Fifty-three years of marriage notwithstanding, the Adabas are still very much in love, make no doubt about it. This is shown by how playfully they poked fun at each other, during the interview with JULIANA TAIWO-OBALONYE, in Abuja, and remembered, with fond memories, their challenges and how they overcame them. Although their marriage was arranged by their parents, 53 years later, they are well pleased to know that they were not wrong in their judgement. Excerpts of the interview:
Give us a brief introduction of yourselves
Husband: I am Tom Aaze Adaba. Aaze is a significant of hope, if he survives then there is hope. This is because in my family, there were three children before me who died at infancy. When the last one died, our reverend father who was just living a stone’s throw from us––he was up the hill and we were down the hill––came down to condole with my parents. So I was told. In that he already knew the pains and the agony that they went through, he just said: “never mind, God willing, the next conception will be a male child and when he is born, name him after me.” His name was Father Thomas Duffy. It was from him I got my English name, Thomas. That was exactly how it was done. After my birth which incidentally was not in my hometown, Okene (I was born in Asaba, where there was the only Catholic hospital at that material time, in the Benin Diocese) I was named Thomas. Aaze in my dialect means hope. It’s more of reincarnation, that is, father has come back. I was the first Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC). I have been in broadcasting for well over 50 years now. I went up the ladder. I got my first degree at Ohio University. I came back as an educationist/communication specialist. I went into full-fledged broadcasting in 1974 and became the first Principal of the NTA Television College, Jos, from 1980 to 1987. Between then and 1989, I was able to do my PhD programme. I left service in 1989, that is over 30 years ago and we have been on our own since then, as retirees and pensioners.
Wife: I am Mrs. Theresa Aaze Adaba. I was born in Zaria because my parents left home for Zaria where they had something to do. Then they moved to Kano and then they returned home with me. I started my education in my hometown and after my standard education I got married. After my marriage I went to Polytechnic but I didn’t finish because of the children. After my fourth child, I took up a job with the NTA. I spent 24 years at the NTA and retired because the children had grown, got married and they had started giving birth, so I had to go and be helping them.
Can you recall how you met and what was the attraction?
Husband: I like that. Actually, both of us are of Catholic parentage. With Catholic family back in Okene, it was a very close unit. One: because Catholicism was still at its infancy in our area, in the early 1940s. We are virtually from the same village, and I used to mock her that I can literally throw stones at you because we were way above the hills and they were down the slope. My father was very much involved in the Catholic Church even before he went to the Second World War. Incidentally, his name was Joseph Adaba of very fond memories. He was among those evangelists that happened to have influenced her father, who became a Christian and a Catholic too. My mother was at home in Okene. We have a big family but very much exposed to education and through that she got enrolled in the Catholic Church and through that they met. Her mother was also the daughter of one of the early pioneers of the Catholic Church in the land. So, there was already a relationship between the two parents, that was ever before we got to meet. When I began to think about marriage, I was a schoolteacher then at Bichi Teacher’s College. It was my mother who insisted that this is your wife. Apparently in the same grace and attributes of her parents, the two of them were a great couple. So, my mother insisted that this is the girl you are going to marry and truly that came to be. She was in primary school then when I was teaching, so we went on until things were ready. So as God would have it, we went into it and struck a marriage on December 26, 1966.
So yours was an arranged marriage?
Husband: Yes, but with absolute consent because one, the parents were very familiar and close to my parents. Two, I knew them very well and had a lot of respect for them. Three, my contact with her in primary school made me have a fair idea that this is the right person. So, it was arranged but I think that the initial choice was made and that choice stuck.
How will you describe your encounter with your husband?
Wife: I was in school then and facing my studies, I didn’t even know what was happening. I never knew somebody was looking at me or observing me, I was doing my thing.When he was a student in teacher’s college and it was time for teaching practice, it happened that he was posted to our school and to our class to teach us. That was all and I didn’t know that all the while he was observing me. So I first heard he was interested in me when they came and told my parents that he wanted to marry me. I was shocked and I asked myself, marry at this age? I was 19 and I said no. I told my mum that I did not want to get married at that time, that I wanted to finish my education. There was a lot of argument and consultations and at the end of the day they insisted that even if I were to get married, I would continue my education. This went on for a while but eventually, the two families agreed and the preparation for the marriage started. That was how we came together and got married but the marriage was after my education at that time.
How did you propose?
Husband: Propose to whom? The parents did the proposal and it happened.
Even though yours was an arranged marriage, what were some of the qualities that you saw in each other that convinced you to agree to marry when there were several other prospective bachelors and spinsters around then?
Husband: I saw her as imbibing the quality of her parents who were devout Catholics and was raised as one. She was very warm as a Catholic child, her parents had a very gentle disposition which she imbibed.
