High Chief, Evarist Nnaemeka Nwosu, and his wife, Chief Mrs. Nancy, are rare gems whose lifestyles are worthy of emulation. Having been together for about 51 years without unmanageable squabbles, they have proved that marriage is really a blessing and that the recent divorce being witnessed in marriages could be avoided. They told GILBERT EKEZIE the secret of their successful marital relationship, the roles of every couple in marriage, and the rules of a happy marriage: love, fear of God, tolerance and understanding.
Could you tell us about your background?
Husband: Before we begin, I want to underline the spontaneous and extemporaneous nature of the questions and answers during this interview. I thank the Almighty God for everything and the good thing and long life he has given me. I hail from Obosi in Anambra State, but was born and bred at Aba, Abia State into a Catholic family. My grandfather, who was King of Obosi, brought Catholic Church to Obosi in 1900. That was how my parents became good Catholics.
Wife: I am Chief Mrs. Nancy Ebele Nwosu (nee Onwumere). I hail from Umuahia in Abia State. I came up as one little girl from my parents. I was like the only child of my parents. We were two, but one died later. I studied Law and have six children (three males and three females).
What was your growing up like?
Husband: My growing up was very exciting because I went to a good school known as Christ the King School, Aba, owned by Christ The King Church. Then, we could boast of wonderful teachers. That was what made it possible for me to pass common entrance into St Patrick’s College, Calabar in 1953. While there, I played football which started when I was in primary school. Certainly, the Rev. Father who was one of our teachers wanted to put me into various kinds of sporting activities like athletics. But having realized that such would affect my education, I restricted myself to short put, and played football occasionally. My peers at Christ The King School (CKS), Aba, knew me well as an intelligent and talented footballer.
Could you talk about your work career?
Husband: My working career started immediately after my secondary education at St Patrick’s College, Calabar, and the principal wrote a letter recommending me to the principal of Sacred Heart’s College, Aba to employ me as a teacher. There I taught English, Mathematics and Geography. After one year, the late Speaker of House of Representatives, Chief Edwin Umezuoke, saw me where we went to recreate and asked to know what I do and I told him that I was a teacher. Having heard that, he was not pleased that I was teaching with the kind of result I had. He immediately introduced Customs for me and asked me to apply as a clerk. That was how I got employed in Her Majesty’s Customs at Port Harcourt in 1958 after being interviewed by a white man. Thereafter, I secured an admission to study Political Science and History. Later, the Nigerian Civil War truncated it, but after the war, we returned and those with whom we were working together got promoted and we did not get because we ran away during the war. In fact, the promotion was not forthcoming. But fortunately, I rose to the rank of Comptroller of Customs. I retired voluntarily in 1993 as the Area Comptroller in charge of Abia State.
Wife: I studied Mass Communication at the University of Lagos and majored in Public Relations. I later proceeded to the University of Buckingham to study Law. When I returned, I established a PR firm. I am the publisher of Mega Star, an entertainment magazine. I am also a member of Nigeria Institute of Public Relations (NIPR).
At what stage did you get married?
Husband: I told myself that I would not marry until I graduate because that would make my life more secured. It has always been in my mind that it will not be good for one to take a wife when one knows one cannot take good care of her. So, I enrolled at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where I studied political science and history. Thereafter, I proceeded to London University to study diplomacy. I got married immediately after my university education. As a political scientist, historian, author and a retired comptroller of Nigerian Customs Service, I am for sure schooled in leadership rudiments, especially in government. I am the author of Leadership and Developmental Issues: A search For Development Strategies which was launched in 2013. Today, I will be celebrating my 80th birthday anniversary at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Wife: My parents lived in Calabar and that was where I was born and bred. Unfortunately, my mother suffered a lot of baby loss and that was not easy for her. Therefore, I decided that I must do my best to make her happy. So, I attended Holy Trinity College, Calabar. My parent lived long before my birth. My father was a well- known building contractor in Calabar. One interesting thing in Calabar then was that I met a lady who was a well known politician named Mma Nkon Orok, she did not marry. At times, she would take me to her house. I was about 9 years. That was the first friendship I made.
How did you meet each other?
Husband: I am an Aba boy. In my penultimate year in the university, she was at a commercial college at Aba. One day, as I was going for an errand, I saw some girls playing netball at St. Michael’s School, Aba. That was how I saw a girl that jumped so high to put the ball inside the net. So, I said, this must be my wife because I told myself that I needed an athletic person as wife. It was later on that I started to ask question to know her family and more about her. I did not approach her immediately, but through the principal of the school, who reluctantly connected me to her. I also dug deep into her academic performance and was satisfied that she was okay.
Wife: When my parents left Calabar as a result of political gimmicks, we resettled at Aba, after spending sometime in the village. My father continued his construction work, while my mother, a petty trader, was selling some items in front of our residence. The first time I set my eyes on my husband, I appreciated him, not knowing that it would lead to marriage. I remember that there was a day he came to our school while we were doing sports. I did not know he was there because of me. I was wondering why he and others should be at the place at that time. When we finished our sports, we said hello and went away. I did not make any conclusion to see him as my husband. After our sporting activities, he did not do like some people who would want to walk after you and be saying whatever they like, he maturely approached me and we exchanged pleasantries and departed. The next time, we met at the student party and that really brought us closer and we later married.
Was there any objection to your marriage?
Husband: There was initial parental objection, especially from my mother. She later paid her family a visit and was convinced. But it was my mother’s sister that insisted that I must not marry outside my town, Obosi. But being brought up at Aba, I have a cosmopolitan view about life and from childhood, I have developed that kind of life. Anyone who knows Aba will know that it is a place where many people from different tribes live. So, I made them see the need to marry her.
