Mrs. Saidat Olaitan Otulana, the Director and Head of Lagos State Council for Art and Culture (LSCAC) under the Ministry of Tourism, Art and Culture has shown that a woman can maintain a home in spite of her laudable position in the society. Married on 5th August, 1989 to Mr. Kamaldeen Olugbenga Otulana, popularly called Atayese, the couple says they are very much in love after 30 years of living together as husband and wife. In this interview with GLORIA IKEGBULE, they reveal the secret of their union.
What is your definition of marriage?
Husband: Marriage has to do with understanding, tolerance, endurance, love, care and friendship.
Wife: I latch on to everything my husband said. In addition, marriage is showing lots of understanding, empathy, and respect for each other. It is sacrosanct we respect each other’s individuality while being visibly together. Love each other. Expect that anything can happen and don’t be overly shocked to want to be irrational in your thinking. You must appreciate each other. Don’t expect perfection. When you sign the dotted lines, get committed in making your marriage work.
Was this your view of marriage 30 years ago?
Husband: No. I thought marriage was having a life partner that would make you happy for the rest of your life. But as you grow older, you realize that there are ups and downs in marriage. However, the mindset that I wanted a life partner in spite of all the forces helped me to be focused to make it work. At least, Rome was not built in a day.
Wife: My idea from the time I decided to get married has not changed. When I choose to settle down, I decided this was going to be my life partner and come what may, I intended to make it work. It has not been easy but we are working constantly to water and nurture it.
How did you meet?
Husband: Interesting, we met through my younger sister several years ago. She came visiting and the rest is history
How did you propose to her?
Husband: As usual, “I like you and I want you to be my friend. The apple in my eyes, the sugar in my tea…”
Wife: There was no formal proposal. We were together for more than two years and along the line we knew we were going to get married and started working towards it.
Husband: We started things to equip the house. Those days, there was nothing like formal proposal. It’s just a friendship that would gravitate toward marriage
Were your parents aware?
Wife: Yes, it was more than a year before we got married. His family knew I was the significant person in his life and my family knew he was the significant person in my life. When we said we were ready for marriage, my father wanted to know how much I had in my account and how much he has in his account; if we would be supported, they wanted to know. We needed to show our commitment that getting married was not just a mere hearsay; it comes with responsibilities. When we were good and ready, my family gave the date. It was when my father was ready that he gave the date. So, we had from January to end of July to plan.
Do you mean there was nothing like a proposal, “I want to marry you”. And you saying, “Give me time to think about your proposal”?
Husband: I must have done it at some point.
Wife: You see, in my time, relationship was not taken frivolously. If you are in a relationship with a man, you would become committed in that relationship. I was a single person and there was no schooling on the way to stop me from looking forward to getting married. So, since I was in a relationship with a man and I liked him enough to continue to see him, it was given that after a while we would get married. If I was not interested in his person, it would have meant we would have stopped seeing each other. It is not how young people do things today. We were dating and as such we were doing things together. He would come to my office to pick me at work. Sometimes he would sacrifice to come home to pick me to work. Though, we had no mobile phones at that time, he would always come around to check on me. Everybody even at work knew him. He was the significant person in my life so it was just a matter of time. We dated for more than two years. If I was waiting for a formal proposal, I would say, I would have been a fool to expect that he was going to come and be asking me if I was going to be his wife. I knew he was going to be my husband and everybody knew that because I had no other relationship anyway. If I had so many, one would come to say, ‘I am proposing to you’ and you can say, ‘wait let me think about it’. Dating was the courtship period for us. The engagement and wedding took place few days from each other.
As oldies, are you still in love or you are going through the motion of being married?
Wife: If we were not in love would we still be living together? Love is thinking about your husband even when he is not with you. Love is thinking about his comfort when he is not there. Love is continually being the significant person in the other’s life. Love is ensuring that he is okay at all time talking about his successes, your challenges and proffering solutions to it. Love is reassuring the other that things would be okay when in doubts. It is taking care of each other and being friends. If that is not love, I don’t know what else to call it. Till today, my husband and I have never slept in separate rooms. We do things together. There is nobody that knows my husband that does not know me, and vice versa.
Husband: In addition, we support each other. No man even if you are Dangote, your woman will still have one thing or the other to give to you as support. I will describe my wife as a woman of inestimable values. She is a pillar of support. I replicate that by according her respect. Without any distinction, whatever I have is hers and whatever she has belongs to me too.
