Fred Ezeh, Abuja The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) has strengthened its partnership with London-based educational publisher, Jolly Phonics, to improve basic education in Nigeria. The partnership had facilitated the training of over 50,000 teachers in public schools across 31 states in Nigeria and also reached out to approximately 3.5 million children with learning materials….
- Her frankness about life made me vow to marry her –Husband
- I thought he was joking when he proposed –Wife
Godwin and Nneka Ezeemo are two inseparable love birds. They have lived in Lagos and London before taking a decision to relocate to their hometown, Umuchu, Anambra State where they run chains of businesses ranging from Newspaper publishing, commercial printing, radio station and manufacturing. Godwin is also a politician and a philanthropist.
In this interview with ALOYSIUS ATTAH, they shared their 26 years’ marriage experiences. They are blessed with three grown up children.
What was the attraction?
Husband: I felt I needed to get married and settle down. Before then, I looked for a lady with the standards I already set for myself. I used to live in Lagos then and I came home, tried to look for that girl but couldn’t find. I tried the first and second year but didn’t succeed. That was when I re-engineered the qualities I wanted in a girl. When I went back to Lagos, my very good friend, Donatus, visited me one evening with two young ladies. One was Ezinwa, who later became his wife, while the other lady, Ezinwa’s sister, Nneka, is my wife today. It all started like a joke but I was excited when I saw them that day and when they eventually left, I decided to take it further by calling my friend and indicated interest to marry her fiancé’s sister who they came with.
Today, my friend and I eventually ended up picking the two ladies from the same family. It was a spontaneous decision but it was not easy. Religion was a serious issue in the marriage. I was an Anglican but they were staunch Catholics so we knew that there would be serious opposition.
What was it like the first time you talked to her?
Husband: I simply told her that I would like to marry her and my friend also talked to her. One day she visited me, I was living in a small apartment then but my apprentice servants told her so many big things about me, how I have properties in Lagos which was all exaggerated. We had reservations about the possibility of the marriage working out because of the difference in religion but she never expressed any doubt. One day, we travelled to the East to see her parents. Her mum worked as a Nurse at Oji River, Enugu State, then. Unfortunately, my car broke down when we got to Onitsha but I had to charter a vehicle to take us to Oji very late in the night. I met her mother and she asked me whether I would change to Catholic but my response was an emphatic no, I like her daughter and would really like to marry her. Events later made me realise that it was the mothers who actually determine where their daughters will likely settle down because when others were still vehement in their decision that we would not marry, her mother gave us her word of support and it later came to pass and she became my mother in-law. To God be the glory.
Why did you agree to marry him?
Wife: I’m not sure what made me agree to marry him. At first, I thought he was joking when he proposed. Actually, he has a good nature and always smiling, so I could not conclude at first whether he was serious or not but I just said let’s keep going and time alone would tell. The religious difference was an issue which I knew would rear its head when marriage matters get serious, but still within me it got to a point that I told myself that even if it didn’t work out, this guy would always be my friend because he is good natured.
As he said, when the family members wrote us that the marriage could hold, I found it very offensive and irritating that some elders could just decide my marriage fate based on reasons I consider inconsequential. We are eight children in my family, (four were born in Nigeria, the others were born in United Kingdom). Some of us are independent-minded and that was what made me stand my ground that I would marry my love and nobody can decide for me. I thank God for my mum who is everything to me because she stood by me (God bless her soul). My husband’s apprentices lied to me that my husband owned 15 shops in Idumota, Lagos then. My husband has that effervescent character and it didn’t start today.
Once you come in contact with him, your heart would warm up to him. That affected my mum who liked him immediately, she saw a son-in-law who would treat her like his real mother. I’m from Ihiala but my immediate elder sister married in Umuchu too and eventually the husband is my own husband’s closest childhood friend so it would have been natural that I would have known him. We were friends even before we became lovers and partners.
What was the attraction and conviction since you didn’t know much about her before you proposed?
