How has living together for 25 years been with you?
Husband: The journey has been exciting, it has been challenging. There have been difficult moments, there have been challenging moments; we have had mountain top experience, we have had the valley experience, we have had in between experience. It has been good, sometimes bad, it has been quite rewarding, and we have been better than when we started.
How did it all begin?
Husband: We come from the same place, Okrika in Rivers State. We attended the same church, we grew up together and because we grew up together; we have always known each other. We were friends. When it was time to make the decision about whom I wanted to marry, I made up my mind that I was going to marry my friend. We attended the same church far back as young people and we were in the same church in the village. But, you know we went our separate ways, but we kept touch and we knew where each person was; we got born again at some point in time and when it came to the time to make a decision, our friendship counted for us. So, it was something we didn’t have to fight over.
What was your reaction when he proposed to you?
Wife: I am sure he must have told you that a lot of things went on, because we were friends for a long time and I could not say no. I really liked him, I didn’t give it a second thought.
Was she the only female friend?
Husband: Oh no, I had several female friends
So, what made you settle for her out of the ring?
Husband: Firstly, I am an easy- going person, I take things for granted; I can let you cheat me and get away with it. I don’t make too much trouble at all. But I knew my wife as someone who is very serious -minded and someone that can package me. You have your weaknesses and you know yourself, I know myself and I know I am a very stubborn person by nature. So, I needed someone who can talk me through my decisions when they are wrong, I needed someone who can package me and hold and say: “Boy, don’t do this.” Someone who is not a “yes sir” person. Not someone who will clap her hands at whatever I do, someone who will also give me her perspective, because I have always known her to be a reasonable person, so I needed that in my life.
Did she know that you had this soft spot for her, till the point of marriage?
Husband: Oh, she knew, we did not pretend about it. She knew that I had a soft spot for her. I had told her that if I was going to marry, she would be my wife. I grew up as a young man who knew what he wanted from day one, growing up on the family; several boys and girls; I knew I wanted to marry her. You know women tend to develop faster, so many suitors came for her; but over time we had stayed in touch and remained friends. I consistently told her that when I am able, I am coming to marry you; she gave me her opportunity.
What were you doing as at that time?
Husband: I was a young lawyer, and she was already out of the university.
What role did your parents play in the marriage?
Husband: Once I told my father that she was the woman I wanted to marry, he knew her family and he knew everything about her. He went to her family, and told them about my interest in their daughter.
It means you were expecting him to propose to you?
Wife: (Laughs)… No, not at all . It didn’t cross my mind that he would propose to me. That is the truth. He was my very good friend, we were very close. So my mind didn’t go to him proposing. The normal woman ‘shakara’ that I would have ordinarily made I didn’t. It was not as if I was expecting it, but I didn’t have any reason not to say yes to him.
How come you felt at that young age that he was the kind of man you needed
Wife: He was a very focused person. He has brain and not just brain , he dreams and he puts action to it. He dreams and he works towards his dreams. He is the kind of man that can protect me. Before he proposed to me, there was one or two incidents in which somebody wanted to do something to me and I saw his reaction. I knew immediately that he could protect me from external influence or whatever. He is focused, he has brain and he can dream . I needed somebody that was going somewhere. I didn’t want a loafer.
Were there other suitors coming around?
Wife: Sure. He said it himself to you. I had several suitors. But, like I would always say, those people had money as at that time, but I didn’t want that. Let me give you an instance, somebody came from US , he was a doctor , he is late now, he needed a wife and I was highly recommended. He came to talk to me, but he didn’t say anything. His family went to meet my family -my elder sister and brother . They told them that they were not the people they were marrying , that they should approach the person they wanted to marry . The boy came back but I told him no. I had a lot of experiences growing up in my family. I didn’t want to have that experience. I wanted somebody I can start life with.
So, would you say in the 25 years, it has been all rosy?
Husband: During the first years of our marriage, I thought I made a mistake. You know as young people, some things we assume. When the reality landed, I thought I made a mistake; my wife is someone who will hold you to your word. You know as a young man, you will make promises, but my wife will remind you.
Can you remember such promises you made?
Husband: Not really promises to her, but like events come up and you promise to do something during the situation, then you discover that you can’t do it the way you wanted; she will stand on your word and you cannot go back on it, you have to do what you promised to do. And such times, your stubbornness comes on as a man, you want to have your way, so it created challenges for us.
In difficult situations, what was always her reaction?
Husband: She could be angry; my wife can really be upset with you and hold you up in her anger. It was for me, very frustrating.
Did you devise a special means of winning her heart?
Husband: Oh yes! Because we were both believers and were committed to the marriage, that also helped. One thing we didn’t want to do was to go back home and meet our parents, and tell them we could not sort some things out. Our objective was to make the marriage work; we learned to apologize to one another. And she knew I was serious -minded even in spite of my actions. If I told her I am sorry, she knew I meant the apology, unlike many women. And there were times I have had to apologize for the sake of peace, just to win her over.
Were there issues about meeting the financial needs of the family?
Husband: No, we are blessed; my wife has never had a focus about not being able to meet the needs. She works hard, as a matter of fact; as at the time we started, she earned more than me. She was working in Intercontinental Merchant Bank, so her salary was the mainstay of the house. As a young lawyer you go out some days, you don’t get anything, sometimes weeks, even in a month, most times. But she never complained about it, because she saw the future, she knew I was working hard, and she knew things had not come together for me yet. She knew that with how hard I was working, with God on our side, it wouldn’t be long before things get together. So, that hope kept her going, money was never an issue between us.
