Pa and Mrs Sunny Omoegharevba have been married for about 50 years. In this interview, they told Tony Osauzo how their marriage was contracted. They also spoke on other marital issues.
Let’s meet you.
Husband: By January next year, I will be 80 years. After finishing my job in government (I worked and retired as a boxing coach at the Sports Council), I started playing politics and as a matter of fact, I did a lot of community work too, even in Benin here. For over 20 years, I was the Chairman of Parents Teachers Association, Owoba Primary School in Benin City. So I’m usually addressed as Honourable Sunny Omoegharevba.
How long have you been married?
Husband: We are celebrating 50 years now. I think it is above 50 years, but we just coined it to be 50 years, because I remember it was 1966 or ‘67 we got married. I want to say that our marriage was not contracted in the usual way, that is why we want to celebrate it properly this time around. What I mean by that is, doing the registry procedure or going to the church, I realise that God has done a lot of things for me, so I felt I need to celebrate.
How did you meet your wife?
Husband: In my days, I was not that type who moved with women. I felt shy moving with them. Somebody, one way or another, brought her to me. We were doing the burial of my elder brother. So, they just introduced her to me. I would say it was God’s way of bringing her to me, because I would not have been able to convince her. She just came and we started talking. That was how we started. I just proposed almost immediately to her and as God would have it, she too was looking for a husband.
What was your reaction to his proposal?
Wife: Although I was looking forward to getting married, it came all of a sudden I found myself getting married to him. It was like what I did not expect, but eventually it came. As he said, it was God’s doing, because I was not prepared for it. We got married eventually.
What made you fall in love with him?
Wife: What was on my mind was to be sure that he did not have a wife before, because I was trying to avoid being a second wife. That was the first thing that convinced me, because I’d vowed not to be a second wife.
Do you remember how it all began?
Husband: It was the will of God, because I cannot really remember any attractive words I said to her. She just came and the introduction was done. That was how we started. All the instructions I gave her, she obeyed. She would make a lot of promises and she would keep them. So, we started like that. I did not make any specific promise, but the moment she discovered that she would not be a second wife, she stood firm. And God was merciful the way it eventually turned out.
Has there been any moment of regret?
Husband: Apart from minor quarrels, and by that I mean quarrels that cannot lead to separation, we have had no problem. She vowed not to report any dispute to her parents. So, she was determined. There was no moment of regret, apart from the time we lost one of our children. Both of us felt it.
Any regret marrying him?
Wife: I do not think so, because as he said, I always tried to cope with any situation. There are two things I vowed not to do. One, I would not be a second wife and I would not marry two husbands. I would not divorce my husband. Earlier I’d made up my mind that I would marry just one man, and I will stay with him, no matter what, by God’s power. I tried by all means to cope. There’s nothing that came my way that made me feel bad. It is just patience.
Do you operate joint account?
Husband: Truly, our marriage was based on tradition at the beginning so, I was believing that my wife would never work nor take instruction from anybody. So, she was always at home. So, the little salary I got we managed it. She was not working. We have been on like that until I retired. It is now that we begin to think of extra things to do, if that can be called joint business. But I do ask her, please, supervise this trade for us and whatever comes out of it, I trust that I would not be cheated.
Would you like to have joint account with your husband?
Wife: If I am asked to do so, I will.
Would you consider having a joint account with your wife?
Husband: In fact, I do not know how it will be having joint account. If we have joint account, how do we operate it without her complaining? She will be the one to complain, the way I see it, because there might be some requests that she may make, but which I may not accept and that may lead to quarrel. All such things that I think may bring disputes I always avoid them.
Let me give you an example. If tenants want to pay rent to me and they did not see me, if they give it to her, I do not quarrel over that, because I know she would give it to me. She cannot seize my money. She is very reliable and I trust her.
Has there been any secret you have not told or you have vowed never to tell your wife since you got married?
Husband: I tried as much as possible to avoid anything that can portray me in bad light to her. For instance, when I travelled to Germany in my sporting days as a boxing coach, whatever I did there with some girl friends when I came back home, I told her for her to trust me. I think it is one of those things that will make one reliable. So, I do not hide secret from her. That is one of the things I said I tried to avoid. I do not want her to come back and feel bad. So, that is why I tell her whatever I did when I travelled out for her to trust me. That has been my watchword.
What about you Madam?
Wife: I do not have any secret at all.
I ask because some people would rather carry some secrets to their graves.
Husband: Anything that I have in mind I always want her to be aware of it. That is why most times if somebody visits me and wants to ask for anything I would want her to be there. I would ask her to sit down, because somebody would stand to bear me witness.
