What Rangers International Football Club has joined together, let no man or woman put asunder. That, in a nutshell, is the story of Sir Samuel Nwoba, and his wife, Lady Bridget. They did not know each other before they were brought together by their love for the Enugu-based football team. But for the young Bridget, she was only following in the shadows of her uncle who was an ardent fan. She was happy, all the same, to be asked to serve food to the fans the year that the football club won and brought home the Nigerian Challenge Cup trophy. As things turned out, that marked the beginning of her marital relationship with the man that later became her husband. In this interview with GEOFFREY ANYANWU, they gave some advice to the single and the newly married as they shared not only the story of how their marriage happened but also of why they wedded late, after having their children.
How did you meet your spouse?
Sir Samuel: We met by coincidence. I think it was the year that the Rangers International Football Club of Enugu won the Nigerian Challenge Cup. I am close to the team’s players. I was one of their ardent fans. After they won the cup, everybody started hosting them at social parties. That was how I went with the players to Obosi, Nnobi and Isuofia in Aguata which happened to be my wife’s place. I come from Enugwu Ukwu. Her uncle, a medical scientist, was also a diehard Rangers fan. He came down from Kaduna; in fact, it was because of him that we went to Isuofia. At that time, the Rangers boys were planning to make him their team manager. We spent the night there. On the morning of the following day, everybody was hungry and they served us food with okra soup. A very young smart girl came in with plates of food and passed them around to all of us. As we ate, everybody commended the food, that it is very sweet. They asked who cooked it? The uncle said it was the small girl that brought the food. We asked who she was and he said that she is his sister. So everybody started saying: ‘I will marry her.’ But being that I was the youngest there, I said no, ‘you people are too old to marry such a small girl’. I added that I was the one likely to marry her. They laughed and said, at my age, how could I be thinking of marriage? I said jokingly that they would see.
We all left after that. I never saw her again, though once in a while we exchanged letters because I collected her school address that day. She was in class one while I was in class three. She was schooling at Awka-Etiti Girls or Anglican Girls Awka-Etiti. For some years, we never saw each other again until one day she came to Enugu on a holiday. I went to see her uncle and met her there and we started talking. Another time I saw her was at Anambra Sports Festival. I didn’t know she came. I was with my friends when I saw her. I said: ‘so you came to Enugu and you didn’t come to see me?’ She did not say anything. You know, girls of those days are not like girls of nowadays. I begged her to come see me. So one day she came with two of her friends, for the first time, after many years. That time, I had left school and had started working with the University Teaching Hospital, Enugu. Later, she finished her secondary school education and got admitted into WTC, Enugu because she wanted to teach. That brought us closer the more. After a while, we took the decision to get married to each other.
Lady Bridget: I am not going to add much because he has explained exactly how we met. It was just by coincidence. That time if you are a sportsperson you are seen as a king, especially if you are a Rangers fan. I was a small girl and hadn’t gone into sports much. But because my uncle was one of them, he invited them. They were many, you know, Ogidi Ibeabuchi, Emeka Onyedika. They all came. I took care of them. They went to Obosi and later came back to our village again and from there left. That was how we started. And, you know, that time it was pen pal, just writing. That time, in school you would be glad that as they are calling out letters your own was there. So we became pen pal friends. We were writing to each other, just like that.
Was there any opposition from anywhere?
Sir Samuel: Definitely. But from my own side, there was no problem. My father, friends, and relations liked her right from the first time they saw her. But when I went to see her family for the first time, to inform them of my intention to marry her, my mother-in-law did not support me because she is a Roman Catholic and I am an Anglican. She said it is against their law. Almost everybody in their village then was a Catholic. She said if her first daughter married an Anglican they would not give her Holy Communion anymore. So she didn’t like the relationship at all because of the church difference. Her uncle, through whom I came to know her, was also not in support. But by the time I expressed and explained myself, my father-in-law said he didn’t have any problem. He supported the marriage. The main problem was her uncle who happened to be in charge of her earlier education. Because of me, the man said that he wouldn’t pay her school fees anymore. He, obviously, looked at me as a small boy who had no future then. But I knew the kind of love between me and my wife was not something anybody could throw overboard. At the time he decided to withdraw his education support for her, I had started working with the teaching hospital, so I didn’t give a damn about the fact that he stopped paying her school fees, I took over from there and encouraged my wife to go on and from WTC she finished and went back to ESUT (Enugu State University of Technology) to do her degree course and came out with a B.Sc. And everything is now history.
