Characterised by admirable rapport, tranquillity and marital bliss, Dee Sam Alaoma Nwanguma’s marriage to his wife, Josephine Nwanguma, both from Obingwa Local Government Area, Abia State could be described as made in heaven but consummated on earth. According to their accounts, it was love at first sight. And 52 years down the line, the embers of that love are still burning in their hearts for each other. Madam Josephine’s total submission as acknowledged by her husband remains the secret weapon to their happy home. The couple told AGATHA EMEADI that while Dee Sam has always completely remained in charge of family finances, his wife has always been in charge of him as they age gracefully. Nwanguma started early in Lagos and worked with notable constructions companies like Westminster Dredging, Dave Engineering, ITT, Bouygues etc. “Some of the prominent skyscrapers we built as construction companies include UBA building, Elephant House, National Bank, Adenuga House and Financial Trust Bank among others,” he told Saturday Sun.
How did you meet each other?
Dee Sam: It was during the Nigerian Civil War. As a born choirmaster at St. Gabriel Catholic Church, Ikala in Obingwa LGA; on that very day, one woman was about to dedicate her child. So, I called out the choristers for practice. But while rehearsing, I sighted a lady coming out from a house opposite the church. They were refugees camping at Peter’s Quarters in my village. Then, churches and schools were located in the same place. I was still singing and looking at her because I was determined to settle down then. Her sight attracted me immediately, even though I had introduced a girl to my family. That was the beginning of our 52 years in love. After the dedication, I came back to the church to look for her, but could not find her. It was not easy to go and knock at the home of a girl in those days. But I never knew that her father was camping in my mother’s household as they were shared as refugees. Another day, I saw her and beckoned on her but she refused to answer me. But the first time she responded, before I could say ‘Jack Robbinson’ she ran away. Her senior brother was my good friend. He eventually helped to soften the ground the moment he got the information that I was interested in marrying her.
Ma Josephine: We were refugees in their own village, Ikala. My father had ten wives and many children, so we were shared among his community for safety reasons. He called on me and began to talk about marriage that I was not interested in. I ran away because my education was paramount in my mind.
How did you propose to her? Did you kneel as it is recently done?
Dee Sam: God forbid; It is an abomination of the highest order for an Igbo man to kneel and propose marriage to the wife he is about to marry. I told her plainly that I wanted to marry her and did not come for friendship. She didn’t even know what I was talking about because her aim was not to marry then but to go back to school as the war was subsiding gradually.
How did you react to his marriage proposal?
Ma Josephine: When he proposed to me, I was confused at the initial time; but sought advice from my big stepsister who was living in his compound. My sister asked me to marry him because if soldiers apprehended me, they would abuse me. But it would be a hard pill to swallow because I was still interested in my education. I got attracted to him with time because he is an only child who shared life with his mother then.
What do you remember about your wedding?
Dee Sam: Four days to our wedding, I was involved in a ghastly motor accident at Idumota, Lagos but did not lose any part of my body. God has been so merciful and that is why I do not joke with the things of God. I live and breathe church activities. I have been a choirmaster all my life, wherever I lived and worked.
Ma Josephine: I was scared of the accident, but God strengthened me to continue our wedding preparations.
After 52 years together, what do you look back today and thank God for?
Dee Sam: Uncountable testimonies. First, God gave me a wife I call ‘Mine’ and she is truly my own. From the day I paid her bride price and she returned to my mother’s kitchen; it was not easy at that initial stage. We started life with a six-spring bed. But we have been bathing and eating together to date. We have never separated our bedroom; except on few occasions when she went for omugwo (traditional babysitting and mother care duty usually done by the bride’s mother). When I use our bathing together to counsel some couples, they ask if our bathroom is as big as the sitting room. As devoted Catholics, I named her Josephine because she is everything I want in a woman. My first impression was her parental background. She is the quiet type who obeys instructions without questioning my actions. She is very obedient and submissive. She does not know how to keep malice and she gives me my deserved respect.