Husband: Sincerely, while I was looking for a wife (my wife didn’t know this before but I’m disclosing it for the first time today, call it true confession now). I had initial qualifications I was looking for. Among such qualifications was that my wife must come from Umuchu, my home town. The person must have at least NCE (academic) qualification. She must be dark complexioned and must be mature, not the one for whom I would begin to pay school fees. I didn’t also want to marry the most beautiful girl. I was searching for an inner beauty. I tried my hometown option twice and it didn’t work so I dropped it as one of my criteria. Immediately I dropped that condition, every other thing I was looking for, I found them in her. The most important thing that attracted me the more and convinced me to marry her was that she told me her past life. The courage and frankness she exhibited by telling me about her life made me vow that I must marry her. She is a very sincere woman.
What were the initial hiccups you experienced in the marriage?
Husband: We had already fixed a date for the marriage introduction when her brother, Emmanuel came back from the East to Lagos with a letter notifying me that the family said the marriage could no longer hold. I was devastated but I had already visited the family then and saw how democratic they were and I appreciated that. Even some of my own family members who initially kicked against her too, like my aunt who is my mum’s elder sister with a lot of influence in my family, had to succumb when she eventually met my wife. Initially they had reservations because they felt I was marrying a Lagos brought up girl who to them should be too ‘wild’ but all those things melted away when they saw her. I was the last child in the family and everybody was interested in my marriage so that I won’t make any mistake.
At what point did you people relocate to London?
Husband: We left for London during the June 12 Abiola saga when others were relocating to the East. We left all our properties in tact in Lagos and left for London. We had our first child in 1992, Sochima and the second, a girl, Ezinwa quickly in 1993, though she later died. The 3rd child was born in London. My wife was a mother to four grown up boys who lived with us then though they were not her biological children. That was another unique selling point for her that made me regard her as a great woman.
What were the challenges you’ve encountered so far?
Husband: It was not easy when we lost our baby coupled with the times she was unemployed, I was the one handling everything. Even the Pastor of the church where we worshipped in London at a time contributed to our problem in marriage but we thank God, we overcame all challenges. I started from the scratch in London despite the fact that I was doing well in Lagos before we left for UK.
How do you handle issues between you?
Husband: I was calm in face of a tense situation instead of involving third party in our quarrels. We also try as much as possible to keep the children away from our quarrel.
Certain times he would upset you. How do you handle such situations?
Wife: Between us, I’m more temperamental than he is. As a young person, It was quite difficult to be with me but his influence makes me quieter now. When I get angry, I can flare up but he has such a calm nature to arrest any situation. In my own situation, when I’m tensed up, I would like to let it out so I can be free, and such brings rancour sometimes, but I can say that we are more mature now. In those times, he would disarm me by telling me that no matter what I do, he would still marry me till the end and there’s nothing any of us can do about it again. At a stage I had to advise myself to take it easy. I had to work on myself before we got it right. Part of the things that helped us a great deal is the fact that he doesn’t flare up when I begin my own and also the fact that we were mindful of the fact that our kids may be watching us if we begin to quarrel. We have always shared the same room, we can always settle without allowing it to drift into something else.
What are the things you like about him?
Wife: The good qualities are the same thing everybody sees and talks about him. If I see him in a different way from the way people see and talk about him, it means I’m marrying a different man altogether. He is that same man that has a very wonderful heart to help people. Sometimes, you see detractors saying that he is doing that so that he will be seen as a good man, but I live with him and I know that he is just being his real, natural self. His lifestyle has rubbed off greatly on our daughter. She spends money on others and her brothers without thinking about her own needs. If my husband has been pretending about his philanthropy and all that, where then did our daughter learn her own from? Sometimes it is challenging to me because I married a private nice person but today, I’m living with a public nice person, somebody that I’m sharing with the entire Anambra people and beyond, but it is not a problem to me because it is not his own making. I know such is his real life.
What of the things you dislike in him?
Wife: There are some things I disliked about him before but such was coming out of my own immaturity then, but today, I’m no more a child, so I act differently. I don’t see dislikes today but I see things that I like to help him do it. As someone who is open-hearted and always welcoming people to offer assistance, I like to see whereby he is a bit structured in the way he does things. I don’t call it dislike but it is even out of care for him. To me I wonder why he would want to run himself to the ground. He does things for people to a fault that he can’t even stand on his feet tomorrow. I have reservations on the way he makes himself too much available for people not because I want to appropriate all to myself alone but I want him to be careful for his own good. I want him to preserve his energy for himself a bit.
