For Mr. and Mrs. Aiwerioghene Okungbowa, their journey into marriage was a nervous one because of the opposition from the bridegroom’s parents. But they stood their ground and love prevailed. And, for over 30 years since they married that has been the case. In this interview with PAUL OSUYI in Asaba, Okungbowa, a native of Benin, Edo State and a practising journalist in Delta State and his wife, Josephine, from Esan-speaking part of Edo State share their experiences and how they came out stronger in love for each other. Excerpts!
Can you tell us how you met your wife before you got married?
Husband: We met sometime in Warri in 1988. I think it was in November or December. I just got out of school and was through with my youth service then, and was working at a supermarket, Esco Super Market at Enerhen junction. I remember that day, I think she walked into the supermarket. She used to work in DSC then. DSC was a pretty big federal government concern in Warri, employing quite a number of persons. So she was coming into the supermarket and I saw her from afar. And I liked her because of her athletic nature. When she was making rounds looking for something to buy, I think I walked quietly to her, and started a conversation. One thing led to the other and this is where we are today.
Is the story exactly the same or do you have details to add?
Wife: When I got into the supermarket, I was holding a newspaper which I bought. He took it from me. I was now wondering what will make this man collect the newspaper from my hand. I was thinking he was an Igbo man because he is big. I would not want anything to do with Igbo. I now went round the supermarket and bought what I wanted to buy, and came out to tell him that I was about leaving, that he should give me back my newspaper. He started asking where I was staying, I now gave him my address. He came over and that was how the journey started.
Was there any form of opposition from anywhere, either from parents, relatives or friends?
Husband: Certainly, from my parents and from my sisters because I have many sisters. They felt it was not just ripe for me. I was 24-years-old then. They felt it was not ripe for me to get into marriage. In fact, my father scoffed at the idea and told me that my elder brother has not married and it is traditional to ensure that the first son married before any other sibling. It got to a level where my sister because I was staying with my sister in Warri, it was a court marriage, they actually went to court to stop it but for whatever reason, they did not succeed. You know the marriage advert is usually placed on the board for three weeks, and if nobody counters it, the marriage goes ahead. She actually went to do it but for whatever reason, she missed that notice, and no objection was raised. Marriage was done. And everything went well.
From your side, was there any opposition?
Wife: Not really.
What made you go for her despite the several ladies that flocked around you at the time?
Husband: Like I told you, I liked her because she was very shapely, and she is still very shapely till today. She was an avid sports person; she used to be a lawn-tennis star in DSC, and even in Warri Club. I liked her because of her shape and of course she was very athletic. She is very homely and warm. You meet a lady for the first time, she either turns you off or you both strike it off perfectly. So the major reason I chose her was her homeliness, her warmth, and the fact that she has a good heart. And I thought she will be a good wife, and it has not turned out differently all these years. We have worked together, it is not as if we have not had our differences but we usually make it up every time but credit goes to her because she is the peacemaker, me I am a little difficult to handle; I am not a cantankerous person though. Credit goes to her for keeping the marriage.
What were the qualities you found in him that made you chose him over and above other available suitors?
Wife: He was kind of a built; I really loved that kind of physique. At least, if there is any gbege (trouble) outside, he can defend me… (laughs)… And he is kind of, I am not saying he is quiet, he is not a quiet person, he is a troublesome man but there is this kind of quiet nature I saw. Deep down, I knew that he is not quiet but he is a peaceful person.
How did you propose?
Husband: Our courtship did not actually last long; it was three months. And when we started out, we were very young and enjoying life.
Can you remember the exact words you used to propose to her?
Husband: It was not a formal proposal like a man making it very formal but we knew that we loved each other. We lived with each for those three months and there was no mistaking the fact; it was very easy to see that we were made for each other. When we both thought we had to get married, we began to make preparations towards that. It was psychic thing, we just knew that we were meant for each other; there was no need to start vocalizing it. We just went ahead to make preparations and that was it.
What do you remember most during the wedding ceremony?
Husband: It was a very short one, and I was a little nervous because of the opposition from all sides. We forged ahead, there was one of her co-workers, he is a tough politician today. They were our mentor, and they are married for over forty years today, and they are still in marriage. They were the ones that encouraged us and stood by us. He, Mr. Solomon Alla is his name, told us that if we loved each other, nothing stops us from going ahead to get married, that he will support us.
