For Elder Daniel and Mrs. Theresa Akubugwu from Umuoji community in Anambra State, man and God played a fast one in their love for each other. Akubugwu’s wife, then a young but decent girl at 15 came visiting in company of one of his friends who was getting married. Right from the time his mother sighted her, she became determined to get her as a wife for her son. When her son complained that there was no money to embark on such a project at that time, she said she had the money and insisted on her son getting married to her. As God would have it, his uncle to whom the mother reported the matter and his friend who came with the girl, supported his mother. In the end, he had no choice than to succumb to their promptings. That was 41 years ago. In this interview with VINCENT KALU and IJEOMAH HARIETH the couple goes down memory lane of the sweet and sour times of their marriage that was contracted when the girl was 16. She gave birth to her first child, at 17.
How long have you been married?
Husband: I met my wife on April 19, 1975 and we wedded on March 20, 1976. So, we have been married for over 41 years. We had our first child, a male, one year after our wedding.
How has these 41 years of marriage been?
Husband: We have been living peacefully, no problem. Out of our nine children – seven males and two females, only two are yet to graduate from the university.
Wife: We all know that life is full of challenges, sometimes sweet and sometimes bitter. There are a lot of ups and downs in marriage. But during the time of bitterness, all I do is to look up to the love we shared in the past; I mean the first love that brought us together. The early stage of our love made me to conquer the stress and bitterness in the marriage. I can say there is no marriage without quarrels and misunderstandings but the most important thing is how to solve the problem. Things are moving on very well for us and we are living in peace.
When your husband asked for your hand in marriage, what was your response?
Wife: I saw him and I loved him because he was very handsome, and so I didn’t object to his proposal; I accepted to be his wife. More so, he was hard working, as an average man he was doing well in his business, and trying to meet up just like every other young man of his generation then. He wasn’t lazy; he was trying to earn a better living.
Where did you meet?
Wife: I first met him in Umuoji in Anambra State.
Husband: There was this young man, he is late now; we were together in West Cameroon, Bamenda. When I came to Nigeria to see if I could establish something in Lagos, the man was about getting married and, had travelled home to make preparations for the marriage. He was a family member of my wife. I also went to the village to be with him. He came to my village one evening with this very girl, who later became my wife. His purpose of coming to our house was to introduce his wife to my mother in case there would be any message for either his wife or my mother. On that fateful day that he came with this lady, my mother picked interest in her and asked her who she was. Fortunately, she and my mother are from the same place, and they exchanged pleasantries as people from the same community. From that moment my mother started addressing her as her daughter in-law. My mother prepared a meal, and we ate and had some drinks. While we were still there, my mother’s sister walked in and repeated the same thing. We kept chatting and enjoying the evening till it was time for them to go. From that day, my mother started mounting pressure on me to marry the girl. She said that I should marry now that she was still alive, emphasising, “if you don’t marry this girl you will suffer untold hardship. If you marry her, things will go well for you.” I became so worried because we had just a two-room and a parlour apartment that we were managing and I was planning to add another two rooms to that. Two days to going back to my station, my mother kept worrying me. Later, she went and complained to her brother about the issue. My uncle advised me to listen to what my mother was saying. I told him that I didn’t have enough money for that. But my mother said she had money to sponsor the marriage, that it was for me to accept to marry the girl. I went to my friend who brought the lady to our house and explained the development, and he also advised me to do my mother’s wish because the girl is nice, cultured, decent and has a good family background. We decided to go visit the girl’s house, since it was very close. On our way, we met her coming back from the stream and she passed us with speed and without greeting us. When we got to her compound, the mother was planting cocoa yam in her farm because it was planting season. The mother called her and told her to bring kola for their visitors, and she brought four fresh mangoes in a tray and placed it in my front, and I accepted it. That was how our journey in this marriage began.
Has there been a time you regretted this marriage?
Wife: Yes. He was doing well when we got married. But after we have become a very large family, there came a time his business was no longer making much progress as it was supposed to be. Then I became the one shouldering the family’s responsibility from the little business I was doing. Sometimes, it might become unbearable that I would feel upset. I felt that he wasn’t living up to his responsibility since the society believes that it was the responsibility of the man to provide for the family and the woman to take care of the children and house chores. It was only in that aspect that I felt bad about the marriage, but thank God for making us strong in those trying times.
Husband: I have never regretted this marriage for even one day. This one she is saying is just her opinion. Everyday, I see her as that my wonderful girl I met in those days. Honestly, I don’t have any regret at all. We have been managing ourselves very well and living together. We have built houses. God is faithful and we thank Him for His favour in our lives.
How do your resolve differences?
Husband: We resolve our differences; we don’t invite a third party into our matter. If we have any problem, we resolve it and keep moving on together. At a stage, we joined a spiritual church, which has helped to advance our spiritual lives, and that of our children. The church is all and all we have. In terms of difficulties, we pray and God answers our prayers. So there is no cause for alarm and her family really loved and accepted me as a brother as much as my family accepted her.
Are there times you have to report your husband to the church or to your parents?
Wife: I have never done that. I have grown to understand that marital issues are meant to be resolved between the couple. Whenever problem occurs between my husband and I, we resolve it amicably between us. I don’t report to the church or my parent and he too doesn’t report to anybody. Sometimes, if he is angry with me, all I do is to keep quiet, later I would go to him and ask him for forgiveness. If he offends me he does the same to me. After apology, the difference is settled without anyone hearing about it.
Has there been a time you rejected your wife’s food because she offended you, as some men do to express their anger at their wives?
Husband: I have never rejected her food for any cause. I take her as my all and she also sees me the same way. In fact, we understand ourselves very well, and there is no need for me to get angry to the extent of rejecting her food.
What has been your secret for these 41years?
Husband: Endurance is the medicine to our successful marriage. My wife remains fresh in my memory every day. I advise others to be patient and wait for the Lord, the provider of all things.
Wife: I hope in the Lord. Secondly, I avoid talking too much, because too much talk leads to controversy in marriage. When I was with my mother-in-law, she would talk and talk, waiting for me to reply, but I wouldn’t say a word. She hardly saw any reason to find fault in me. This attitude worried her most of the times because she believed that anybody who rarely talks is unpredictable. I don’t talk too much to avoid her finding fault in me, and I apply the same attitude to my husband and avoid talking too much to increase the tension the more when we have family issue.
From your look, you could have married at a tender age, so what was the challenge you faced?
Wife: Yes. I met my husband when I was 15, and we wedded at 16, and gave birth to our first child at 17. There was a very big challenge because I wasn’t exposed; physically and mentally, I wasn’t made up. As a young wife, there were things I would do that my mother-in-law would take offence, but such things were not done intentionally; they were done out of inexperience.
How were you able to cope with a wife of that age?
Husband: There wasn’t much to worry about because I am an easy-going person. I don’t drink or smoke, and God wonderfully made me. I accepted my woman at that time, as her knowledge and experience were, and till now the love I have for her is still there and it will remain till death do us part.
What’s your advice to young couples?
Husband: Keep fit, don’t fight, and trust in God, He will provide for you.
Wife: They should manage whatever situation they find themselves. Our 41-year-old marriage has not been rosy, but our trust in God has seen us through. Once you enter this union called marriage, always hope in God and stay faithful to your husband in any situation. Even if things should change, be patient, don’t divorce him, always stand by him and wait on the Lord, and in the long run, everything will be all right. Also, couples should be committed to prayers.