A renowned educationist and emeritus Professor, Pius Augustine Ike (PAI) Obanya and his elegant wife, Mrs. Charlotte Obanya, have come a long way in their love journey. Fifty-one years of graceful marital life is certainly not a mere feat. In this interview with JOB OSAZUWA, the couple went down memory lane to reveal how they have consistently nurtured their love and metamorphosed to become best of friends.
When did you marry?
Husband: We got married on January 16, 1968. That is not too long ago (general laughter!)
What attracted you to each other?
Wife: Well, as far as I can remember, I saw a gentleman in the man I was going to spend the rest of my life with. So it was not difficult for me to accept him. I didn’t choose him because he had a car or so much money but for whom he was.
Husband (cuts in): Where did you expect me to get the car from then? It was love deep inside. It was far more beyond the surface. She was the right person for me and thank God that l went for her.
Were there oppositions from your families against the union?
Wife: There was none from my side.
Husband: There was no single opposition from my family either.
How has the journey been for five decades?
Husband: We have been married for 51 years and it has been fantastic. We married as friends and she will be 80 next August. So, she is my girlfriend. We gained admission to University of Ibadabn (UI) the same day and registered the same day, and for the same courses. But she graduated before me because I had to major in French. And I continued with higher degrees. So, I was at the university for straight seven years. We have been two sides of the same coin.
Did you date anyone before you got married?
Husband: What would I be doing with the lady? I didn’t know what women were like until I got to the university where I met the lady who is now my wife and who was my classmate. I was a virgin. Look, I was too concentrated on my goal to become a better person in future. For that reason, I couldn’t have the time to start running after women.
How old were you then?
Husband: I was already 25. If I had any girlfriend, there would have been a distraction in my study and focus in life. I think it was not uncommon in my time to face your study and work, so there is nothing to brag about. If you have to live a hard life to become somebody great in life, a woman will be the least thing you will think of.
Have you ever got angry and hit your wife?
Husband: I have not even hit my enemies let alone my dear wife. God forbid. I can’t do that.
Wife: My husband is very correct. We have been living peacefully till date. He didn’t beat our children too. He has other ways of disciplining and correcting them without resorting to hitting or shouting.
Who decides how the money is spent in the house?
Wife: Both of us decide how money that comes in is judiciously expended. There has never been any conflict about this and there can never be.
Husband: She is right. Well, we don’t have plenty of money, so there is no quarrel on how it is used. Plenty of money is the only thing I don’t have and that is what I don’t pray to have. I became a professor in 1979 and retired in 1986. I worked at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and I retired as a Regional Director for Education in December 1999. Even when I was the Assistant Director General for Education in Africa for eleven and a half years, I was not there to enrich my pockets. I was there serving the African citizens and not to steal the money meant for them. I achieved whatever I achieved in life as a result of hard work.
What strategies have you adopted in successfully running your home?
Husband: When you get married, you must believe in partnership. It is all about give and take. It is when it becomes one-sided that issues might arise. We have always developed our ideas together. I was not always around when we built this our house. My wife did most of the work. I am grateful to God for giving me this kind of woman. Most times, we give same suggestions or answers to questions, even if we are asked separately.
Wife: I have never been left in the dark about his plans. There is no show of strength from him and that makes me to respect him the more. He has always carried me along when major decision is taken.
What do you respect most in your partner?
Wife: He is straightforward. Whatever he tells you, you can go to the bank with it. He respects me a lot. He has made me to trust him over the years. Displaying all these, I have no excuse not to reciprocate.
Have you ever caught your husband or suspect him of having an affair with another woman?
Wife: I have never thought of it. I don’t really bother myself about it because I have no cause to do so. I don’t allow people to bring such gossips to me. His ways are too straightforward to a fault. When he tells you he is going to work, he goes straight to work.
What could be the best ways to raise children?
Husband: The most important thing is that you as the parents must live by example. Your character, behaviour, values and everything should be passed across to the children. It is not that you preach one thing to them and you end up doing another thing. Education is the real thing. When I said education, it is not simply going to school but in terms of character-moulding and devotion to hard work.
Wife: I have taught my children to know that life is not a bed of roses. I believe in success through perseverance. My children appreciated the culture of hard work that we promote in our home. In addition, we don’t joke with morals. If my child told me then that he or she saw a pencil somewhere, I would tell him or her to take it back immediately because it belongs to somebody. Overtime, the children grew up and got used to these principles and they appreciate it today.
How do you resolve your differences?
Wife: It is unfortunate that in many homes, some of the partners are too proud to say that they are sorry when one offends the other. There is nobody that is an angel. Occasionally, misunderstanding can come; all you need to do is to tender an apology. Whoever feels by conviction that he or she is wrong, should be humble enough to say I am sorry. There is really no big deal in it. If I am the one who is wrong, I will go on my knees and say I am sorry; if he is the one, he will kiss my cheek and say I am sorry. That is what we have been doing.
Husband: Disagreement on principles or issues doesn’t mean that there is a misunderstanding. It means that you both have different perspectives to an issue. But when you open up discussion, you will be able to reach a consensus. And whoever is not prepared or ready to say I am sorry is not prepared to learn. This is applicable to every other area in life.
What is your advice for young couples and intending couples?
Husband: You must marry for love. Love grows with time as you begin to share. Note that it is because you love that you share, and because you share, you understand each other more. Then understanding and proximity follow. Before you know what is happening, you become one. You begin to think and behave alike without even knowing it. A young man who just got married should stop being a guy. A guy is always gallivanting, forgetting that he is now a man with a responsibility. As you are devoted to your work, you must be devoted to your home as well.
Wife: My advice to young people, especially ladies is for them not to marry another man in the man they have married. What I mean is that a lady should not be comparing her husband with some other men and wishing him to act exactly as other men do. Take him as he is and help him to improve on his areas of weakness. Wives shouldn’t be making unnecessary demands and endeavour to do away with much acquisitive instincts. When your husband is not buoyant, you should know and understand the situation.