Ace actor, Yemi Ayebo, popularly known as Yemi My Lover, speaks to PUNCH about his fatherhood journey and family values
What does fatherhood mean to you?
Fatherhood means a lot. As a father, you have a lot of responsibilities on you; to take care of yourself, in particular, your wife, children, and the entire family and to do things that will make you look responsible and people will say that truly, this is a father. It’s not a small task at all. It’s a big challenge. A lot of men cannot be referred to as fathers because of the kind of life they live. As a father, you have the responsibility to take care of your family and even society at large.
At what age did you get married or start a family?
I was close to 40 when I got married; about 38 or thereabouts.
Was that intentional?
No, it wasn’t intentional. You know, sometimes, you might think you are not buoyant enough financially. You might feel the need to work a bit harder so as to be able to put some things in place. Secondly, late marriage can be as a result of one looking for Mrs Right; that can also be a factor. Some men get married at the age of 25 but all fingers are not equal.
Talking about finance, you said in an exclusive interview with PUNCH about five years ago that ‘if one has money, a woman will stick with him’. Do you consider being rich as part of the conditions for a man to be ready for marriage?
Very important. Ladies these days are not ready to stay with a man that does not have money. They like money too much and if you don’t have sufficient money, they won’t stay with you.
What’s your definition of being rich or having sufficient money?
As a man, the first step is to get an apartment in a conducive environment. A man cannot get married while still living with his parents or friends. He should have an apartment, either rented or built. He should also have a good job that will be fetching him money. Women usually believe that all their responsibilities are on you as the man and they will make financial demands from you and the moment you can’t meet up with the demands, you start having problems in your relationship. If they demand just N1,000 recharge card from you and you can’t afford it, the issue of double dating will start because they will start giving attention to other men.
Once a man has a good job and money, huge money, even if he drives the woman away, she will not go. Even if the man is the ugliest guy on earth, as long as he has money, women will be running after him. If you don’t have money, forget about it.
Talking about Mrs Right, what qualities did you see in your wife that convinced you that she was your Mrs Right?
Well, a man cannot see 100 per cent of the things he is looking for in a woman. Nobody has it 100 per cent. If he’s able to see about 50 to 70 per cent of what he is looking out for, I think it’s okay. You will have to work on her to achieve the standard that you want in a woman. I always say that one should marry an intelligent person. If you marry a fool, she will mismanage and destabilize your life. One has to marry a highly intelligent wife. It’s like having a personal assistant. If one has a bad PA, he will fall into an endless pit but when one marries a good and right-thinking woman, she will assist and support in all that the man does. She will correct and guide him when he’s heading into a pit. It’s not about beauty alone; it’s more than that. When a woman is even too fine, it’s wahala (problem). When you marry an intelligent woman, you benefit from her brains.
Were you under any kind of pressure from family or society during your wait for the perfect marriage partner and conditions?
Of course, yes.
How did you manage the pressure?
Well, as a man, you have to keep moving, you don’t succumb to pressure until your life gets better and your better becomes best. It’s just to keep on pushing, trusting that one day, you will get there. Ladies too come under similar pressure when they marry late.
What was the experience like for you when your first child arrived?
I was thankful to God that at last I got a child.
Were you particular about the gender of your firstborn?
Well, majority of men would like to have a male as their first child but it was a female child for me. I thank God. In any case, a child is a child, no matter the gender. I was so happy; it was like I just won the World Cup for Nigeria when she came.
Did you give some form of assistance to your wife during pregnancy?
Well, I wasn’t even around at that period and the day she put to bed, I was at an event. It was her mum that broke the news to me.
Do you assist with chores at home?
I don’t do that.
In the family I come from, it’s not permitted.
Is it a tradition in your family?
How can I be helping my wife with chores? For what? The only thing I did was that I planted vegetables behind the house because I like greens. I water them in the morning and night. I also planted yam and pepper. At least, with that, I believe that I have supported her so that she wouldn’t have to go far before getting some of these items.
Does this suggest that the relationship between you and your wife and children is like that between a king and his subjects?
All of the above; both as a king and as a friend. I am a celebrity, so, they need to treat me as a king; someone that has a name is like a king. Just like when you asked me if I assist with chores, someone that is a celebrity should not be the one going to the market and all that. People will then see me in the market and be saying, ‘Look, the celebrity came to buy something in the market,’ and before you blink, the area boys would have invaded me.
God has placed me in the position of a king, so, I see myself as a king always. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t love my wife, my children and my family. I’m not harsh on them.
