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Veteran Yoruba movie star, Bolaji Amusan, popularly known as Mr Latin, who is also the President of Theatre Arts and Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria, speaks to EMMANUEL OJO about his parenting experience
What does fatherhood mean to you?
There is no other description that can be given than when a man is mature, he gets married and gives birth to children. One has to be able to take care of the children. The ability to take care of one’s children makes him a good and proud father.
Would you say that you got married early or late at the time you did?
I got married in my 30s. It was between 32 and 33.
Was the decision to get married a personal one or it was borne out of societal pressure?
There was no pressure actually. I came from a family that allows you to do things at your own pace. That’s the good thing about the family I came from. They allow you to do your own thing, at your own pace and at your own time. There was no pressure. My family could only advise; no pressures at all.
There are different qualities people look out for in a spouse that make them identify their soul mate when they eventually meet them. Were there qualities you looked out for in your spouse and would you say that the search for a life partner was a difficult or easy one for you?
Well, I believed in God from the onset. I knew what I wanted, I prayed to God to give me exactly what I wanted and he answered my prayers.
What was the feeling like when you had your first child?
I was on location, shooting a movie then. I was not expecting a baby that quick, so I went to location and when I got back home, I didn’t meet my wife at home. I went to the hospital to get her but when I arrived at the hospital, I was told that they had been discharged and had left the hospital. On getting back home, I met my wife and the new baby.
Can you describe the moment?
I felt like every other normal human being – so happy. I was happy because the woman (my wife) delivered safely. She didn’t undergo a surgical operation and there was no complication. I was happy about that.
Did you have an expectation or wished for a particular gender in your first child?
Gone are the days when you say you want male or female. All genders are children. If you are fortunate to be blessed with one, be thankful to God. Any one you are given, appreciate it.
Are there lessons that fatherhood has taught you?
Well, a lot. The things we used to do when we were much younger, we can’t do them anymore because we are to be role models to our children. So, there are things we used to do that we can’t do anymore.
Secondly, before getting married and having children, one can have money, up to N20,000 for instance, and one would just spend it on things that are ‘not useful’, let me put it that way, but now, when one remembers that he has children to cater for, he’ll have to do things moderately. One has to save for the rainy days and do things that will impact the lives of the children positively.
Can you give a specific personal example of one of the things fatherhood has taught you or the habits that it has changed?
During bachelorhood, a man can go out without returning home for like three days but as a family man, it’s a different thing entirely. You have to plan to get home to meet your family. There are even means of communication nowadays. You can call or send messages but in those days when there were no means of communication, you had to go out in the morning to fend for the family and get back home to meet your children in the evening.
What would you say has been the biggest challenge for you as a father?
I can’t say.
Your job is one that takes a lot of time and takes you out of town to various locations and adding to the fact that your family is living abroad. How do you close the gap to still achieve family intimacy?
We talk on phone, we do video calls and they come to Nigeria during their holidays. I travel to see them as well.
How often does that happen?
The times we talk on the phone are uncountable. We talk each time we need to talk.
How many children do you have?
I have two children.
What’s their gender?
I have a son and a daughter.
Do you think that they are as gifted as you are in entertainment?
Both of them are creative. My daughter is a model, a dancer and an actress. My son is equally into comedy. He does talk shows and all that.
How old is your eldest child?
My son is 21 now.
How do you discipline them when they cross the lines?
Definitely as a father, I have to talk to them. It’s ironical that the country they live in, you can’t beat your children, you can’t smack them and all that but you can talk to them to let them know when they are wrong and when they are right.
How do you manage the boundaries set by the culture of the country they live in when it comes to correcting a child and still achieve the required discipline you desire in your children?
As a father, I know how to talk to them when they are wrong and also to appreciate them when they are right, to strike a balance. You can’t be talking to people when they are wrong only. When they are right, you have to appreciate them too so that it will be balanced.
Did living abroad have some negative effect in the use of their mother tongue (Yoruba)?
They (my children) speak fluent Yoruba
How were you able to achieve that for them in a non-Yoruba speaking country?
The glory goes to their mum.
She speaks Yoruba to them always. When they go out, they speak English with their friends but they can’t be speaking that at home. Their mum speaks Yoruba to them all the time.
Do your children see your movies and the comic character you play in them too?
They are my number one fans. They watch my movies and the ones I feature in. They even tell me when I make mistakes in movies. They would say ‘Dad, you made a mistake right there!’
Do they also call you by your popular movie character name, Mr Latin?
Yes. My daughter calls me Mr Latin, my wife calls me Mr Latin but my son calls me dad.
Is there any reason why your son can’t call you Mr Latin?
When he was much younger, he used to call me Mr Latin but he is now a big boy and he understands better now.
Are there conducts, ethics and morals you teach your children and expect them to exhibit?
Well, everything is changing now. We just have to encourage them to be good. We encourage them to live a life worthy of emulation. In those days, you force your children to imbibe your character but you can’t do that anymore. You have to encourage them, keep advising them, keep talking to them and keep showing them the way.
Are there reservations you have with the culture and lifestyle of the environment they live in as regards their upbringing?
Well, it’s not only abroad; even those living in Nigeria, there are lots of things to deal with. When they leave the house for school, they could also deviate from the things you have taught them. Gone are the days that you have to force your children on the things they should do, telling them that they must do this and that. No, that era has gone. You have to keep talking to them and keep encouraging them as much as possible.
Is there any other career path outside the entertainment that they might want to venture into that they won’t have your approval?
I can’t force any career on them. Whichever career they want to choose, so far it’s lucrative. If Femi Otedola’s daughter can decide that she wants to be a DJ, so what are we talking about? Whatsoever they decide to do, so long as it is lucrative and can put food on their table, then its fine.
What legacy are you striving to create?
The name, Mr Latin; the name, Bolaji Amusan is the only legacy I would like to leave behind for them. That’s just it. Fela left a name for his children, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. MKO Abiola, Gani Fawehinmi, they all left a name for their children. That name Mr Latin is enough.