Chief Alphonsus E. Udeigbo, Kpakando Ihiembosi of Ihiembosi Community, Ekwusigo Local Government Area, Anambra State and President-General of Aba Landlords Protection and Development Association, and the wife of his youth, Lolo Regina Amarachi Udeigbo, from Ezinifite Community in the same local government area, have been married for 36 years without any major problem that required intervention from friends and relatives. In this interview with our Abia State Correspondent, CHUKS ONUOHA, the couple reveals among other things the secret that has kept their marriage going all these years. Excerpts:
How did you meet your wife before you married her?
Husband: I first saw my wife in a dream, before seeing her physically to recognize her as the same girl that I saw in my dream, and was told that she would be my wife. It was a pure divine arrangement. It is possible that there is no other couple that God-ordained their marriage the way he did to ours, because before I met her. I never knew her before then. So meeting her to tell her of my intention to marry her was another challenge. Then she was in school in our community, Iheimbosi Girls Secondary School. But we met during the burial of my late brother, Basil Udeigbo, one of the founders of Catholic Bible Instructions Union (CBIU) in Aba, who died and was buried in 1982. My wife, as the head of the schoolgirls, Chapel Prefect, then, brought other female students to attend the burial of Brother Basil, who was always coming to their school from Aba to teach them the Bible. When he died, the students came to honour him. Immediately I saw her, I recognized her as the same girl I saw in my dream and was told that she would be my wife. I had one small camera with me then. I quickly stood up from where I was sitting to take a shot of her. I was about 29-years-old then and was already itching to get married. After the burial, I printed that picture and gave it to one of my sisters, whose name is also Regina and asked her to go to the school and look for her and that if she found her, she should tell her that I wanted to marry her. She came back to tell that although she saw her, maybe she was afraid of giving her my message. I then asked her to go back.
Wife: Everything he narrated here was how it happened. I was about 25 years old then, and the Head of the Catholic girls in my school. But I gave him a condition before I agreed to marry him, that I would not go to any place he lived in the town nor visit him in his father’s house in the village. I told him that if truly he wanted to marry me, he should come direct to my parents and perform the marriage rites and that it is only when he had done those things and people see that he had married me that I would follow him home, and he agreed, and so it was done. I never visited him both in Aba nor at home nor at another place that he invited me to come and he never did until we all go married traditionally. We got married traditionally in 1983, and because I was still in school then, we wedded in April 1985. So we are about 36 years in marriage traditionally and 34 years in white wedding. Today God has blessed our marriage with children although we spent about six years before I conceived and gave birth to our first baby. We were very prayerful and never allowed our childless condition then to come between our love. But most importantly, we were sure that the God we serve would bring children at his own time. So we were very strong in the Lord.
Was there any opposition from anywhere – her parents, relatives, etc?
Husband: It was not a small battle when the message was passed to her. She could not understand how someone would see her at a burial, and without talking with her, send someone to tell her point-blank that he wanted to marry her. I cannot go into details of what transpired to convince her to agree to marry someone whom she had never met before then. Her people also disagreed based on the distance between the two communities. It is not like today, when a woman would wake up to marry a foreigner. Then, if you told your parents that their daughter will marry in a place where it would take them about four hours before they would visit her, they would say no, that they would want her around so that they would know when something is happening to her. Besides, she is the first daughter of her parents and in that part of the country they don’t allow first daughters to marry afar from their village. But at the end of the day, she agreed despite other suitors from her community coming to ask for her hand in marriage. Since then we have been living peacefully for these 36 years without any major issue for anyone to come in and settle for us.
Wife: There were oppositions from my parents who told me so many negative things about Ihembosi people , just to discourage me, because so many people from my community had asked my hand in marriage and I said no. Beside that, as Ada, first daughter should not marry outside our community, according to tradition. But after prayers, my mind was made up and I told my parents to allow me to go. In my father’s house, we don’t have many people, only one boy and two girls. But in their house, they have people. I told my parents that I would go because their family know God and have people. But our people doubted it. Today, they would freely give any of their daughters to Ihembosi man, particularly the family of Udeigbo.
What actually made you choose her among all the marriageable girls then?
