Congratulation on turning 80! How does it feel?
Mr. OgueIi: I feel wonderful and very happy that I made it. I appreciate what God is doing in my life. As a catholic I say thanks be to God because at 80 I have gone through many obstacles which I cannot begin to discuss here. There are days it will appear that you are tired of life but then the problem disappears and you are imbued with hope. Life is a graph; It goes up and, sometimes, down. At my age, I have stopped quarrelling. The only way you can make yourself happy is by first making others happy and that is what I try to do.
Papa is 80. What gift are you giving to him to mark the occasion?
Mrs. Ogueli: Silver nor gold have I none. What I have is enduring love. I am overwhelmed with joy and the truth is, nothing I give him will be able to express the love I have for him and my gratitude to God. The best gift I can give him at this age is my unalloyed and total love. If I buy a car for him or take the sun out of the skies for him, it wouldn’t be enough. There is a popular poem which says, ‘To love is the greatest gift one could give”. Love is also the greatest gift one could receive, so as he clocks 80, my gift to him is my genuine love.
Let us go back to 49 years ago when you got married. Was it love at first sight and where did you meet?
Mr. Ogueli: What attracted me to her was her family background and principally her behaviour. She was humble, kind-hearted, very loyal, obedient and trustworthy. She encapsulated every quality I wanted in a woman. I started praying for a happy marriage right from the age of 12; I was merely a boy. It was through the instrument of my teacher who was telling us how to ask things from God and get answers. He taught us that you don’t just immediately ask God for things and expect that He will do them immediately. I started praying for a happy marriage from the age of 12 and eventually when I was ready to marry God answered my prayers. I did not know her and her family before. I just saw her one day and was attracted to her and fell in love at once. My spirit told me that, yes, this is my wife and I knew instantly that God had answered my prayer. We met in church. I started asking for her hand in marriage because I was love-struck.
Mrs. Ogueli: I never thought of marriage, so there was nothing like love at first sight. That day I came to church and saw my friend whom I grew up with and we went for Block Rosary. Then she asked me to follow her to her compound and I did. It was that day that I saw him for the first time. Marriage was the farthest thing on my mind so I didn’t even notice him. At that time, I was very innocent and had not experienced anything.
What was your reaction when he started showing interest in you?
Mrs. Ogueli: I was very shy and inexperienced. I knew nothing. I told him that if he wanted anything he should talk to my mum. Then I said let me go and check if it will be okay and ran-off. After sometime I didn’t see him again and I did not bother; I was not feeling any attachment.
When and how did that change?
Mrs. Ogueli: It was the day he came to my parents’ house. I was crying and saying that I was not going anywhere. I was crying because I was very attached to my family and had never given marriage a thought and besides, I was very shy; a total novice. I was 15-years-old. His sister came to me and started begging me but I stubbornly said that they should go and leave me alone. But she insisted that I must follow her to her family house and eat with them or else, they would abandon the marriage, and I was angry and said that they should go, I was not interested. Then my mother and her sister started pleading. His sister promised me that I would not take wine and give to him at their compound; rather I would give it to their uncle who came with them. At that point I was convinced and followed her. When we got to their house, I went to stay with his sisters and when they gave me wine I took a sip and gave the rest to his uncle. The uncle tried to send me to him but I was very shy. He kept pestering and after a while we had lived together for some time, I started feeling relaxed in his presence.
How did you get the courage to go and see her parents since she was not interested?
Mr. Ogueli: I had to be courageous as a man for the woman I love. I was determined to get married to her and since I knew it was the Spirit directing me, I was even more determined. That had been my primary prayer since age 12 when I was in Standard One. I had been praying for not just marriage but a happy and peaceful life and progress and whatever could come from God and I saw all of that in her. She said that she cried the day I came to her house with my family. But she did not do that openly to me.
Was there any courtship?
Mr. Ogueli: No, there was nothing like that. I saw her, developed interest even though I had no money. I was a poor civil servant. In those days we did not have courtship, and I thank God it was all directed by God. I was 30 years old then.
Was there any opposition from your families?
Mrs. Ogueli: There must be. When somebody wants to ask for the hand of someone in marriage, people will either say he or she is a good person or a bad person. For instance they could say, oh! That girl is a bad girl! She is not behaving well. Some people were saying that my husband’s family did not have plenty of land. In the olden days, we considered land as very important in marriage. Some said they used to die early as well but after a while, one of my cousins got married to his uncle so we went there and did investigation and found out the allegations were all lies. We discovered that their son, my future husband is a very good man.
