Oyebanji Olajuyin, an ear, nose and throat surgeon, and a medical linguistic researcher and writer from Ekiti State. is married to Funmilola, a schoolteacher and expert in guidance and counsellor. Their 35-year-old union is blessed with two male children, who are all medical doctors today. In this interview with PRISCILLA EDIARE, at their residence in Ikere-Ekiti, the couple shared the secrets that have helped to sustain their union, from the beginning till date, even as they gave some pieces of advice to intending and young couples as well as couples in general.
How did you meet before you decided to marry each other?
Oyebanji: I met her by chance in December 1981 during the Christmas holidays. I was strolling with a friend who is well known to her when we saw her going for a Christmas carol practice. The way and manner she greeted us, by kneeling down, showed that she was well cultured. From there, I concluded in my mind that she had not been exposed to social vices. I asked my friend if he knew whether she had a boyfriend. He laughed and said that was not possible, given the kind of disciplinarian father that she had. I decided that I would like to be a son-in-law to such a father. God was so kind that the following day, another friend of mine who is also related to her invited me to a party that took place in front of her father’s house. l arrived at the venue as early as possible, expecting to see her at the party. But throughout the party, she did not come there. I only sighted her at the balcony of her father’s house looking at the event going on. After some time, I did not see her again. I could not withstand the tension going on in me. Honestly, my mind was no longer in the party. It was such that at a point, I had to walk across to her house to have a conversation with her. I met her younger brother outside chatting with some friends and begged him to help me call her. She came out reluctantly, and when I told her that I had expected to see her at the party, she laughed and said she had never for once attended a night party. She said she was even about to sleep when my message reached her. She greeted me goodnight and went back inside. On one hand, I was happy that she was not a wayward girl. On the other, I was annoyed that she did not give me enough time to chat with her. So I went home that night with mixed feelings.
Funmilola: All that he said is true of how we met.
When you started, were there any opposing voices from any quarter?
Oyebanji: There were no opposing voices. And we courted for five years because then I was an undergraduate at the University of Ibadan, while she was a student of the College of Education, Ikere-Ekiti. Initially, when I started communicating with her via letters she did not reply me. But later she changed and started doing so.
Funmilola: There were no opposing voices but my father monitored me so much that whenever my husband came around our house, he would not ask for me but for my elder brother or pretend to be buying something. Not that my father didn’t like him, he was trying to ensure that we did it in the right way.
In your introduction, you said you became a Catholic by marriage. How come as the husband, you are the one attending your wife’s church after your wedding and not the other way round?
Oyebanji: I was born an Anglican and she a Catholic. But I became a Catholic by marriage. Normally, as the wife, she is supposed to be attending my church, after our wedding. But the reverse is the case here as I am the one attending her church. I am now a full-fledged member, even a Knight in the Catholic Church. What happened was that when I wanted to marry her, I was made to understand that before one could marry in the Catholic church, there were some things I must do like going to catechism class, confession and participating in conditional baptism. Before you can do conditional baptism, you have to go for catechism and do confession. During the confession, there were so many sins I confessed to have committed. They said without those rituals, I wouldn’t be able to marry her. Because I was determined to marry her, I had no choice, therefore, than to submit to them. After the confession, I felt light. I felt happy. That was when I decided I would continue with the faith. And, that was how I became a Catholic.
Aside those compulsory rituals, what did you do to make him agree to change from being an Anglican to a Catholic?
Funmilola: It was God’s doing. As he has always said, my attitude, behaviour and the way we worship in Catholic Church pleased him. He decided to join. And, ever since that day, he became a Catholic to the core. He has even been the one encouraging me to win more souls for Christ.
How exactly did you propose to her that got her convinced that you wanted her for marriage?
Oyebanji: I did it through letters. Then I was an undergraduate and was in my last session at the University of Ibadan and she was an NCE student. I told her I didn’t want her for a girlfriend but to be my wife.
Did you jump at his proposal or how did you receive it?
