Elder Godwin Arua, former General Manager of Ebonyi Patriot, the state government-owned newspaper, and Elder (Mrs) Anthonia Arua, Assistant Director of Nursing at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki (AE-FUTHA), have been married for 30 years. In this interview with OBINNA ODOGWU, the couple who hails from Afikpo, Ebonyi State, share with readers the story and secret of their love life.
Could you share with our readers how you met before both of you decided to get married?
Husband: I think our meeting was coincidental. A junior nurse at that time, she worked with Mater Hospital in Afikpo. I went there to look for somebody and, incidentally, it was in her ward. I was chatting with the matron who happened to be the wife of one of my brothers. I saw her there too but I didn’t come for her. After the chatting, as I was going, she told her that she would send her to my house to collect palm wine. I was a teacher then at McGregor College, Afikpo. So, she told her that she would go to my place and collect palm wine because in my school then, we used to have supplies of fresh and unadulterated palm wine. In fact, it was the best of palm wine and that lady always liked that drink. So, she told her to come to my place and collect the palm wine. As a junior nurse, she has to obey her matron. So, she came with her friend. I bought the palm wine and gave her to take to that lady. Another time, the lady sent her again. This time, she came alone. As I was escorting her to where she would board a bike to the hospital, we chatted and I found her very intelligent. I was surprised that she was knowledgeable enough to flow in the conversation. It got me more interested but I didn’t tell her. When she left, I was like tumbling in my bed and reasoning with myself that this girl is quite intelligent, why not go for her? That was how I decided to visit her home. I went with my friend to their house because I didn’t want her parents or anybody to embarrass me. I went with him as a cover. We chatted for sometime before we left. But the second time I went to her house, I did that alone. You remember that she came to my house the second time alone? I now went to their house the second time alone. That was how we met.
Was it exactly the way it happened or are there details you might want to add?
Wife: That’s how we met. Sometimes when a man proposes to a woman she would request for time to think about it or opt to pray for months. Well, as at then, I was a religious person but I was not born again. But each time I think back, I say thank God it worked out fine because if it had not worked out fine, one would have wondered what made you to accept him. He just said ‘I like you’; me I said ‘I like you too.’ Do you understand? All he had said was actually what happened. Before my senior colleague sent me on errand to his place, my father had contested an election in which he was rigged out and the case was in court. It was that case that formed the basis of the discussion he was talking and in which he said he found me intelligent. I was angry that they rigged my father out of the election. So we were talking about politics and all that having come from that background.
How did you propose to her? What exactly did you say to her as to make her accept to marry you?
Husband: Can I remember how I proposed to her? I just told her that I like her and that I would like to marry her. Such thing, sometimes, is difficult to break. I had gone to her house a number of times. When I now made up my mind, I took her out to a joint where we normally drink and eat Nkwobi, pepper soup, and Isi ewu. So, I took her out to that joint and after we had enjoyed ourselves, in the course of discussion, you know, in that lighter mood, I told her that I would like to marry her! She said ok. Like she said, it was just that simple. The next time I invited her to my village to come and know my parents, to come and know my house. And there was an event in our village that day: 26th of December, 1988. So, she came and I took her to my parents and told them that this is the girl that I would like to marry. They welcomed her and that was it. It was like everything was working like magic. Two months later I went to her house officially. I had prepared everything and the journey started.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Wife: There isn’t much because my aunt married into their village even though I didn’t visit her often. But, at least, I knew some people there and they know me. When I was going to see him, I really didn’t know where. So, immediately I entered that environment, I saw the person married to my cousin. I told him who I was looking for and he went inside and called him out for me. When he did many people saw us and it was like it made news that I was going to get married to him. This was because I was not from there. So, coming there in an atmosphere of event made people to start suspecting and that was it. Everything went on fine. There was no obstacle at all. I feel that it was God that arranged it, ordained it, because at every point there was nowhere anybody objected, from the beginning to the end.
What made you decide to go for her out of the many ladies available for a pick within that period?
