Family: When the numbers ought to be a great advantage!

“A man who calls his kinsmen to a feast does not do so to save them from starving. They all have food in their own homes. When we gather together in the moonlit village ground it is not because of the moon. Every man can see it in his own compound. We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so.”

– Chinua Achebe

The word, kinsmen is daily becoming a thing of the past as the world becomes larger. Kinsmen get separated for many reasons and it is becoming more evident as it moves from one generation to another. I am not a product of a perfectly knit family as such, this mudslinging would hit us all differently.

With the opportunity to have belonged to the 4th generation, I continually see the differentiation as the generation continues to expand. For those who never met more than once, it might make no meaning and sense to them but we have imbibed certain values that might not be helpful for our future as Africans.

With an understanding that we no more stay in an enclave or town like it was some 60-75 years ago, but technology and commitment on the part of the elderly ones can still make great things happen. In fact, many persons suffer amid plenty because of the growing level of distance between relations and intolerance.

Some days ago, I ran into Africa Bible Commentary- A One-Volume Commentary Written by 70 African Scholars” by Tokunboh Adeyemo. This implies that Africans have begun to contextualize the gospel. I am glad to note that as the generation increases many people have become more adherents of both Christianity and Islam amongst many others religions.

However, of what impact has our faith on our relationship with one another. We have got to a point wherein “there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” Proverbs 18:24.

I was challenged recently by my cousin, who said to me, “Your parents and their siblings all have a relationship but the next generation does not have one.” I can cite many examples of how everyone turned to an “opportunist”. Take advantage of one another then move on to stay aloof. These are some of the things I have gained understanding over the years.

In the same family, you will see siblings have different “cousins”. This means those who you have dear as extended family differs from those who your siblings see as their ‘relatives. I have heard of situations where cousins were dating before going to either of the parents only to know that they are related. What is the gain of the numbers?

There is a popular Christian belief where we all claim to be children of Abraham. What are the reasons for us to destroy the body of Abraham? There is a need to reflect.

I understand that Polygamy was a major reason why many families got scattered. Everyone learns to become adept at toppling one another; surviving with or without the help of others amongst others. This became so ingrained into the mind of people that it implanted the seed of bitterness which is being sown from one generation to another.

Equally, competition became very stiff. The game of I must be better; my children must be better. We keep this competitive spirit to the point wherein children of siblings cannot sit in a room because they see themselves as archrivals.

If you cannot communicate with one another successfully, then, you will continue to make assumptions on the behalf of others. Many times, family members assume that a child has attained some level of prominence but has refused to support others. In the words of my departed Grandfather, Revd JA Okesiji, JP, which I am paraphrasing “do not be angry with others and do not make an assumption; you do not know what they are passing through, strike a conversation with them to have an understanding before making your conclusion”.

Another thing I have seen over time is that the level of backbiting around us is terrible. Many people backbit about anything. They cook up stories so that they can win the favour of some people and turn their backs to one another. They love strife. They ooze out bitterness and hatred. If there is a situation within siblings, handle it at that level and not pass it on. Unfortunately, they would never want to have a roundtable discussion to resolve any impasse.

In the 8-stages enumerated by Erik Erikson in his theory of psychosocial development. The last in development speaks to how people look back on the events of their lives and determine if they are happy with the life that they lived or if they regret the things they did or didn’t do. Older adults need to look back on life and feel a sense of fulfillment. Success at this stage leads to feelings of wisdom, while failure results in regret, bitterness, and despair.

Our numbers as relatives should be an advantage. We have left the era when everyone takes to the family profession and we need to deal with others in form of barter. We are blessed tremendously with various gifts and abilities. Today’s community is full of various professions and callings. If we take time to understand our diverse abilities, we would all support the professional and developmental goals of one another.

I have seen a family whey the bond is strong; they pray together; meet together and do all things in common. They have respect across generations and many things are done in unity. They have used this to crush external forces and they have been able to keep the legacies of their departed father who is a popular Yoruba author. Your guess is as good as mine.

If we truly want to network, it should be from home. What is the joy of raising cousins who cannot sit together; who do not know one another; all because of the games played by their parents in their developmental years. Remember, power changes hands and when it does, the challenge would have gone out of hand! Who are we to one another? Who heritage would we hand over to the next generation. Think about this!

Olutayo Irantiola

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