I don't like my dad's generosity- Pat Utomi's daughter

PUNCH Newspaper

Tell us about yourself?

I’m a private person so I wouldn’t go too much into detail. I’m the first child in my family. I had my secondary education in Nigeria and then travelled to the United States to get a degree in engineering and a masters in communication. I currently work with an engineering firm.

What are the values you imbibed from your dad?

My dad has a lot of values and I think I’ve learnt so much from him. However, the values I’ve imbibed and cherish include generosity, hard work, and humility.

What traits don’t you really like about him?

His generosity, I see the trait as a double-edged sword, because he can be generous to a fault especially with his time. He would rather inconvenience himself just to keep up with an appointment. There are days he would give a lecture at Ajah for example, after the lecture he would go straight to Akoka. But his journey won’t end there, after Akoka, he heads to Victoria Island for another lecture. Sometimes I wonder who would voluntarily spend so much time on the road, especially with the traffic situation in Lagos… (laughs). Another trait I don’t like is that he finds it difficult to say no, when it involves him and youths. He is soft-hearted in that area. I think he should say ‘no’ more often so that he gets more time to sleep.

What does it feel like being Utomi’s daughter?

I get that question a lot, but for me it’s a normal life. Though sometimes when I go somewhere and someone sees my ID card, they would look twice at me and say are you related to Utomi? And I’ll say ‘yes’ (smiles). However, I smile and take it in my stride because I’m very proud of my father and what he has done. It can be a little intimidating when someone seems to know more about your life than you do, but I don’t mind.

Has his name given you special privileges you would not normally enjoy if you weren’t his daughter?

Generally in life, your reputation plays a big part on how people perceive you and obviously coming out of a family with a popular name, it tends to affect the way people see and treat you. But for the most part, I think it’s a point of pride for me that at some critical points in my life, a lot of the decisions I made were done independently. For example, I got a job without any one’s help, not even my dad’s. I felt proud. My dad encourages us to be independent in how we do things.

But you do enjoy special privileges bearing the name Utomi?

I wish I could have V.I.P tickets handed over to me because of my name, but it doesn’t happen (laughs). Definitely in certain circumstances, the name has opened doors for me. But in some cases that name has worked against me. In my place of work, people approach me when I’m checking my car engine and they would say ‘I’m an Utomi’s child, I shouldn’t be doing this.’ They feel I shouldn’t get my hands dirty. I try not to get upset. But for the most part of it, the name has opened doors. And I’m grateful for the life I live.

How does your dad punish a child who misbehaves?

My mum is more of a disciplinarian than my dad. My dad only gets involved when the case is big. And he always supports my mum’s decisions. But he doesn’t scold or spank us, he prefers talking. His punishment is constructive; he sits you down and explains why you shouldn’t have committed the offence.

Why didn’t you follow your dad’s footsteps in academics?

Who knows, maybe at some point in future, I may venture into teaching because I think it’s a noble profession. Though in Nigeria, it’s sad that teachers don’t earn much but if you believe in passing on information and teaching to other people, I think you should be rewarded very well. However, for now, I’m comfortable with my profession and my parents are very supportive.

So, your dad didn’t influence the careers of his children?

No, he didn’t. This is not to say I don’t ask him for advice. I believe if you have a good resource, you should use it. I consult my dad for advice during times when I find it hard taking a decision and he has always been supportive. However, the twist to this is that when I meet him for advice he doesn’t tell me to choose A, rather, he asks me what I want. When you ask my dad a question, he gives you more questions.

What do you cherish most about your dad?

A lot of things, I cherish the fact that he is here and he has been a very good father. I see family friends who lost a parent and their lives were affected. But here am I with my two parents, what’s there not to be happy about? I cherish everything about my dad. He loves spending time with us and telling us stories.

When was the last time he told you a story?

That was when we were much younger, but we still remember some of them. Most of his stories were about his journey in life.

What time does he go to bed?

It’s hard to say, though he usually gets up very early for Catholic mass. He likes jotting down and writing notes before he sleeps. I think he goes to bed around 11pm. It’s hard to say when he actually shuts down.

What is the last thing he does before going to bed?

