Professor Amana Onekutu, a professor of Crop Protection at the University of Agriculture, Makurdi, and his wife, Dr Patience Onekutu, have been married since 1994. In a chat with ROSE EJEMBI, husband and wife share the secrets of their happy, 27-year union.
How and where did you first meet?
Prof Amana: I first met my wife while she was serving in Kano and I was still in the university. She came to the university for a programme. We met again in church, ECWA number one here in Makurdi. That’s how I got to know her better and we became friends through our commitment to fellowship. We were in a missionary group called Capro. We got close and I began to appreciate the values that she exhibited. We shared similar values as Christians and in life generally. I appreciated her commitment to the work of God which brought us together and that helped to strengthen our relationship and it got to a point where I felt that we should continue spending our lives together.
How long did it take, and how did you propose to her?
Prof Amana: We became close in 1989. I told her a story. I don’t know where that story came from and I cannot remember the story I told her. But before then, it was very clear that we were being attracted to each other.
How about you? Was that how you met?
Dr Patience: Well, I first saw him in Kano. He was the president of their fellowship, and I was a corps member and we went to worship in their fellowship. After the ministration, he was the one that drove us to drop us off because it was already evening. That was the first meeting point. After that, I saw him again in Benin and we actually met here in Makurdi and I was not so stable in ECWA at that time. Then, we met at Capro like he said. Capro was always holding meetings in my auntie’s house and one other person that brought us together was Sam Kputu, a Capro missionary. I was staying with my auntie. I think after youth service, he continued to come. He would drive and then, the children would say, he’s here, he’s coming, but I didn’t read much meaning into it. But he proposed on the 4th of January 1989. I am trying to recollect whether I gave my answer immediately or I waited for a while.
Prof Amana: It wasn’t too long, but you waited a bit.
Dr Patience: Yes, I had had series of those things in school, youth service and church. I did not wait for too long but I did not say yes on that day. In fact, shortly after that, I was hospitalized and later on we started a relationship. I saw sincerity, I saw commitment to God, I saw someone that was more or less down-to-earth, someone I could feel free with. I was just myself with him. And primarily, I thought that he was real and was really a child of God and I also did not mind the physical person. He didn’t have much in terms of wealth but I could relate with him and feel at home with him. And like he said, we shared a lot of values. For me, Christianity was it and he was somebody I could see living the life without pretence. That was one of my reasons. He wasn’t like others who were not Christians but this one, I felt very free and at home with him. Our courtship was between 1989 and 1993 and there were ups and downs but not too long.
Was there any opposition from relatives and friends?
Dr Patience: Yes, opposition from parents was there, much more from his own side, which he attributed to some certain expectations. There were mindsets that here comes somebody from the blues, something like I am Idoma, and he is Igala. I think basically that was it. From my own side, my mother was not so much in the picture as my father was. My father also opposed on the grounds of tribe. He came out clearly and said I could marry from the whole of Idoma land but, why must it be Igala? And I was not a kind of girl that had brought anybody ever before. So, he respected that but said he was giving me the whole of Idoma to choose a husband from, not Igala. The problem of my people about Igala was that they believed the Igala were fetish and they could do anything to harm me. So, I said the family is Christian, this person I’m dealing with is a Christian but they were not ready to understand. They said that when you marry one person, you are married to the whole family, both nuclear and extended. So, these things kept affecting and impacting our relationship. There were times we even said, let’s give ourselves a break and we did not know when we would come back together. So, that was it. Eventually, my father-in-law passed on, my mother-in-law was left and she kept saying, Baba did not change his mind before he passed on, so she was not going to say yes to the relationship. Church people came in and all of that. Eventually it was resolved. During our first visit to the village for introduction, they turned the thing into traditional wedding and I was at a loss. They did a lot of cooking and they did a traditional thing there. Then the date was set. Along the line, my uncle that was supporting me passed on. So we had to wait for a year to pass. We had the wedding on November 12 1994.
How did you surmount all that opposition?
Prof Amana: From the very beginning, I had made up my mind in this relationship. I heard God speak to me in clear terms. In the midst of the oppositions, as she said, we had to give the relationship a break before the wedding. We went to Capro for a wedding and I heard God speak to me clearly that if I could pass the test of Abraham, that was the exact word – I will not forget. So, we put the relationship on hold by God’s instruction and that was how I made up my mind and since then, God has been involved. So to me, God was involved in this thing and it was clear. I had no other place to go as a Christian but to go to God. Although my mother was not interested, I went ahead making plans for the marriage. Even though there was opposition, I was very clear in my mind. When God speaks, it is not something that you can paraphrase. So later, I took a step. When I took a step, my mother had no choice but to fall in and I thank God that things went on well. But at this point, let me say for many Christian parents, they bring up their children to a point, maybe up to university level, but they still dictate for them what to do and what not to do. They don’t trust God even though they are Christians. They don’t trust their children. For parents, it is their responsibility to guide but it is not their responsibility to force the child to do what they want.
