The story of Alhaji Tajudeen Rayode Uzamot and his wife Alhaja Samurat Bunmi is full of lessons about perseverance, focus, understanding and other salient ingredients that make marriage work. For 36 years, they went through thick and thin together and emerged as the epitome of a successful marriage.
Uzamot, once a Lagos bus conductor, went on to have a rewarding career at Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) where he started as a floor manager and retired after 25 years to set up a media outfit. His wife, who began life as a teacher, further equipped herself with university studies and training as a fashion designer. Together, the couple turned around their lives. They shared their marriage story with VERA WISDOM-BASSEY.
What was your first reaction when you met your wife?
Husband: The first time I met her I knew from my instinct that she was going to be my wife. We are from the same town in Osun State. But our parents lived in Ilesa, and so, we grew up together in Ilesa. We did not attend the same secondary school, but we passed out the same year.
How did you woo her?
Husband: We came across each other at the market where our parents were traders. After we exchanged pleasantries, I requested to know where she was going, and she told me that she was going to their shop. I promised I would come and meet her there, but she told me her mother was a tough woman and would not allow any man to visit her. Truly, the day I visited, her mother sent me away. Since then, we started dating secretly without anyone knowing including her parents. This went on for a long time until the relationship blossomed.
After secondary school, she went to Teachers College. After her course, she was posted to various places, including Iwo, to teach while I left for Lagos.
After she finished Teachers College, it was easy for me to tell her “I love you” because we had been dating for a long time.
But when I proposed to her, she said over her dead body would she marry me––and I jokingly told her, “Over your live body, you would marry me.” Her parents, herself and sisters rejected my offer of marriage to her because of my small stature, not knowing that I was three years older than her.
How did you propose marriage to her?
Husband: While she was at Ede, I kept hoping she would agree to my proposal, but it took a long period of time before she accepted. She knew that women liked me a lot. So I told her not to worry that she was my choice because of her discipline lifestyle and background. I promised I would not touch her until I marry her––that was how I caught her.
After her Teachers Training College at Ede, she secured a teaching job and relocated to Lagos.
Meanwhile, in Lagos, I got enrolled at a Muslim School for a programme that did not go as planned and I did not want to go back to Ilesa. I was out of job for some time and I had to do odd jobs, including being a bus conductor. Her parents were reluctant to let her marry me because I had no job.
I travelled to the village and gave her some money; she rejected it because she wanted to know where I got the money. I had to tell her the truth––that I was a bus conductor. When the work was too tedious for me, I joined bricklayers at construction sites. She never liked it. Later, I became a vendor selling various things. From there, I got a job at NTA as a floor manager and then got admission to a diploma course. It was in 1987 I got a transfer for her to Lagos. Since then we have been living together.
What was your reaction when he proposed?
Wife: At that time, we were young. His brother was one of our teachers in the school. He would visit his brother so that he could see me. We started as friends, just like his brother, too, was my friend.
During the Muslim Eid-el Kabir festival, we usually travelled with our parents to Iwo for the celebration. While we were discussing, my mother remembered she had seen his face before but left us to continue our discussion. We boarded the same bus to town and continued our discussion. I never had time for men, he was the only one and he is the only one that ‘colonized’ me. After I left school, I secured teaching job in Oyo, so that he would be coming to visit me. Later, we started visiting each other until my parents accepted our relationship. While I had a teaching job with my Teachers Training School Certificate, he had a school certificate and no job. Still, I went ahead to marry him.
One man in my village got him employed at NTA Channel 7, (now NTA 10), as a floor manager and we were able to live together.
When I had my first baby, he had his admission to the University of Lagos for a two-year diploma course. When he graduated, I came from Oyo State with our first son to celebrate with him. When we started living together, he allowed me to go back to further my studies, at the National Teachers Institute (NTI), and later, obtained my National Certificate of Education (NCE). Also, I had a four-year training in fashion designing, before going on to Adekunle Ajasin University for a sandwich course.
How were you able to take care of the family while studying?
Wife: My husband was taking care of them.
He would cook for them while I was away at school.
Husband: We did not have the economic power to employ a maid. After I paid her school fees, fed the house, took care of the family, including the extended family, we did not have much left. There was no way I could engage a maid on the salary I earned. So I had to become the nanny.
As a broadcaster then, I ran morning, afternoon and night shifts. At times, when she was not around, I would request for a permanent morning shift to suit her programme and I would be at home to take care of the children. When she was around, I would be at my job. That was how we were doing it––she would be around when I would be going out.
As spouses, how do you settle issues?
Wife: It’s not that we don’t quarrel, we do, but we disagree and agree later, not what couples do today whereby husband and wife kill each other, or the man inflicts wounds all over the woman’s body. What is keeping us is trust, the trust we have for each other. There is no perfect marriage anywhere, so we have to en- dure each other. Trust, love and endurance keep a marriage intact. I do have a lot of friends but when they advise me wrongly, I have to move away from some of them, because I don’t want the foundation of my marriage to sink.
As a Muslim, you married only one wife, why?
Husband: There are many variables to consider in becoming a polygamist. According to the Holy Quran, if you have the wherewithal, you can marry up to four wives; but if you don’t have the money, then you stick to one wife. That’s why it is very difficult to aspire to do more than what you are capable to do.
How are you able to cope with your female fan as a broadcaster?
Husband: Discipline. If one disciplines himself, he will be able to weather the storm. When you are disciplined, you would be able to overcome the challenges. As a public person, my work is important and I want to guide it jealously. People believe you because of your charisma and your disciplined life. These I have to guide jealously and be mindful not to do things that will tarnish my image.
What advice do you have for the women?
Wife: Women have to take charge of the home when their husbands are not around. They should abide by the rules of the family. When their husbands are not around, they should not be going from one man to other, or engage in gossips. As a woman in the house, the secret of the family must be kept, no matter the problem. They must not keep any grudge against each other––if the husband offends the wife, they should forgive and forget it and continue as they were initially. They should air their grievances, though. They must work together. If God blesses the wife, it must register in the life of the husband, and vice versa. If they keep secrets away from each other, then the house would collapse. They should work hand-in-hand. Both should know how to blend so their children will not suffer, remembering that it is the children that will take care of them when they are old and do not have the strength anymore.
Importantly, they must not allow a third party to intervene in the affairs of their home, no matter how close that person may be to them. Two of them have to manage their situations themselves.
What’s your advice to couples?
Husband: She has said it all. Importantly, the two must not keep secrets. They should love each other. In all manners, they should try, as much as they can, to be open, it is the gain of marriage. Have respect each other. Egos should be restrained; if both were pompous, it would affect them. I believe we are all created by God. No one can handle his case alone without God. For men, your wife is your friend, companion, wife and mother of your children and should be treated with respect. Handle her and take care of her. The same is applicable to women. She should take care of her husband and respect his views. The wife should know how to pass information across to her husband softly. Both should love each other and let the fear of God be their watchword.