For 37 years, Shola Oshunkeye and his wife Funsho have been together as husband and wife. Oshunkeye, 2006 CNN African Journalist, was the MD of The Sun (Ghana) and upon retirement became president of the newly established The Crest, an online news media. His wife is the proprietress of Cretch Nursery and Primary School, Ayobo, Lagos.
In this interview with VIVIAN ONYEBUKWA, they shared their marriage experiences with her.
How did it all start?
Husband: We got married in 1981. We are 37 years in marriage after a five-year courtship. The courtship began inside Abiodun Wright market, off Nnobi Street, Surulere, Lagos on one wet Saturday in 1977. I used to go to the market on Saturdays. Then I was working with Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute, Apapa, Lagos. On that fateful day, I went to the market to buy things to prepare a soup. I had finished buying my stuff and was about leaving the market when I saw this young, slim, beautiful girl holding a black nylon bag. Apparently, she had come to the market to buy things. To attract her attention, I told her to help me price fish and she did. And I bought the fish I didn’t need.
After that, I still followed her and we saw the woman that was selling Maggi cube. I made her pay for it with her money, and the conversation started. I am from Ilesa, Osun State, and she is from Isan, in Ekiti State. Every Saturday I would target the time she would come to the market. It went on and on. That’s how the courtship started.
What was the attraction?
Husband: She was a slim, dark complexioned, beautiful lady, very simple yet elegant. I felt I needed to follow her up. Surulere then was something else when it comes to boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. It was difficult to get someone with the attributes I described.
Wife: He was handsome, slim and tall, with an afro hairstyle. When he told me his name is Shola Oshunkeye and I am Funsho Osunleye, I said this is the man.
I usually went to the market with my brother, but I told him I would be able to buy things so he would let me go alone. I told him that he should just write whatever he wanted me to buy. This allowed me to be able to talk to him. One day, I asked him to visit me. He came with his friends, Chuba and Emeka. I had confided in my brother’s girlfriend. Unknown to me, she had told my brother who pretended that he was travelling.
Not long after my visitors came in, I heard a knock, and it was my brother. After I greeted him, he asked who those people were and who among them was Shola. I fearfully pointed at him. They got up and wanted to leave but my brother refused and started chatting with them. I didn’t know that my brother had planned it with his girlfriend. He asked Shola to come and see him the next day. He liked him and took him as his younger brother. He was virtually living in my house and my brother told him to take me as his younger sister. He was my first boyfriend and he married me a virgin.
What are some of the challenges you have encountered in this marriage?
Husband: The challenge was at the initial stage when we had two little kids. We got married when we were in a one-room apartment in Shomolu because two of us came from a lowly background. The room was tiny. Our bed was a one-sided bed, good for only one person but that’s the bed we were managing. My younger brother was living with us. The only girl among us in my family was also living with us, training as a nurse in Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). Imagine four adults living in one room. That’s where we had our first child before we were able to rent a room and a parlour somewhere at Idi Araba. In that one room, we had one table, one double chair, a fan and a small television. After my National Youth Service in 1984, I was posted to Ilorin to what later became the headquarters of the Nigerian Store Product Research Institute. It was from the Ilorin posting that God elevated us to a five-bedroom apartment. We had an official car and two official guards.
Wife: For me that grew up in Surulere, it was a bit difficult to cope. They always abused me that my type lived in Ikoyi or Surulere. The one room was divided with a curtain. He accommodates people a lot. He is there for everybody even my own relations.
Did anyone oppose the marriage?
Wife: Initially, my father insisted that I must marry from my town––a town I never lived in. People rarely believe I am from Ekiti. But my husband was ever there for my father until he died at the age of 102. My husband is closer to my people than I am.
Is there anything your husband does that you dislike?
Wife: When a man pays more attention to his work than his home, I don’t think any woman enjoys it.
What do you hate about journalists?
Wife: My husband has no time to relax and we had no time to sit as husband and wife. Once the job goes into his bloodstream it does not leave him. That’s why people ask if journalists retire because I don’t see them retire.
What is it that you dislike about your wife?
Husband: There are differences that I see in her that I can’t exorcise. The strongest one is at the initial stage, I thought she was stubborn but she said she is principled, not stubborn, but I have accepted that. I will not force her to see things from my perspective and vice versa, but in every situation, there is always a middle course and that brings peace.
Do you have pet names for each other?
(Both): No, we call each other by first names, except that one aunt corrected us because someone came to visit us and our first son was calling us “Funsho, Shola someone is looking for you”. That was when we started calling each other “Babae” and “Mamae” and our first son started calling us this when he grew up.
Wife: I don’t believe in the darling, honey thing. It is deceptive.
Husband: In our younger days in this relationship, there was one of my friends that any time he saw my wife he would call her “Fuminishow”. So I call her that when I am happy, not that I am not happy with her always.
What has kept this marriage?
Husband: When I was the MD, The Sun, Ghana, I would leave home for three months and still had that trust and confidence that she was there for me. She is a no-nonsense woman, strongly opinionated. It is the extremely patience man or woman that can milk a lioness, so in marriage, there should be lots of patience.
When the children were growing, if she were correcting a child I would not oppose and vice versa, even if our methods were not acceptable to each other. It has really helped us. The children are all grown up and established. Limiting external influence and interventions is also another key to the success of our marriage.
Do you still sleep together after 37 years of marriage?
Husband: Yes, we do. She is just 57 and I am 62. I don’t have any debilitating disease that can hinder my libido. I am young in my mind, body, spirit and intellect, so my sex life is still active, but may not be as when I was 25 or 30, but as a 62-year-old, I am above average.
Wife: The moment you lose appetite for sex, doctors become your friend.
How do you know when he is angry?
Wife: I know when he is angry. When he comes home and he is angry, when you greet him and he is not his usual self, I have to check it. When he is happy, he would be whistling, singing as he comes. When he is angry and you are talking to him he becomes monosyllabic. What I do is to try to find out what the problem is, offer him food. When his mind comes down, he would start talking to you. Just let him settle down, he would now be the one to start telling you what happened.
How do you say “sorry” to each other?
Husband: Sorry is essential in marriage but unfortunately, I am still learning how to say sorry. When she gets angry, she too snaps just as myself. When we were younger and we were angry, our roof was usually on fire, but age has tempered us. I am still learning how to say sorry in my nice ways and I will continue to learn.
Wife: He has the attitude of “The king does no wrong, whatever he does is right”, instead of saying sorry. In our younger age, he uses sex to say sorry.
Husband: We go out to the cinema and eat out, by the time we are done with that, everybody is smiling home.
What’s your advice to couples?
Husband: My father used to advise that you should never starve a woman with money. Try and meet your needs as a man, a woman is just a helper and not to pick your bills. Always pray to God and be in charge of your home in meeting your challenges as a husband.