Sir George Amaechi Obi, Managing Director, Gabio Pharmacy Nigeria Limited, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, and his amiable wife, Lady Blessing Ifeoma Obi, nee Uchegbu, a staff of Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital Abakaliki (AEFUTA) are both pharmacists by training. In this interview with CHIJIOKE AGWU, the couple who celebrated the silver jubilee anniversary of their wedding on 27th October,2019, at the Women Development Centre (WDC), Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, and now already 26-years-old in marriage shared the stories of their marital life. Excerpt:
Tell us a little about yourselves.
Husband: I am from Nise in Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra State. I started my early life in Ebonyi State. I attended Presco Secondary School in Abakaliki before proceeding to the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN). In my days at UNN, I was known as the Kaita V111 of Isakaita (a title given to me at Isakaita Hostel then).
Wife: I am from Enugwu, a neighbouring community to Nise.
How did you meet your wife?
Husband: When I graduated from the UNN, I came back to Abakaliki to stay with my parents. A year after my graduation, my parents started telling me that it was time for me to get married. When I accepted their advice, I told them, out of respect and tradition then, that they should help me find a lady from a good home. But they said no, that it was my duty to find a woman for myself .They said there was no way in the course of my days in UNN I would not have met good women. They said I should make a choice from them and settle down. I said okay. I reasoned that marriage is a serious matter that I could not afford to take decision on my own without consulting God in prayers. That was how I started seeking His face in prayers. About a week after, I was praying and fell into a trance. I saw this beautiful girl before me. God said it is the girl I was going to marry. He told me that when going to work the following day I should not follow the normal route. I lived on Udi Street and worked at Zik Avenue. I usually follow Waterworks. So I decided to follow Obiri Street through Ukwansi. Then she and her parents lived on Onitsha Street, Abakaliki. But when I woke up that morning, I started having some doubts about what was revealed to me, as to whether it is true or the product of my imagination. Finally, my spirit told me to heed the advice. That was how I decided to follow a different route than I usually take to work.
What happened next?
Husband: Lo and behold, when I got to that particular place which was her mother’s shop, it was her younger sister that I met. I said within me that this was not the lady that I saw in the dream. It is a family that is fairly known to me because we attend the same Anglican church. I asked after her elder sister. She said that she went to the market. I told the younger sister to tell her sister whenever she comes back that I checked on her. She said okay. I had barely reached my office and was exchanging greetings with some of my colleagues when I felt a touch on my shoulder. I turned and behold it was the girl. I said hi and she replied. I took her to my office and started telling her how much I liked her and would want to marry her. But she said she had already been approached by about 10 suitors for marriage and added that she was already confused as to which of them to choose. She said she hoped I wouldn’t mind being the 11th person on the line. I said yes. She said: ‘ok, no problem; let’s keep going.’ That was in the year 1993. So, she kept on praying as much as I was doing. Finally, God gave her to me.
Wife: Like he said, we met in 1993. My mother had a provision store and we used to go there to assist her. One day she sent me to Abakpa market. We stay at No. 8 Onitsha Street, Abakaliki, very close to the market. Because of this, it was always easy for us to enter the market and buy a few things. I went there to buy some things for my mother who is also a fashion designer. Sometimes she also bought materials that she would use to work for her customers. Immediately I came back, my immediate younger sister, Anulika, told me that George came to look for me. He said I should come whenever I came back. Because of the training that we got from our parents, we don’t leave the house without letting them know where we were going. I told my mother that Anulika said that George asked me to come. My family knows his family very well because we all attend the same All Saints Anglican Church. But when I told my mother, she was like ‘ah, ah, why is George calling you?’ All the same, she said I should go and find out. Then George was working with CENO Manufacturing Company, Abakaliki, a company that produces drugs and it is very close to our house. I met him almost the same time that he arrived and was exchanging pleasantries with his co-workers. I entered and tapped him on his shoulder. He turned and said since I am here that I should come inside his office. He sat me down and told me he wanted to marry me. I said I had many suitors and that I was even confused. He said I should allow him to come and see my parents. I told him that I was praying and that I wanted to screen all the people as to know the right person. He said that it was better for him to come so that when I was screening, I would screen all of them at once. He later met with my parents. My father said he should discuss with me and get my approval and consent, that he didn’t have any problem with him.
Did she have all the qualities you wanted in a woman for a wife when you met her?
Husband: As you can see, she is very beautiful, more beautiful then than she looks now. If she is beautiful like this after six children, you can imagine her beauty at that time. She was very tall, as you can see. She is from a very good Christian home and was equally reading pharmacy at UNN. In fact, she was in her second year then. But the only one that I told God that I didn’t want in my wife is someone that uses glasses while reading, and unfortunately, she was using glasses. But I said since she possesses all other important qualities that I won’t leave her because she was using glasses to read. But to the glory of God, along the line, miraculously God healed her, and she stopped using glasses. As you can see, she no longer wears any.
