Pastor Benjamin Olayiwola Akanmu, the current Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Oyo State chapter, is a senior minister of God in the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC). He got married to his wife, Victoria, on November 17, 1973. In this interview with OLUSEYE OJO, Pastor Akanmu, the architectural technician-turned pastor, and his wife, a dealer in clothing materials trained in an institution established by CAC for women that have calls to become birth attendants, shared their success stories, the challenges they encountered and how they circumvented the hurdles in the marriage which will clock 46 years in November this year.
How did you meet?
Husband: I met my wife around 1971 or 1972 in Ibadan. Then, I was a member of Christ Apostolic Church (CAC), Yemetu Idi-Odo, Ibadan. Then, I was a member of the choir group in the church. The first time I met my wife, she came to our church during a visit she paid her mother’s younger sister who happened to be a member of our church. I was at the other end of the church, and I saw a lady at the entrance of the church looking into the church. As she stepped in, the spirit of God told me that, ‘This is the person you will get married to.’ After that day, I did not see her again for many months because she went back to where she came from. And I did not have the courage to go and ask her aunt about the lady because the woman was a very tough person. I kept silent and I prayed that the will of God would be done. After many months, I suddenly saw the lady in our church again. She joined the church and was consistent and punctual in church because she had started living with her aunt. Later, she joined the choir group. After choir practice one day, we got talking, and that was how we started the journey. Later, I proposed to her. Eventually, she gave me a “yes” answer. We started courting. We did the solemnisation of holy matrimony on November 17, 1973, at the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC), Yemetu Idi-Odo. The church was known then as CAC Yemetu. But when they sunk a borehole for us in this part of Yemetu, people then added a suffix to the name for easy identification of this part of Yemetu, hence the name Yemetu Idi-Odo.
Wife: I was on a visit to my aunt then. After some days, I returned to where I came from. But I had to come back to the church, and I joined the choir group. Whenever I was ministering in the choir, and I looked at him, my heart would beat fast and would draw towards him. A time came when he paid a visit to our house. We welcomed him and entertained him very well. He came with two of his friends. When they arrived, my aunt called me and said I had visitors. I was frightened because I thought I would be in trouble with her. I came out and greeted them. My aunt’s husband and my husband happened to be in the same group in the church. They sat down together and talked for a long time. When they wanted to leave, I saw them off. But I did not go beyond the frontage of our house before I returned to the house. Then my aunt’s husband called me and said the visitors came for me. Immediately, fear gripped me, and I asked for what. He then said they wanted me as a wife. Though I had the conviction when my husband came on the visit that he would be my husband, I only told my aunt’s husband that I was not ready for marriage. What I said was from my mouth and not from my heart. But after each choir practice, he would come and greet me, and ask about my welfare. He would come to our house, and I would see him off when he’s leaving. So, that was how we started our marital journey.
Was there any opposition from anywhere, relatives, friends, concerning your marriage?
Husband: The challenge we encountered in those days was there was no much money. I was an architectural technician before I became a pastor and went into a full-time ministry. I worked with a company from the 1960s to 70s, but the salary then was very meagre. I had no problem with my father-in-law. The first time he saw me, he liked me. Incidentally, I have the same tribal mark with him. We did not experience delayed childbirth. We got married in 1973 and we had our first child in 1974. We had the second child in 1976, third in 1978, fourth in 1980 and the last child in 1982. When we got married, I did not have a car or motorcycle. After the wedding service, I and my wife walked from the church to the main road with our best man and chief bridesmaid. We chartered a taxi to Aremo in Ibadan. The other people found their way. But we laid the foundation of our house in 1978, and shortly thereafter, I bought a motorcycle. Two years later, I bought a car. God gave us the grace to acquire these items before we completed our house. So, we did not have any problem in sending our children to school.
Wife: The only opposition we had was after the introduction. My aunt that I stayed with called me and said if I did not love my fiancé again, I should choose a person among the friends of a younger brother of her husband. But I insisted that the person I have chosen is the one I would marry. One day, I went to greet my aunt and she asked if I had any issue with my fiancé and I said no. She said I was stupid because I would not tell a third party about what was going on in my family. I told her that if we fought, I would have told her. Since we got married, he has never abused me and he has not beaten me. I am also very submissive and he takes my advice.
What was the attraction?
Husband: I can say it was a divine directive. We had many ladies in the choir in the church, but I had prayed very well. I was a no-nonsense man, even up till now. People had thought that as a tough man, I would indulge in wife battering. No. I prayed and God actually led me to marry her. I had the personal conviction from God.
