Sunday Azubuike Otuya and his wife, Bishop Otuya have been married for 38 years and are blessed with 13 children and grandchildren. Bishop Otuya left her job just when her boss was about to give her a car and a driver. She resigned, to take care of her children while her husband was in the swamp to make money for the family. In this interview with Vera Wisdom-Bassey, the old couple shared their success story and pitfalls to avoid in marriage.
How has the 38 years of marital journey been?
Husband: It has been great, there is no perfect marriage, but with God all things are possible. We started as youths and are together till date. Sometimes we have our ups and downs, but because we placed God first, everything is a success and we are grateful to God.
How did you meet her and at what point did you decide she was to be your wife?
Husband: We met in Lagos. We were having our annual end -of -year party, a normal annual party hosted by our community in Lagos. We are from Ukuala, Delta State, and at the end of the year, we have what we normally call, ‘Town’s Get -Together’ and we met at Orando Avenue in Surulere. Fortunately, that day I was the D. J . Actually, they were two cousins. Between the two of them, I said to myself, I had seen my wife. That was how it started.
What was the attraction?
Husband: Sometimes, people say there is nothing like love at first sight. Sometimes we see beautiful women, but they are not what you really need. A woman who can take care of the home is what one needs, but I saw the qualities of a mother and a housewife in her within the few seconds I met her, which made me conclude that she would be able to take care of my home, if I made her my wife.
Wife: Personally I would like to say that it is a marriage made in heaven because the Bible says: “As a man thinketh in his heart so he is”. He was eyeing me and I wasn’t eyeing him, but the thing is that I love dancing, I love music, so he was the one in charge of music. So, it gave me the opportunity to go to him to tell him the type of music to play. Aside that, he was someone well known in my place. He was always coming to the house. But this particular day when I saw him in our compound, after the party I ran to him, because he was really good to me and my cousin at the party. I called him uncle and I went and hugged him and he lifted me, and I announced that our brother has come. It was my elder brother who whispered to me and said, “Foolish girl, they have come to marry you”. When he said that I did not believe him, until I saw him and his entourage ask for my hand in marriage. I liked him and I didn’t say no.
Do you still dance even as a grandmother?
Husband: You cannot take that away from me. Even before this interview, I had been dancing at home. We now dance for God.
Wife: There is something we love doing in our family, which has become a family tradition even in the early years of our marriage. Ten years after, we just put on music and we danced with our children and till date we have our house party with the kids. I just love that. Today, most of our children are into music and the dancing continues.
How did you propose to her?
Husband: We are from Delta State and we have our culture. First, we met and talked briefly. She didn’t have a say, but her parents did. We were still young then. We had to meet the mum first, because if you want to get married to a lady you have to meet the mother of the girl.
Husband: Yes, that was the tradition. So, the woman will call the husband later and tell him what the people came for. The mother gives her consent first, not the other way round, because if the mother says no, the man will not force her. If you want to get a wife, it is easier to go through the mum, that was how it was done.
Was there any opposition from your family?
Husband: There is nowhere in the world where out of 12, you would not have one Judas. One of my aunts objected to the marriage, because, she said, my father had chosen a girl for me to marry, when he was alive. But I refused. I told her that I never dictated to my father on who to get married to. Again, he was not alive today to dictate to me, and even if he was, he would not have forced me to get married to somebody I did not love.
She fought, but the majority carried the vote.
How did you feel when he proposed to you?
Wife: As I said earlier, when something is of God there is no resistance. First, I was happy. Then I wasn’t all that mature, as a woman to tell the way I felt, I just knew it was something I had to do and that was it.
Any resistance from your family since you were so young?
Wife: No one resisted, because ours was a close-knit family. I just want to simply say, it was God.
How was early married life like?
Wife: I was ignorant and as I said, when God is there, He helps you to overcome any challenge. I did some silly things I shouldn’t do. I did not know how to cook well, or how to do basic things. I wasn’t prepared. That has been the core of my ministry, to look at my lapses when I was a young married woman to see how I can help young girls to bridge that gap. I made a lot of mistakes and I learnt from them to become who I am today.
Were you working when you got married?
Wife: No, I wasn’t working.
So, how did you prepare for the financial challenges?
Wife: We had our customs and beliefs. He had a fairly steady job that sustained us. We didn’t have children until about four years after marriage. So we won’t say we lacked basic things. It was just two of us and we were comfortable, but when we started having children the economy got bad.
The children didn’t come until four years after marriage. How did you feel during that period?
Wife: I would not pray for my enemy to go through what I went through. From my husband’s side, there was pressure, and negative thinking. Some said I felt I was beautiful, while some said I might have tampered with my womb and things like that. It was really hell, until four years after, God smiled on us and we had our first child. Before then, it was war. At a point there was pressure for him to send me packing, but as God would have it, we are still together today.
Husband: Yes, the pressure was there. If you love someone and you put your trust in the Lord, no amount of pressure would break your resolve. It is a man’s world, but it takes two to tango. Marriage as far as I see it, is not a one-man show, not because you are a man and it must go your way all the time, no. There must be an understanding between two people, because these are two persons coming from different backgrounds. The way I was brought up was not the way the woman was brought up, so, it takes two to start learning and understanding each other. It is not something you build overnight, it takes time, even till now, we have been up for sometime, but we’ve tried to learn from each other and make it work.
What is your advice to women ?