Marriage dynamics are changing and these days, you find women picking some of the bills or giving financial support to their husbands. What is your position on this?
That’s what they (women) are meant for. They are supposed to support their husbands in every aspect. You know what the Yoruba mean by Oluranlowo (helper)? It’s a helper. The way it is abroad, when the bills are brought, the wife, who is also working, doesn’t expect the husband to pay everything while she keeps her money. Though, it is the responsibility of the man to do that but as a right-thinking woman, she shouldn’t expect the man to buy everything and pay all the bills. She should support her husband. It is compulsory. The man shouldn’t be left to buy everything and pay all the bills. That’s the reason why you see men die before women. It is because of too much bukata (responsibilities) on them.
What are some of the most important lessons that fatherhood has taught you?
A lot of lessons. It has taught me that one must not relax, one must be prayerful, be rugged, know how to love; you must be strong and hard-working. That’s why they said to be a man is not a day’s job.
Is there any habit that fatherhood has taken from you?
It prevents one from going far.
How do you mean?
Supposing, your family is in Lagos, you can’t relocate to Kano for business, leaving your family in Lagos. No loving father will do that. You have to stay close to see your family always. You can’t leave your family in Lagos and relocate to Kano.
Are there values you learnt from your parents that you’re passing down to your children?
My dad will tell you that you shouldn’t marry just any woman; that you should marry an intelligent woman. You can’t also raise your hands against your wife, no matter what she does wrong. Have it in mind that your wife is not God, so, she can make mistakes. The lowliest a man can sink is to beat his wife. My dad will never agree with that and even till today, I hate it. Any man that raises his hand to beat his wife is a madman. Women will do things that will make you angry but the best thing to do is to leave the house for a while and just go somewhere. She will be the one calling and begging you to return home; promising that such a thing wouldn’t repeat itself. My dad usually told us that when we marry, we would be the ones taking care of the whole family, so, we should work very hard.
What disciplinary method to you use to correct your children when they do wrong?
I call them to talk to them and tell them about life. It’s not about beating them. I hate beating children. I don’t know how to beat a child. I watched a video that went viral recently about a woman who was beating her child recklessly. In fact, you won’t believe it that I was crying when I saw the video. I even started cursing the woman. I don’t like it when people beat children. I hate it. Watching that video, it was as though it was my child that she was beating. If I see the lady in real life, I could even beat her up because I was really annoyed. She was beating the child as though she wanted to kill the child. I heard that the lady has been arrested though and will be arraigned in court. She never knew that a neighbour recorded the incident.
As an actor, how do you make out time to be with your family?
Well, I do whenever I’m at home. But when I’m not at home, it means I am out there looking for how to make ends meet. I love to relax at home with my family, to watch football because I’m a football fan, especially when it’s my favourite team that is playing.
Is there any of your children that has your kind of talent and is likely to toe your career path?
Well, I can’t really say for now because it is God that gives one talent. It is God that gave me the talent, so, I’m still watching them. Although, my daughter can sing and dance well, I can’t tell if she will follow my career path.
What won’t your children never be caught doing?
Ahh.. My children can’t steal in Jesus name because we don’t steal in the family I come from.
Do you have family values you’re inculcating in your children?
Yes. They say teach your children in the right way and when they are old, they won’t depart from it. That’s my moral obligation to my children as a father, to lead them in the way of the Lord and I have been doing that and I believe they won’t go astray.
What do you consider your biggest challenge as a father?
My biggest challenge is the financial responsibility that comes with being a father. When you are broke as a father, that’s the time all the bills will start coming. When you are down financially, you find that you are not able to sleep soundly. It’s good for a man to have money. If a man does not have money, if care is not taken, he will lose his wife and children to another man.
Do you have a pet name you call your wife even in the presence of your children?
I don’t have any.
Do you have for your children?
I don’t have for them too. Sometimes I just say, ‘My baby, how are you?’ and that’s all.
Do your children watch your movies?
Yes. In one of my movies titled “Eskilo”, someone slapped me. Each time my children watch that movie, they curse the person. They say, ‘Are you crazy? Why are you beating my daddy’. I just look at them and laugh; they don’t understand that dad was at work.
At times too on the street, when people are shouting ‘Yemi My Lover’, my daughter would say, ‘Why is everyone shouting my dad’s name?’ They will be shouting and requesting for money and my daughter would say, ‘Daddy, do you owe them?’(laughs). She doesn’t understand.
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