Mr. Ogueli: No, there was none. They just accepted her; she was the only woman for me.
How would you describe the marriage after almost 50 years?
Mrs. Ogueli: Very enjoyable. He is still as caring and romantic as ever. He is trustworthy and that has made me love him more over the years. He doesn’t go outside, flirt or look at other women. He made me his one and only queen.
Mr. Ogueli: She has grown lovelier over the years. The happiness has increased keeping me even happier. I have found love and happiness in her.
What has been your happiest moment in this marriage and what is the greatest gift your husband ever gave you?
Mrs. Ogueli: Everyday is a happy day for me. The greatest gift he has given me remains his love and understanding.
When people see couples like you that have been married for so long, they believe that everything is perfect. What is the secret?
Mrs. Ogueli: We don’t quarrel for more a day and when we have issues we don’t bring third parties into our marriage. We have never done that. When there is any issue we resolve it by ourselves.
What are the tips to a successful marriage?
Mrs. Ogueli: First of all, put God first and pray together and be mindful of those things that turn your husband off and on so you know what to do to make him happy always. Always prepare his food for him and not the housemaid; The housemaid must never cook for your husband. I don’t do that. Even as old as I am I always go to the kitchen to prepare what we eat.
Mr. Ogueli: Number one is honesty and transparency. You take your wife as yourself and treat her like an equal. Trust is key; you must have complete trust in your wife and always tell her the truth and appreciate her. Whatever a wife does, a man must appreciate especially that which is good. If she makes a mistake you call her to order and if you make a mistake, apologise. And above all, you must love her with all your heart and love God; your marriage must always revolve around God.
When you have issues who apologises first?
Mr. Ogueli: I don’t know how God made it but we have never had any major quarrel since we got married. If we have an issue, we make sure we don’t go to sleep with it. Naturally for me, I cannot be happy with someone I am quarrelling with. I derive my joy from making my wife happy so I go the extra-mile to make her happy because I believe that the shortest route to happiness is making other people happy. The only way I can be happy is to make my wife happy, and if she is happy I am happy.
What would you say has been the biggest challenge you have both faced in this marriage?
Mr. Ogueli: The biggest challenge was when we met at first because, I married very young and then she was also very young. The biggest challenge was poverty. She married a poor man and she was not working. She never complained and together we tackled everything. I was a civil servant then and we managed the little salary I was bringing home. I was still studying at that time to improve my academic and employment status to guarantee a stronger bargaining power with my employers. For about seven years I was studying to improve my education and she endured and encouraged me and God heard our prayers and here we are now.
If you were to advise intending couple, what would be your first advice?
Mr. Ogueli: My advice is that you must know that when you are marrying a woman, you are marrying her and not her certificate or her position. Marry a woman for who she is. Marry an intelligent woman because any intelligent person knows what is wrong and what is right. An intelligent person has dreams and status and does not want to be bullied around and shouted upon. Today, many people go for economic marriage, but you must think of attitude and status first. In those days some people went to ‘good families’ and asked for the hand of their daughters in marriage. But these families could have their hands in criminal activities and if you see that, you run away because certain things are hereditary whether you believe it or not. In a family that has criminal record, eventually their ladies will inherit it especially the women because a woman inherits her mother’s traits.
Mrs. Ogueli: I will say, don’t get married because of material things. ‘Oh he has a car, oh he has money…’ You marry a man that is well-behaved and has prospects and not just marrying a man because he has money, because if you marry a man for his money, there will be no love in that family and when the money runs out, your true colour will show and it could have devastating effects for the children and the couple.
Divorce is rampant today. What is your advice for couples who want to divorce?
Mrs. Ogueli: I will tell them that marriage is sometimes sweet and sometimes bitter. Be assured that you will taste both the bitterness and sweetness, but the most important thing is to have patience. You have to have an enduring spirit and a lot of patience because after the storm, the sun will always shine on you.
Mr. Ogueli: First of all, let us admit that certain character traits can never be changed no matter who is advising. Number two, accept your partner the way they are because they are a part of you and if you do that, you will be able to accommodate them when they make mistakes. Divorce has never brought anything good to any couple. When I started work as a counsellor in social welfare when I was not even married, I counselled a lot of couples and one thing I realized was that you can’t give what you don’t have. Wisdom is not only from experience but also from your human make-up.