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Mfonobong Inyang: Fathers Deserve Their Flowers All the Time



For every story, there is a stereotype – a mainstream narrative that has become consistent and convenient. The rendition of any story influences your perspective of who the protagonist or villain is. You subconsciously infer who the lead characters and supporting characters are and those who are making cameos. Over time, a binary mindset is formed and you find yourself almost always looking for the usual suspects to assign these roles. This sparked my interest in exploring the concept of archetypes as opposed to stereotypes because a single story isn’t usually incorrect, it’s generally incomplete. It denies you the beauty of exploring perspectives. As I grow older and in critical thinking, I’m more malleable to the notion that two truths can co-exist at the same time because life is not white and black – there are all shades of grey.

The Prodigal Son is a popular anecdote about a man who had two sons. The younger son wanted his share of their father’s estate so that he could do as he pleased. The father obliged and the younger son went off to a place that was giving Las Vegas vibes. As people who have wealth without enterprise typically do, he blew everything on sex, drinks, drugs, gambling and the whole nine yards of debauchery. After he maxed out on his credit card, he got a job on a swine farm – a gig that was antithetical to his family’s culture as Jews. Long story short, sapa formats his brain, he regains his senses and returns home. Arguably the story appears to be all about him, right? I would instinctively say yes, but when we re-examine the story, the father might be the protagonist.

Because we have almost normalised the concept of deadbeat fathers who are virtually sperm donors, it might have flown over our heads that having an estate as a father is far from accidental because success is intentional. This speaks to the character of the father; he had been securing the bag all his life. Maybe I have watched too many movies but I have hardly seen people fight over poverty. What we see is squabbling over a rich person’s properties especially after such a person dies. This immediately informs me that this man must have been wealthy in the first place, enough for one of his sons to want some of his assets. A good father leaves an inheritance for his children and even his grandchildren, ensuring that his descendants never have to start from zero. Indeed, if any provide not for his own and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.

Another thing we see the father exhibit here is a high level of emotional intelligence. You must appreciate the fact that inheritance for dependents effectively comes into play after the death of the owner of an estate. In law, where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. A will, which instructs how an estate will be divided or managed amongst beneficiaries may be done while a person is alive but only becomes active after such person dies. Culturally, someone could say that this son was wishing his father dead or couldn’t wait for him to die before asking for his share of the inheritance. However, the father indulged his son this one time. You could say he was too liberal as a parent because in sparing the rod, he had spoilt the child.

However, I can assure you that this son was no teenager. This conversation wouldn’t have happened at all if he hadn’t come of age. According to the Jewish custom, he was at least thirty years old which was considered the cultural age of maturity. Perhaps his father respected his volition and wanted him to get an experience that will radically change his mindset and make him better appreciate his privileges. The rod for discipline doesn’t have to be literal, it can be metaphorical. Great fathers use age-appropriate methods to discipline their children.

My penultimate point about the father is the reference this son makes about his dad during introspection. At this time he had gone broke and could barely feed himself when he caught this epiphany: “How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee. I’m no more worthy to be called thy son: make me one of thy hired servants.” This is powerful; he learnt obedience from the things he suffered. He effectively co-signs on his father’s character; not just as a wealthy man but also as an empathetic person who ensured that even the servants in his household never went hungry under his watch. For the first time in his life, the providence of his father hits him. He realised that even servants were eating well at home but he as a son was starving because he went outside the relationship with his father. The supply wasn’t in the riotous living or even religious fanaticism but in the relationship. Messiahs are always relative to those they redeem.

Also, this father shows why he is the GOAT. Ever before the prodigal son contemplates a return, his father shows leadership and takes the initiative for reconciliation. While the son was yet a sinner, the father makes the first move. The goodness of the father causes the son to repent of his wayward lifestyle. The father never treated him as a servant because even in his prodigal state, he was still a son. The father’s love didn’t come with terms and conditions; he always planned to give his son a future and an expected end. The dad probably whispered into his son’s ears as they hugged, “Early in the morning or late at night – it doesn’t even matter what time it is, I will wait for you!” The rest, as they say, is history. The father throws a party for his son who gets restored to his rightful place. The father’s love is plenty, stop playing.

Luke, asides from being a doctor is a consummate storyteller himself and he helps us properly situate this anecdote alongside two others. In the Parable of the Lost Sheep, the star of the story is the shepherd who risks everything to save that one lost sheep. In the Parable of the Lost Coin, the star of the story is the woman who lights up the house and sweeps everywhere until she finds that one lost coin. Consequently, the star of the Parable of the Prodigal Son is really the father that waits faithfully until his lost son comes back home!

As we celebrate Father’s Day, we must resist the temptation to minimise or even dismiss the role of fathers in our life stories. Fathers hardly ever get their flowers; especially in contemporary times where the culture wars have seen a systematic assault on the traditional role of fathers. The pomp and circumstance that accompanies this day pale in comparison to the day(s) that are set aside to commemorate mothers. In trying to correct a historical imbalance, we may have unwittingly found ourselves overcompensating.

My biological father, F.M. Inyang, was brought to the city from the village by an uncle who believed in him because he saw potential, and rightly so. With little education, he put in the work from day one. His income was meagre and stubbornly refused to cut corners in a government job. So he and my mother with the little they had ensured that we got the best education and exposure they could muster. If not for such sacrifices, you probably won’t have been reading this because I would have ended up as an out-of-school statistic. I wake up every day thinking of how much to give him his flowers here and now. He walked so I could run, he deprived himself of a lot of comforts and spread himself thin to ensure I got the opportunities I enjoy today. His younger brother, my uncle, S.M. Inyang is also a father figure to me. He played no small measure in also ensuring my experience at the university was bearable. It’s impossible to tell my story without him.

Some people would give anything just to dance with their fathers again. So tell your father how much you love him, if he is still alive. If you’re a father, make sure to affirm your sons and raise them to become men of honour. In hindsight, our fathers are heroes – they did much with little. Today, not many of us have the bandwidth to shoulder as many responsibilities as they did. Fathers look like Superman but they are really Clark Kent – dem sef be human being. Happy Father’s Day to fathers all over the world.

Now available in select bookshops and on my Selar Store - get your hands on my brand new book, Hope Is Not A Strategy; Faith Is Not A Business Model - Mfonobong Inyang is a creative genius who works with top individuals and institutions to achieve their media, tech and communication goals. He is a much sought-after public speaker and consummate culture connoisseur who brings uncanny insights and perspectives to contemporary issues. As a consummate writer, he offers ghostwriting, copy-writing and book consultancy services. A master storyteller that brilliantly churns out premium content for brands on corporate communications, book projects, scripts and social media. A graduate of Economics – he speaks the English, Ibibio, Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa languages. He appears to be a gentleman on the surface but the rumours are true - he get coconut head! Reach out to me let us work together on your content project(s) - [email protected].