What qualities made you choose him above other eligible bachelors or suitors within that period?
Wife: When I was at Old Gbagi in Ibadan as an apprentice learning the business of cloths selling, there was a person in our shop, Aunty Foluke. She was older than me, but I was her senior in apprenticeship. The woman did not come to the shop at a particular time and our boss said after the close of work, we should go and check her where she lived at Oniyanrin. We went there and as I got there, I met a prophet in her house. As I was entering the house, he greeted me and said: “My daughter, peace be unto you.” I answered him. He then continued: “God sent me to you. When you want to get married, choose your husband from your mother’s side, don’t choose from your father’s side.” What the prophet told me made me to decide that I would not choose a husband from my father’s side.
How did you propose to her?
Husband: After choir practice one day, she was already leaving and I followed her. I called her name and asked her to wait for me. I had never lived a rough life right from my early childhood because I was afraid of women. I was not close to ladies and I did not know how to tell ladies sweet words to woo them. When she waited for me, I said: “How are you? I want to marry you.” She said “Haa!” And I said: “Why are you surprised? Will you marry me or not? If you will marry me, let me know. If you don’t want to marry me, let me know as well.”
What do you remember most about your wedding?
Husband: Before we got married, I went to her house and asked her to give me water to drink. It wasn’t as if I was thirsty. I only wanted to know how she would present the water to me. She brought the water and presented it to me on her knee. With that, I confirmed that she would be submissive, and she has been submissive in the past 46 years of our marriage. Later, she asked me to buy a cloth for her, which I actually bought immediately. She came thereafter that I should buy a pair of shoes for her. But I refused. I knew some people were pushing her. I told her I did not have money to buy the shoe. I asked if I should stop coming to her house because of that. She told me that when she requested for cloth, I bought it for her, and if there was no money to buy the shoe, that should not stop our love relationship. It was a test for her. I wanted to know if her interest was about what she would collect from me or not. These things are memorable. Also, I love the way my wife relates with my family members. I had a little child that stayed with me before we got married. She was the last child of my mother. My father died in 1967 and the child was born in 1964. She was three years old when our father died. So, I took over responsibility for her since she was six years. During the time she stayed with me, I sponsored her education from primary to secondary school. Thereafter, I sponsored her to the nursing school before she relocated to Germany. My wife took care of her like our own biological daughter. Another thing is that she is very nice to my mother who is well over 100 years now. You would find it difficult to differentiate who is the biological child of my mother between my wife and I. They are so close to the extent that if my mother has 10 clothes, my wife must have bought seven or eight of them for her. She ensures that my mother does not go hungry. I can say that the care that my mother has been receiving from my wife is one of the factors responsible for her longevity; otherwise, she would have died a long time ago. My mother has never regretted that I got married to my wife. In the first year of our marriage, those who stayed with us were up to five. And she took proper care of them all. The children that stayed with us comprised of my own younger sister’s, her own sisters’ and some apprentices. She did not discriminate.
Wife: What I always remember about this love journey are many, but let me quickly say that I always remember our wedding day with joy, as well as the day we bought land for our house. Another memorable thing is the joy of being a mother with five children.
Could you remember your first misunderstanding in marriage and how did you handle it?
Husband: The major misunderstanding we had was when we had our first child. After the baby’s dedication in church, my wife’s family asked her to come on a visit to them with the child. I was not at home when the message was sent and I was not aware of such request. I returned home very early and that Sunday morning she told me about it. Then, I noticed that she was dressing up to go for the visit. So, I asked her: “Are you going to your family house with my child or your child? If he is my child, he is not going to your family house.” But one thing about my wife is that anytime she discovers that I am not happy about something, she would not continue with it. No third party has mediated in any misunderstanding between us in the past 46 years. We have had minor disagreements, but we resolved them between ourselves without involving the third party. My wife is submissive, teachable and disciplined. If I say what she does is wrong, she would agree without arguing with me, though I might later discover that I was the one at fault.
Wife: I would not have waited till he returned from the mountain before I told him but there were no mobile phones then. He ordered that I should not take the child to my family house. I pleaded with him that he should allow me to go, and he said if I wanted to go, I should leave the child behind and go alone. So, I dressed up and the wife of our landlord followed me that day. When we got to our family house, I was asked about the child and I told them that my husband did not approve that I should bring the child because he was not aware of the visit until the morning of that day. They were shocked. I was angry initially when he said I should not take our child to my parent’s house, but I did not talk.