Is it a coincidence that it takes 2 individuals to produce a baby? Why wasn't one enough? Why should it only take a male and a female? As I was contemplating these questions I realized that everything God made was purposeful. He does everything with intent and it is possible that he made reproduction a 2-people job because it takes one to give life and another to give life meaning. 

On November 24, 2018, I became a father to a baby boy named Lincoln after the 16th American President, someone whose story of perseverance I had come to be very fond of. I remember looking at him for the first time and I was so happy I couldn't hold back my tears. It was a surreal moment that I was privileged to be part of the creation process of someone so magnificent & whole. But as I was still savoring the moment, something else happened. I was confronted with the harsh reality that I was now responsible for the life of another human being. That reality hit me like a blow on my face because I didn't feel I was prepared enough. I am not referring to material preparation, God was good on that front but to preparing for fatherhood. The reason I felt that way is because I was still growing myself trying to find my way and my place in the world as I was only 24 years of age. How could I show someone else the way if I wasn't sure of it myself? I thought. As I thanked God for the gift we had just received, I asked him for answers and he told me he had already given them to me. I was raised by a loving, God-fearing father and he gave me 4 more fathers as a bonus to make sure I have all the answers I need from their collective wisdom. 

Being a father and becoming a father are 2 entirely different things. It is my opinion that you become a father when a child of your making gets born but being a father starts when you decide to take responsibility for your creation. Being a father begins when you decide to live a meaningful life so that through yours, your child(ren) can find meaning in their own lives. Being a father to me meant being a role model as Christ is to us, a figure to look up to and that was something I wasn't ready for. 

Although I had made many conscious decisions before to be a better child, a better student, a better man, and a father until that point, I hadn't made a conscious decision to be a better father. A father my son can look up to. So, in my quest to learn how to be a better father I looked at and carefully studied the lives of 5 men who I deem to be my heroes and role models and tried to figure out how to be one myself. Although I hold these five men in the highest esteem, I am not blind to the fact that with all the goodness & greatness they possess, they are still flawed human beings and also have their shortcomings as humans just like you & I.  This is not a story about perfection but it's a story about progress and the relentless pursuit of high ideals.

The first man on this list is a special one. My maternal Grandfather, Babu Simon Magereli, and from him I have learned the FEAR OF GOD. Back in the day, he used to own a Phoenix bicycle and there weren't many of those where I grew up and there were even fewer cars. On it, these words were written, "Kumcha Mungu ni chanzo cha maarifa". Mithali 1:7. It is a verse from the bible that according to the New King James Proverbs 1:7 translates in English as "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge". Writing about something you value on their most prized property is how people from their generation communicate who they are and what they believe in. It is the equivalent of a BIO in today's world. As I grew up and lived in his household for a while during my formative years I came to learn more about the man he is and the man I aspire to be. I learned him to be a man who loves God and wants his people to do the same. He has been a preacher for most of his adult life and he walks the talk. I remember being in trouble with him many times when I slept before or dodged prayer time which was mandatory for everyone in his household to actively participate, he was uncompromising on it. I have memories of the whole family fasting together to pray when we were faced with hardships or challenges we couldn't find solutions on our own. Through him, my faith in God was grounded and I am able to see God's work through him and his teachings. My faith was even further solidified when I joined Lutheran Junior Seminary (LJS) in Morogoro for my secondary education many years later whose motto coincidentally is also Proverbs 1:7.

The second man is my father Boniphace Keraryo from whom I have learned INTEGRITY & RESPONSIBILITY. My father spent most of his life as a merchant and he is famously known as Kampango in our township because during the times when supplies were low, he was able to maneuver and find his customers what they needed. Later on, he ventured into and pioneered mobile money services in our township something he still does today. I was privileged to work with him in his shop for many years and I got the front seat experience on how he dealt with other people whether customers, colleagues, friends, or even regulatory authorities. From him, I learned to be honest to a fault and own my mistakes when I err. 

Kampango is a proud, Kurya man but he is not too proud to admit when he has fallen short and he will quickly do the needful to make amends. My father is also big on responsibility and whenever people deal with him he will make sure they clearly understand what they need to do and what he needs to do in order to achieve a common goal. While at it, he will move mountains to make sure he holds up his end of the deal or die trying. He also believes that people shouldn't achieve less than they are capable of and he will always ask for the 8% after he congratulated me for a 92% exam score. It is tough to be raised with such a demanding figure and one might even confuse his way of showing love and appreciation as tough love but I see it as a relentless pursuit of greatness. People do not become great by doing the bare minimum but their absolute best.

The third man on my list is my Uncle, Emmanuel Magereli, the only son of Babu Magereli. He & I have a long history together from my early years as we both shared a love for football. He would take me to his football practice and there I got to hang out with him & his teammates and it made me feel like one of the big boys. It's one of the highlights of my childhood. He also used to take me with him to watch football matches at night most of which I slept throughout the game but those moments created a strong bond between us. Although he is an avid Young Africans fan I am sure deep down he acknowledged the might of Simba SC which is the club I support and love. From him, I have learned DEPENDABILITY from him as an important quality for a father. My uncle will spare me many things but not the truth. I can always depend on him to check me whenever I go astray, and he will give it straight whether I like it or not. If you read my last blogpost I wrote about a misfortune that befell me and how later on I realized it was in fact a blessing in disguise. In my darkest hour, I turned to him and he embraced me, took me in, and created a safe space for me to process my situation without judgment. He told me that life can take different turns but I had to stay on and fight my way as it has and still will be many times. Many of these times he has become my guardian angel and pulled me through when it counted the most. I learned as a father, that my child(ren) has to be able to count on me even at their worst, to show up and be there to offer the much-needed guidance. It is not a coincidence that he also went to Lutheran Junior Seminary (LJS) for his high-school education.