Lady Bridget: In fact, at that time, in our place, it was a taboo for your daughter to be married to a man from a protestant denomination. Whenever anyone went contrary, they would sanction her parents, especially her mother. Because of that, my uncle did not support our marriage. But after my father gave his consent, he didn’t have much to do or to say anymore. Otherwise, he would have foiled the marriage.
Why did you go for your spouse?
Sir Samuel: I am the only son of my parents. And, let me be frank with you, on this marriage of a thing, as long as you are trusting God, when He brings your wife your way, you will know. Even if you have 20 girlfriends, when you see the one God meant for you, you will know. Prior to that time, I used to have a very close girlfriend with whom I thought we would settle down as husband and wife. In fact, everybody knew then that she was my girlfriend. But character-wise, I never saw in her the quality that I saw in my wife. It is a spiritual thing. Anything my wife did, you would like her for that. Even when she annoyed me, it did not take me 10 minutes to forget it. These were the signs that I saw and knew that God had sent me my wife. I thank God I moved ahead. I give thanks also to my father-in-law for standing by me. He is late now.
Lady Bridget: He was not the only suitor. But you know, as he said, I think if it is what God has ordained, directly or indirectly, you may find yourself following the leading of the Spirit. I can’t really say. We just saw each other and felt that we could live together as husband and wife. But the letters we were writing to each other helped a lot. I can say that it was one of the things that helped to build our relationship. He was so good at it with sweet words and that lured me to him.
What do you remember most about your wedding?
Lady Bridget: Our wedding was a peculiar one in the sense that we’ve already had our children before we wedded. This is because the year we were to wed, Customs people seized our goods, including the wedding gown. This happened while we were preparing for the wedding. And, already I had taken in. So that seizure of our goods made the wedding to be put on hold. But when we eventually wedded, I was in school doing my BSc programme. I did not know anything about the preparation. The only thing he told me was to go and look for my wedding gown. That was the only stress I had if I could call that stress. I was faced with an exam at that time. I arrived that Saturday and it was marvelous. The calibre of people that I saw baffled me. Prominent people came from Kaduna, Lagos, everywhere and I was asking myself: ‘are all these for a small me?’ I was amazed and whenever I remember it I give God the glory. The year was 1996. Like I told you, we’ve had our children by then.
Sir Samuel: That wedding reassured me that God’s time is the best. Like she rightly said, when we got married we prepared for the wedding. Then I went to London and bought a lot of things including clothes. But the Nigerian government said they were contraband. I went to Italy, bought a lot of suits and very costly shirts and sent them to Port Harcourt. The day we came to clear them, Customs marked the container and seized everything, including her costly wedding gown. I remembered when they were opening it, two Customs ladies cried when they saw the wedding gown. The incident set me back financially and otherwise and we couldn’t do the wedding then. But I have an understanding wife. We went ahead and had our first baby and later other children. Nobody bothered each other until when it was God’s time. If you saw what happened on the day of our wedding, you would be shocked. Important personalities from town were present: top friends, men of honour, men of dignity. They came to Modotel Hotel that day and people thought it was a wedding of 419 people or a politician. Even my in-laws were shocked. So you can see that this marriage was made in heaven.
What advice do you have for a young bachelor who intends to marry?
Sir Samuel: Any young man intending to marry should make sure he pray very hard and ask God to give him his own wife. This is because if you marry the wrong woman, you are digging your grave as my father would say. Forget about the fine appearance, shape, or beauty. If she is not the wife God made for you, the marriage will not last. You cannot blend or contain your differences; it is not possible. The only way marriage lasts is if there is true, genuine love in it. So my advice is: marriage is not a bed of roses. Look well to ensure that she has the qualities you want, and not just that a woman is beautiful and flamboyant. Don’t marry because she or her family has money. What I am saying is, make sure that whoever you are going to marry is your wife and you cannot do that without prayer.
What is your advice for a spinster who intends to marry?
Lady Bridget: Like my husband said, first of all, pray, seek the direction of God, and get confirmation from Him. Don’t look at the flashy things of this life. Many a time, when you place them first, the marriage hardly works. Just go for any man who loves you and can give you peace of mind. Don’t look at today, tomorrow may be brighter.
Cases of divorce are alarming these days. With your experience in marriage, what advice could you give to young couples so that their marriage will last as long as yours?
Lady Bridget: The advice is no two persons are the same. If you want your marriage to last, don’t compare yours with another person’s. Many couples when they stay together and share views with their friends tend to take a cue from their friends. But taking advice from someone who is not advanced in marriage might harm the relationship with your spouse. If you want to seek advice, seek it from God.
Sir Samuel: My advice still remains what I said earlier: before you marry, pray because if you marry the wrong wife or wrong husband, there is bound to be a problem.