Eze John Nwosu is the traditional ruler of Isiokwu Ihioma in Orlu Local Government Area of Imo State. An educationist par excellence, over the years he has served the Nigerian public in various capacities. They include: commissioner in Imo State Oil Producing Area Development Commission (ISOPADEC); local government administrator of Orlu Council and Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Anambra, Ekiti, Osun and Delta States. In this joint interview with his beautiful wife, Ugoeze Angela, an associate professor, the couple shared, with our correspondent, STANLEY UZOARU, their love life experiences that started in June, 1969 (51 years ago). Excerpt:
Sir, could you tell us how your love story began, how you met her?
Husband: It was actually at the refugee camp in 1968. Then as a refugee camp director at St. Peters School, Ogberuru, Orlu, then under the Eastern Region or East Central State, I was in my office when she walked in. In fact, I was with a friend and old schoolmate, Col. Frank Onyeke, discussing some personal issues when she came in with a letter from a Refugee Commissioner, Mr. A.E Okwuoha, who is now late. She gave me the letter and went outside to wait for my reply. One thing struck me. When I saw her, I knew she was the woman for me. She spoke kind of flawless English. I asked her to come back the following day. Months later I discovered what I used to tell my friend, Cajetan Duruji, that I was looking for the mother of my children. And this is exactly what I saw in her when I first met her.
Is it the same experience with you or you have something to add?
Wife: Yes, he has said it all. Then as a young girl of about 19 years, I was shy. I went to the refugee camp, as he told you, with a letter. He was the Director. I never knew but I handed him the letter and just like that things progressed from there.
Was there any opposition from anywhere, even relatives?
Husband: No, ours was just like it was made in heaven. My parents loved her very much, especially my mother. They treated her like a family member already before she came in.
How about you, madam?
Wife: I was loved by his family. They showed me love and care. My parents too never opposed the marriage. They liked him a lot. But you know they couldn’t just let you go like that. They asked me if I wanted to be with him. I assured them and they gave their consent.
What attracted you to her, out of the many eligible girls available then?
Husband: She is a principled human being. I remember how she started adding my first name to her name. She has this way of speaking English that makes me like her anytime I’m with her. She is what a true mother should be. She does not use any make-up. That was how she came to my house. In fact, she did not open her ear lobes before coming to my house. It was just here she did that. I like her natural look and above all, she is religious and beautiful too.
You heard what he said, what do you have to say?
Wife (laughs): What do you want me to say? You can see for yourself. He cares for everybody. You will like him at a first meeting; he is so adorable. I came from a polygamous family, so does he. But each time I see him play with his brothers from the other side of the family, I get amazed. He takes care of them as if they were biological siblings and that is one area where I’m different from him. And, I loved him for that. There’s this friend he has that is always his driver. He drives him around in his bicycle and treats him as a brother. He is humane and also you can see that he has got good looks too even as he is ageing.
How did you propose to her, and what exactly did you say to her?
Husband: I told her right from the beginning that I want her to be the mother of my children and she said: “it’s whole-hearted but not final.” So that was it.
Was that your response?
Wife (laughs): Yes I told him it’s whole-hearted but not final because I have to consult with my people.
What do you remember most about your wedding?
Husband: I remember that there were many people that attended the wedding that time despite the effect of the Biafran war. A lot of friends came from far and near with their cars and bicycles. I was so surprised. Even the Bishop of Owerri then, Williams, came and prayed for us. It was a wedding I will never forget in a hurry.
Same experience with you?
Wife: Oh yes, we had so many guests at our wedding just as we had during our golden jubilee anniversary. It was such a memory I will never forget.
Could you remember your first misunderstanding with each other?
Husband: I’ve never tried to raise my hand on my wife before. Never, not even when we had to stay for nine years before having our first child! I have never been aggressive to her. We’ve always loved each other and had patience. As a matter of fact, there is a hand of God in it.
Can you remember?
Wife: I don’t think so. He is a kind person and the age factor too was another thing entirely. I think he is about 10 years older than I am? So I see him as an elder brother. When I lost my father, he became a father to me. I respect him a lot. I don’t have big brothers. That has contributed to the love story. Although as a human being, we tend to have misunderstanding once in a while, it is not such that we can’t handle ourselves.
What is his favourite food?
Wife: He loves ‘swallow’ when he is at home. Wherever he goes, he prefers to eat his ‘swallow’ at home. He loves experimenting sometimes. If you tell him this is Afang soup, he would like to taste it but now that he is ageing, he likes light food.
Sir, do you know her favourite food?
Husband: I know she does not eat snail (tries to think)
Wife (laughs): I’m laughing because he does not keep records like I do. He does not know the colours of my shoes (general laughter) but I forgive him for that.
What do you like most about her?
Husband: The truth is that she does not like to discuss with anybody. I like her in the area of credibility. She does not gossip. I like her. She does not do make up. She is a born again Christian. She is religious. Throughout our year of tribulation she never worried me.
And you madam, what do you like about him?
Wife: I like him for his generosity. He is very, very generous. He takes good care of his brothers. Areas to improve on? I think it’s too late to improve on any area now (both laughs). Well, I have adjusted to his weak points. During his younger days, seeing students around him, first thing you do is to get jealous but not any more. Particularly then when you remember the promises you made to each other at the altar you tend to hold back. I know he enjoys their company but it ends there. He is straightforward to his friends I know, like Dr. Cajetan Duruji. Because of that, they are still friends till now.
What advice would you like to give younger ones who want to have a successful marriage like yours?
Wife: Children of this generation, do they really take advice? Well, the one that bothers me now is that no one wants to have more babies. They want to have just two kids. And, I used to ask them when you enjoy with your brothers and sisters, why do you want to deprive your children? It’s a very selfish generation. I think they need to be convinced to have more children.
How about you sir, your advice for them?
Husband: First, look for a girl with whom you are compatible. Don’t go for flashy girls. Wives should be faithful to their husbands. They should not tell lies. And, most importantly, they should love each other.
Do you think money is a factor when it comes to marriage?
Wife: When you live above your means that is when it’s a problem. At least, you should be able to have an income and what I believe is that marriage grows gradually and as you advance, things improves. I told you how I rose from assistant lecturer to associate professor. When the money comes it surprises you.
On a lighter mood, does he like music?
Wife: He is not the music type, but he likes classical music. Not this new generation music. He describes those that dance to it as mad. He dances beautifully anytime he wants to dance. You needed to see him on his coronation day .
Is it the same with her?
Wife: It is only mad people that dance. That is the response of my father to anybody that says her daughter cannot dance. He would tell them that jumping up and down is madness.
Your husband is Catholic and you are Anglican. How were you able to adapt or blend?
Wife: Well, I listen to them. I had opportunity of listening to their prayers. I was lucky, the clerics organised somebody to teach me. So I grew from there. I have grown in that area from a new convert to a CWO member to Ezinne title, to St. Jude ardent follower. I was made the leader even in my absence. In 1998, I was to be Nneoma Archdiocese but they said anybody who is not 50 years cannot hold the title. I was 48 and people said what does it matter, write that you are 50. And I said no when my time comes if I am alive I would be. Two years later I was honoured with the title “Nneoma Archdiocese.” In 1981, we became Knight of St. John.