He and my mum talk a lot before going to bed. Aside this, he loves writing.

When you were growing up, was there any time your dad was meant to take you out but couldn’t meet up because of his busy schedule?

No, I don’t think so. My dad is particular about family time, he doesn’t joke with it. You would literally see him rush out of an event just to be with his family. The most hilarious scenario I can remember was when my little sister was in primary school, she usually had school plays that last for about 30 minutes, and my dad would come from such a far place just to sit down for 30mins to show that he was there. So that’s how far he can go just to be with his family, he is a dedicated father.

So, his busy schedule doesn’t affect his family time?

No, we have a few regular routines. For example, it’s a ritual in my family to have breakfast together after church and my dad is always around. And we also have some spontaneous family events. Sometimes we go as a group to have ice cream at an eatery or just go out to watch movies together. He knows the time for family events and he does not let any other event override.

How did your family handle his move from academics to politics?

My dad has strong beliefs which indirectly put us (his family) in the limelight, and I’m more of a private person. However, we have come to realise politics is one of the things he is passionate about, so we are very supportive of him. We believe in him.

What is his social life like?

I wonder if he has a social life. A lot of his time is spent giving lectures. I think this has become part of his social life. Though, he has some old family friends that visit him once in a while. That is one of his best times, he enjoys relaxing with friends.

Who are some of his friends?

I wouldn’t want to mention names, but he has good friends.

Have you ever seen your dad sad?

Not really, he is a cheerful man. He doesn’t let bad things get to him. He always wants to see the good in that bad thing.

How will you describe his political ideology?

People who know me quite well know that I don’t like commenting on my dad’s political life. Generally, he believes in being a servant-leader. I see him as someone who puts the wellbeing of people over his. He believes a leader should be more concerned about his followers than anything else.

What’s his favourite food?

My dad is one of the freest eaters I’ve come across. He isn’t too particular about food, just as long as it tastes good. When I was younger and I made noodles for him twice but he didn’t complain. However, he doesn’t joke with Thai food, he loves it.

How has it been working in Nigeria after being away for some many years?

Nigeria is a different environment. It was a big deal relocating to Nigeria, I didn’t know what to expect. But thanks to my dad, he was always encouraging me. Having my parents based here also made it easier for me to relocate.

How does your dad handle criticisms?

He handles them quite well. My dad says everyone has an opinion and is entitled to his or her opinion. However, he listens to advice and criticisms from people who are much older than he is. He usually gives their advice a second thought, and doesn’t just brush them off.

What do you admire about your dad’s marriage?

I admire that fact that my parents have been together till date. I admire the way my dad communicates with my mum. Whenever he comes back home from work, he makes sure he gives my mum a hug before doing anything else. They are best friends which I think is very important in marriage.

What’s the most romantic thing your dad ever did for your mum?

He has done so many things. Sometimes on her birthday, he buys a car or takes her out. But for me, the hugging nature in my dad is the most romantic thing. Imagine hugging the same person for three decades, there must be a close bond between the two parties.

How do they handle quarrels?

We (children) don’t get to know about their quarrels. Growing up, I used to think my parents never argued because I’ve never seen them have an argument. But I think they have a good form of communication and they talk to each other a lot. Their faith too has been a big part to their successful marriage.

What does your dad splurge money on his children?

He spends a lot of his money on his children. Whenever he travels, he buys something for us no matter how short the journey is. Recently, he bought me a bracelet. He knows what everyone likes.

Does he influence your relationship decisions with the opposite sex?

We haven’t really had this conversation because I don’t bring up the topic often. When I do, he answers with another question. He asks me how I would feel about being with the person, but he doesn’t enforce his choices on us.

How does he relax?

He has an arm chair at home he likes to sit on, but he is never idle. He is always writing something, I believe that is his form of relaxation. There are times he uses family outings to relax.

Is he a lover of sports?

He doesn’t have a particular football team, but occasionally when Nigeria is playing, he looks at the television screen, but I doubt if he follows the matches. I remember back then, he used to play squash. But these days, it’s harder for him to exercise because of his work schedule. Frankly speaking, I think he needs more sleep than exercise.


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