His Royal Highness, Eze Dr. Raphel Amanze Ofonze, Ezedike II of Isiokpo Ancient Kingdom, Ideato North, Imo State, former member Imo State Council of traditional rulers representing Ideato North, former Deputy Chairman, Orlu zonal council of traditional rulers and former Chairman, Ideato North Council of Traditional Rulers, Knight of St Mulumba is married to Ugoeze Euphemia Adaku Ofonze and for the past 50 years they have lived together as husband and wife. In this interview with STANLEY UZOARU and AMAKA UKOHA, they shared their experiences and the secret behind their long-lasting marriage. Excerpts:
Tell us a little about yourself
Husband: My name is HRH Eze Dr. Raphel Amanze Ofonze, I am the traditional ruler of Isiokpo Autonomous Community in Ideato North L.G.A. in Imo State.
How has it been these fifty years of marriage?
Husband: Our 50 years in marriage have been very smooth though we had some delays in childbearing few years after our marriage.
When did you meet your wife?
Husband: I met my wife in the year 1967, around the month of November, in our village during the war. I was engaged in buying and selling of salt, cigarettes, provisions and every other scarce item during the war, from Nigeria to Biafra. The only currency as at then was the Nigerian currency that could be used in both Biafra and Nigeria as a valid currency in 1968. My wife was also trading. She was one of the customers that were bringing coins to me in exchange for Biafran currency.
What attracted you to her?
Husband: Her honesty, hard work and commitment to business because I believe in manners. She has good manners.
When you approached her what was her reactions?
Husband: She said she would think about it. As we continue doing business, I approached her again and she consented.
How did your parents react when he came to you?
Wife: My parents welcomed him. There was no hesitation because we already knew each other and we came from the same area.
Differences are bound to occur in marriage, how did you handle yours?
Husband: In our own case, I believe it is God’s making for we never had any differences that attracted our parents or any member of the extended families. I can say that our marriage is blessed by God despite those years we waited on him for fruits of the womb and He never failed us.
How did you feel during the period of childlessness?
Wife: I was somehow worried but I prayed and believed in God’s time.
Husband: My feeling was that we are Christians and God, in His infinite mercy, would do it at His appointed time.
What was your secret?
Husband: Understanding, trust and faith in God. We believed in God. We believed each other, trusted in God and worked together for a common interest, having come from the same cultural background.
Having come from the same cultural background, what was your experience in the relationship?
Husband: Having the same customs and tradition, it was fun. We both know and observe the dos and don’ts of our village, our marriage was unique. There was nothing like disrespect because we know each other. That’s why I said that our marriage is ordained by God.
How do you describe marriage having been in it for 50 years?
Husband: Marriage is the coming together of a man and a woman to chart a common course by believing in each other and accepting it where it cannot be corrected. As Christians, the two have been bound together as one, to raise children and bring them up in the fear of God, so as to make good homes and to respect customs and traditions of our community.
What do you think causes divorce in some homes?
Husband: Lack of trust, understanding, faith and not believing that God is at the centre of each marriage. Distrust and lack of understanding and bad companies by both husband and wife can also lead to divorce. Not living within one’s means can also lead to that. Sometimes, during the dating period, the man at the beginning might have posed to be a millionaire and this made the lady to be attracted to him. Then, when she comes in and did not see the affluence, trouble begins. Secondly, bad and greedy parents are the causes of break-ups in marriage especially, where there is delay in childbearing.
What advice do you have for couples on how to have a successful marriage?
Husband: Believe in each other, trust each other, more importantly believe and trust in God. Be yourselves not others, and cut your cloth according to your size. Pray together, share each other’s problems or difficulties and resolve it yourselves, avoid a third party, be it who. If you adhere to this, marriage will be successful. There is nowhere differences cannot come but the ability to handle it without involving a third party makes the couple to have a successful married life.
How do you feel celebrating your marriage at 50?
Husband: I feel so happy. I thank God for his infinite mercy in keeping our marriage successful. I thank especially our late parents for their support and love they exhibited during their lifetime for our marriage to succeed. To God be the glory.
Wife: I am so grateful to God for keeping us alive and blessing us with children despite earlier challenges. Our unbreakable love is more of spiritual. We, therefore, thank God for everything.