Wife: What I remember about that day was, that time there was not much cash; our dressing was somehow (laughs).
Husband (cuts in): It was simple. The truth was that we were poor. Even though she was working, she was earning about N300.00 or N400.00. I just finished serving and working somewhere and the pay was just N200.00. It was really tough. It was a quiet, short ceremony. It happened in Warri South Local Government Council. I remember that day I was full of nerves because of the opposition, and the fact that we were getting into something that we don’t know how it will end. But we were strong in love, and that was what guided us. That was the strong support we had, and we damned every other consequence.
Since you got married up till now, what do you like most about him?
Wife: He is caring and supportive
What do you like most about her?
Husband: She has never changed; she has always been a pillar of support to the family. It is not as if we do not have our faults but if you want to score her on a scale of zero to ten, she will come out with A. There is love; she is a devoted mother and wife.
Can you remember your first misunderstanding in marriage and how you resolved it?
Husband: I can’t forget; it was in Warri. I can’t remember what triggered the domestic quarrel but I know that I got a little physical. And that was the very first time; that was like two, three years into the marriage. It was really tough then because we were really broke. That is not the reason why we had that misunderstanding anyway. It was just man-wife issue, like I told you; I have forgotten the exact details…
Wife (cuts in): It was anger. I don’t know what happened, whether he hit me, I just collapsed.
How did you resolve the issue?
Husband: Usually, the major thing that has kept us is credit to her, like I said, she is always going to keep the family. Everything we have done, we have understood that a third party will not come into it; we must resolve issues on our own, and that is what we have always done. We usually resolve our problems between us, no other person comes in.
Wife: I observe people. I was just observing but I don’t know how I fell into that trap. One thing I know, I try to avoid that area where I know that if I touch, it will backfire, so I try to avoid that area with wisdom. There are certain things or certain words I can’t say. There are certain areas he does not like; I just try to avoid those areas.
What advice do you have for bachelors intending to get married?
Husband: They should obey their hearts because if you do not obey your innermost desires, you are likely to go wrong, and the woman, it depends on the man’s standard. I prefer a homely wife and I saw those qualities in her. So any man that is going to get married must be very honest with himself and look for a woman who will support him whether in sickness or in good health, whether in riches or poverty. Young people, these days should listen to their hearts, no other thing. Every other thing you do, you listen to any other consideration apart from the fact that you are in love, that marriage is going to run into turbulence over time.
What advice do you have spinsters intending to go into marriage?
Wife: Number one, they should love God, allow God to take over their marriage. Without God you can’t find peace anywhere. It is God that leads and directs. And also if you are into a marriage, concentrate on the areas that the man is good; nobody is perfect. Concentrate on the good areas and forget about the negative aspects. And learn to be committed to whatever you are doing and be loving. The man may not love but just be committed and play your part, and it will come out well.
In the light of rampant cases of divorce, from your own personal experiences, what piece of advice do you have for newly married couples on how to sustain their marriage?
Husband: They should not live beyond their means; you cut your coat according to your cloth. I think that is one of the reasons why marriages run into problems. Financially, that is a problem. Now if you are unable to deal with the financial issues that come with marriage, you are going to have a problem. But if you understand that you must live within your means, you are not going to have too much problems. When we started out, we did not have anything, and midway into the marriage, it was even tougher, very tough for like three, four years. Like I told you, she was working at DSC, they were owed for like three years, when the money was paid, we found out that we did not owe anybody because we lived within our means. Other families almost mortgaged all the monies they gave to them, those monies went back to money lenders, but we kept every single bit of it. So the advice is: live within your means and love your family. Men in marriages should actually work hard to provide for the family; that is important. A lazy man is a curse to a family, so a man must be up and doing; he must really show that he is the man of the house and provide for his family. Anything outside that, the man is not fit to be called a man.
Wife: Everybody should be moderate; in whatever you are doing there should be moderation. The woman should be able to endure and hold on to God, believing that whatever they are passing through is a phase, and through God you can weather through and at the end of the day, there will be testimony. They should be patient in whatever they are doing and learn to understand each other and be able to overcome any challenge.