Some say marriage without courtship does not last, but this statement is not true with Mr and Mrs Hyginus Ikechukwu Onwuachumba. Their marriage was that of introduction, which eventually led to marriage proper. It has been 29 years since they came together as husband and wife. In this interview, they told VIVIAN ONYEBUKWA their marriage experiences.
How did the journey start?
Husband: The journey started in 1987 and we had our church wedding on October 8, 1988. We had our first issue in 1989, and since we got married we have been living fine by the special grace of God.
How did you meet her?
Husband: My father in-law, that is, my wife’s father, was a friend to my elder brother and from there, my elder brother linked me up. That was how I met her, and when I saw her I liked her and then we got married.
What motivated you to marry her?
Husband: Honestly, I saw a lot of good qualities in her that made me like her and took interest in her. She is pretty, educated and hardworking.
Why did you agree to marry him?
Wife: First and foremost, there was nothing like courtship. We were just fortunate and by God’s grace it worked out. Many were saying that marriage without courtship does not last, but in this case we didn’t court. It was a marriage of “introduction” through family and friends. He was coming to visit with his sister-in-law, just like a family visit and then I didn’t even know him. It was then I saw him, we exchanged greetings and they left. Later on they came back and said that they were coming for marriage introduction. I liked him because of his personality and height. A lot of his peer group had been coming from Umuokwara, Abba to ask for my hands in marriage, and I was rejecting them. I was 19 years old then, and at that age, one might not really have the full knowledge of what one wanted in a man. It was just God. Then, my mother was telling me that I had been rejecting many men so I should consider that I am the first child. My parents had other girls. We were 9 in my family, (7 girls and 2 boys), and I am the eldest. So they said I shouldn’t make a bad choice or make mistakes as I was reject a lot of men. I agreed with her. So, when he came I had to consider him. He was tall, handsome and he had a bright future. I also decided to accept his offer because he was from Abba and my mother said she wanted me to marry from there.
There was nothing like love then. So in the process I grew to love him. We started learning from each other because marriage is an institution. You learn every day.
How long have you been together?
Wife: We have been together for 29 years now. On December 23, 2001, he went abroad as things were not going well financially with him. He said he needed to go but I refused. I told him that I wasn’t on my feet yet as I didn’t have any tangible source of income. I told him I didn’t want to rely on my parents, and I must get myself engaged in something because before I would allow him to go. So, he said he would go for three years and then come back. After arguing for a while I agreed. I learnt tailoring, and I started being more serious with it. After learning how to sew clothes, I started being on my own. It was difficult because I didn’t have a shop but I made everything at home. I decided to be making clothes and did home delivery to make more customers because I didn’t have customers then. All these were efforts I made in order to to cope in his absence, but unfortunately, after three years he didn’t come back. He ended up spending thirteen years abroad.
I was left alone with the five children, it was tough. It was sweet and bitter. There were trials. It was not really smooth. At a time I wasn’t hearing from him, not knowing that he fell into the wrong hands. The first two years were wasted. When he got on his feet, he started sending things home. About eight to nine years later things became bad again. I was trying and managing with the kids, taking care of their school, coping with everything. We were praying. My greatest support is God.
However, my husband tried because with the things he brought home, we were able to start a project, on December 23, 2014. It was a very big relief for the whole family and God blessed us by giving us a Christmas gift as our first daughter got married.
My husband has been very loyal, faithful and loving . He is a workaholic. Whenever we have occasions to attend, we are always the last people to arrive, because he would first go to Idumota to do his business and he would return by 3pm before he would start preparing for the occasion. If you allow him he would even go to Idumota on Sunday for business. This is to show you how he loves his business, but I thank God for everything because he really tried, by giving the children sound education.
What do you really like about your spouse?
Wife: He is a free-minded person, tall and handsome. He is a simple person. He is equally sincere.
Husband: Honestly, if I start mentioning what I love about my wife, it would take two days. She is a loving and caring wife. I left her with five children and she was able to take care of them. They grew up without problems. It is something someone can emulate. She is nice. From the depth of my heart I am very grateful to her. I am also grateful to press people who came to interview me. May God richly bless you.
What was your relationship with your family members during his absence?
Wife: They were good, I had a very good rapport with them. They were encouraging me, they kept calling me. Even my mates and senior mates too, were really encouraging me. Sometimes they would bring some foodstuff for me. They were really there for me. I had to mellow from some groups. I remain married to my job. So whenever you came here and didn’t see me, it was either I went to the market or to church. That’s what I did because then my children’s admission into the university was imminent as three of them gained admission at the same time.
How were you able to cope with the children in your husband’s absence?
