Mr. & Mrs. Paul Okagbare got married on the February 10, 1990 and are blessed with four children (two boys and two girls), as well as a grandson. Mr. Okagbare is from the Olomu Kingdom, Ughelli South, Delta State, while Rita, his wife is from Onitsha, Anambra State. Mr. Okagbare, a graduate of University of Lagos with a bachelor degree in Finance and Master of Business Administration (MBA), from the University of Lagos; retired as a Deputy Director from the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2016, after 35 years of meritorious service. Mrs. Rita Chinwe Okagbare, a health promoter, holds a Master degree in Public Health (MPH) from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Australia. In this interview with MADUKA NWEKE, they shared their marriage experiences.
How did you meet your spouse?
Wife: During my National Youth Service Corp (NYSC), 1988/89 session, I went for lunch at the Leventis Store, Marina, Lagos with a female corper friend of mine. As fate would have it, my husband, Paul and a friend/colleague of his at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) were also there. His friend happened to know my friend. We got introduced to each other; exchanged landline telephone numbers, as there were no mobile lines then, and the rest as they say, is history.
Husband: I was having lunch with a friend at the Leventis Store when my eyes caught Rita and her friend coming into the restaurant. I nudged my friend and said “wow, look at that babe, isn’t she beautiful?’ He looked and said he knew the other girl. I said, “really, you must introduce me to them.” We were on our way out when we stopped by their table, chatted for quite some time, exchanged telephone numbers and I promised to keep in touch with Rita; which I did. This was how our relationship started.
How did he propose to you?
Wife: I think about two weeks after we met, he called me and asked if he could visit me at home, which I agreed. Thereafter, Paul was always at my place, either to spend some time with me or to take me out on a date. He was always asking all sorts of questions, mainly about my family, mother, siblings, friends, tribe, and if I had a serious boyfriend. I believe we dated for about six months; he was on/off, until he finally invited me to his place. Surprisingly, the first time he invited me to his place, he proposed to me.
Husband (chipped in): I wasn’t too romantic, but I tried my best.
What was your reaction when he proposed to you?
Wife: At first, I was confused. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry; and suddenly I asked if I could use his telephone; and I called my mum. He asked if he could speak with my mother, of which I consented. Before I knew what was going on, he had talked my mum into agreeing that we would be visiting Onitsha in two weeks time. I also think my dad was around; and my mum consulted him before agreeing to the proposed visit. He completely took me unawares.
Husband: I was full of joy at my progress towards getting married.
You are from different tribes; how did you feel crossing the Rubicon, as it were?
Wife: As for me, tribe was never an issue.
Husband: At first, I was worried that we might not be able to blend and make the adjustments. Fear breeds doubt, and doubt leads to loss of confidence. It’s a vicious cycle; and we suffered more in our imagination than in reality. I had to shake it off and attempted to take control of my destiny.
What did you really see in your spouse that attracted you?
Husband: From the beginning, there was nothing ordinary about Rita; she stood out in every crowd, not only for her looks, but for her wit and charm. Even after twenty-seven (27) years of marriage, I still wonder how good it is to see my wife, with admiration. She is still beautiful, intelligent and strong. She is elegant and striking; has a flair for getting noticed, and no one is quite like her. No moment with her was ever dull. She remained full of surprises; cares deeply for people. I admire her confidence, character, values, integrity, and independent nature. A woman of gentle disposition and great tenderness; there is no doubt that I made my fortune the day I married Rita, my wife. To God is the glory.
When you first told your friends, what did they tell you?
Wife: A lot of my friends were asking questions like about where I met him, don’t you think you should study him for a while; and where is he from? They were worried because he wasn’t an Igbo guy, and that I haven’t even met his parents, siblings etc. They cautioned me to tarry for a while.
Husband: They were happy; maybe because most of them were already married. The general advice was that I should follow my heart; be focused and bold in executing my decision to settle down in marriage. I took their pieces of advice to mean that I should not procrastinate, since procrastination is like a thief, waiting in disguise to rob me of my hopes and dreams.
