Waiting for an answer after you’ve proposed marriage to a lady is not the most pleasant of experiences. Ask Emma Ifeanyichukwu Adibe, former State PRO of the Anambra Post-Primary Schools Service Commission (PPSSC) but at present, Special Assistant to the Executive Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano, on Community Liaison, to narrate his experience and he would tell you that it’s not easy. The man who initially proposed to his now spouse, Deaconess Adaora Adibe said it took months of anxious waiting for the woman to return an answer. But today, Adibe who is also the Personal Assistant to the Anambra State Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the Awka Area Commander of the Chaplain Corps Policing Explorers (CHAPO) and a Zonal Pastor with The Redeemed Christian Church of God, and his wife, the Principal, Capital City Secondary School, Awika, are happily married. And, they have been so for the past 31 years. In this interview with OBINNA ODOGWU, the couple who hail from Obosi, Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra, share their experiences from the marriage which has produced five children: three girls and two boys (twins), who are in various fields of endeavour. Excerpts:
Could you tell us how you met before two of you got married?
Husband: I had gone to Nnewi, Anambra State, to join other youths of the Scripture Union Nigeria to which I belong to participate in a vacation camp meeting holding at the Colliery Secondary School, Ngwo, Enugu State. It was in 1987 I think. As the youths were trickling in for the programme to wait for the bus that would convey us to Enugu, she came in and the moment I saw her, it struck me like a thunderbolt that this is the lady I will marry. It was an irresistible impression in my heart and I believed the impression was from God because I instantly developed an inexplicable love for her. She was so charming, very attractive. As I was playing some familiar gospel songs with my guitar in a corner at the venue, she joined other youths who gathered around me to sing along with me. In fact, it was love at first sight because that was the very first time that I met her. However, I kept the impression I had about her in my heart until the end of the five-day youth convention. But no sooner did I get home than I shared my feelings with her and proposed marriage to her. I did not want to delay it for fear of losing her to someone else. Even though I thought I would receive the reply to my proposal immediately, it took her about three or four months to accede to my request. According to her, she needed more time to seek the face of God on the issue. It was much later that she disclosed to me that she also had the same strong conviction that I would be her husband when she first saw me. So God works in diverse ways; His will to perform.
Was it the same thing with you, or are there details you would like to add, at least on your own part?
Wife: Well, I belong to the Scripture Union. So, that year, precisely 1987, August, we had a vacation camp meeting at Colliery Secondary School, Ngwo. He belonged to SU Nnobi and I belonged to SU Oraifite and we had to converge at one point, that was Nnewi group, to board a joint vehicle to Ngwo. It was at the Nnewi Area group hall that I saw him for the first time. He was looking very handsome; had this great smile and held a guitar. We were drawn into conversation while we waited for the bus and I realized he was a schoolteacher like myself. He spoke very good English and was very articulate. I quickly pointed out that he spoke well and he said he studied Mass Communication. I revealed that I was a graduate of English and we just talked on and on very freely as if we had known each other for long. We just developed this liking for each other, call it love at first sight, I don’t know. I was also amazed at his skill in handling the guitar. From time to time in the camping period, we (some other campers) gathered round him and he thrilled us with songs. The camping lasted five days and before we dispersed to our various stations, I knew he was attracted to me just as I was to him.
Was there any opposition from anywhere, relatives, friends, concerning your marriage?
Husband: There was no opposition from my parents. I guess it was because they were eagerly expecting me to get married. They received with enthusiasm the news that I had found a life partner. This was partly because my immediate younger brother was already married before me, though with my permission. I was a civil servant with a low income while he was into business. As you know, many civil servants marry late due to financial constraints. On the other hand, the inability to find a soul-mate in time also contributes to late marriages on the part of both bachelors and spinsters. Well, there was mild opposition from my father-in-law. He felt that given my status at that time that I may not be able to meet the traditional demands of the marriage as well as take proper care of his daughter, at least, financially. I also remember vividly that there was stiff opposition as a result of our decision not to bring in any alcohol in the traditional rites and wedding proper. We tried to explain to him that as born again Christians we neither drink alcohol nor give same to other people. The decision did not go down well with him and his kindred especially as my predecessor who married his first daughter came with alcohol. My wife was the second daughter. However, I thank God for my father-in-law. When he saw that we were very firm in our decision he gave in and helped to convince members of his kindred to soft-pedal on the issue. On the other hand, there was opposition from the leader of the Scripture Union group to which I belonged. Firstly, he felt he should be in the decision-making process of who I should marry. He probably was not happy that in spite of the numerous spinsters in the fellowship I had to choose from outside. He really got offended and made efforts to stop the marriage. In any case, the matter was quickly resolved because as the French people usually say Que Serrai Serrai, whatever will be, will be whatever will be.
Wife: It was first from my father. Then, teachers were poorly paid. so he had little with him and was hardly able to foot the bills my people gave him. My father felt I deserved better and tried to discourage me but when he saw I was bent on my decision to marry him despite his financial standing then, he let go. My paternal grandmother, God bless her lovely soul, called me into her room secretly and told me not to mind my father, that I should stand my ground and that any good meets initial opposition. I was further emboldened. Like he noted, other oppositions from the Scripture Union brothers and sisters who felt he sidelined them in the marriage process and from umunna (kinsmen) when we said we were not going to use alcoholic beverages for the marriage rite. My dad initially sided with them but later relented. But all these were eventually resolved.
