Chief (Sir) and Lady Kevin Uwanuakwa Obieri (Agujiegbe Akokwa) are chartered accountants with their own firm located respectively in Onitsha and Abuja. The man, first Chairman of the Onitsha District Society of Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) and his amiable wife started their love journey in Aba before getting married in Edo State in 1994. In this interview with JEFF AMECHI OGBODO in Onitsha, Anambra State, the couple shared the secrets of their successful marriage, blessed with three children: a boy and two girls. Excerpts:
While we thank God for keeping you together as husband and wife, all these years, could you tell us how you met before you got married?
Husband: We were neighbours at Aba. We grew up in the same environment though I was much older. I always saw her as a young girl. We lived together on the same street. Mine was No. 6 Bright Street while hers was No. 4. The street is located in Ogbor Hill, Aba. But at some point, I had to leave Aba for Calabar to do my university education. I later lived in Owerri. But when I wanted to marry, I had to go back to my base in Aba to look for her. Incidentally, she had then finished her secondary school education. By the time I approached her for marriage in 1992, I was already a chartered accountant. Her story is unique. Since we married, she had been able to complete her HND, B. Sc; M. Sc and, has qualified as a chartered accountant. At present, she is reading for her PhD. She is also working in our firm; in fact, she is a partner in the firm.
Wife: My story is not too different from his. We were born in Aba. The story my mum told me was that when I was delivered with my twin sister, he came with his mother to visit us and while at it, he jokingly told my mother that he would marry one of us. So, from that day, any time my mum saw him, she would say: “Ifeoma (meaning me), see your husband.” So, it started like a joke until he came and asked my hand in marriage. From there, it became a reality and here we are today.
What was the attraction?
Husband: You know when you see twins it is a beautiful thing to have. I was in secondary school when they were born and I went to see them with my mother and I loved her. And, from then the love continued until it became a reality.
Wife: I married as a young girl. They usually called him ‘Decency’ and he was always neat, he still is. He has a good composure and he is a gentleman. So these were the qualities I believed attracted me to him.
Was there any form of opposition to the marriage from either family?
Husband: Yes, there was opposition from both my side and her side. On my side, my mother could not understand how someone like me who finished from the university and became a chartered accountant could descend so low to marry a secondary school certificate holder when there are lawyers and medical doctors out there. So, for that reason, she opposed the marriage. Actually, she opposed it for two reasons: one, because of the age difference between us, and two, because of the gap in our educational attainments. But I told her, sorry, that is my choice. Interestingly, my father-in-law too opposed it for the same reasons. Only my mother in-law who knew how the thing started was the only supporter of the marriage and she fought for us. I trained as a chartered accountant. When I was training, it wasn’t easy. They knew me as someone who usually stayed in hotels most of the time. People misconstrued that to mean that I was trying to show off my wealth. For that, they regarded me as wayward and as someone who would not be able to keep a home because in their thinking, I had become used to hotel foods. What they didn’t know was that I was writing exams and needed a quieter place to stay to read. I wasn’t into the high life thing of the place. Her mother continued to soften the ground for us until our marriage became a reality. We wedded on December 10, 1994 at St. Paul Cathedral Church, Benin City, Edo State. This firm, we started it together. She trained as a typist in my firm and while there, she was going for further studies on part-time basis.
Wife: Yes, there was opposition. My parents, especially my father was looking at what the man had to offer his daughter. And you know one thing with our mentality, at the time he came to marry me, there were other suitors on the queue seeking my hands in marriage. Opposition came especially from my father, but by God’s grace we were able to conquer.
How did you propose to her? What exactly did you say to her as to make her accept to marry you?
Husband: I didn’t just go to her. Before then I had made attempts to marry but each of them failed for one reason or the other. So, along the line her memory continued to ring a bell in my mind. So, I told my friend who lived in Port Harcourt at that time that I would go and marry the girl. He asked me: how can you marry a girl that was about to complete her school cert. I said that’s it. We had to go but before then I had to visit her. As I was coming to see my mother, I saw her standing in front of her house. So, I approached her and called her by name and said, “Ife, I’m going to marry you.” She said no problem.
What did you say when he proposed? What exactly did he say and what was your reply?
Wife: We have been friends before the marriage and he was like a brother to me. So, when he came and told me that he would marry me, I didn’t see it as anything because I didn’t know he was serious. I just told him okay, there is no problem. But when I realized that he was serious about the marriage, I became a bit confused. I thought it was a normal play thing we were all used to. At a time, I began to have double mind about the marriage but as God would have it here we are today as husband and wife.
