Sanusi Dantata, his son Usman Dantata, and the bit Luther Vandross left out in Dance with my Father

What is more beautiful than a father converting a rebuke to a direct affirmation of his love for his son, in the same breath? What is more beautiful than a son returning the gesture with all the honour he can muster? Does any other moment top this exchange between father and son? Especially from the son’s perspective when he plays back the encounter while lying on his bed.

I wish the inimitable Luther Vandross had included this dimension in the classic dance with my father song. He had his mother in the mix, which made the song quite special but he didn’t include the bit about two adults, one the older, having a conversation with the younger adult. Father and son.

How many men remember those special moments with their dads, when Papa called to gently rebuke a decision about family, business or any other subject the younger man had taken an ‘unapproved’ stand on? Papa would later move on to affirmation, using few words. Like true men spoke to other true men. True men do not use multitude of words. They make them drop like still waters. Knowing how deeply they run to the core of the matter.

That is why those who have been at the receiving end deeply cherish the gift of such opportunities and do their bit to extend it to those coming after. They know it takes real effort for fathers to call their adult sons to have those moments, especially when a gentle rebuke is the opening feature.

Late Alhaji Sanusi Dantata and his late Son, Usman Dantata had one of those special moments, in Kano in the 70s. Papa advanced a loan facility to son for some business. For some inexplicable reason Papa did not see or hear from son after some weeks. That turned to months. And Papa became worried. More so when he heard that son came into Kano on occasions, in the early hours of morning, and went back without stopping by to say hello. Taking any of the London-Lagos flights with stopovers in Kano, son would stop briefly, dash into town for one or two quick meetings and soon after rush back to the airport, for the flight to Lagos. Without seeing Papa! Who knew immediately what he was going to do. He would interrupt his sleep. Cut short his moment of renewal. To engage his son. Who had no idea Papa had heard of the new schedule and had activated a Papa-response.

Armed with information about his next scheduled flight into Kano, Papa was at the airport at 4am in the morning. Waiting. Son soon stepped out of the aircraft and made his way to the entrance only to find the towering figure staring at him; his emotions were suddenly on quicksand.

“What is money?” Papa began. And gave a gentle rebuke ending with “You are my son. I’ve written off the debt…”

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