Love, some say, could simply happen at first sight, while for some couple, it grows with time. The latter was what happened to Olusola Kayode Balogun (PhD), former Arts Editor of The Sun newspapers and now a lecturer at the Department of Media and Theatre Arts, Federal University of Oye-Ekiti, Ekiti State and his beautiful wife of over 25 years, Mrs. Elizabeth Akunna Balogun (nee Nwaoko). She is a lecturer in English Studies at the Crown Polythechnic, Ado Ekiti. WOLE BALOGUN, The Sun correspondent in Ado Ekiti brings the couple’s love story.
What was the attraction?
Wife: What I noticed about him the first time we met was his humility, calmness and friendliness and those qualities got me attracted to him. And then we just got talking and I noticed his disposition to everyone there. He was very friendly with everyone and was very humble.
Husband: I actually went to Ibadan from Lagos to interview one of my lecturers who happened to be her boss at that time, Dr. Bode Sowande, now Prof. Sowande. He has an office opposite the University of Ibadan (U.I.) called Odu Theatre and I was conducting interviews with scholars and he happened to be one of them. I went there and I met this young lady. What first struck me was her beauty and her very quiet mien. When I asked of Dr. Sowande from her, she told me he was not around. While waiting for Dr. Sowande I was studying her. I saw a beautiful woman who was quiet, looking so cool and gentle, so something just struck me that I had to be her friend. That time I hadn’t made up my mind to be either her lover or to propose to her. We got talking and she got to know that I lived in Lagos and she had a friend then who was living in Yaba area of Lagos and she requested that I should help her to contact the friend. I was able to deliver that message for her and that was how we became friends. As time went on, I started having the feeling that what I wanted from her was not just friendship, that I should just make my desires known to her. So, it happened that they had a performance around Ring Road in Ibadan. The title of the performance was “Mammy Water’s Wedding” and I actually went to that performance to see her, but I pretended to Dr. Sowande that it was the performance I went there to see. My Oga believed that I went for the production while she already knew that I was there because of her and with that we got closer.
Wife: Then I was barely 19. I didn’t even think of having a relationship with him. What I only noticed in him was a warm, good-natured person and all that. I never had it in mind that we would be so close and eventually get married.
When he eventually proposed, what was your feeling like?
Wife: Ours is just a very interesting and beautiful story. I was in Ibadan like he rightly said and he would come to see Dr. Sowande now Prof. Sowande and we were friends. He didn’t actually propose to me in the normal way. He only said one day, ‘my mum and younger ones live in Lagos, come and see them’, and things like that. I reasoned that I would also use that opportunity to see my friend in Lagos and we both came to Lagos and that was how we began our love journey.
Husband: I actually proposed to her that day I went for the performance in Ibadan
Wife (cuts in) not directly.
Husband: Yes, but I asked some questions. Before I made the indirect proposal, we had become friends for more than five months and I was monitoring what was happening then. She told me they had a show at De Rovans Hotel in Ring Road, Ibadan and I promised to come and I did go. After the show, she was also waiting and I used that opportunity to get closer to her, and we were talking. Like she said I didn’t come directly. I started with a question such as: ‘when would you want to get married?’ And she promptly said that she was still young before adding that marriage wasn’t on her mind. She asked me, “Do you know my age”? Then I told her that she was not too young to marry. She said no that she would like to go to school, finish her education, and I said, “Well, but what if God decides that you get married soon, and continue your studies afterwards”? She said, “God knows everything”. And then I went further to say that what if God has destined the two of us to be husband and wife? She said: “well, let us wait for that time”. At that point, I stopped because I didn’t want to offend her.
My aunt, Mrs. Serah Olarinde, had something to do at that time in Ibadan and I invited her over and she came with her younger sister, now Mrs. Maureen. Intuitively my aunt asked me, “who are these ones, is she your wife?” and I said yes. At that time, I hadn’t proposed to her but I just said yes to my aunt unconsciously and my aunt was so much interested in her, saying she was a very nice girl. She looked beautiful, nice and respectful. At that time, they didn’t know that she was not Yoruba and I too was not particular about tribe.
She was living at Samonda with her elder ones. All along, I didn’t even know she wasn’t Yoruba and she herself didn’t bother to tell me because we were speaking English and Yoruba. It was later as we got closer, she began to tell me more about herself, her brother Mr. Victor Nwaoko, her sisters and her mum and how she had lost her father and all that. The way she eventually opened up to me also endeared me to her and I began to see her more as a very free, open-minded lady.