Wife: Well, I just liked him. One of such qualities of attraction is the fact that he was very bold and he is as bold now as he was then. Whatever is in his mind he wants to do, he will do. He was loving and I said since my parents had said I can continue my education in marriage––I have also grown to love him––so I agreed to the marriage.
Husband: Don’t mind her, the point is I was versatile and I was giving her music. I was handling the school band and handling the church choir. I was a pianist, so at least those were our areas of contact.
What were the teething problems when you first got married and how were you able to handle them?
Husband: It was a period of roughness but the fact that she quite understood played a major role. That very calm disposition of hers, very perceptive helped a great deal in our stability. When we got married in 1966, that was during the crisis in the country, I was a student in the now College of Education but it was called Advanced Teachers College in Kano, then. I had to bring her down there. We were on a very meagre allowance: four pounds and eight shillings or thereabout. You know, some of us were called senior civil servants because we were married. For those who were not married, they were on that (four pounds and eight shillings). For those married, we had higher allowance and everything put together was about six or seven pounds. What was that to our needs at that material time? But we struggled on and fortunately my parents were in Kaduna and so from time to time they would send foodstuff to us in Kano. They augmented a great deal for our needs. Incidentally, exactly 10 months after our wedding, we had our first child, a beautiful gift from God. Things were not too smooth at all especially in terms of coping, running the home but I thought it was necessary for us to have a firsthand experience of that and we did.
So, how did you survive?
Husband: It was by the grace of God. I still remember very vividly I think it was 1967 or 1968, my wife and I looked at everything and realized that there was no food. We had just garri but fortunately we had stockpile of food for the child. I had just got back from school and I said if this is our last meal before anything, all well and good. Then in the evening we would just drink garri and go to bed. But the Lord who provides, in His own way of doing things and ever so timely, provided for us. Can you believe that that afternoon, I was outside the house, at the photographer’s shop facing the main road when I saw a young man carrying something on his head and heading towards our house. When he made the turn, it was then I recognized him: Tijanni, my little nephew. I asked: ‘What are you doing here?’ And he said Hajia (that is his mum) said he should bring the foodstuff – yams, garri, soup ingredients, fish, dry meat and other stuff. It was simply unbelievable. I was the one saying earlier on that we would not have food to eat and Tijanni just brought those things like that. He said the mother said her husband, who was a tanker driver just got back from Lagos and bought some things for them and so she decided to send some to us. That in itself was to me a miracle. It is true that we had prayed about it and called on God to see what the situation was and we had said, ‘let your will be done’ and indeed, He let His will be done. So we survived that pending crisis. We continued that way until I finished my course in 1969. Fortunately for me, before I did, I got a scholarship from the United States government to read Mass Communication. It was supposed to be for three years but I had a wife and a daughter. There was no way I was going to say she should go with me because, this was a very rare privilege at that time. So I had to leave her. But as the Lord Almighty would have it, she was already pregnant for our second daughter, Elizabeth. I was in the US when she gave birth to her on the 10th of December, 1969. Margaret’s own was 20th of October 1967. What we did was move her to Kaduna to stay with my parents and that partially solved the problem. Although my physical presence which was very necessary was out of it, nonetheless, she coped and I thank and praise God for that. So now there were two children tearing her to pieces but she survived. In fact instead of three years, I did the programme in one year, nine months which was my first degree, and I came back home in June 1971.
What happened next after you came back from studies in the US?
Husband: We remained in Kano. We coped but at one stage I began to see parental intervention. My younger sister came to Kano to visit us. She was in secondary school then. I saw that she was acting very bossy not over me but over her (his wife), that, after all, she is their wife. When I got wind of this, I sent her packing back to Kaduna and I sent a very strong-worded letter to my dad, telling him that as God Almighty made it possible for him to institute the marriage establishment and they grew and God gave me and other children to them, so also do I want to emulate them with my own wife and children. And for anybody outside us to intervene, creating a problem for us, I was not ready to take it. My dad understood it very clearly and ever since then it was hands off. Not that they were not coming but that issue of bossiness was out of it completely because I made my position clear. She is my wife and nobody’s servant and I wanted that to be clearly understood by all in the family and that was respected.
And that didn’t create any friction with the family?
Husband: No, it didn’t. I don’t know how my dad handled it, but it didn’t. My siblings were no longer acting all bossy whenever they came around. I didn’t say they shouldn’t come. If you come, we have rules in the house, respect them and it paid off. And the other thing was that there was a lot of movements. I wasn’t too much of a sedentary person even when I was lecturing at ABU. I didn’t stay in one place all the time. I moved and that in itself was enough to destabilize us but it didn’t because there was quite some understanding. And this movement, I am talking about was not a long one, except when I went for my masters programme in Indiana University and other periods when I was posted from Jos to Lagos to do my doctorate programme. When I was in Lagos, I was commuting but it wouldn’t ordinarily be satisfactory but there was nothing we could do in these circumstances. She was and still remains my general manager [to be continued next week].