The fourth person on this list is my brother, Emmanuel Marwa. From him I have learned LEADERSHIP and that there are different ways of being an effective leader. It is said leaders are born not made and from knowing my brother I believe it. He is very much responsible for the person I have become today as he is the person who taught me English, sparked my interest in reading/writing, and inspired my mind to want to innovate and lead. As a child, I idolized him, liked the things he liked, and even wanted to be like him. He has a way with money the same way I have with words and always has been since we were young. I think he started investing/owning stocks before he was 15 and was reading business books, and clipping out business columns from newspapers. 

But as we grew up we started arguing more and more and our relationship was severed for years. More often than not, we had different opinions regarding how to go about certain things and I wouldn't understand why he would do some of the things the way he did. I later came to learn that he was a different kind of a leader, the kind I couldn't identify with at that point and so my instinctual reaction was to be defensive to protect my own beliefs & principles. Through our relationship, I learned that some leaders organize people, share with them their vision, and ask them to join together to accomplish it while other leaders organize themselves and the resources they need, and then execute their vision so that people can see how it is done and be inspired to follow. They want to do the heavy lifting themselves so that others won't have to. I want to think he is the latter and I'm the former. That experience has taught me to be more open-minded to things, and methods that are different from my own, and that different things work for different people. You can all want the same things but the approach each one takes is deeply affected by who they are and what they believe. Did I mention he is also an LJS alumnus?

The last man but not least is someone to whom we are not related by blood but by faith. He has played the role of a father and became a role model for me as I trust many people. His name is Dr. George Fihavango, he was a rector at the time I was attending Lutheran Junior Seminary in Morogoro, the school I mentioned earlier, and is now a Bishop of the Southen Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT). I have learned ACCOUNTABILITY from this man of God and a scholar of theology. Dr. Fihavango loves John Maxwell who is a world-renowned writer on Leadership. He quoted him in many of his speeches and one quote stuck with me through the years and it said, "Everything falls and rises on leadership" by John Maxwell. He taught us that every one of us is a leader and we should be accountable for what God has put under our care. The success or failure of anything is a measure of its leader. The most important part of his teaching was that as a leader it is important to involve the people you are leading in the efforts to achieve your common goal and that's how you produce other leaders who will carry on your torch. I remember as he was championing an initiative to repair and revamp the school buildings and facilities, he managed to mobilize resources from many well-wishing groups, alumni, and friends of the church across the world but he categorically insisted on involving the people he was leading (the students). 

One day he was going to a neighboring church to rally resources for that project and he asked for a student representative to accompany him. The gentleman who was supposed to go with him for some reason was not able to so he instead asked me to take his place. The trip on his Volkswagen was quite special and very pleasant to me because he was so easy to talk to and inside me was an unexplainable excitement to be in the company of a man of such intelligence and vision. A visionary like Mwl Nyerere who also coincidently once said, "If real development is to take place, the people have to be involved". When we got there he asked me to stand in front of the crowded church with hundreds of people, introduce myself, and say a word to plead "our" case, not just his. As I was sitting there in my school uniform and listening to him preach, I was in awe of his mastery and articulation of the word of God but most importantly I could feel his sincere passion for progress. After the service we were given a hen as a gift and some cash for fuel but as soon as we got back to school and were about to part ways he gave me the money that he was given for fuel and thanked me for joining him. That was a grand gesture and it touched my heart in a memorable way not just because the money helped me a lot in school which it did, but because it taught me humility. On that day I learned as a leader it is important to share the spoils of the "war" with the people you fight with even when you don't have to. It boosts their morale and teaches accountability in practice.

I believe it is through men like these that we learn to become better men and if we are lucky better fathers. Mwl Julius Nyerere once said, "You cannot develop people. You must allow people to develop themselves." It is the same for children and fathers. At a young age, many children consider their fathers to be real-life heroes and god-like figures but I also understand that growing up some didn't have fathers to look up to or some were raised with the type they wouldn't want to learn from or aspire to be like. Although you can not control how a child will turn out in life, the best you can do is to live a life that is meaningful and true to you so the young ones can aspire to be like you in their own right or can model their lives from your example. And you don't have to be a biological father, anyone who plays this role for someone else is being a father, regardless of their age, occupation, or even gender (some of the greatest fathers some have are mothers).

To my 5 fathers, I thank you. I pray God to keep you long enough to see the seeds you planted bloom, and the people you have inspired become better fathers. Transmitting better values & principles from one generation to another is how we progress as people. THE END

Geofrey Mtatiro

I'm a storyteller by trade but a problem-solver by birth. I find creative ways to tell stories of Individuals, Brands, Businesses & Organizations through Photography, Film Production & Advertising. In 2012, I founded BRAINBONGO to do just that while still in high school with the help of a few friends. Through the years, we have become really good at it. We love it and we live it. We are #EXTRAORDINARY!

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