Wife: There was no objection from my family at all, rather from those who were interested in marrying me. However, that did not influence my decision because I saw him as the rightful man to spend my life with.
How do you see each other?
Wife: He is a complete gentleman and deserved man of the house. He cares for the family. He is really special to me.
Husband: She is my backbone and responsible for the sustenance of our marriage.
What were the initial challenges in your marriage?
Husband: I would not say that they were challenges. Though we have our teething problems, we were able to handle them. Then as a college graduate, she later went to continue her education abroad. I was not earning much, but because we learnt early enough how to cut our coat according to our clothes, things were not really difficult for us. Another reason we did not face challenges was that my wife is a very good manager of money, no matter the little money you give her, she would manage it and things were going on gradually, even as we continued to have children.
Wife: It was quite tough, but because of my subtle way of life, I tried to make him happy because he is my God-sent. The initial problem had to do with outing. Sometimes, the nip in and nip out does not work. Sometimes, he would stay late outside and when he comes in I would want to know why he kept late, probably due to official engagements. I used the normal way to ask him questions, but sometimes, he would say, “please, I coming from work, I do not want to hear anything”, and I would pick something from there. So, for me, it was not really a problem, but things that were expected. You have to be reasonable and put yourself in the person’s position and not raise unnecessary arguments. Obviously, as a customs officer, he used to return late most times, but because I knew the nature of his job, I trusted him and I still trust him till tomorrow because if there is no reason for him to do something, I think, he would not do it. Moreover, every reason he gave me was genuine. The reason is a greater part of our future. Also, he is a very loving father. Whenever he comes home, he called me, “darling, how are you doing”? That takes away part of the anger in me. Approach is the most important rules that would keep every marriage alive.
Could you recollect any regrettable moment in your marriage?
Husband: As I search my mind, I would say that there has not been any regrettable moment at all. I see any marital issue as manageable in as much as there is love and understanding.
Wife: Not at all. God has been faithful to us and is still with us. I will say that our marriage is ordained. The feeling does not change but the attitude and emotion change. It is God that gives one the grace to build the home. You try to live within the limit.
What is marriage to you?
Wife: Anything created by God needs to be believed in because He is the one who made everything possible. We do not have opinion of our own. Rather, we should follow the footsteps of God. One should love her husband. I also do something to encourage him. I do not think there is anything that will bring disrespect or friction.
Husband: Marriage is a union between a man and a woman who agreed to live together. There are rules to achieve a successful marriage which is love, fear of God, tolerance and understanding. If every couple would try to keep all the rules, the issue of rampant divorces and separation we are witnessing today will reduce drastically.
What is the secret of your marriage?
Husband: While I was growing up, I saw the way my parents related. My father was such a strong man that his mates nicknamed him stone. He never laid his hands on my mother for one day. He treated my mother well and there was no day they had a serious quarrel that came to our knowledge. So, when I got married, I decided to follow his footsteps. I do not belong to the class of men who believe that women should be relegated to the background, rather, I treat my wife with love and respect.
Wife: It is all embedded in love, respect, understanding and fear of God. When a woman shows a high sense of respect to her husband and is ready to tolerate, things will not go out of hand in their marriage. In addition, the fear of God is very important.
What are the things that make you happy with each other?
Wife: You should mellow yourself because you cannot have two captains in a ship. Consider his situation and try to adapt to any situation for you to have peace, harmony in the home.
How do you know when he is not happy?
Wife: Oh, when my husband is not happy, he would be quiet. And, whenever I observe him in that mood, I would become curious to know what went wrong. Fortunately, he does not hide anything from me. Even if something is wrong outside, he would tell me.
Husband: Occasionally not carrying her along with decisions, but I apologize. Being an accommodating woman, she understands and does not retain ill-feeling for too long. It is difficult to know. But sometimes, it shows on her face and in misdemeanour. Sometimes, I would go to her and ask her what the problem was and she would tell me, “please, leave me”.
How do you know when your spouse is happy?
Wife: When he is happy, he may not smile much, but he will call you names and offer you some gifts.
What is your spouse’s social life?
Wife: He likes chilling out and going to clubs. He also likes mixing up with friends to exchange ideas.
Husband: Both of us are outdoor people. She hates being hooked up in one place. We like chilling out. We used to go to clubs, dance and watch musicians perform. We were regular at Federal Palace Club where we went to watch magicians perform. Now we are life members of Ikoyi Club of 1938.
What is the size of your family?
Husband: I wanted two or three children and it did not matter to me the gender. But with time, my wife said that her mother lost almost all her children. So, she said she would have more children that would serve as consolation to her mother. At the end, we had six children (three males and three females). Three of them are lawyers; one is a medical doctor; another an economist and the other a mass communicator. By the grace of God, they are all doing well.
What advice do you have for younger couples?
Wife: A woman must respect her husband and try to do everything to make him happy because you have chosen to marry him. When something goes wrong, you mellow yourself and handle it properly. You do not have to talk carelessly. When he says no, please leave the matter for the sake of peace. Probably, whenever he realizes that there is need to change his mind, he would surely do that. But if a woman continues to argue with her husband, it is a sign of disrespect, and when once a man understands that his wife does not respect him, he would not be happy. It is very important for a man to be himself, whatever the case. I do not believe in a woman not respecting her husband.
Husband: Young couples should learn more about marriage before going into it to avoid the incessant divorce and separation being experienced these days. They should also understand that marriage is not all about money but natural love. They should also imbibe the spirit of tolerance and understanding.