Rev. Dr. Abel Abaimu, a Minister with the Foursquare Gospel Church, and Pastor Mrs. Elo-Bliss Abaimu, proprietress of a private school in Lagos, have been married for more than 26 years. Blessed with three children, one girl and two boys, all of whom are today graduates, the couple, in this interview with CHIKA ABANOBI, recalled what life used to be when the going was tough, in the early years of their marriage.
“Every December 25 is my wife’s birthday,” Rev. Abaimu said. “But on the first Christmas we spent together as husband and wife, and which was supposed to be celebrated with cake, in addition to rice and other condiments, there was no grain of rice in our house, not to talk of birthday cake. I told her to let us visit some friends to greet them. And, that was how we ate that day.”
Elo-Bliss who was about six months pregnant at that time, recalled: “I was heavy and hungry.”
But today the story has changed for the couple, as their lives are now a long shot from the poverty streak of those early years. Hence, they strongly recommend to intending and newly married couples the patience and perseverance that saw them through.
Could you share with us how you met?
Abel: We met in the church
Abel: Foursquare Gospel Church, at Ikeja, Lagos. She came from Warri with her uncle’s family. I went visiting their home on the day of their new baby naming ceremony, and that was where I met her.
Elo-Bliss: He was, afterward, my Sunday School teacher. We just found ourselves being friendly. Because of my strict upbringing, usually I didn’t allow men to visit me like that. Even when other church male members came, it was like: ‘thank you for coming; thank you, thank you.’ I wouldn’t even open the door for them. But for him, it was a bit different. We just found that we were into each other. I was living with my uncle, at that time. I told him that this man was interested in me. So, he would always come around as my good friend.
But before that time you had been in Lagos long before she came?
Abel: I was born and bred in Lagos.
She was not the only lady in your class, I am sure. So, what made you leave others to go for her?
Abel: Something triggers something. The other Christian ladies that you are talking about, apart from coming to church, and me having the privilege to teach them, there was no feeling for them.
Did you guys have the opportunity to court before you eventually wedded?
Abel: Fortunately or unfortunately, before we wedded, I traveled outside the country and stayed for four years.
Which country is that?
Abel: Germany. That was between 1990 and 1994
For what purpose, if I may ask, on a scholarship?
Abel: No, for greener pastures.
By that time you had expressed your interest to marry her, and the family had known that you were going to get married?
Abel: Yes, but I never paid her bride price. In fact, I had never done a formal introduction
And, she waited for you for four years?
And, she believed you would not jilt her?
Abel: Yes. That’s why up till today, I have a lot of respect for her. Actually, it was two of us that travelled to Germany; my friend and I. But on getting there, the other guy told her then wife-to-be that he was no longer interested, and they packed it up. He later married a white German. That put my fiancée under great pressure. They were telling her: are you sure your fiancé was not going to do likewise? She said no, that I promised her that if that place was comfortable she would come over. If not, I would come back home to her. They asked her: how possible is that? She said she trusted me until I proved otherwise. But thank God, in 1994, I came back.
How were you able to keep waiting for him for four years? You didn’t have moments of fear or doubt?
Elo-Bliss: I didn’t have as a person. But people would always come. And they would say: you are just wasting your time. Do you think the man is still interested in you? He has gone. Don’t waste your time.
Did you express your fear or concern in the letters that you were exchanging with each other?
Elo-Bliss: Not at all! But I didn’t know how I came about the trust and strong faith that I had in him. That’s why, sometimes, I would tell myself that if I could have such faith in him, that he would not disappoint me, and he didn’t, I should be able to have stronger faith in God Almighty. Human beings can deceive you but not God. So, my faith was that strong. From time to time, he would say he was coming home. Eventually, he came as he promised.
And, you were happy?
Elo-Bliss: Why wouldn’t I be?
When your friend with whom you travelled to Germany ditched her Nigerian girl and married a white German, you didn’t come under any pressure to do the same?
Abel: No. Our lifestyle, philosophy, and backgrounds are not the same. Talking about marrying a white lady, apart from the cold, inclement weather, the blacks were seen by the whites as second-class citizens. Actually, I would have moved from there to Holland. But after staying in Germany for four years, I didn’t see any need to do that. Although my friend married a white lady, they later got divorced. It was unfortunate. And, later, he died.
But apart from white ladies, within those years, I am sure you must have seen some black ladies, especially Nigerian girls. Why didn’t you go for any of them?
Abel: Em, everybody was hustling. Many Nigerians were doing virtually nothing over there. So, you couldn’t keep a good number of them as wives, except you want to follow their lifestyles. An average Nigerian would go there and within a year, they are sending cars home, building houses. Though there could be good, hardworking ones among them, if I tell you what many of them, especially ladies, were doing to make the money, it is not something you would want to associate yourself with unless you have a dead conscience. That’s why, in my own case, I said let me do what I had to do and come back home, although I worked hard, and God favoured me.