What were your early marriage challenges?
Wife: Some members of my husband’s family were concerned about my fashion sense. Some of them even insisted that I must tie wrapper because I was married to an Urhobo man, from a noble and royal family. But my husband, Paul, stood his ground that I could wear whatever I am comfortable with, that makes me look good and happy.
Husband: As for me, I noted that some members of my family and even friends liked her, while some hated her guts. However, she was always confident, soft-spoken, but very sure of her point of view; tried to do what was right and not what was expected.
How do you manage the challenges and friction in marriage?
Wife: We communicated effectively with each other, and once we agree on a decision, that’s it.
Husband: You have to take your time making these kind of decisions, because in life, most of the time, things are seldom the way they seem. It’s good to be a sceptic; you can’t come to conclusions solely on appearances. You’ve got to pay attention to all the possible options, and then make appropriate/relevant decisions for the good and sustainability of the marriage. As for my wife, Rita, her other side is toughness, shrewdness and don’t ever take her lightly. She is very calculating and sensitive in managing people.
What is your perception of marriage?
Wife: Marriage is about companionship. Try to be truthful and open to each other, no secrets. Effective communication is very important.
Husband: I think marriage takes a lot of work, and requires constant care. A man has to have someone he can confide in. So, the purpose of marriage is to teach us about giving up our selfish tendencies and caring for one another.
If you need something from your spouse and it’s not forthcoming, how do you feel?
Wife: I can’t recall ever requesting for anything that my husband doesn’t give to me. He is actually very generous to a fault to me, our kids, family, friends, and indeed everybody. I don’t know how he does it, but God will continue to bless him abundantly.
Husband: That will be probably outside her control and I won’t feel bad.
How has technology strengthened or weakened your marriage?
Wife: I believe, it has strengthened our marriage. With the advent of improved technology, it has facilitated effective communication among my family members. It has brought us closer and better connected. Look at instant messaging, Whatsapp, Facebook, family photo/video albums, and video conferencing, and I am glad it’s all happening in our generation.
Husband: Technology has made my family knowledge facilitators, and I can’t be excessively critical, especially with regards to chatting, and visiting different blogs. We are in a knowledge world/ social media, and we must adapt quickly to the ever rapid changes in the technology world.
Many marriages have gone awry, some torn asunder for one reason or the other. What is your advice on divorce?
Wife: I don’t like divorce, but maybe it is necessary, if the marriage was based on malicious/painful deceit from the inception and/ or if it has become life-threatening (domestic violence).
Husband: I think in recent times, the institution of marriage is in deep trouble, as we can imagine from the rate of divorce, of which I get to hear that it is very high. However, it is so easy for those of us that has never experienced the desperation and sorrow of a failed marriage to presume that those that failed could have attempted to save their marriages. There are several reasons as to why marriages fail, which include adultery, vicious abuse, and addiction amongst others. I also think many marriages break up needlessly because spouses were jealous, prudish or both, and simply indifferent, often on the part of one of the spouses. I think, divorce must be a painful experience to go through, and so the society must do more especially in the area of counselling, at better preparing engaged couples before they marry.
What is your opinion about common purse?
Wife: I believe, with good understanding by couples, it can work very well.
Husband: I think it is a good thing to do. My wife and I, have a joint account, although we still have our individual accounts as well.
What is your opinion on squabbles between couples?
Wife: I think you should try and understand your spouse, talk about the issues, and resolve them amicably. I cannot over-emphasise the importance of effective communication.
Husband: To the best of my knowledge, the relationship between my wife and I, over the years has been exceptionally close and good. Generally, everyone in the course of a lifetime could have occasional mental blind spots. However, the institution of marriage should instill discipline in us and change our lives for the better.
What advice can you give to young people going into marriage?
Wife: They should understand that marriage is not a bed full of roses, learn to forgive and forget. Spouses should love each other unconditionally, trust in each other, and be emotionally stable. Lest I forget, they should check their genotype.
Husband: Couples must be balanced in their thinking, and more willing to listen to all sides. After all, life is all about building and enjoying great relationships.