Today, June 17, 2012, is a historical day observed all over the world as Father's Day. The celebration is a reflection of what fathers have contributed to the development of the family and individual members of the family, especially the children. In Nigeria, how has the father faired in the light of poor socio-economic development? LEADERSHIP SUNDAY's Olusegun A. Olufemi looks into the Father's Day celebration and the challenges of the Nigerian father.
Father's Day, celebrated June 17 of every year, is the day when fathers worldwide are honoured for thier contribution to the upkeep of the nuclear family, and to honour fathers who are single parents. It is a day when the relevance of fatherhood and paternal bond of the man, known as the pillar of the family, is well appreciated.
Fatherhood in Nigeria
"Father's Day is a primarily secular holiday inaugurated to complement Mother's Day in celebrating fatherhood and parenting by males, and to honour and commemorate fathers and forefathers. Father's Day is celebrated on a variety of dates worldwide, and typically involves gift-giving to fathers and family-oriented activities," states Wikipedia.
Father's Day in the real sense is when the children and other family members extend their love and appreciation to the father for all that he had done to make the family a happy and united body. It could be done through organising a small party or get-together to honour the father; or it could be a picnic to the beach, cinema or other places of excitement. It could be in form of a gift that the father would appreciate.
It could be just a simple greeting card that would say "I love you dad" or an article in honour of your dad to a newspaper. Thanks for the emergence of the telecoms industry, the various telephone companies and television houses also run programmes that special messages can be sent for the Father's Day celebration.
The celebration does not limit its participation to the children alone; the mothers too are encouraged to send love wishes and show compassion for their husbands for being there to build the home with them.
Mothers are known in developed countries to pamper their husbands during the Father's Day celebration. But the children usually play the major actors in the activities of the day, being the beneficiaries of a good father-mother relationship.
In Nigeria, as in other countries, the complex nature of the evolving society has created a difficult scenario, whereby single-fatherhood are the other of the day. Unlike the single-motherhood that usually is occasioned by divorce, separation or death, the single-fatherhood in most cases is as a result of the death of the other partner, the mother.
When a man is confronted with this unnatural and complex situation, he is seen as playing the role of both the mother and the father. Some men, when challenged with this difficult situation result in sending their children to relatives who most times treat these innocent children as house-helps, or second fiddles to the own.
This is why the greatest father that the day could ever celebrate is one that was able to nurture his children through thick and thin to greatness. Such fathers deserve the most appreciation for their single-handedness in growing a mature and responsible individual.
So many fathers, though, do not need to be single to be a good father; they are there to see to it that all the necessities of the home are met in order to mould a united and happy family. They provide the needed protection that would secure the family while making sure that all family members are guided through principles and norms that would make them responsible citizens.
The role of a good father, deserving a honour, is to create in his children, morals that would guide them to become great people that would add quality value to the society. Those that have fathers worthy of honouring will tell the sweetness in the father being their role model.
Challenges faced by the Nigerian fathers have left them in pitiable and criminal conditions. Cases abound in the country where some fathers engage in shameful and unimaginable activities, unworthy of a father.
Sometime in May 2012, in Agbado area of Lagos State, a man, referred to as Olaniyan, was arrested by men of the Nigeria Police for allegedly selling his day-old baby to an Anambra State businesswoman for N350,000. Such action would be regarded as not worthy of a fatherly role, and is one in many cases of fathers in the country who have become victims of the decaying Nigerian socio-economic climate.
The celebration of the fathers was inaugurated in the early 20th Century, after the success obtained by Anna Jarvis with the promotion of the Mother's Day in the United States. The success of the achievement of the celebration is tied to Sonora Smart Dodd, who founded Father's Day in 1910. The founder, Sonora, was born in Arkansas.
The first celebration was in Spokane, Washington on June 19, 1910. Her father, the Civil War veteran, William Jackson Smart, was a single parent who reared his six children in Spokane. After hearing a sermon about Jarvis' Mother's Day in 1909, Sonora told her pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday honouring them.
Although she initially suggested June 5, her father's birthday, the pastor had no enough time to prepare their sermons, and the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June.
Its success however started in the 1920s. Dodd stopped the promotion due to her educational pursuit at the Art Institute of Chicago, and thus it faded into relative obscurity, even in the region of origin, Spokane. When in the 1930s Dodd returned to Spokane, she started promoting the celebration again, raising awareness at a national level. In the days to come, trade groups joined her to promote the holiday.
According to Wikipedia website, Dodd "had the help of those trade groups that would benefit most from the holiday; for example, the manufacturers of ties, tobacco pipes, and any traditional present to fathers." In 1938, the Father's day Council, founded by the New York Associated men's Wear Retailers, helped her to create awareness and promote the celebration for commercial gains.
For decades Americans initially resisted the holiday, seeing it as an attempt by merchants to replicate the commercial success of Mother's Day. "But trade groups didn't give up: they kept promoting it and even incorporated jokes (by newspapers over the trade aspect of the holiday) into their adverts, and they eventually succeeded.
By the mid 1980s, the Father's Council wrote that Father's Day has become a Second Christmas for all the men's gift-oriented industries," writes Wikipedia.
A bill to accord national recognition of the holiday was introduced in the U.S. Congress in 1913, and in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson went to Spokane to speak in a Father's Day celebration, hoping to make it an official holiday, but Congress resisted, fearing that it would become commercialised.
However, in 1924, the U.S. President Calvin Coolidge recommended that the day be observed, but stopped short of issuing a national proclamation on it. Two earlier attempts to formally recognise the holiday had been defeated by Congress.
In 1957, Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote a proposal accusing Congress of ignoring fathers for 40 years while honouring mothers, thus "(singling) out just one of our two parents," she claimed. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honouring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father's Day. Six years later, in 1972, the day was made a permanent national holiday as President Richard Nixon signed it into law.
In addition to Father's Day, International Men's day is celebrated in many countries on November 19 for men and boys who are fathers.