MR. Moses Ayodeji Solanke is a Level-14 officer in the Federal Civil Service. Currently, he is a senior editor with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN). He got married to his sweetheart, Olajumoke Aramide Solanke (nee Akinwunmi-Taylor), at the Registry of Ifako/Ijaiye Local Government Area of Lagos State in March 1998, but the family is resident in Ibadan at present. The woman is a teacher at Orita-Mefa Baptist Model School (OBMS), Total Garden, Ibadan, where she teaches Christian Religious Studies. She is in fact, the Head Teacher in that subject. Today, the duo has become grandparents. In this interview with OLUSEYE OJO in Ibadan, they revealed how the journey started and what has kept them going in spite of challenges. Excerpts:
How and when did you meet your spouse?
Husband: I met my wife, many years ago, while we were still in Form 3 in secondary school. Then, I did not know she would become my wife. We were just friends. We were not even in the same school. But we lived together in the same community. We were also in the same church. We were very close and we were more like family friends. But it was just the usual boyfriend-and-girlfriend kind of relationship. But along the line, we sustained the relationship throughout our university days till we started working. That’s how we eventually got married. I met her in Ibadan. I also schooled in Ibadan.
Wife: I met my husband in Ibadan. My parents and his parents were friends. The friendship also passed on to their children. Innocently, my husband and I had been friends from childhood. But we really got close when I was in Form Three. Then, we had Forms One to Five in secondary school system, not like these days when we have JSSI to III and SS I to III. We were just friends then because I was not thinking of marriage and he too was not think- ing of marriage. We were very free with each other.
How did you propose to your wife?
Husband: One thing led to the other. After our university education, we felt it was time for us to settle down. But I did not make the proposal the way majority have been doing it these days. I did not buy any ring and I did not kneel down to present it to her. I guessed both of us were already in the know of where we were going. Of course, we needed to meet the families. I am not sure I would be able to recall the exact words that I used to propose to her. I must have said it in a poetic way because I love writing poems. It may be funny, but I also pick poems from the Bible, like the Songs of Solomon. I am sure, I must have used one of the verses from the Songs of Solomon in the scriptures to express my love and my intent to get married to her.
What actually made you to say yes to his marriage proposal and did you expect him to propose to you?
Wife: I guessed it must have been the fact that we had been jolly good friends before even thinking of marriage. So, when the issue of marriage came up, I saw it as an extension of our friendship. The writing was on the wall. It was obvious that it would end up that way. So, I wasn’t surprised that the proposal came.
What was the initial reaction of your parents when you told them that your friend of many years proposed marriage to you?
Wife: They weren’t too surprised too because back then, even when we were in school, they had been asking questions. They would ask me: ‘this man, is he the one?’ So when I told them that the man has asked for my hands in marriage, it was expected. In fact, they had been waiting that our friendship would end up in marriage.
What was the attraction?
Husband: I will not rule out physical attraction. I guessed that was what brought us together initially. But along the line, as we interacted and moved on in life, I realised that apart from the physical attraction, the character was another thing. We seemed to love the same thing and we seemed to move along the same line. I will not say we had a perfect understanding that we actually loved the same thing. We got on fine. She was a godly person. Humility is one of the attributes that made me go for her. When I say humility, I am not saying someone should be foolish. We are agemates. The way she interacted with me, I re- alised there was a mutual respect. She respected me and I respected her. So, the attributes include humility, mutual respect, the fear of God and she was a very friendly person; she was friendly to my siblings.
Wife: He is the kind of man that I prefer. He is tall, handsome and has the fear of God. We have been friends for a long time and he has always been saying the truth. He does not tell lies.
Can you comment on the level of involvement of your parents in your relationship with your spouse before your marriage?
Husband: My spouse actually lived with her aunt in Ibadan. It was much later that I got to know her parents who lived in Lagos. My mother was already late before then. But my father was in support of the relationship. He was not the one that chose for me. I was not pushed into marriage. I remembered that I was the one that went to him and told him that I wanted to settle down. He asked if I was sure and I said I was ready to settle down. So, there was no problem from my side and her parents also received us warmly. So, there was no interference. My parents did not bother to conduct investigation into her family background and her parents too did not bother to do family background checks for my family because we are like family friends. Her parents had been parents to my parents. So, we had known each other and there was not too much of investigation needed.
Wife: I told you earlier that we had known each other many years before he proposed to me. I had come to know her family and he had also come to know my family during the period. I was in secondary school when we became close friends and we did not get married until after our university education. Our parents are also friends. So, we had known so much about each family long before he proposed to me. The only thing my family did was to confirm if I was serious about spending the rest of my life with him and if his love for me was genuine.
Can you tell us about the blessings of God in your marriage in terms of children?
Wife: We have three children by now, comprising two girls and a boy. We also have a grandson, Nathan. The first child finished her first degree from the University of Ibadan. The second child is in 200-Level at the Federal Uni- versity of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB). The only male child of the family is in SSI now.
Can you recall the first misunderstanding you had with your spouse and how did you resolve it?
Husband: Over the years, there had been quarrels here and there. But with our age in marriage, you would just understand that quarrels are just misunderstanding. If it happened, I would just keep my calm. I am a very funny person and I just laugh over issues. I make fun of whatever may be looking serious. So, that is how I handle issues. There had been issues, no doubt, at times, heated issues. But the worst I had done was to leave the house and return to the house later. There was a particular misunderstanding we had on a Saturday. I just told my wife that I would be leaving for office. I went to the office and I switched off my phone. She was worried and she could not reach me on the phone. She reached out to some friends that actually reached me. So, I went back home and we resolved the misunderstanding.
Wife: What has been helping us in our marriage is the fact that we were friends before the issue of marriage came up. Friends do have misunderstanding and the most important thing is for them to settle. You have heard it from my husband and that is the truth.
If you take a cursory look at our society, the rate of divorce is very alarming. What advice do you have for couples that could help them overcome the menace?
Husband: Everything starts before you take yourselves to the altar. One thing I think is re- sponsible for divorce is the fact that we now exaggerate ourselves than who we think we are, even before we get into marriage. By the time you get into marriage, then you will discover that this is not who you really are. The husband would see his wife and say: ‘so, this is who you are?’ I think before going to the altar, we should be open and sincere with ourselves. It is good to open up and actually tell ourselves and say ‘this is who I am’ and find out whether your partner can cope with that. Love, they say, is blind. But I believe that it is always good to prayerfully consider who you want to spend your entire life with.
Wife: My husband has spoken a lot on this and I would not want to repeat what he said in another way. But if you are a woman that wants to stay in a marriage, you must be ready to be submissive to your husband. And you must know that you have not married him alone. You have also married his family. His parents took very good care of him before you met him. Therefore, don’t behave as if you don’t want to see around you, your husband›s siblings and parents. Infidelity is a sin you must abstain from because it may break your home. Above all, get to know your man very well before the marriage vow. Husband too should not abuse their wives; instead, they should respect and love them.