Wife: On my own part, he was living in Abakaliki. In fact, he had lived in Abakaliki for a long time. And I didn’t want to marry any man living within Abakaliki. I wanted a life outside Abakaliki after schools but not in Lagos, Onitsha, Aba and overseas. Ironically, most of the suitors coming lived overseas and that disqualified them. I was very close to my parents, especially my mother. So I couldn’t see myself living a month without seeing her. That was why I didn’t want anybody outside Nigeria or in a distant place like Lagos. But along the line, God started showing me signs. For somebody like me, I didn’t want to go into marriage today and come out of it tomorrow. On other hand, if I stay in a marriage that I am not happy with, I cannot hide it. If you see me, you will know that I am not happy. That was why I was very cautious, praying to God to show me the right person. Along the line, I started seeing direction. But one of my maternal uncles, the closest to me, saw otherwise. My mother’s lastborn, he lived overseas. He sent some of his friends. He was particularly annoyed with me when I decided to settle down with someone staying in Abakaliki. He was my favourite uncle. We were very close and it wanted to bring a problem between two of us. But when my elderly uncle understood my position, he was the one that convinced his brothers to allow me to marry the man of my choice. Finally, after everything, we settled. I was in my second year. It was during one of the strikes we had in 1994 that I came home. We did the traditional rites in September 1994 then October 1994 we did the white wedding. After the wedding I became pregnant because we were still on strike and had my first child in August 1995. Along the line, they called off the strike and I was to go back to school and that time my child was about three months old. I didn’t know what to do. I started looking for accommodation. When we didn’t succeed, my mother said that I should drop the baby with her and go; it was not easy for me to do so. I was crying: how would I leave three-and-a-half- month baby and return to school? But after everything, my mother assured me that she would take care of the baby. I was happy.
Did you encounter any opposition when you told your parents that you want to marry her?
Husband: No opposition at all. In fact, my parents and hers were kind of friends as they attended the same church in Abakaliki. When I introduced the girl to them, they told me to consider it done. They said they would take it up from there. So my parents and hers accepted the marriage plan wholeheartedly. And on 22nd October 1994, we wedded. From that time, till now, we have been living happily without any problem.
Wife: Apart from my mother’s last born, who is my favourite uncle who showed initial opposition, there was no serious opposition but it was later resolved.
What was the first challenge you faced after your wedding?
Husband: I think the first and only challenge was that she was still in school at Nsukka while I was working in Abakaliki. After the wedding, she went back to school while I stayed in Abakaliki. The challenge was one of distance .But what I did was that I was visiting her frequently at school. Every weekend I would travel to Nsukka to see her. I would stay with her, from Saturday to Sunday and I would come back to Abakaliki. Because of the good understanding we had with her parents, they used to cook food and bring to me from their family house just to make me not feel her absence too much. Shortly after she gave birth to my first daughter, Chidinma, the challenge was how to go back to school with the child who was about three months old when the school resumed. Efforts made to get a good accommodation and a nanny for her in Nsukka failed. In the long run, she had to leave the baby with her mother. It was very difficult, and I was very afraid given the fact that the baby was just three months. But her mother, my mother-in-law, assured me that she would be fine. And, indeed, she was able to nurture the baby till my wife came back from school. At that time, there was no phone as it is today. Communication was not smooth. What we had then was NITEL and it was not as simple and handy as the handsets of today. That was the only challenge we had. We never had any other problem or quarrel because I love her so much and she loves me too. In past 26 years of our marriage, we’d never had any quarrel such that an outsider came in to resolve for us. We operate a single account. We don’t hide anything from each other. Anything you tell me I would surely tell her and anything you tell her she would surely tell me. We don’t keep secrets. We do everything together: church, market, anywhere. In fact, I don’t have the words to express the intensity of the love we have for each other.
Wife: The first day his mother saw me, she was so happy. His sisters, brothers, everybody were happy and that was why me and my mother-in-law are very close. No challenges at all. My husband is my best friend and we don’t have any challenge. We live like twins and handle everything together.
How do you handle misunderstanding in your marriage?
Wife: One thing God taught me is that whenever I am annoyed, I don’t talk so I am not easily provoked. I normally have patience with outsiders, not to talk of my husband. That has been helping me. As a human being, there are times somebody would do what you don’t like, but because I cool down, I don’t tend to react immediately. When my temper cools down I will now approach you and tell you that I don’t like what you did and all that and we will talk over it.
How many children did God bless you family with?
Husband: God blessed us with six beautiful and intelligent children: five beautiful girls and a handsome boy. My first daughter, Chidnma, is already a graduate. She graduated from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, Anambra State. My second daughter, Chioma, is in her fourth year, pharmacy, same university. The third one is Chiamaka, same university, second year UNIZIK. The fourth one is Chinenye. She is doing first year, same university while the firth one, Chidiebere, my son, is at Airforce School, Agbani, Enugu. The last one which is my mummy is in elementary six at EBSU Nursery and Primary School.
What did you learn from your wife?
Husband: She turned me into a good Christian. Before I met her, I was just a Sunday Sunday Christian. But after I married her, I became serious in the things of God. I started attending weekly activities and praying more seriously than I was doing before.