At that time would you say she had already fallen in love with you?
Husband: I suspect that was it and I also had already fallen in love for her too. But I was looking for a way to convince her and then you know, we had a funny discussion at that time. That was around the time MKO Abiola died. We discussed at length and then I told myself as I was having that feeling at that time that this woman is likely to be my wife but I kept my cool and was looking for the best opportunity to tell her. So, the test I gave her was to ask, ‘when will you come and see me in Lagos?’ Having known me for years, she agreed that she would come and see me. It was when she got to Lagos that I eventually told her that it is not just friendship, that I wanted her to become my wife. It took her sometime to eventually say yes.
There is this adage by late MKO Abiola that when a woman says maybe, she means yes, and when she says no, she means maybe. What made you to eventually say yes to him?
Wife: Let me just say this. When I followed Dr. Sola Balogun to Lagos from Ibadan, he was then Mr. Sola Balogun. He was living in one-room apartment. He was not rich so to say. When I joined him I noticed that he was not rich at all. But he is lovely and caring. When I told him that I would like to further my education, he encouraged me and he ensured that I did that. When I visited, I really enjoyed his company. He taught me so many things. He taught me how to fry eggs during my first visit. My dream to visit Lagos was made realistic by him. And my husband is my first man. So, he is just there for me. So what else do I want? I saw a fatherly figure in him because I lost my dad when I was very young. I saw a brotherly figure too. I saw in him somebody I could trust, very wonderful and he is just one in a million. When he was working as a journalist, I would always refer to him as a night crawler because of the late nights he used to keep as a result of the nature of his job. He knew that I am a kind of person that was always afraid. He used to come home late and that got me worried. I would be on my toes waiting and longing for his coming, but that was then. I bless God that he is a lecturer now and doesn’t come home late. We come home together because I am a lecturer too. He now spends more time with us and I am so happy for that.
What eventually made you to propose to her?
Husband: I saw all the good qualities of a wife material but I didn’t want to send wrong signals so that she wouldn’t feel that I wanted to take advantage of her. So, I took my time to study her very well. And I noticed that she was very sincere and open and I also noticed that she trusted me so much even though we had only met for a short time. But maybe she probably had her own way of studying me then. She was able to open herself to me innocently such that assuming I had wanted to take advantage of her, probably I would have had my way. But I was genuinely interested in her. As she said, she had lost her father and I noticed that she was struggling at that time. Even though she was quite young, she was barely taking care of herself and her younger siblings. And I also noticed that they had this value of good upbringing, in terms of relying on what you can do for yourself because some other ladies would rely on what men could do for them and all that. So, I was studying her and discovered that she was completely innocent and very industrious, because, how much were they paying them at that time? But she was managing with it as her mum was still in the East. And her father was late. So, God just brought us together. All these further convinced me to eventually propose to her. We never had any intimate relationship before I proposed to her. I had proposed to her before all that happened. She is a very godly person and very prayerful. She may not know that I cherish this but this is true. I remember she told me quietly that time that the day we met, she prayed about me and that she had this feeling that although she didn’t know whether we would end up in marriage, but that she prayed about it and she had this gift of discerning things around her and she told me. Maybe she has forgotten.
Wife: (cuts in) No.
Husband: She told me that when I left that day, she had that feeling and she kept praying about it.
Wife: (cuts in) You have taken the direction of this interview to a very important dimension, and that is the spiritual perspective which unfortunately, our young ones today, do not pay attention to. Many young ones don’t go into such depth before going into marriage these days. They rather look for beauty and material possession of the man.
What’s your advice to younger people in marriage?
Wife: Marriage is an institution that requires one to be spiritually balanced if you really want to forge ahead in it. The most important thing a young lady should do is to prayerfully go into it. Like we mentioned earlier, you don’t just look at the side attraction, money is good, but then, one should prayerfully go into his or her own marriage in order to avoid disaster.
What’s your advise younger couples about anger management?
