, I guess. She was so forgiving and finally smiled at me. I decided, thereon, that I was going to take this seriously. I mean, my godfathering to Lisa! But up until now, I’ve not kept to that decision. I think I still owe Lisa godfathering responsibility.

PHILLIP ISAKPA