Funmilola: I thought over his words that he didn’t want me for a girlfriend but for a wife. Also, I studied him that he would be a serious-minded person, upright man, God-fearing, which is the beginning of wisdom. During the five or six years of courtship, we didn’t have sexual intercourse until after our traditional wedding. Whenever, we were on holidays in school, no matter the length of days we had, he would always come to my place after taking breakfast in his house. He would come to my room with big books (medical books) that he would be reading. And, he would also be doing his assignments there. He turned my room into a library. My house then was like a kilometre from his. My father was a building contractor and during holidays my siblings and I would go with him to work on sites in Akure, Ise-Emure, Ikere and other places. But my husband would be in my room reading without food until we come back in the evening. Whenever I got home I would be looking dirty with cement all over my body. But he would welcome me warmly, not minding the way I was looking. From there, I concluded that this must be a serious man. All those times, he was coming to my house, if my father was around, he would hide, and once he entered my room, he wouldn’t go out. My mum did not live with us. But my father didn’t know he was always there because he wasn’t used to coming to my room. And, if he wanted to send me on an errand he would knock on my door, and my husband would hide at the back of the door. As an adult, his parents thought he was always going out not knowing he was always coming to my place.
Can you remember your very first misunderstanding in marriage?
Oyebanji: It happened the day she gave my food to my younger sister. That day, after preparing the food, she asked me if I was ready to eat. I said no. But when my younger sister came, my wife gave my food to her. After she left, I asked her for my food and she said she had given it to my younger sister. I exclaimed, what! My head got sparked. The thing with her is that she can give whatever she has to anybody.
Funmilola: That day, I prepared his food. It was December period, and I asked him if he was ready to eat. He said he wasn’t. So when his younger sister came, I gave her the food. After his sister left, he requested for his food. I told him I gave it to his sister that when he was ready I would prepare another one. He became so annoyed that when I finished preparing another food, he refused to eat it until I begged him. Since that day, I learnt my lesson and never gave his food to anyone again. I prefer to keep his food than prepare another one.
How do you resolve your differences?
Oyebanji: Our quarrels have never gone beyond two hours. We don’t keep malice for too long because we eat the same food and sleep on the same bed. But the issue is that I don’t usually say sorry but I say sorry indirectly, and she decodes quickly. Let me explain. For example, if we were discussing a matter and misunderstanding set in, I would just keep quiet. When I want to settle it, I would revisit the matter. So, she knows that when I am discussing the matter again, it means I want to reconcile with her. I want to beg her indirectly. Another way is that I would deliberately look for where she was in the house or wait for when she is coming or wants to go and pick something in the room. Once I hear her footsteps, I would go and meet her and rub my hands on her or slap her buttocks. With that, she would know that I was in for a settlement. But if it is in the night, I would move closer to her, then she would also respond, and we make love.
Funmilola: We have always put God first in everything. Even when we have misunderstanding, we still put God in our minds. We put God at the centre of our marriage. We don’t allow our misunderstanding to enter the following day. What I do is to ask him what he would want to eat. He may ask me to prepare pounded yam. And, I would prepare it for him; we eat together. From there, we would apologise to each other. Meanwhile, if there was no misunderstanding and he asked me to prepare pounded yam, at times, I would say it was better he took eba or amala or any other food because I am tired.
With the increasing rate of divorce, what advice do you have for young couples and those contemplating divorce?
Oyebanji: First, they should be gainfully employed and ensure that they engage in legitimate business or things that can bring them good income. In my own case, I was doing some petty jobs to sustain my family. But immediately I completed my education,, I got a full-time employment because once you are married you are on your own. Couples should be contented with whatever they have and try and help each other. They should learn how to save. They should desist from committing adultery because the rate of adultery is very high and seriously affecting marriages. The wife should be submissive and the husband should love his wife. Divorcing each other won’t lead them anywhere; in fact, it is not the best solution to whatever issue they have.
Funmilola: They should try and understand each other. The wife should be submissive while the husband should love his wife dearly. They should understand that they are from different backgrounds. So, coming together to become one is not a day’s job; it requires understanding and love. Good communication is very essential in marriage. Both should always engage in healthy communication and listen to each other’s opinion. They should be prayerful and prevent whatever that can lead to any breakdown. For those nursing the thought of divorce, I will recommend that they call each other and discuss what they think are the possible reasons they want to go, and resolve them. They should not be shy or proud in taking this step.