Wife: My advice is that God gives children. Nobody has power to create children, and sometimes, God has His own reason for delaying childbirth. Maybe, the wife is not prepared emotionally to have them, or the man is not buoyant to have them, or God has an agenda to bring out a testimony or a story out of the situation. Let us give room for God to have His way. It will come when it will come. Mothers–in-law are not God and they have daughters too, we should know that what we give to other children will come back to us too. They should know that they have their own daughters and wouldn’t want them to be maltreated for not having children. We need patience.
If you feel something is wrong, call your daughter or son, or even the couple and talk to them. Bring your own opinion, in a loving way, don’t fight against her because you too were once someone else’s daughter-in-law. And whatever you do now will become a cycle that will go round and keep going round until something is done. Once your son’s wife does not have a child on time, you begin to plant something in your son’s head to marry somebody else, but you would not allow that to be done to your own daughter. We need to stop this evil. Do unto others what you want them do unto you.
Again, we should be patient and prayerful to see how we can help the couple get medical attention. Sometimes, it is the son’s fault and not even the wife’s. But, this is a man’s world. Any problem is attributable to the woman. Trust God, wait on the Lord, help each other to understand yourselves and you will triumph.
How many children have you?
Wife: I had 13, but lost one. I am left with seven boys and five girls.
How did you cope ?
Even with the boys?
Wife: They never gave me trouble till date. I have a wonderful first son. I talk with passion, because he is a son any mother would wish to have. He is there to cater for the junior ones. He doesn’t act like those bossy elder brothers. When my third son was going for his musical show, he drove all the way from mainland to Ajah to get his dresses for him, then took him to the venue of his show. He is always caring for the junior ones. When his father is not around, he is always in charge. He is a father- figure right now. They didn’t give me any headache at all. I would say I am blessed.
How were you able to contribute your own quota as a father to the upbringing of the children when working offshore?
Husband: When you set a goal or plan that this is what you want to achieve, you put the family first. Thank God for GSM. I used to work in the swamp and there were times I would stay about two or three months before I would come home and during those period, we still found ways to communicate. Also, because we are blessed with good children, the mother was also able to take control, while I was not around and once or twice in a week, we talked on Turaya phone. Then there was no GSM, but then we had what you call Nitel digital lines. We still found ways to communicate. There was a system that my company ran that time that you made an allotment for wives to go to the office and pick the money she needed to take care of the family. So, we made sure that the family won’t have any problem and there were always ways for us to reach out and with God all things are possible. I have a good wife who knows that she should be in-charge when her husband is not around, so things were able to move smoothly.
Who between you two do the children fear more?
Husband: They fear their mum, because she would sit them down and talk to them, but they fear me because when I shout at them they would be scared and say this lion is back. But, to me I later found out that shouting does not help. To build up a family, you need to understand that they also have their rights to certain things, so when you deprive them of their rights they also have the right to react.
In my home we sit down every Tuesday and discuss the Bible, express our feelings towards each other.
Wife: We didn’t bring them up to fear us. We made them understand that it is their home and that we are always there for them. God also helps them to understand in the scripture how Jacob blessed his children. I sit them down most times to educate them that if their father has any grievance against them, it goes a long way to train them, no matter what you do, make sure you are in your father’s good books. That makes them grow up and mature. They also learnt to speak their minds freely. There was a day I had a quarrel with my son and he looked at me and said, mum you taught me to respect my father, no matter what and that solved the problem.
When there are issues in the home, who apologises first between you and your wife?
Husband: We fight nearly everyday, but one good thing that has helped us is that we don’t bring third party, when we have misunderstanding. So, my advice to the young couples is, don’t allow your father or your mother, mother-in-law or father-in-law to intrude in your family affairs. Whenever, we have problems or issues, if I was guilty, I am not ashamed to apologise, even kneeling down to say I am sorry, forgive me. I do that and she also can shout as lioness, but after we have calmed the aggrieved person, either of us would say, ‘sorry, let’s forget it,’ and the matter ends there. That is one of the things that has been helping us. It is very, very important in marriage.
Wife: If I’m wrong I apologise and if he is the one, he does the same. As a preacher of the faith, I discovered that most couples really love themselves, but there is what I call the uninvited guest, the “devil”. We underestimate him, he comes and whispers something and the fight starts. We apologise to each other when we have trouble. We need to deal with pre-conceived ideas before we get married. As he told you, from both sides, we had never gone to his parents and my parents to report ourselves to them, never. We might lock ourselves inside and fight, but you will never hear anything outside.
That pre-conception is a terrible thing. I have seen couples fight over nothing, and homes divorce over thing. I learnt in a book that all homes are not the same.
My husband has his background and I have mine. There cannot be two captains in a boat, and God taught me, no matter how anointed you are, there is only one head. God has helped me to fight my own challenge, making me understand that marriage is a ministry. Ministry of both of you to talk to God on the challenges that exist in the marriage, and I see myself as a servant.
If you see your husband as your master, even though he does wrong, it will be easy to forget, because you will see him the way he is. You cannot fight against your boss, not that anybody made it like that, he didn’t impose that on me, it was my own learning in life, my own way of escaping from things I see around me. The Bible says love does not count errors, but overlooks. Love is a very powerful thing.
What advice do you have for young couples?
Wife: I want to tell all women that if the man is not your ordained husband, you can apply all the principles, they won’t work. Remember God is love.