Dr Patience: When we had a break, I left for England. I went there for studies and we prayed more. Going to England gave me a neutral ground. I used the time to pray more and ask God. So we took every matter back to God and when I was around, we did a lot of praying together. I think I never waited on the Lord the way I did before marriage. Look at my wedding pictures, I was like a broomstick. It was while I was in England that I made up my mind.
Prof Amana: One of the things that added to the pressure was that my father was an elder in ECWA church and my mother was leader of the Women Fellowship. And I was the leader of the youth fellowship at the same time. So, you can see the kind of pressure. But from my experience in marriage, if you know the will of God, you will not be moved. God is the author of marriage and should be the initiator of our marriages. I have peace in my marriage because God is the author of peace. It is only God that can give you the kind of peace you need.
From your experience, will you now say that in-laws are necessary evil?
Dr Patience: In-laws are not evil at all. Without the family, you will not meet your husband in the first place. As I speak today, my mother-in-law will not share with my husband the way she shares with me. We have become very close. Probably God allowed those things to happen for a purpose – to bring us to a point of knowing that whatever he has established, nobody can upturn and all of that.
Prof Amana: I enjoyed every interaction with my father in-law, right from the beginning. There was no friction. My mother-in-law is simple-minded. There is no issue with her and I like visiting her. My in-laws are more around me than my relations and I take my in-laws like a family to me. So, talking about in-laws, talking about challenges people face, I have come to understand that the opposition people talk about depends on their understanding and exposure.
What was your first quarrel after your wedding and how were you able to resolve it?
Prof Amana: I’m not sure I can remember our first quarrel. But what I will say is that we had some initial days of malice, but we didn’t extend it for days. You can’t keep malice for a number of days because you are the one to be suffering in your mind. I found out that it has been so relieving when you talk. So, I can’t remember the first time we quarrelled. It was rough at the beginning but we don’t allow those things to get at us. We are all from different backgrounds with understanding and mindset. As for her, she had read a lot of those Western things, so maybe what she was expecting from me she was not really getting that type of thing. She was seeing one African man and the issue of cleanliness was a challenge. Things must be arranged in a way. Maybe that was one of our major challenges. Waking up to make the bed, making sure everywhere looks neat and all of that were serious issues but somehow, God helped us to understand. She is a much organised person while I’m disorganised. So, that was one major problem but having noticed that, I became organised.
Dr Patience: I can’t remember the first quarrel like that, but just like he said, there were issues, issues about his person being free and me being mindful of how things are and all of that. And then, of course, I expected like, I needed somebody who is a little bit more romantic and he was not showing any of those things. He was hard and I felt my husband should show some emotions and those things that make you feel special, he didn’t have much of it. So, it was an issue for me. In fact, it came to a point that, not too long after we moved into our house, I said I was leaving. In fact, he thought I was joking. I went and started packing my things. I said I’m leaving. He said, going where? I said to my father’s house. I was so disturbed. Shortly after that, we had a couples’ meeting of just three families, one of the families just came back from Kenya and organized it. The family that organised the meeting was a Christian who was Tiv, husband and wife. They brought this book which was their wedding present to us. Opposites Attract, written by Jack and Carol Meho. Jack and Carol Meho were navigators. In Opposites Attract, a red line was used to cancel the Attract and Attack was written under Opposites Attract. The red line goes to attack. So, it is a book on relationship which a husband and wife wrote, The husband wrote the other chapter while the wife wrote another chapter. So, the couple that convened this meeting was using it for study and discussing their home and they were very free, they were very free in the process, very free. So, I discovered that in comparison, I did not even have what was going on in some homes. I didn’t even have a problem. I went home and read that book, and, that’s how it changed my perspective about marriage, changed my view and that was how I went back with a different understanding.
What is your advice for young men and women intending to get married?
Prof Amana: Let me say marry your friend so that you can talk over issues. It is good to have somebody you are very free with and you can unburden yourself. Also, God must be involved. Let God be at the centre of your relationship. Then a man is supposed to provide leadership in a home. Then get to know the person before you marry that person. Check out how that person relates with others. The issue of tolerance is also there.
Dr Patience: Put God first. I also want to say that marriage also takes more than love. Yes, the Bible says love covers a multitude of sins, but marriage goes beyond emotions. Marriage takes more than love, it takes hard work. , there is a lot of hard work to do. For the ladies, all those romantic novels you read, they may not work that way.