What made you decide to go for your wife out of the many ladies available for a pick within that period?
Husband: It is the fact that she was like a revelation from God. I did not know her before. I had never seen her before the day I met her. Besides, while I was patiently waiting for her reply to my proposal, I watched her closely and discovered that, first and foremost, she loves me. Secondly, she was down-to-earth, well-groomed, intelligent, very hardworking, naturally wise, highly resourceful, humble and respectful. My wife’s family background is enviable. She came from a disciplined family of nine children consisting of eight girls and one boy and all of them are graduates in different disciplines. Their parents really worked very hard to make them what they are today. She had a very humble academic background. Her father was a retired post-primary school principal with many years experience while her late mother was a retired school headmistress. Both of them were dedicated and committed Christians. So, I saw in her a potential to help direct our children in the path of moral rectitude and sound education.
What qualities made you choose him above other eligible bachelors or suitors within that period?
Wife: Firstly, it is because he is a committed Christian. I found in him a resolve to serve God sincerely and I knew I was safe with him. He is a very easygoing, gentle and kind person and I felt very free around him. He is very handsome, more so in his youthful days and I liked it. And as a Christian, I depended on the leading of the Holy Spirit for the choice. Despite what I saw physically, I still prayed fervently for God to direct me. At the end, I had this inner witness and peace that things would be ok if I married him. So, on the day he came for the answer, I gave him a “yes” and he jumped up in excitement, hugged me and dashed out to share the good news with his mother.
How did you propose to her? What exactly did you say to her as to make her accept to marry you?
Husband: I did not say anything unusual or extraordinary when I proposed to her. I did not pretend or make a false promise to boost my ego as some men do. I was conscious of the fact that any false information or promise I made would be discovered eventually and it could affect the marriage negatively since I would be living with her until death do us part. So, I simply said ‘please I love you and wish to marry you.’ ‘I would like us to live together as husband and wife for the rest of our lives.’ If your answer is in the affirmative, kindly let me know. I thought her answer would be immediate like the boyfriend-and-girlfriend stuff when we were in the secondary school. But in her wisdom, she humbly and politely told me to go, promising to look into my request after necessary prayers and consideration. However, there is this peace of mind and assurance in my heart that my request will surely receive a positive answer. The assurance stemmed from the fact that I had prayed enough for a life-partner and I was convinced that God answers prayers. Besides, God had spoken to my heart the first day I saw her. He does not speak to everybody the same way but, if you are really a truly born again Christian, you cannot mistake His voice. Sometimes God speaks through a vision or a dream or through somebody or in a still small voice that leaves an impression in your heart. He does this to ensure we do not make any mistake in a sensitive issue like marriage.
What did you say when he proposed? What exactly did he say and what was your reply?
Wife: Hmm! He said that he loved me and would like to spend the rest of his life with me; that since the day we met at the Nnewi SU group, he had developed strong feelings for me; that he had been praying about us and would also like me to pray. What I said? I saw it coming though I didn’t make it obvious. I had told my flat-mate then that he was likely to propose marriage to me so I wasn’t surprised when he came. Well, by my Christian orientation, I was taught to pray over such serious decisions and get a clear leading from God, not just to depend on my feelings. So I told him to give me time to pray and seek God’s face about the proposal.
What do you remember most about your wedding?
Husband: Ours was not a high society wedding but it was very successful and well-attended. We wedded on the 23rd of December with all the hustling and bustling of the yuletide season. Incidentally, some people that attended our wedding from the neighbouring towns were caught up in the traffic as a result of long queues. One of the statements the preacher who officiated the wedding made that day and which had stuck to my mind since then is that “there is no readymade home.” He said we have a responsibility to make our marriage what we want it to be. He said that if a husband and wife have never had any cause to disagree on anything; it is either the man is stupid or the wife is. This is because two people from different backgrounds sharing a home are bound to disagree on issues or even exchange words, but with love you only disagree to agree in the spirit of mutual love, understanding and affection. I also remember that because we wedded on the 23rd of December which is two days to Christmas, the man who brought us in his car to the church and the reception venue, had to rush home to take his family home for Christmas and I had to appeal to another person to take us home in his car because we had no car of our own. When we remember the incident, we laugh over it as we now have many cars at our disposal.
What do you remember most about your wedding?
Wife: It was not a flamboyant wedding because we did not have a lot of money to throw about but it was fun all the same. The wedding took place on the 23rd of December so Christmas was already in the air. It was part of the Christmas celebration since we were going to wed in his place, Obosi, his people asked us to fix it close to Christmas so that they would all return. So we did and they were there for us. My family and his were very supportive. I had lost my mother the previous year, 1988, so my father and my siblings rallied round me to make sure I didn’t feel my mother’s absence. Their moral and financial support was huge. Any time my face wasn’t bright, my twin sister, Oby, who was my maid of honour would quickly cheer me up. My mother-in-law was everywhere on that wedding day. I didn’t know her very well then but I later understood that my husband was her favourite son, so she left no stone unturned to ensure that we had a good wedding. She later became my best friend. I thank God it all went well.