What makes marriage interesting and couples, inseparable?
Wife: A woman must respect her husband at all times and the couple, watching out for each other. There is no perfect marriage. Problem will rear its head but both of you should talk about it. Have your shouting matches, however, sit down and settle. One thing that is paramount is, ‘do not be violent’. When I begin to be difficult, my husband would just excuse himself. Then I would begin to look at the time and I would put a call through. If I call the first time and he doesn’t pick his call, I would call a second time. 1 would say, “Hello, where are you?” “Why are you interested?” “You have been gone for a while. Okay, I am sorry.” When he comes home, I would apologise again and we talk about it, discussing why I said this or that. You know because there was no violence that is why we were able to talk about it. There is no problem, no matter how big, there has to be conversation. Why war and give in to battery? I will never forgive such.
Husband: Couples must tolerate each other. Tolerance and endurance are the basics of life. No matter what, a woman would always behave like a woman irrespective of her calibre or status in life. As a man, you must be mature enough to understand that peculiarity of the woman. To that extent, marriage will be very interesting because we understand each other and there will not be need to stop and bark at each other.
What is the secret of your union?
Wife: My husband is a very caring person. If I take any other thing for granted I will always remember the fact that he cares a lot about my welfare. If I have a headache, he has it too and wants to ensure that I am well. That is a cardinal thing I respect and cherish a lot.
Husband: Over and over, she is a pillar of support in all aspects. Apart from any other thing, that is what I appreciate and cherish. As a wife, mother and sister, she supports wholesomely.
What are the surprises and shocks you have experienced in your marriage?
Husband: My wife at times can be stubborn. If you ask her not to do something, she would do it and that is expected of her as a woman’s character. I just ignore her and move on. At the end of day she would come back to say the mistake has been made. I see it as a temporary mistake.
Wife: We expected life to be going on smoothly and suddenly my husband had no job. It was a very challenging period in our lives. Bills had to be paid but with perseverance, things sorted themselves out. It all boils down to understanding and communication. These are the bedrocks of any marriage. I will advise young couples to not think that things will always be rosy. You may find some serious shocks like either of you losing a job along the way. You must understand and support each other.
Did you consider divorce at any point in your marriage?
Husband: Not at all. I am a visionary leader. I believe the road to success is not laced with roses. There were challenges but divorce was the least on my mind. I knew things would stabilise after sometime.
Wife: Yes, I did. Four years into our marriage, I still had no child and my husband being busy, he didn’t care. He would assure me that children would come but I was not seeing him a lot except he came home to sleep at night. I was given to worry as my friends have two or three children. To compound this, he would scream and shout at me. I was a very quiet person at that time. I would not talk to him to make him shout more. I told him I wanted out and moved to my parents’ house. He too got angry as he was not seeing any specific thing to warrant my action. So he refused to go and see my family. That is what my father took offence for and sent someone to call him. He came with his family and was surprised at what I accused him of, things he regarded insignificant. I learnt from that experience not to catalogue hurts. He felt shouting was normal but I didn’t appreciate being shouted at. To me, I am his partner in this relationship and not his child. We had our low moments but we learnt to cope along the way. We do not report ourselves or allow outsiders meddle in our affairs. We keep our challenges only between us.
How do you resolve your conflicts?
Both: We talk to understand ourselves
Wife: If I hurt my husband, I am never too proud to say, ‘I am sorry.” I love and respect my husband but I do not fear my husband. So, there is nothing that is too big that I cannot discuss with him.
You said you respect your husband. How do you show respect to him?
Wife: I kneel down to greet him and, I do not call him by his name. I either call him his pet name or call him by the name of his children. Because, I respect my husband, everybody including family, neighbours and friends respect him.
What is your most pleasant experience in the union?
Wife: The day we had our baby after waiting for five years. Before then, we already had three children we adopted and were raising. Another one was the day my husband was recalled back to work. Another was the day we moved into our own house. We have a lot to be grateful about.
If you were given an opportunity to start all over, what would you like to correct in your union?
Husband: I will not be shouting at my wife because she does not like that.
Wife: The creator cannot ask that kind of question because He knows I cannot change this man. He is the way he is and I will never try to change him. Attempt to change him to want to make him to suit me? No, I will live with him with his foibles and good points. We prayed that God should make our latter years better than our beginning. God heard us and that is what is happening now. As we grow old, God is blessing us and things are getting better for us.