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Ada Obiako: 2 Things My Father Did Not Give Me

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There were several things I asked my father for that he responded to with a resounding “NO” – toys, permission to stay up late and watch television on a school night, tight clothing. Father’s Day has since passed and I know many of you spent that day reminiscing about all the things your fathers gave you. Well, my father’s birthday was a few days ago and I am inspired to go in somewhat of a different direction. I don’t want to tell you all the things he gave me. Instead, I want to share with you 2 things my father did not give me:

He Did Not Give Me An Oyibo Name
I grew up watching a lot of American films with a lot of Caucasian actors/actresses, and I had this obsession with “white names”. I thought “white names” were beautiful. “Ashley” and “Sarah” always sounded so darling to me.  I remember desiring as a kid to have a Caucasian name –  which I didn’t. When I asked my father why I didn’t have a Caucasian name, he informed me that I didn’t have one because I didn’t need to have one. That answer didn’t sit well with me. A little while after, I started attending an all-girls Catholic boarding school – Regina Pacis (my Abuja folks will know it) – and it was time for me to receive confirmation (a holy sacrament of initiation in Catholic churches). As customary practice in my school, each girl got the chance to pick a new name to be confirmed with by the Bishop during mass. I was thrilled. This meant I could finally have my English name. I told my father and to my dismay, he said he would pick the name and it would be an Igbo name!

Haba! Why? Didn’t I already have enough Igbo names?

Well, I was too stubborn of a nut to take this lying down. When the day of my confirmation came, my father was running late and was not able to make it on time for the ceremony. That was my opportunity to change the plans! It was now or never. When it came time to give my name to the school official, who would then pass it along to the Bishop, I said my name would be “Diana”. Now I picked Diana for two simple reasons: I loved Princess Diana of Wales and one of my favorite Michael Jackson songs was “Dirty Diana”. So, when it was my time to step up to the church altar, the bishop confirmed me with the name “Diana”. I was ecstatic. When my father found out he was not pleased. I couldn’t understand why. You see I didn’t know then what I know now: My father was trying to teach me a beautiful lesson in love and gratitude.

My name is NWANYIBUIFE ADAEZE OBIAKO. My name has meaning and power behind it. Take “Nwanyibuife” for instance – it means “a woman is worth something”. Na serious something o. And then there’s “Adaeze” – which means “the first daughter of a king”. My name has history and importance to those who gave it to me. My name represents my heritage and my culture; a culture and heritage I was failing to appreciate. I was too eager to have “Ashley” or “Sarah” as part of my name. My father was teaching me that copying someone else’s name wouldn’t make me someone I was not. My father was teaching me that love for oneself and one’s heritage was necessary for living an authentic and enjoyable life. God does not make mistakes and I’ve come to realize that my father was trying to help me understand that. Now, I get excited to share my name with folks.
Who would’ve guessed?

I still use “Diana” as part of my name and my dad has never once acknowledged/accepted its existence – I love his dedication against it 🙂

He Did Not Give Me a Lack of Self-worth
I remember when I was about 11; we were living in Abuja and one morning my mother had sent me to a nearby grocery store to quickly pick up something she needed. As I was on my way home from the store, I heard an Hausa man (at least 40 years old) calling out to me as he stood in front of his compound. He was singing a famous song at the time and calling out to me – “Dem go dey pose. Dem go dey denge denge. Dem go dey pose. Dem go dey waka kuru-kere.” I turned and saw him smiling, motioning with his hands for me to come over. Like a naïve child, I went over wondering what he wanted. We stood by his front gate and he told me that he saw me walking in my shorts and I had nice legs. Now I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt at the time and was pretty tall for my age. I told him “ok”, still not sure why he had called me over. Then he went on to ask me where I went to school and like the mumu naïve child I was, I told him. He then said that he would like to “get to know me” and that we should become pen pals. He said pen pals wrote each other letters and told each other things about themselves and their lives. I started feeling uneasy and told him it was time for me to go back since my mom was expecting me. He said alright and told me to remember our pen pal agreement. I told him ok and hurried back home. When I got back, my mother was with my father in the dining room as he was about to eat his breakfast before heading for work. They both immediately asked me what took so long and I told them everything the man said, word-for-word. My father dropped his toast and stood up enraged.
I was scared.