Ma Josephine: I would wake up very early to bathe with him before he goes to work and would wait for him to come back so we can bathe together. He is a very caring husband who listens to me. We have not separated our bedroom from day one till date. It also helped to shape our lives and brought us close. There is no advice I give to him that he does not take. I am just at peace with him and very convinced that he will not hurt me no matter what he does outside because he is my own.
What don’t you like about her?
Dee Sam: She is a wonderful woman, but when we got married newly, if you look at her face, you will not enter here. But she is the best woman. With my social nature, I began to work on her and she is fine today.
Ma Josephine: I did not like how he held unto our family finances alone in our younger years. But with time, I came to appreciate the fact that he did not waste the funds. Because of that, we trained our seven children very well. They all graduated got married and we are blessed with 16 grandchildren. We have our own landed property in Lagos and the East.
How do you handle turbulent times?
Dee Sam: If we quarrel at 6:00 am, by 6:30 am, that scuffle is over no matter what it is. I do not insult her family but rather respect and appreciate them. Her father was the richest man in his village; he built a storey building in 1944. He loved me so much because he said I am an intelligent man. We share a big love as in-laws. We might misunderstand ourselves through communication. I take all her advice and consult her in all that I do. She has been so cooperative in life and very submissive. That is why I love her.
How you were able to keep such a handsome man to yourself?
Ma Josephine: It was hard. I know he is good-looking and very sociable by nature. Most of the time, I overlook his pranks with girls, and at times, I would quarrel over them. But one fact is clear: no woman can enter my home. I was also in charge in that regard.
How did you manage your finances as a happy couple?
Dee Sam: When she joined me in Lagos on April 2, 1972, the day Nigeria was transferring from left-hand drive to right-hand drive and the same week that Nigeria changed from pounds to naira, I sat her down and we agreed on certain terms. “I am an only child, please take care of my children. I will be responsible as a man to take care of you and our children She simply obeyed and it worked that way until our seventh child grew up. Then, I found a place for her to sell shoes. She was going to Aba to bring shoes for customers from Mali, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, and Sierra Leone. These countries were coming to Idumota, Lagos Island, to buy made-in-Aba shoes. I felt it was a bit hectic for her and introduced her to the supplies business. But then, I would get the Local Purchase Order (LPO), she would do the job and I would collect the cheque. She was annoyed as a human being. I told her, I am not paying house rent or school fees for any other woman outside our home; everything is for you and your seven children. She listened and understood me and that is where she remains an exceptional woman. All our focus was to train our children and give them the best we could offer. Therefore, I was completely in charge of our finances. But she also knows that I am honest and accountable with family funds. All her personal requirements were met. Now, both of us are reaping the dividend of that ‘crazy decision’. We are not rich but do not know a hungry day. We have our buildings here in Lagos and the village. It was her simplicity, support, and prayers that made them possible.
Do you use sex as a weapon to fight back when you misunderstand each other?
Ma Josephine: As a human being, our quarrel does not last long at all. But when he goes out and comes back very late, if he touches me, I would not agree. Instead, I would quarrel with him but in the end, I would succumb. One of his greatest qualities is that when he does something wrong and I raise it he would explain, accept and apologise.
What is your husband’s favourite food?
Ma Josephine: He likes very rich Okro soup garnished with ugu leaves. He also likes ofe achara and okazi, our local delicacy. But again, he eats whatever is served on the table.
What advice would you give to newlyweds to enjoy the fruit of the union as you are enjoying today?
Dee Sam: As long as a man is alive to his responsibilities, he will enjoy his marriage.
Ma Josephine: First, when marriages are contracted, both should study each other and know the dos and don’ts. The moment they discover themselves, they would have achieved 60 per cent of their desire. There must also be tolerance, patience, and trust. I am my husband’s wife, mother, sister, and friend because he is an only child.
Do you have plans for your final moments on earth?
Ma Josephine: After enjoying our ripe old age, he will go and meet his Maker. I will wait for two years before I join him.
Dee Sam: What if you go first? (Laughter) I do not like to stay away from my home, especially without her. So, it will be too difficult for me to cope with the situation if she goes before me.