"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: 06/21/20

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Crazy Things a Mallam’s Son Got Away With: Reflections on My Dad’s Parenting

By Farooq A. Kperogi

My father, who died on December 31, 2016 aged 92, was an Arabic and Islamic Studies teacher who had a reputation as a kind-hearted but tough, no-nonsense disciplinarian. But he allowed me to get away with some indulgences that puzzled and angered his Islamic scholar colleagues— and that only made sense to me much later in life.

When I was a preteen, I fell in love with Michael Jackson and his disco dance moves. My friends and classmates who didn’t have strict fathers like I used to practice disco dancing in party halls at night. But I couldn’t join them because I went to Quranic school from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.— or even later sometimes— every day except on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

One day I decided I would use my “free” evenings on Wednesdays and Thursdays to learn disco dancing. I wasn’t sure how my dad would react to it, so I didn’t ask him for permission. I just sneaked into disco halls and danced away. One day, someone caught me and said he was going to tell on me. 

But, although the man told on me, my dad never asked me why I went to disco halls on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Nor did he discourage me. I was pleasantly shocked.

Then, I started mimicking Michael Jackson’s sartorial choices: military-style jackets, slim-fitting, cropped trousers that showed white socks, etc. I also saved money to buy MC Hammer’s baggy trousers and so-called parachute pants made by American clothing company Bugle Boy. 

My dad’s friends thought an Islamic scholar’s son shouldn’t be dressing like I did, so they encouraged him to stop me from dressing “like unbelievers.” He ignored them.

I also used to have crazy hairstyles. I had dexterity with scissors, which I used to give myself wild hairstyles. My Islamic studies teacher in high school, who was my father’s friend, had had enough of my exuberance, so he came to our house one evening to complain to my dad.

My dad’s response to my teacher who had more certificates than my dad both enlightened and humbled me. He told the man that I was a teenager and that adolescence is “temporary madness” that must find outlets for expression.

 He said if the expression of the “temporary madness” was benign, parents would do well to ignore it. Suppressing it, he said, risked delaying it to a stage in life when its expression would be truly embarrassing. Dad said he’d rather see me wear bunglesome baggy trousers and wild hairstyles now than later.

What was important to him, he added, was that I was doing well at school, had no behavioral problems, never failed to attend Quranic school 5 days a week ( I completed my recitation of the whole Qur’an at 13), was obedient, never drank alcohol, didn’t have a girlfriend, etc. 

He assured his friend that the youthful ebullience that fueled my benign wildness would peter out as I got older.

By the time I went to the university, I no longer had any interest in hairstyles, trendy dressing, partying, and dancing. One day, I came home for holidays from Kano without my hairstyles, and my dad playfully asked what had happened to my hair. We both laughed.

It was in the university that I read about teenage years as the period of “storm and stress”— and about how hormonal changes activate the exuberance of that stage of our lives. My dad didn’t have much formal western education, but he knew this.

Yesterday, my 10-year-old son, whom I named after my dad, told me he wanted me to give him a Mohawk haircut. (I’m still a barber and give my son—and myself—haircuts). I said the Mohawk hairstyle was wild and ugly, but I immediately retracted what I said and promised I’d give him the style he wanted. I remembered that my dad allowed me to get away with any hairstyle I wanted. 

My son hasn’t started experiencing his “temporary madness,” but I’ll always remember my dad’s toleration of my adolescent excesses when the expression of my son’s teenage exuberance finds a benign, harmless but perhaps awkward outlet in wild hairstyles and strange sartorial choices. 

Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers and father figures out there!

Professor Haruna Wikili's Death

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

The death today of Bayero University Kano's Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration) and professor of history Haruna Wakili is one death too many, especially coming after the deaths of many other BUK professors these past few months.

Although Professor Wakili didn't teach me when I was an undergraduate at BUK, I was familiar with his work through my friend Professor Moses Ochonu whom Wakili taught-- and through Professor Ibrahim Bello-Kano, his close friend at BUK in the 1990s.

When I met him in his hometown of Hadejia in 2010 during my visit to Nigeria after my wife died in a car crash, he was Jigawa State's Commissioner of Education. He was exceedingly gracious and kind to me. I was flattered that he recognized me from BUK and was even more flattered when he told me he read my newspaper columns.

I met him in Hadejia through my friend Adagbo Onoja who was Governor Sule Lamido's Media Adviser at the time. Thereafter, Professor Wakili and I became Facebook friends.

Just two weeks ago, for some reason, I thought of him and wondered why he was no longer active here on Facebook. I checked his page and found no recent activity. Then I woke to the news of his death on June 20 at the age of 60.

The Kano Focus online news site reported that he died at the National Hospital in Abuja after a battle with cancer. 

This is truly distressing. May Allah admit him in aljannah firdaus and comfort the loved ones he left behind.