What has been the staying power in the marriage?
Husband: Sincerely, one of the reasons my marriage has endured all trial is that I told myself from the outset that I would not seek divorce. I made a resolve to give my wife every support as my only help mate. All my elder brothers got married and never had any divorce so why should mine be different?
Why did you make her part of your business unlike others who would like theirs to be in another field?
Husband: In my case, in England, I suffered too much because I was the one running the whole show, but when we came back to Nigeria, I took a decision to bring her fully into my businesses so that it will be easier for me. I reasoned that it will be better for us that she is fully in the system so that just in case I’m not there either through death or incapacitation, the business will still thrive.
But in some cases, the average wife always sounds pessimistic whenever the husband tinkers with big ideas in establishments like that. The man may be seeing prospects but the wife will be seeing setbacks. How was it in your own case?
Wife: I must be frank, in 2005, the first time he told me that he would be setting up this business I’m running today, I quarrelled with him. I was so annoyed that I asked him if he must do this. I was seeing it that he was stepping out of our comfort zone to a risky venture, but today, when I sit back in the office I ask myself if I am the one managing all these today, I laugh at my myopic disposition then. At first it was challenging and daunting but today we thank God.
Looking back, will you still say marrying him was the best for you?
Wife: It has been a very adventurous journey since the past 26 years but I have no regrets. I do to tell him that I’m very proud to be his wife. One of the things that makes me happy is the fact that it is said that some women don’t get along with their husbands, but I tell people that any husband that doesn’t provide leadership at home will have a disgruntled wife. My husband is someone I have never ceased to learn from. He provides leadership. He will always come up with ideas. Infact, what is in him stretches beyond my own capacity. Once he goes to set up something, I’m always thinking that I’ve got to learn fast. For example, the Orient Newspaper, magazine, radio etc, that I am managing today, I never studied such but he has set up those things and I have to do them because they have fallen on my laps. For the fact that he has started them, I just have to stretch myself to make sure I am helping him to maintain those things. I don’t want to see myself as a wife who cannot add value because that takes away the purpose of my being his helpmate. Marrying him has put me in a height that I know I wouldn’t have reached ever in my life if we didn’t meet.
If you are to choose again, will you still settle for her?
Husband: Why not? She is the one or no one else. Infact I do tease her that even in the next world I will still marry her and she will just laugh and dismiss me.
The Charity Ezeemo Trust and the Leadership Hunt, are they part of your family vision?
Husband: Yes, they are. I’m the vision bearer here and we had to do it because at a time we discovered that we had been spending a lot in helping people and such comes directly from me. At a stage, we decided to incorporate the Foundation so that certain percentages of our earnings will be channeled there and people will be employed to run the affairs there too. The Leadership Hunt is for politics. The core areas of the trust are to impact on people’s lives in the society positively. Some people today don’t know how to do charity work for the less privileged but in our own case, indigent students are given scholarships to go to university, helping widows, sports etc.
Can you recall most positive memories in the marriage so far in the past 25 years?
Wife: We’ve enjoyed various family holidays in Spain, France, America, Brazil etc. These holidays remain very memorable to me.
What are some of the lessons you have learnt from marriage?
Wife: First, a successful or good marriage takes a lot of work. It doesn’t happen by accident. To be specific, the spiritual aspect should not be overlooked. Marriage is not a humanbeing’s idea because the human angle will tell you to have a boyfriend and a girlfriend outside your wife and husband. When it gets tough, you run into the hands of your friend and when it gets tougher, you go your separate ways in divorce not minding that children may be involved. That worldly concept is not right but the Godly aspect is talking of fusing of two human beings not joining. What is joined can be disjointed but when it is fused, you must destroy something before you separate it. That‘s what it should be. Young people should come into marriage with that understanding that I’m fusing myself with the other person and there is no plan to detach.
Advice to new couples
Marriage should be looked upon like the way a building is being constructed. Any nice building must have a solid foundation to last a lifetime and so it should be in marriage. What should be at the foundation of any good marriage is the knowledge of the word of God. A man should know his place in the marriage likewise the woman. Let me be honest with you, many people do not understand this from the word go and this is where the problem starts. There is need to overcome marital illiteracy.