I had rarely ever seen my dad really angry. He put on his shoes and told me to show him exactly where the man lived. Terrified, I said okay and started walking with my dad to the man’s place. We got to the man’s house and my father banged continuously on the gate. The man opened the gate and my father asked me if that was him and I said yes. My father yelled at the man and told him that if he ever came near me again there would be hell to pay. The man told my father to leave his property but my father ignored him and kept yelling. The man’s security guard came out with a gun and told my father he didn’t know who he was talking to and that the man was a military official. My father said he didn’t care and that the man better heed his warning and never even attempt to look my way again. The man said nothing else and remained silent. My father told me to start walking and we headed back home.

I was stunned.
I mean I knew my father loved me but this showed me another layer of his love that I was not aware of. He was willing to risk his safety for me. He was willing to risk his life for me. The military man never spoke to me again. I will never forget that day. That was the day I understood the courage my dad possessed. That day my father showed me that I was loved and valued by him A LOT.

It would be great to say that I never dealt with insecurities and lack of self-worth after that day but unfortunately that would be a lie. I did. And still find myself battling those pesky feelings on occasion. But, I can confidently say they never came from my father – I’ll give that credit to the faux “friends”, mean schoolmates, and various media channels I encountered growing up.

Now I’m not here to tell you that my father is perfect or that I am a perfect daughter. What I am here to tell you is that my father is undoubtedly one of the greatest gifts I have had the good fortune of receiving in my life.

What I am here to tell you is that Emmanuel Obiako (yes, my dad was given an English name by my grandparents, yet refused to allow me mine!) is the best man that God could have given me as a father and that is exactly why I believe He did. What I am here to tell you is that there are several things my father did not give me growing up.

And for that, I am grateful.  🙂

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Michael Zhang

Adaeze Diana is a freelance writer, copy-editor, speaker, and vision coach who helps young Christian women feeling depressed/hopeless discover who they are and why they exist so that they can learn how to enjoy more fulfilling and fruitful lives. She blogs about the spiritual lessons she's learned at www.deserveyourgreatlife.com. You can follow Adaeze on Twitter and Google+.

24 Comments

  1. The girl who flies planes

    December 24, 2014 at 11:19 am

    I Love my father too and even though he passed away 6 years ago, this piece brought back memories. Christmas was his favorite time of the year. Thanks Ada.

    • Adaeze Obiako

      January 12, 2015 at 3:05 am

      You’re welcome, my dear! I’m happy this piece brought back memories of your dad. May His soul rest in peace 🙂

  2. Aderonke#Bring Back Our Girls

    December 24, 2014 at 11:21 am

    Aww your dad is sure a great man. Love my name loads too prefer it more to my English name (Comfort) even when I am in mood swings or so angry and u can my name “Aderonke” in full…I can’t resist but just but smile! I always tell people when I have the chance that African names are just too awesome- very deep with great meanings! I also call people by their full names, so sweet to the ears- like my favorite Igbo names-Chidalu, Ogadinma, Chukwunonso, Oluwatobiloba, Adeola, Akinlabi, ..etc..Gosh our names are just the best folks! Very proud of mine…
    Well said Adaeze

    • Adaeze Obiako

      January 12, 2015 at 3:08 am

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Aderonke! And I love the fact that you’ve always loved your Nigerian name and seen the beauty in it. If only I had seen it sooner…oh well! Lol

  3. Icey

    December 24, 2014 at 11:54 am

    fathers are simply amazing. they express their love in the darnest ways.

  4. Kemi

    December 24, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    For you guys out there that grew up with your dads, you surely do not know how blessed you are!
    Got to hear and know mine when i was 22. Thanks to Jesus for being there for me.

    • Mbali

      December 31, 2014 at 8:51 pm

      I fell you. got hear of mine at 22, and in as much as i wanted a relationship with him, i couldn’t help but feel like it was a little too late. But Thank God anyway for knowing him.