Husband: Like I told you, she exhibited, if you like, uncommon intelligence in the way she was taking part in our conversations. I chat a lot and if you saw us discussing at that initial stage, you would think we had known each other for decades because she made meaningful contributions. It’s just that intelligence. That was one of the things that singled her out amongst all the girls. That was the selling point. I like ladies who can contribute intelligently because I believe that I don’t know it all. I didn’t want to marry somebody that would not make any input when there is an issue to discuss. I didn’t want to marry somebody who would only be interested in cooking food for me. So, that was what distinguished her from other ladies.
What qualities made you choose him above other eligible bachelors or suitors within that period?
Wife: Before he came for me, suitors had been coming but my spirit never accepted any of them. Two of those people, he accompanied them. They were all teachers then. It was such that when we agreed to get married, the other man was feeling like he snatched his wife from him by pretending to accompany him to come and ask for my hand in marriage. But the truth is that we never talked. As a young person, he was quite sociable. We just met and he said that he wanted to marry me and that was it. He fitted the picture of the husband I wanted to marry. Some people don’t know what they want. But I did, so it wasn’t difficult for me to say yes.
What do you remember most about your wedding?
Husband: Afikpo is a cluster town. Two persons cannot marry on the same day. This is because the same people that would attend your own wedding are the same that would attend the other person’s and if two of you are wedding, it means that the crowd would be divided. But it was in my wedding that two persons wedded on the same day. We wedded in the same church, used the same hall, and the same hotel for our bachelor’s eve. It wasn’t like that before. That was the first time such happened in Afikpo but it turned out beautiful. That was when people realized that they could attend two weddings the same day. It is not like now that if you have 15 weddings, you can attend all the 15. That time, if you went to somebody’s wedding, you remained there.
And, what do you like most about your spouse?
Husband: Humility, respect. If I had married a troublesome person, we would be fighting every day. Do you know what they used to call her in my village? O kwere nke di kara (one who agrees with what her husband says). I don’t feel comfortable when I attend a function without her.
Wife: He is sincere, very, very sincere. At that young age, most men hide facts about their earnings. But after the traditional marriage rites, I visited him in his village. He brought out his pay slip and showed me. It humbled me. He said: ‘this is what I earn. If you want to request anything from me, I want you to have an idea so that you know what you’ll be asking for.’ Many men would not do this. His sincerity is to the point that even when he does something bad, he would also confess it and apologize. He is also caring.
What advice do you have for a young bachelor who intends to marry?
Husband: Marriage is a two-person thing: you and your wife. That’s why God said a man should leave his father and mother and cling to his wife and the two shall become one. Marriage is not something that you keep the wife by the side and keep moving; otherwise it’s no longer marriage. For young people, they should be sincere to each other. The man should understand that ‘yes, I cannot do this alone; I need this my wife to help me.’ Even if you’re making millions and your wife is also making millions, the two of you should see that it is a marriage of two persons. Your wife is not your roommate. She is part of you. You should be open to her. When you have misunderstanding, you must make sure that it does not get to the third ear. You must give room for mistakes. Again, young men must jettison the I-am-the-boss-here mentality. Nobody is contesting your headship. You will even get your wife to be more submissive when you are helping her. I discovered something: when our wives are in the kitchen and we go and stand by the door and be chatting with them, they so much enjoy it. She is busy in the kitchen and instead of you to go and stay in the parlour and be watching television or reading newspaper; you go and stand by the door of the kitchen and be throwing up one or two topics for discussion while she is cooking, it makes the job easy for her. So, this idea of being the boss should be jettisoned by young men.
What advice do you have for a spinster who intends to marry?
Wife: What I see these days is competition. Most ladies think that ‘I go to work, you go to work, when we come back we will share the work at home. The spinsters should be humble enough to do home chores. If you marry a man that loves you and cares for you, there is no way that he would sit down and be watching television or reading newspaper and allow you to get crushed with home activities. A spinster should know that God has said that man should be the head and a woman the helper. Therefore, a spinster should know that when she gets married, she would be helping the man. Young ladies should not think that marriage is when somebody takes them to Crunches, Mr. Biggs and others. Many people have been going to all those places. By the time they get married, the home activities will change. Children will start coming. You can’t be going to Crunches as before. That is not marriage. I have had to listen to young ladies who got married complain that their husbands no longer take them out. That’s not marriage. A time will come when your husband will take you out. A lady should make up her mind to build a home because the Bible says that a wise woman makes her home.