Wife: Anger shouldn’t be something a child of God should accommodate. When we were just starting, I used to be very angry, but I bless God for the type of husband he gave me. I would was the fire and he used to be the water. And when he noticed that I had become angry, he has a way of calming me down. But with time, I have learned to outgrow anger. Nobody can claim not to have that bit of anger in him or her. But I want to say, as a child of God, we should learn how to control our anger. The outburst actually kills the home. Anger could destroy in a twinkle of an eye. So, if you can really tame your anger, you would have a happy home. If I had not married a man that really knows how to tame me, I am sure my marriage would have hit the rocks. So, I am advising younger ones in marriage to give it to God when they are hurt.
She has referred to you as the water whenever she becomes the fire. What has been the magic wand sustaining the union?
Husband: When God wants to bring a woman and a man together, there is this spiritual angle to it that I have noticed. God selects your almost opposite to complement your attitude and behavioural patterns. Yes, when I met her, she was cool, gentle, pretty and young. I never knew she could be assertive. Not that I expected her to be introverted, but I never knew she could come out to assert her real self. But I discovered that the anger she mentioned is not on the negative side. Sometimes when she is wronged, as a very open and extroverted person, she would react immediately and not keep malice. I have that ability to keep my cool when I am angry but she would come out and express it. But the moment I now talk to her and say ‘why are you doing this? What for? Okay, let us do it this way,’ she would calm down. Initially, if I didn’t say sorry, she would feel bad, but later when I began to say sorry, she felt better and would come to herself within a short period. So, I have mastered that attitude in her and I know how to manage it. The moment I noticed she is angry, I keep my cool and allow her to express herself and later I would explain things to her gently. And immediately she would understand. Sometimes, we quarrel two or three times a day and then we would still laugh over it.
Who says sorry to each other when there is disagreement?
Wife: Once I know that I am at fault, I would go on my knees and tell him that I am very sorry. It might not be that day, it may be the second day
Husband: (cuts in) I do. But in most cases, reluctantly.
Wife: Thank God that you are the one saying that yourself.
Husband: You know, as a man, you still have that ego that I am the man and all that. Sometimes I do it deliberately to see how she would react. But when I noticed that she was still nursing that anger, I would have no other option than to say, ‘is that why you are annoyed? Okay, I am sorry.’
Do you still cook for him?
Wife: My husband is not selective in what he eats. He eats whatever I cook for him and we manage whatever he provides. I am the manager but he provides. If I am very tired and he notices that, he allows the children to cook because we have trained them right from the age of seven. Even the lawyer in the house cooks. So, when I am tired I tell him, ‘would you allow your children to cook?’ and he accepts. He is very considerate about this.
When there is no money in the house and he gives that hint, what do you do?
Wife: My husband doesn’t hide anything from me. I know when he has and when he doesn’t because we actually manage the home together. We also intercede and ask for God’s blessings. That is the essence of sharing.
Can you tell us three or four values that have kept you going?
Husband: She has said some of them, but I would add openness, and love. We are very open to each other. We have had no cause to hide anything, whether finances and other affairs of the family. Because essentially, as your better half, what are you hiding in the first place? If I don’t have and I pretend that I have, if I cannot provide the money, how will it look like? It is not as if we don’t have difficult or trying times. There are times we don’t even have anything in the house but nobody would notice. We have that strength as we manage whatever we have. We don’t complain to anybody. We don’t compare ourselves with others because we understand how we met each other and we manage whatever we have. Those values of sincerity have always helped in managing the affairs of the home. Even when I don’t have, she would pay the children’s school fees. Though, I have been the one doing that but when she noticed I couldn’t, she started paying it as against the norm that some would say it is the man who should do that. She would just come in naturally to bail me out and no one would notice.
When you suspect that your husband is having an extra-marital affair, how do you react?
Wife: Actually, I used to react to such things years ago, but now I don’t. Then he was a journalist and you know journalism attracts women to men. So, I would tell him frankly that I don’t want a situation where there would be problems. And you know my husband is far older than I am so I respect him. And I would tell him that I wouldn’t want anything that would make me look down on him and he would tell me not to bother that he knew what he was doing. Then, I used to be so annoyed when I see any message or sign. But that was then.
Husband: Yes, there were temptations here and there when we were younger in marriage and I was in the media and I was always travelling. But when you now come back to yourself, you begin to ask yourself the value you want to bequeath to your children such that you become a true role model to them, rather than someone they would look at as a failure. If I discovered that I was making mistakes I would quickly retrace my steps. I have always thought of how my children would react and didn’t want them to feel disappointed in me.