    • Adaeze Obiako

      January 12, 2015 at 3:51 am

      Don’t feel that way, my dear! Yes, some of us have known our dads since birth but that does not mean that anyone who hasn’t is “disadvantaged”. Yes, you and your dad cannot get back those years in the past but you can definitely work at developing a relationship now, if you decide to – it may not be perfect but hey, no one’s relationship is 🙂

    • Adaeze Obiako

      January 12, 2015 at 3:15 am

      What I love is that you said Jesus was there for you! I love and thank God for my father in my life – he is like I said, undoubtedly one of the greatest blessings in my life. With that being said, I also speak to young girls that have grown up without one or two of their parents and I always let them know that their significance and worth is meant to first and foremost be built in God, our heavenly Father, and the purpose He has created us for. Even now in my life, I look around and think of the things that others seem to have that I don’t and I simply take my cares back to Jesus Christ and look for my value in Him/the fact that He died on a cross for ME. That is ultimate LOVE. And no matter who we have or don’t have in here, as long as we have Him, we have access to pure love and joy every single day. Thank you so much for commenting, Kemi 🙂

  5. omowumi

    December 24, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    Nice. In my house too, nobody has an English name. Yoruba names all the way. Omowumi Omolola. I love my names

    • Adaeze Obiako

      January 12, 2015 at 3:16 am

      Your dad and my dad had the same school of thought! Lol And I love that you love your name, Omowumi 🙂

  6. waterchild

    December 24, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    My dad never let me do everything I wanted to. 3 years he’s been resting in peace and I remember saying I just wanted a little more time even for him to scold me. I realised as I grew up that really everything he refused me, I really didn’t need. Hugs to all who miss their dad’s. …..

    • Adaeze Obiako

      January 12, 2015 at 3:19 am

      I pray your Dad’s soul is resting in peace, love! I also agree that the things my dad refused for me to have, I didn’t really need. And I’m sending a virtual hug your way, my dear! 🙂

  7. tutu

    December 24, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    I gave myself an English name too, my Dad teases me about the name and yorubalizes it whenever he sees it on any of my documents. I love my Daddy!

    • Adaeze Obiako

      January 12, 2015 at 3:20 am

      So you were a trouble maker like me, eh? Lol

  8. Lady S

    December 24, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    Lovely article. Thank God for great dads 🙂

  9. bliss

    December 24, 2014 at 11:30 pm

    your dad is an exception… very nice of him.

    I have never seen a group of people with inferiority complex as the igbos

    They are the only group (amongst the 3 major groups) that just love love western names. They see it as a status – hycinth, paschal, bonaventure, sunday, george, peter… Some will argue that oh it is ok to have one for your baptismal name…. na wa o

    Even their language, it is the norm to see an igbo person in lagos that was born there that cant speak their language…. geez is lagos a different country?

    Terrible terrible terrible

    • Jo!

      December 25, 2014 at 10:02 am

      What? You need flogging

    • Adaeze Obiako

      January 12, 2015 at 3:21 am

      Haba why now? Lol

  10. fiya

    December 26, 2014 at 7:41 am

    My dad though not the best husband to my mum, he is definitely the best dad any girl could ask for. He grew up with 3 brothers, himself making them 4 boys and only one sister who died as a teenager. Then he has us 5 girls and one boy. Cus he know how men acts, he can never see us (his girls) sitting alone with a guy or sitting on an uncles lap. One of foundest memory that stuck with me was one where I went to buy water from a nearby well when I was 9 or 10. I went to give the guy the money, he told me to throw it, now that was a one naira coin. So I threw it and it mistakenly hit the boy on his leg, this boy picked it up, and was about to throw it at me while I was still apologizing, he threw it like he was throwing a baseball, and if that thing had hit me (yall know how heavy that one naira coin is). I managed to dodge it and thank God my dad was just pulling out from the garage and I ran to him and told him. Dad did not care that the boys dad was nearby or whatever and nearly beat that fool to a pulp. His thing is, what if the boy had got me with that coin? He was pissed even the boys dad was apologizing to him. My dad fight for his girl and although he is not around anymore (God rest his soul), I know hes still looking out for his girls. #daddiesgirl

    • Adaeze Obiako

      January 12, 2015 at 3:26 am

      I love how honest you are about your dad, Fiya! No one’s dad is perfect (they are humans after all:) The fact that you can honestly analyze and determine that he was a very protective and loving dad to you, while not being the best husband to your mom, shows that you have the courage to brave the entire truth of your dad and in the same vein remember him with love and appreciation. Thank you for sharing the stories about your dad, my dear. May his soul rest in peace 🙂

  11. Kevrin Nealond

    January 24, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    Wow!!! This is a very good read. I am impressed!! As a new father, I’m taking notes.

    1

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