Fabian Okeke is a native of Awkuzu in Oyi Local Government of Anambra State. Although a Religious Education graduate of University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), he has remained an astute businessman and has made some remarkable landmarks. Married to Pearl Uchenna (they had their traditional wedding in 1995 and their white wedding in 1996), they are blessed with four children: two boys and two girls. In this interview with MADUKA NWEKE, the couple spoke on what it takes to build a successful marriage. They also spoke on why marriages crash and offered useful pieces of advice to young and intending couples. Excerpt:
How did it all start?
Husband: My cousin, her lecturer in her school, gave me her contact. I went to their family house at Onitsha, Anambra State. But on getting there, she was not at home, but at her cousin’s at Enugu. I drove down to Enugu accompanied by her younger sister. We kicked off the communication after the visit.
How did you propose to her?
Husband: I proposed to her indirectly. I gave her a pack of gift. Inside was a box containing the engagement ring. I didn’t tell her the contents. It was the day they did their Dad’s one-year memorial service.
How did you then propose to her?
Husband: I wouldn’t know, because she did not open the pack in my presence.
Why did you accept his offer of marriage?
Wife: I accepted his proposal to marriage because I saw in him a God-fearing spirit. He is homely, humble, and he can take care of people.
Did anyone oppose the marriage?
Husband: None from my family. If you look at her, you will know that she is lovable. Immediately my mum set her eyes on her, she fell in love with her. Nobody from my family opposed my marrying her.
Wife: Yes, my mum. She was sceptical about his faith (Catholic faith). I came from an Anglican home. But today, my mum is very happy that I followed my heart. She would always say: “Uche, you married your husband, not someone’s else’s”.
How has it been?
Husband: It has been very sweet. If there is another world, I will marry her again and again.
How were you able to cope despite marriage challenges, if there was any?
Husband: By His grace, we have been paddling through. We don’t have any peculiar challenges; God has been on our side.
What were the early marriage challenges you faced?
Wife: The challenge then was trying to know each other because we did not court at all.
Have you ever regretted going into the marriage?
Husband: No regrets.
What has kept this marriage going?
Husband: It has been the grace of God. Again, it is understanding each other, not allowing misunderstanding of the previous day to cross over to another day. We try to resolve everything the same day. Another thing is, supporting each other in any given task: both socially and in church activities. God’s grace has kept us going.
What is so special about your spouse?
Wife: My husband eats any food you present to him without complaint. And the way he would lick his plate gives you more joy to cook more. In fact, he appreciates my food real good. He is so special in so many ways. But one thing so beautiful is that he eats all food you present before him . My mum loves that part of him so much.
What is his best food?
Wife: My husband best food is ‘swallow’ and any soup, especially Nsala (white soup) and fresh fish. No day passes without him eating ‘swallow’ food.
How would you describe your wife?
Husband: She is God-fearing, a good understanding wife, hard working and a good cook.
Why do you think marriages crash these days?
Husband: Lack of understanding and immaturity in handling issues. Again, not having God as the rock of your home, and not building your family with belief in one faith, etc.
Wife: Marriage crashes because of lack of understanding, impatience. Again, not knowing your level or, better still, what your spouse can afford is another problem. That is, living above your income. I call many marriages now internet marriage. They see each other on Facebook and off they marry. No way, it doesn’t work like that. Lack of understanding is the major reason. Most young couples do not know how this institution called marriage is. They lack the principles of understanding in marriage. They are always impatient. None of these girls want to build with their man. They want already made hubby. Some do not want to accept the level their hubby operates. They want to be like Iya Lagbaja. It is all due to lack of home training and management.
How do you know when your spouse is angry?
Husband: If my wife gets angry, sometimes she shouts, and, sometimes, she sings Christian songs.
Wife: He would just be singing around the house and shouts at any slightest mistakes. But he must eat his food; he does not reject food like other men do.
How do you handle tough situations in the marriage?
Husband: We handle tough situations by taking it to God in prayer first, then communicating and reconciling our differences and views.
How do you resolve your differences?
Husband: We communicate. We talk it over in the middle of the night or very early in the morning. We resolve them by communicating and reconciling.
Wife: We talk things over. He wakes me up in the middle of the night, or early in the morning to talk it over.
Is there anything your spouse does that you don’t like?
Husband: Yes, her shouting.
Wife: Yes, he is very stubborn. Sometimes, he doesn’t take my advice.
Have you ever had any third party intervention in your marriage?
Wife: No, there’s had been no third party intervention in our marriage; we solve all our differences by ourselves.
Tell us about your happiest moment in this marriage?
Wife: Each time, I was delivered of a baby I would always be overwhelmed with joy that, at times, I wouldn’t be able to sleep after delivery. All their birthdays remind me of God’s goodness.
Tell us about your children?
Wife: My children are the reason I’m still alive today. God blessed us with four kids: two males and two females. The two males are graduates. They graduated the same day from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State (UNIZIK), and they are entrepreneurs. The first girl is in her 200 levels at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN). The last born of the children is still in secondary school, in SS1. They are lovely kids from heaven and I thank God for them.
How were you able to cope when the kids were growing?
Wife: It was not easy at all. But God was there for us. I had a house help then who stayed with us for 11 years and some months from the birth of the first child. Afterward, she left because her mum called her back. We had to take up the work at home. I thank God for the kind of husband He gave to me. We worked together. I always cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner before leaving the house for my business. Afterward, I would still go for church activities in the evening.
How do you cope with your in-laws?
Wife: My in-laws are simply the best. Maybe because they are much older than he is, He is older than only two of them. All are much older than me too. They are simply in-loves, not in-laws. They are God-fearing elite.
What’s his best film or game?
Wife: No films, it’s only football and news.
What is your advice to married men?
Husband: They should always carry their wives along in their plans. Keep aflame your love. Also, trust her most of the time and also trust in God in all things. Always carry your wife along in all your decisions; you might get from her better advice. There is an adage I normally use: “Two good heads are better than one bad one.” Always try to understand your spouse. Trusting your spouse is the ultimate. Suspicion is a bad attitude in marriage; it kills marriage. Trust God in all things. Always put everything in prayers.
What is your advice to married women?
Wife: My advice to married women is that, they should trust their husbands and live according to his pocket. Always talk things over. Respect your hubby especially in the presence of your siblings so that they too would respect him. Nobody disrespects my husband in my presence. Not even our workers. He is my Lord like Sarah calls Abraham, my crown and my oga. Do your work as a mother and a wife in za oza room. Always take all things to God in prayer. He will surely answer.
What is your advice to young men that want to go into marriage?
Husband: Trust in God in all things. Be prayerful. Develop mutual understanding. Trust your wife and vice versa. Know your duty as the man of the house. And, wife, do your work. Fellowship together in your family devotion: morning and night. Teach the children about Christ.