Of Adebayor And Dysfunctional Families

Courtesy of
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Absolutely no one can screw you quite as well as members of your own family. At least that is what Emmanuel Adebayor, the Togolese football who plays for Tottenham Hotspurs in the English Premier league and Togolese national team revealed. In a scathing rant, posted on his public profile on Facebook, Adebayor washed the family’s dirty linen in public. The detailed post, highlighted frustrations experienced from his own mother, sister and brothers. They had turned the Togolese football star into a cash dispenser and had been fleecing him good and proper with ridiculous demands ever since he made his international football debut at 17 years of age. Most Africans who read the post could empathize. When prosperity arrives through a single member of the family, it comes with all manner of ugly entitlement issues.

Closer home, Malik Obama, President Obama’s half-brother who served as the best man during his wedding had some choice things to say about his famous sibling. During an interview with an American filmmaker known as Joel Gilbert, Malik accused his younger brother Barrack of being “cold, ruthless and a schemer”. These are precisely the kind of qualities I would at least expect from the commander in chief of the world’s only super power. Especially a legitimate president who has had to deal with racial inspired character assassination and abuse throughout his two terms in office. Malik also has his doubts on whether he shares the same biological father with Barrack Obama. It is all part of an elaborate conspiracy theory flaunted by Joel Gilbert who made the film Dreams of My Real Father which suggests that Obama was sired by his ‘communist’ mentor Frank Marshall Davis. Those of us who knew Nyang’oma Kogelo village as backwater locale in Siaya County before Obama came to power, would love to remind Malik of his previously humble roots.

None of all this is too surprising. We all have our varying degrees of dysfunction within families. Most successful individuals who emerged from humble family backgrounds have experienced some variation of the same story of exploitation and insatiable neediness that sets in as soon as the big bucks arrive. In the beginning, sharing one’s good fortune with family members seems like the right thing to do. Every international African footballer first order of business after buying a fancy sports car and upgrading their taste in women, is to buy their mothers back home a house. Usually something grand to make up for all the years of struggle the parents went through in bringing them up. Entitlement settles in soon after and all the family’s financial needs are shackled to the prosperous one. We know that happiness is not about money but that logic does not sit well with people who have been perennially cash strapped. In time, the emotional drain and unreasonable demands start to bite and that’s when things turn ugly.

In the African family, there is often the special one. The child who emerges out of blue after years of dedicated hard work and commitment to become an overnight sensation, bringing glory to the family name. When the special one happens to be the oldest member of the family, they assume a parental role and take on obligations of the family almost as a sense of duty. Their authority is rarely questioned and they enjoy an almost free hand in determining the families’ destiny.

However, when the special one, is a middle child or one of the younger siblings, they must never forget their place in the family hierarchy even with the millions at their disposal. Prosperity comes along with its ugly cousins; competition, envy and jealousy. Family members assume the right to bask in glory without putting in the work. The special one, in trying to assuage the guilt of appearing aloof and uncaring, goes out of their way to enable the laziness because they are never any consequences for squandered cash. In trying to extract the family from an impoverished existence that defined their lot, they end up creating divas and posers. A friend once quipped after landing a prestigious position with an international oil firm in the US that his unemployed siblings stopped looking for work and went about the village saying, “We now work in America”. Since it is important for the special one to have a ‘good name’ and display the image of a happy family, they keep maintaining appearances until the centre gives and they simply stop pretending that all is well at home.

Kenyans living abroad will tell you about the black hole known as the ‘family emergency”. This is regular occurring condition of such strong emotional pull that no well-off family member can escape from. Family has a way of tagging at emotional heartstrings and it does not matter how high one rises, there will always be a pestering family member with some crap to say about your attitude when one’s generosity is not automatic.

In craving love and affection from family, we sometimes get abuse and rejection in return because most families are temperamental. Half temper and half mental. The roots of family may be same but we all branch in different directions. Such is life. Make peace and thank god you can choose your friends.

Oyunga Pala is a Kenyan writer, curator and editor. This blog examines the texture of everyday Kenyan and African life and the challenges of modernity and disillusion. The writings commonly feature the struggle of the Kenyan male to maintain integrity in contemporary society.


  1. dkabutei

    Sad truth. Oppression from family. If only those back home knew what those in diaspora go through. Ultimate tragedy.

  2. You really a great one Mr. Pala. I am a loyal reader of yours and to be honest, you never disappoint me. I love your work and the genius in it. And sincerely, I don’t know how much it will cost me to pay you for what you make me feel. But I have one request, kindly when you pass by Narok inform me. I have some nyama choma for you or a full, live goat. I have got quite a number by the way.. in hundreds..but do I say..

    • No…you don’t mention. hehehe. Thanks for the invite and kind words Salaash. I have not used the Narok route as I go to Western in a while but now I have good reason. Thank you for the support. Much appreciated.

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