What was going through your mind in the three challenging years that your husband talked about?
Wife: For him, like he said, he regretted marrying me . But for me, before I got into marriage, I went through a lot of experiences that I didn’t want to go through in marriage and I didn’t want my children to go through. So, long before I got married I’d made up my mind that if I marry I would stay married, no matter what comes my way. So, when all those things were happening, I mean those challenging times, I didn’t give it a second thought. I didn’t say things like, this thing is not working, let me go back. No, I never haboured such thought, it never crossed my mind. I guess it was because of the decision I made. The decision gave me a cushion , it gave me the grace to be able to go through those three years.
With her busy schedule as a banker often having to return home late, were there certain roles or chores she could not perform?
Husband: No, she did whatever she needed to do, it was never an issue. It was just the two of us at the time. But when the kids started to come, she left the bank and started to do business, so she could also take care of the home front. By the time, I had come up a little bit to create stability and to sustain the house financially.
Was it a family decision that you dump your gown and become a pastor?
Husband: It was not a decision in that manner; my coming into the ministry was a battle. I had plans as a young man; my plan was to be a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. Then, we got born again, we got involved in the church. I was made an assistant pastor, while practising my law and it was not a problem. Until the day God told me to pack it up and never come back to the law office again. This was in 1996 in Lagos at our church headquarters. I was in the office one morning; I was the head of chambers at the office where I practised law. I always got to the office early, so I came into the office in the morning; I did my devotion to create the atmosphere for God to do his work for the day. God clearly spoke to me that day; He said: “Look at that door, walk out and never come back. I opened my eyes, I opened my Bible and I wrote what I heard, I wrote “I refused”, and I signed. It was not part of my programme; I didn’t want to do full time pastor work. I was happy being a lawyer, my life was picking up, why should I leave all that and become a pastor.
Did you share it with your wife?
Husband: Oh, I did.
What was her reaction?
Husband: Well at that time, we both agreed that this was not our plan, and the consequence of that was God messing up my practice. When God decided to mess up my practice, my office was suffering. It was a big firm; my actions were bringing pain to everyone. I never used to make mistakes, I never used to mess up any of my cases, but everything began to collapse. No matter how I tried, I knew it was God, because disobedience was bringing me trouble. My wife and I cried to God, in fact I was involved in a case that brought disaster to the firm.
What of the wonderful moments?
Husband: Like I said, the first three years, we were inexperienced; we met with reality and didn’t know how to react to it. But, once we knew how to handle it, our friendship took the marriage to another level, and we picked up and it has been glorious. My wife and I throughout our relationships have had little fights; our fights are always about people. If not for those areas, we have had wonderful moments.
What is that about your husband you feel uncomfortable with and would like corrected?
Wife: Straight away, the thing about him that I am uncomfortable with is that he trusts people so easily. It has brought us trouble several times. I tried to correct him on that. Right now he listens, anytime I tell him that I am not comfortable with such thing he listens. And it’s because of the different experiences we have had. It’s not like before when he trusted people just like that.
Was there pressure on both of you when the children were not coming forth?
Husband: Well, not for me really, I didn’t have any pressure. Maybe for her, but not for me; because I knew I was always going to have my children. But as a woman, there was pressure from in -laws, friends; you know questions started rising. I kept encouraging her and as at that time; as an assistant pastor, I was taking care of the kids in the church; I can’t be taking care of people’s kids and God will not give me mine.
Even among pastors, a lot of marriages are failing apart even before the 10th year, what is the cause?
Husband: Firstly, faulty foundation; if you build a foundation that is very faulty; the righteous can do very little. When God gives you a wife, He keeps it. Another issue is money; we made a decision that money would never be any issue between us. When we got married and I was not making as much as she, she placed everything she had before me. She never took away anything from me, even when we came to Abuja to start this work; it was difficult, when we could not pay salaries, she had to give me money to pay salaries, when we could not pay for the place of worship, she had to give me money to pay for the place of worship. But when money is your God, it will control you. The third issue is tradition; when the woman is seen as second class to the man, when the man feels that his mother is superior to his wife, then there is trouble. If we can control these situations, we will have peace. When there is no communication, when there is no trust, when there is no sacrifice, there will be break ups in the marriage. To be successful in a marriage, we discovered that you have to play the fool regularly, it is in the Bible. And it is particularly the man; he has to lead the way. In life we go ahead and the man is the head of the family, so he has to lead. Look at the way we are made; the woman is made to receive; the man is made to give. The woman will receive, multiply it and give out. It is what you put inside the woman that she will give out.
If you had the chance in another life, would you still marry her?
Yes! I will marry her, especially with the knowledge I have gained in this life. The first three years will not be, because I have accumulated a lot of knowledge about my wife. But as regards functionality and superiority; the hand cannot say it doesn’t need the eye, the head cannot say it doesn’t need the leg; the nose cannot say it doesn’t need the mouth. Every part is equally important in its function, but God put the head on top to lead. But when they all understand their roles, there won’t be fight and they will understand each other. So, God created man to lead as the head, the woman is the heart of the man and that is her function; God created them all.