It is this trust that strengthens our marriage, if not, I am sure she too would have packed out of the marriage. But she knew those things because I made her part and parcel of this home.
Could you be so angry to pack his own property out too?
Wife: I know that cannot happen. God has always been on my side that it cannot get to that level. Before it gets to that level, God will take control.
Can you recall any moment that your husband maltreated you and you wished you were not married to him?
Wife: No. You know that one can just be angry but later realise that it is not worth it. When you are angry at times you would think heaven is going to fall, but when you sleep over it, you would see that there is no need for that. I cannot just remember any case of ill-treatment.
When he is angry and you pipe low, he can talk and when you see that it’s getting beyond control, you just shift and when you shift. Even if he is annoyed. the next day when you greet him the matter ends there.
So, you have been a full time housewife?
Wife: At the beginning I was not working. I had a sewing machine that my elder brother bought for me immediately I packed in here. I was using it but along the line when he retired and the children were many and there were school fees to pay, I started farming, because my parents are farmers. I know that when I farm my children cannot be hungry. I did farming for about 20 years. The farming helped the family meet some of our needs.
Did you regret ever marrying her?
Husband: I remembered an occasion, but I can’t even remember what led to it. One of the reasons some of her people were saying they would not allow her to marry me was that I was a boxer and that I would box her to death. So, when eventually I got annoyed one day I gave her a slap. I regretted it. I cannot remember what led to it, but I gave her a slap. That slap caused me much money because of the damage done on her ear. So, I regretted it and since then I vowed never to touch her. Never to even fight anybody. That reminded me of what people feared I would do to her and that I had confirmed it. She suffered from that slap and I think God saved her and we were able to put it right.
It’s like love has made you forget the incident?
Wife: I just took it as a normal thing, because when two persons are together, there must be a day you may have some conflict. I took it as a normal thing and I have since moved on. I did not take it as a punishment, because I knew he was angry and the moment he saw the pain I was going through he began to look for a cure for the pain. He showed remorse.
If you were to go through the same route again, would you marry her?
Husband: I keep on praying that if I have to come back in the next creation I just hope I will still get her to marry, because I have gained a lot of things from her, not the experiences, but the cooperation, humility, and unity of purpose. She united my family. If I have to do anything for any person she would want me to do same for the other person, or else she would not rest. She wants me to carry everybody along.
She said we should not encourage any of our children to join cult because the moment you do not train your child properly then the child is bound to go out of control and so far so well, with all our sufferings and God’s blessings, we have been able to train them. All my children are graduates. My last child is about to go into the university. That is why I want to celebrate this occasion, because God has done me a lot of favour. When I got married it was not in the church. So this time around as a born again Christian, I will want to celebrate it and I will want you people to join me to celebrate it, that God has done a lot of thing for me.
If you were to come back to life again, would you like to have him as your husband?
Wife: Yes, but I will not want a polygamous home.
Husband: Yes, I also want to support her. This question of polygamous home I want to reiterate it. What happened was that when we met the first time and she became pregnant, my mother came to see her. It was my mother who told her that my son would never marry one wife and if she was not ready, she should pack her load and go. That was why she had the courage to stay in the marriage because that was what my mother said. And what she told my mother at that time was that she should allow her have some children first before the other wife. And truly, we got some children first before another wife came in.
What’s your advice for intending couples based on your experience?
Husband: Starting from my wife’s experiences, we talked about a polygamous home. It is very difficult to manage, although I was able to manage it in my own case. But it was not suitable for the wife. I knew the pains that I was passing through but
that was how it was. I will say that polygamous home is very difficult to manage. Secondly, I will say seeing each other and getting wedded in six months and then the union collapses is not good. It is not worth the while at all. Rather one needs to celebrate either five years, 10, and 25 years and above as you progress in love. It is better than you go and hire a hotel, do honeymoon somewhere. All these ones are not important. What is important is the fruit you have to show for it, the children. These are the people who will carry on your legacy when you are dead. But if you do not have that, you can’t say you have married. I have many reasons to celebrate my own because God has blessed me with so many children, grand children and one great grandchild.
What church do you attend?
Husband: Triumphant Family Church.
What’s your advice for young girls who want to get married?
Wife: My advice is to avoid polygamous homes. Polygamy is not a thing to experience at all, because I know what it takes. I will also advise that once they decide to marry, they should open their hearts to the man they want to marry so that things will work out well for them. They have a right to correct any character they find in the man that they dislike, or adjust, so far he is not a dubious character. They should adjust, so that there can be peace in the home. Moreover the question of wealth should not come in before marriage.
When I came in here, I knew how this place was, but was prepared to start with him from the scratch. So, anything I have here is from both of us. They should not go after wealth but search after the heart of the man.