What do you remember most about your wedding?
Husband: I was working with a European company called Presco Plc in Benin City. We had a plantation where we lived, about 40 kilometres from Benin. You know, to White people, wedding is not a big deal. I was mindful of that. So, I had to invite my friends at St. Paul’s Cathedral Catholic Church, Benin City. We just had our mass and wedding and we drove back to the plantation along Warri – Sapele Road. We dressed our house and the surroundings and set up food and we ate; that’s all; that is a cocktail. So our guests were eating and discussing and, at the end, the company gave us rooms in that place and most of our guests slept. And, in the morning, we had breakfast with them. It was like a European thing. We didn’t have bridesmaid or best man and all those bridal train, no, because of the environment. The fact that you are marrying should not be something you should go out there and be making noise about as far as they are concerned. Not that the White people told me anything but I was mindful of the environment where I was. My wife was cooperative because she was quite young. Both parents came but everybody played along with us and that was the reason I was able to organize a party after the wedding.
Wife: Our wedding was a cocktail wedding. It was very unique because during my wedding I didn’t have a bridesmaid and my husband didn’t have a best man. We didn’t hire a hall. We just went to the church and after church service we came back and had a cocktail party with some of our friends that came. Nothing much happened during our wedding.
Could you remember your first misunderstanding in your marriage and how did you handle or resolve it?
Husband: I can’t remember the first but I know that we always had quarrels, which is normal between two persons living together. The most important thing is that we settle it. There must be misunderstanding between wives and husbands, friends, neighbours etc; it is normal. We work in the same firm and we normally disagree on certain issues but we later agree; such is life. We see it as a brother-and-sister disagreement, especially when she is the younger in age than I am. I had to take time to explain to her a lot of things. At times, she may not understand it that way and might consult some other people. But at the end, we would come back to the round table to agree.
Wife: I can’t remember anyone. I’m somebody who doesn’t keep something in mind for long. I can’t remember what happened about 26 years ago. If we had any disagreement, it would be resolved that day.
What do you like most about your spouse?
Husband: The spirit of youthful exuberance and other issues that come with it and she used to be inexperienced. So, anything you wanted to do, you would need to convince her. That ability to convince her provides me with a lot of experimental plain. Her ability to ask questions and adapt, that is why we have come this far.
Wife: He is a good man that respects God. The most important thing for you is to respect God and have time for Him. Anybody that has time for God has everything. He is loyal to his family; he’s always available. He is not the type that stays late to enjoy with friends. Once he’s done with his daily activities, he would come home and have a good time with the family. So, I like him for those attributes and it’s quite commendable. I appreciate him for that.
What is the cause of marriage failure these days, and what advice do you have for young and prospective couples?
Husband: Most young people see marriage as a means to better their lives. If you are poor, you look for a rich man or rich ladies. But those things scatter marriages because people have their intentions. If two people can come together because of love and affection, that is it. We didn’t go for this lab test that couples normally go for now, the HIV/AIDS and genotype test. We just married and up till now we don’t bother ourselves about it. People should marry naturally and marry without attaching anything to it. But, today parents would start selecting for their daughters or the rich man for his son. So, marriage has other ingredients that are not supposed to be there. By the time you go in and those things that you are looking for are not there, you begin to fight. Some parents have not trained their children to adapt to some situations. People want ready-made homes. As long as people are not prepared to contribute to the success of the marriage it will continue to have problem. My advice is: couples should marry for love, if you don’t marry for love, be prepared to engender that love which was not there when you came in. Try to contribute to the system to make sure you make an impact.
Wife: When I married my husband, if I tell you that I loved him I would be telling you a lie. I didn’t know what marriage was all about. But I was determined to go into the marriage because I was promised that I would complete my education. I didn’t go into marriage to make money or for him to buy a car for me. No. When we met, I didn’t even know that he was working with a European company. I didn’t know his house until I married him. I said let me just go into this marriage and that faith has continued to sustain me. I have worked hard to continue with my education to this level. It is not easy for me to combine family, my children, my school, work and other things. Like he said, work in his firm. I have to ensure that I work hard to put food on the table and not to wait until my husband does that. It is a big challenge for me. So, my advice is one: don’t have too much expectation; don’t compare your wife or husband to any other person. Work hard. Don’t depend on your husband for everything because most men don’t want a woman who is lazy. Make sure you keep your home clean and godly. Hard work pays. Don’t depend on your husband for everything.