It is not always that marriage is a straight line between two points, just like we have it in mathematics. It is not always that you and a woman agreed to marry each other that you have it easy all the way from proposal to wedding. Sometimes, there can be opposition either from husband’s or wife’s side or both. Don’t worry. What goes up must, one day, come down. On your part, all you need to survive the turbulent storm is patience, as the story of Navy Captain Solomon Musa Ochidi and his wife, Esther Ifitumi Ochidi, shows. Recently, they had cause to renew their marriage vows marking their 25 years of marital sojourn together under the same roof. In this interview with JOE APU, they go down memory lane to tell their story of love, trials and how they overcame. In all, they advise young families to be patient with each other, to understand themselves and above all, to pray and learn to forgive each other. Excerpts:
How did you meet?
Husband: I met her about 1988 at the Malu Road Barracks now Navy Barracks, Mobil Road. She was staying there with her parents. Her father was in the Navy and when I left Naval College, Onne, to come and do sea cadet training, I was at the barracks to see my friends. Incidentally, one of my friends was their next-door neighbour and that was how I saw her. But at that time, there was no thought of any kind because she was still little. At about 1990/91, after I had served in Warri, I came back to Lagos for a course and while I was on the course, I happened to be staying at the Malu Road Barracks courtesy of an officer friend of mine who at that time was serving in Sapele. Being in the barracks there again brought me close to them and I started noticing that as a girl that was humble and quite different from other girls I used to see around and I became interested in her.
Was it her humility or beauty that attracted you to her?
Husband: It was a combination of both and she holds both traits till date. You hardly see her mix much with the tough girls and that endeared her to me.
What was the attraction?
Wife: He is also humble and he has this care factor in him. He is eager to see others succeed and places others before him.
You both seem to have some similarities that have bonded you together all these years. Can you share these with our readers?
Wife: The similarity is that when it comes to academics, he likes it and I too was just out of school and was fighting to secure admission but I must confess that it was not easy coming by. But he encouraged me to remain steadfast and that even if the university admission did not come through, there are other things I could still do to further my education. He encouraged me to go into secretarial studies at the Lagos State Secretarial School. He came across it on his way home from work one day and he asked me to get the form and apply. I took his advice, made enquires and then applied. It was as if the slot was waiting for me and I got the admission. Another one is that he is like a teacher in the sense that he feels there are things I should know to prepare me and often teaches me. Being an inquisitive person too, I became his student and was ready to learn. And to the glory of God, the things I learnt from him has taken me far and I am still learning from him.
Husband: The similarities between us are like things that were deliberately designed. For instance, I am the first child of my parents and we were seven (all boys) but of the seven, one is late and we’re only six now; in the same vein, she is also the first child of her family and they were seven (mixed) out of which one too is late and they are now six. Again, our fathers are late while our mothers are very much with us. As it turned out, we also have four kids and that makes us six too. In fact, everything points to the fact that we are meant to be together.
How easy was it to let her parents know of your intention to marry?
Husband: At about 1992 when I was to embark on my sub-technical course as a Sub Lieutenant, I went with some of my people to an uncle of hers residing at Idi-Araba and present the traditional things to show my intention but it was not an easy road because I had grown so close to her family. I found it difficult now that I wanted to marry her. However, I went to tell my uncle, Col. Gabriel Oduma Musa (rtd) who was then a Major in the army. I explained my difficulties to him because I was very close to him and one of his favourite among cousins. His first reaction jolted me. He asked me, why would I want to marry his daughter? She too was very close to his family but after a while, he explained to me that I was indeed not related to her and that he would handle it. He did handle things and from then on, there was no going back till we got married on 17th December 1994.
Wife: It was a mixed feeling for my parents. They were disappointed that someone that I had always referred to as brother would have carnal feeling for me. My mum particularly was not happy and wondered why marriage should occupy my mind instead of thinking of how to go to school, get a job to assist my siblings. I was dumbfounded and very scared. I didn’t expect such reaction and scolding. He was liked by everyone in my family but I found that I had a special feeling for him and was left confused. Already, I knew what I wanted and was bent on it because my man was not just thinking of me carnally but was interested in my future. However, one of my uncle’s wife was the one who intervened and convinced my parents to give their blessing. Her argument was that my parents should be grateful in the first place that I did not bring shame to the family by getting pregnant and that secondly, the person in question is well known to them. That he had taken the right steps should also give them joy. When my parents accepted the proposal, my father particularly took his time to groom me. He taught me how an officer’s wife should behave. What is expected of me as a military wife and mother. He became my best friend. My father told me specifically that marriage is like going to war and that I must prepare for what is ahead and that I must not fail in prayers, I should have understanding and must also learn to love people around me.
Were you at any point in time scared that she would get married to someone else?
Husband: Yes. As a man, there is always that jealousy and fear. There were times we had small misunderstandings and you are no longer sure. There was a time she told me that she had someone else she wants to get married to. I was disappointed but didn’t want to show it. I told her there was no problem but that she should always consider me as her brother. This happened while I was still serving in Warri and when I came to Lagos, I pretended that all was well but one day she came to me and asked me if my proposal to marry her still stands. I told her that [but] she told me she had someone else why is she asking me again? She said she only did it to test my seriousness.
How did his parents feel about you?
Wife: First, they were shocked by my humility. Their mindset was that any girl from the city is always wayward. On my first visit to them in the village with one of his cousins, his parents were taken aback to see that a city girl could sweep, ground pepper on stone, go to the stream to fetch water and even carry it on her head. My mother-in-law sat afar and was watching all the things I was doing. They were convinced that their son did not disappoint them. His mother took me in as her daughter she did not have and glory to God it has been good.
Has it been a bed of roses?
Husband: Marriage is not a bed of roses and we have experienced it but to the glory of God, there is no conflict or disagreement that has lasted more than two days maximum. We’ve never been angry at each other for a whole day. We do quarrel and have disagreements but we don’t allow it to be carried over to the next day. If she does anything that I don’t like, I tell her immediately and she would say: “You have started with your military attitude.” If I offend her too, she tells me not minding if the children are there and that I don’t like it, but after a while, we forget about it.
Wife: God has been seeing us through, from when we met till date. Before I got married, I had always asked God to give me the spirit of understanding, knowledge and quick forgiveness. There was this incident on one of his birthdays while we were in Warri. There was this girl that was calling persistently and sending him all manner of text messages. I confronted him about it and he apologised but I insisted I don’t like such. As his wife, I should be the first person to wish him a happy birthday not another woman.
Husband: Sorry is the magic word and it has helped me in this 25 years of marriage.
What is your advice to young couples?
Wife: The key word is patience. It has paved the way for us. Couple needs patience to understand each other. As a woman, you need to be wise. I am not talking about worldly wisdom here but wisdom of God. Marriage is war and only patience and understanding gives victory. For instance, our marriage did not start on a smooth ground. From the beginning, it has been full of challenges. It was three years after our wedding that I took in. That three years was like 30 years to me but despite the delay, I thank God we stood by each other trusting that God would take control. In marriage, the boss is always the boss but he is not to take his student for granted. As military wives, we are fond of calling ourselves together and telling one another that we saw your husband with another lady. Such gossips break homes because some will go all out to fight forgetting that they are first and foremost the wife. The military in which your husband is serving already knows you as the wife and not anyone else. Those other women who stray in our husbands’ path are just helpers. They don’t last.
Husband: As a young boy growing up and seeing how my parents stayed together through their marriage, I always pray to God to give me a wife that would remain with me forever. I use to see some men who marry today, tomorrow they take another one and on and on. It irritates me. There has to be love because that is the oil that keeps the wheels of marriage going.