Wife: It wasn’t easy. Sometimes I would call on my husband’s junior brother, Linus and tell him that he needed to be calling the children. Not only that, that he should always visit to instil fear into them so as to enable them to be conscious that their uncle could visit at any time. This would made them know that there was a man around. It was not easy at all, especially during their teenage years. Even to take them to church sometimes they would tell me that they had the right to attend the church of their choice, and I had to come down to their level because I am a playful person. So I would come down to their level and then try to direct them. It wasn’t easy coping with them at that stage when my husband wasn’t there because whenever I told them that if their daddy was around, they would counter it and said that their dad wasn’t around. Again they belong to technological age, so with the their phones, it was not just that easy at all. So I channeled everything to prayer because God is the only one who can melt their hearts and hold them.
As a woman, how did you cope emotionally during his absence?
Wife: Emotionally, it was bad. The only way I coped was he would call sometimes on phone and would start saying sweet nonsense over the phone. There was a time he wasn’t calling at all and I broke down emotionally. His reason was that he didn’t have money to send home. He wondered how he would just call without sending something to us, but I told him he didn’t need all that. I just wanted to hear his voice and to know how he was coping that was enough to restore me. This is what i tried to explain to him. Each time I called him, he would confidently say he was sending something already. So when he didn’t have, he didn’t call, so I broke down emotionally. I begged him. I encouraged him to keep calling even if he didn’t have anything to send, so he accepted.
If at all, you have the opportunity to change some things in your partner, what would they be?
Wife: He is a traditional person to the core. I would love him to shed a little of his conservatism.
Husband: Although there is no perfection in life. I would award her perfection. She is so perfect in everything she does.
How do you know when she is angry?
Husband: She doesn’t get angry easily. she is always playing with the kids. I don’t really like playing because I am a very serious-minded person.
Wife: He is too serious minded, he hardly laughs. Sometimes I would jokingly tell him that I would smash his serious-looking-face and that he should brighten up before I do. then he would laugh. He hardly laughs. He is a very serious person. He is somehow rigid so that is what I want to break. It’s not that he isn’t happy, I do tell him that he has the face of my mum. With his outlook you won’t feel comfortable if you are a first-time visitor until you talk to him. It is only then you would know that he is friendly.
How do you know when he is angry?
Wife: Whenever he is angry, he airs his views. He doesn’t keep things to heart. As it touches him, he would release it. So immediately he gets angry he releases it and then his facial expression would change and when it changes I know what to do to tame him.
What is your advice to young girls with absentee husbands?
Wife: My advice is that since they are already married, they should work towards making the man come back permanently, or find a way to go and meet the man and reduce the length of the separation. It is not advisable for couples to live apart. It is not good even in the sight of God. Ours wasn’t an easy one. That is why during fasting, they say unless your husband admits to it don’t fast because when you fast, you fast on both food and sex. So try as much as possible with your husband’s consent to shorten the separation. Either he relocates or she should get her travel documents and meet him. It would be too tempting for a young marriage. It is the most important thing to do in order to shorten the length of separation. Prayer cannot do it alone. When you pray, you work. Without this, any other action you take will not work.
What were your challenges when you were away?
Husband: One of the greatest challenges I had was with my travel documents. When someone travels abroad without papers the person would face a very big challenge in that country. My challenges were unquantifiable. I saw hell. What I did was committing everything into God’s hands, I was prayerful and God saw me through and I came back with something at least.
What is your advice for young men over there with families in Nigeria, and what kind of woman do you advice them to marry?
Husband: They should look for someone who is working, so that they can help each other. I have been in and out of that place and I have tasted everything. There are opportunities abroad but since I came back I have also noticed that there are some opportunities here in Nigeria. So I will even advice some of the men who have no jobs abroad to come back to Nigeria.
What should aspiring couples look out for in marriage?
Wife: They should look for a God-fearing man or woman because that is the most important thing. Marriage is not a bed of roses, It is sweet or bitter. If you have God, when it is bitter you would be able to overcome it.
Again, look for someone who is industrious so that you can fit in at any time, not a lazy person who can easily give up at the slightest.
What can couples do to sustain a healthy marriage?
Wife: They should read books on how to handle issues, such as home management. As I said earlier, marriage is an institution. Then practice what you read. Take corrections from your parents. I use to tell my children that whatever wrongs or mistakes that we have made now, as they are growing they should take corrections because I am correcting my own mistakes from my parents.
Again, they shouldn’t listen to their peer groups and their friends because some would say things that can cause problems in their homes. Go for the one that would suit your spouse, children and your marriage.
What is his favourite food?
Wife: His favourite food is vegetable soup and pounded yam or garri.
What is your advice to couples?
Husband: Marriage is an institution and you have to be patient. Jumping here and there isn’t the best, have patience and be committed.