Husband: I had earlier told you that I saw her in my dream and was told that she would be my wife. When you see something in a dream that appeals to you and you wake up few days later and behold the same sight in the physical, you don’t need the knowledge of a prophet to tell you that this is your wife. Even if a Reverend Father tells you otherwise, you will disobey him because you heard directly from God. God showed me my wife in a dream and it pleased my heart, do I need any other conviction to know that she is a gift from above? Also, she is a good Christian from the Catholic fold.
What made you choose him among many suitors?
Wife: The major reason why I chose him as a husband is that he knows God in truth and spirit. Secondly, I schooled at Ihembosi and I knew their family very well through going out for preaching. Getting married to a man that knows God has a lot of advantages because that man would treat you with the fear of God unlike a non-Christian. So the major reason why I agreed is that their family knows God very well.
You have been married for about 36 years now, what is the secret of your longevity in marriage?
Husband: What I would consider the first secret to the success of our marriage is that we started early to learn each other. We have learned each other in character, behaviour and other wise. If you see two different people from two backgrounds agreeing to live together as husband and wife and have done so for about 36 years now, and none of them opted out of the marriage, saying that they would no longer marry, they should have a deep secret. In course of time, they must have been learning and adjusting to each other’s characters to the point of understanding what would offend each other. We arrived at a point where one will understand what the winking of an eye mean to the other person. When you understand what we would do to offend each other and know that anybody that does that intentionally want to look for the other person’s troubles, you will avoid it. Even if someone asked you to do it, you would tell the person, no, ‘if I do this there will be trouble from my wife or husband’. This has been helping us to the extent that sometimes, some issues may arise, when we look at where it is heading to, we would just keep quiet for it to pass, for peace to reign. It is the same thing with her. There are things that would be done in the house and she would know that I would not agree to such thing. She would run away from them.
Wife: The secret to our successful marriage is the act of under-studying each other as my husband has said. We started early to learn each other’s character, to know our likes and dislikes. Two people from different backgrounds cannot match immediately the meet, but time will enable them to know what to do that could to offend each other and they would avoid such things. Also we have tried to sort out our challenges ourselves without involving a third person except God. We take our challenges to God in prayer and he has always come to our rescue. But if you invite man, he or she may spoil things for you.
How did you handle your first misunderstanding in marriage?
Husband: Ours was just a common family issue, in which one person wanted a particular material to be placed in a particular position and it was removed. It was during our time of learning process and we overlooked everything as if it never happened. I would say that it was during the orientation course of our marriage, and we noticed it and handled it ourselves.
Wife: What he said is the truth because our first misunderstanding, we settled it ourselves and I apologized to him to forgive me. This type of behaviour should not be far from the lips of couples because it can solve a lot of problems and make tempers to cool. Couple that finds it hard to say ‘I am sorry’, ‘Please, forgive me’ will always have problems.
What advice will you give to young people who want to get marriage on how to make their marriage work?
Husband: The most important advice you give to young people who are preparing to get married is that they should try to learn each other first. Even if one sees that his/her partner is mad, they should learn each other. If they do, people would be surprised to see them living peacefully. Nobody is perfect in this world; nobody is without fault, but anyone who has fault and realizes that he has fault will soon repent. They should always think of going forward and not backing out, because you don’t know whether the character of the next person you are going to meet outside would be worst and you will start regretting it. They should remember their marriage vow, and focus there. They should not focus on material things or inflow of the finances into the family. They should see marriage as a lifetime project. That is where everything ends.
Wife: If the lady is more educated, she should keep it by the side if she wants her marriage to work. You don’t get into your husband’s house with your graduate knowledge or any other knowledge as a show-off to your husband. If you are a judge, your husband still remains your supervisor in the house. You don’t flaunt your degrees before him. If you try that, you fail. Even if you are the most beautiful girl, you don’t flaunt that before your husband or members of his family. It is good to be beautiful, but it is not the most important thing in marriage. The best beauty you can exhibit is good character to your husband and his people and you will reap a lot of gain from it. If your intention is to go and teach them that you are a graduate, you will fail. All I am saying is that they should put God first in whatever they are doing. Couple should not be finding faults on each other always.