What happened after you came back home?
Abel: Some thought I was foolish to have been there and then come back. For years, life was terrible, brutish. I didn’t even know where to start from.
What work were you doing?
Elo-Bliss: I was working as a secretary
Abel: I was into the transportation business. I used the money I made abroad to set it up. I had some vehicles but the drivers I employed ran them aground. After that, I took up an employment job at Ikeja. But before then, on my arrival to Nigeria, an elderly man took me to some landed property and asked me to buy them. When I found that the little money I had on me then could buy them, I did. In later years, when life became very hard, that decision turned out to be my saving grace. But from inception, getting liquid cash was a problem.
Elo-Bliss: The money gathered was exhausted on putting up structures on some of the landed property.
Abel: And little was left for the marriage
Elo-Bliss: With that, we were back to square one if not square zero. Things became very hard. Life was tough. When I say tough, I mean tough. In fact, a friend of mine came, and said: Hey, is this what this marriage everybody is talking about is? If this is what marriage is, I rather not get married. I don’t blame her. Everything was dry. But it began to get better after some years. The financial lack lasted for close to seven years.
And, you didn’t come under any pressure to call it quits with the marriage?
Elo-Bliss: Well, some people say that a man that cannot take good care of his home or family is not worth the respect being given to him. I was brought up to feel that what a man can do, a woman can also do it. If a man can make money, I can also make money. So, if we don’t have money, it is not his fault. It is God who opens the heavens to favour people. And, now God had refused to favour me. God, what have I done? That was the way I saw it. My cry every day was to God. I thought the devil was out to destroy this home. I was asking God to have mercy on us, and He answered us. Until we had our three children, life was really tough. The money coming in was nothing to write home about. My husband was doing business but it collapsed because the drivers to the vehicles messed things up. There was no one to run to. Everyone tended to be poor at that time. But, after some time, things began to look up. It is not only poor finances or income that cause problems in a home. Lack of submission is one of them.
But if the man does not possess the qualities that can make you submit, what do you do?
Elo-Bliss: No, no, no. He may have material wealth and other qualities, but if his ideas of doing things or looking at issues, and yours do not match from time to time, I didn’t say always, mind you, you are going to have a lot of problems in that marriage. In my own case, if my husband’s ideas and mine do not agree, I’ve found out that things hardly materialise. Sometimes, I may think he is too slow, let me do it my way. But they will not materialise. I think we need patience. If we say we are Christians, there shouldn’t be divorce in our homes. The Word of God should be able to minister to our hearts.
Talking about submission, there are women, especially feminists who argue that religion, church and men use this call for submission to oppress women. What’s your take?
Elo-Bliss: Yes, some women think so, and probably, rightly so, sometimes. But if you want your home to be at peace, you will not see things from that angle. But if you read books, you would discover that the same thing that this man is doing, the other man is doing it; and, it does not matter whether he is black or white. The same thing applies to women. You find out that those are natural peculiarities of men and women. So, it is not as if they came into your home or life, and begin to stress you up with those natural inclinations. Fighting to change that in either of the two sexes will be futile as it is not peculiar to your home. What you should rather do is to study how to live with them. I am not talking about misbehaviour such as committing adultery, cheating on your partner, lying, deceit, deception, or things like that. It is your ability to understand the man’s or woman’s natural behaviour and to make room for them in your day-to-day activities that will make you have peace in your home. From my own experience, I don’t think submission leads to subjugation or any form of oppression. Sometimes it can be hard to submit. But if you take the matter to God in prayers, you will discover that He will take care of whatever problem there is.
From your experiences, if you have any advice to give intending or newly married couples, what would that be?
Abel: Marry your friend, someone you could be friends with. Be disciplined. Don’t be lazy. Trust each other. As long as you are not lazy, it is just a matter of time, and you will find your feet. Life is full of struggles but if God is involved, you are going to overcome.
Elo-Bliss: They should fear God and pray together because God is the Architect of our lives and our homes. Whatever we lack that will keep the home going, ask God and He will supply. He does not want us to have a divorce; once we are married, we are married. Patience, prayerfulness, tolerance and friendliness will keep our home going.
But there are people, women, and men, who could read what you just said, and feel that you don’t know what they are passing through. That’s why you are talking this way. What do you have to say to them?
Elo-Bliss: What are they passing through that I did not pass through? What could they be possibly passing through that God cannot handle? In three-quarters of the home, the problem is either childlessness, lack of finance, or pride or ego when the money is too much, either from the man or the woman. We may be smiling over this now. But what we passed through was enough to scatter our marriage. It started right from the first year, even before the first child was born.