By Rose Ejembi
It made for a moment of fun and relaxation recently when the Women Wing of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship (Zones A and B) hosted Dr. Mrs. Felicia Ayatse, wife of the Paramount Ruler of the Tiv Nation, His Royal Majesty, Ochivirih Prof. James Ayatse to a lunch.
The event, held at the Events Centre in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, afforded attendees the opportunity to hear a little about the royal family from no other person than the Queen herself.
After testifying about how God has been good to her family, Mrs. Ayatse who holds a doctorate in Political Education also took time to tell our correspondent very striking things about her husband. Excerpts:
Could you tell us briefly about your family backgrounds?
I am from a very humble background. My father was a kindred head of Shangev-Ya. My mum was a farmer. My father had several wives that we couldn’t even count. The ones I met were ten. My father never knew God as his personal Saviour. He had several children from different wives. I remembered throughout my childhood till he died, he went to church once by accident. And while he was in church, he was smoking. Though he wasn’t a Christian, he was a moralist; he was somebody who had conscience. He didn’t have much money and so our mothers struggled to send us to school. He, however, assisted once in a while when he had. Apart from that, my family was a hybrid of idol worshipers but our mothers were going to church.
You said earlier that your family was a hybrid of idol worshippers. May we know how you came to know God and to worship Him personally?
Fortunately for us, most of us children were allowed to attend church and in the course of the religious activities we were engaged in, I enrolled and got baptized in the Roman Catholic Church near us in1971. By 1975, I got confirmed at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Makurdi where I had relocated to stay with my uncle. I went to Holy Rosary College, Adoka and I was very religious and hardly missed my prayers. I was also active in sports as I represented my school in handball. I continued with my religious activities without knowing Christ. I was not born again and I didn’t even know what it meant to be a Christian even though I belonged to several religious groups in Makurdi. I could quarrel, abuse and all that. I was a stack sinner. If you judged me then, you would think I was a saint but before God, a sinner is a sinner. And I continued in that state all through my college days. In fact, there was a time that people came to preach the gospel and I went in company of friends and we stood beside each other and as they were praying we were knocking each other and making jest of them. I thank the Holy Spirit who convicted me of my sins and saved me. God started showing me mercy and unmerited favour. God sometimes decides to bless us pending when the time for our salvation would come.
When did you get married?
We got married on the 18th April 1982.
How long did your courtship last?
Our courtship lasted for nine months. We got married shortly after completing my secondary education. The man I married was sent from heaven. My husband is God-sent. There were a lot of suitors that came because at that time you were not allowed to send suitors away. It was such that as many suitors as come to you, you had the obligation to attend to them politely until the one you actually love among them eventually comes to pay your bride price. At the time we married, he was pursuing his master’s degree in Calabar. Before then, a relative tried everything to make sure I didn’t marry my husband but because God is in our relationship, He made it possible and we got married.
How has it been, raising your children?
Shortly after we married, God visited us and we had children. Our marriage is blessed with five children; four girls and one boy. To the glory of God, all our children are alive and have all graduated from university. Most of them have found employment in their chosen careers. They all read professional courses. My life is filled with God’s blessings and the children have given us all the peace we need. Majority of our children are girls but they are not extravagant. Above all, they are all born again and the Lord is helping them. Then I asked the Lord, what more do you need from me? You have given me the most patient man in the world. I appreciate the kind of husband God has given to me. He’s a father, a brother and everything to me and I thank God.
What are your three memorable moments in your life?
There are several memorable moments in my life but there are three outstanding ones. They are, namely: the day my husband and I got married; the day he got appointed as Vice Chancellor of Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi and the day I successfully defended my PhD at Benue State University.
How would you describe your husband, the Tor of Tiv, Prof James Ortese Iorzua Ayatse?
My husband is a true Christian, very humble, peaceful, patient and forgives easily. He is very caring and loving. In addition, he is very handsome, highly intelligent and extraordinarily favoured by God! All through our marriage, we have been very close to each other. I recall that at the initial stage of our marriage after our first child and while I was pregnant with our second child, my husband went overseas for further studies. And because I was pregnant for our second child then, he felt very bad leaving me behind. I later gained admission and went to school at College of Education, Katsina-Ala, where I met Christian brethren who helped me. At that time too, my husband was not born again. At a point in time, we decided we would not even go to church again. When I got to College of Education, Katsina Ala, I found solace in going to church as a result of loneliness since my husband who is my closest friend and companion had traveled overseas for further studies. One day, Brother Gbile Akanni preached on the topic, “Jesus in the Boat.” In that message, I was made to understand that without Christ in my life, I would sink one day. I have my life to Christ but I found it difficult to stand as a Christian. I kept falling and rising until the Lord stabilized me. I thank God for Brother Gbile Akani who kept checking on me. Since that day, the journey has not been all smooth but the Lord has been very faithful. I continued the Christian journey and I started praying that when my husband comes, he would give his life to Christ. When he came back, he gave his life to Christ but when he returned again, he went back. But he eventually gave his life again and had continued serving the Lord since then.
When I had my third pregnancy, I had serious health challenge that threatened but I kept praying and reading the Bible. Later, the doctor came and checked me and found I was in labour. Later, I was billed to be wheeled to the theatre but at the nick of time, the baby turned and I had her without going to the theatre. When my husband returned in 1987, I was already born again but he didn’t hesitate to join me in my church and that very first day he went, the Lord touched him and he gave his life to Christ. If your husband is not yet born again, there is hope. God surrounded me with Christian brethren who encouraged me.
Could you tell us some of the challenges you faced in life and how you were able to surmount them?
Having given my life to Jesus Christ, it may seem as if the problems are over but they are not. We had challenges but we have learnt over the years to work on those challenges and to work on our relationship. I’m very generous with the Word, sorry, and he is too and that has helped us in the training of our children that they must accept their faults and make amends. I had series of attacks and health challenges but those were not what drove me to Christ. It was yearning for that drove me to Christ. Also, in 2010, my husband went and contested for the senate and while going for campaigns, I had a dream where I saw three elderly women in our family surrounding my husband and he was very ill. When I woke up, I rebuked the devil. But the next day, my husband became very ill and we had to travel to Abuja where he got treated.
When we got back from the hospital that day, we all slept well and I had another dream. The next morning I felt very light so I went to the hospital and it was discovered my BP was very high up to 280. I was admitted in that hospital but there was no bed for me. So, I was given some drugs and referred to another hospital where again there was no bed. I went to a third hospital and same story. Then when I called my husband, he said I should just come home and I did. We kept trusting the Lord for my healing and He healed me in due time. One thing that has kept me is the desire to see the Lord on the last day. John 3:16 -19 says anyone who gives his or her life to Christ will have a better life. Since I started work, my promotions have never come without a struggle but God has continued to do it over and over again for me. I’m sure that my husband will satisfy the Lord in his present appointment.