• My father-in-law swore that a Gambari would not marry his daughter        
  • Don’t let people from outside dictate what happens in your marriage        

How did you meet your wife?

Husband: It was sometime in October 1984. I was waiting on God through fasting and prayer to ask Him who is going to be my life partner. The concept of boyfriend-girlfriend was not palatable in the Christian circle in those days. I was already a Christian. I graduated from the university in 1983 and was posted as a fulltime worker with NIFES (Nigerian Fellowship of Evangelical Students). I was working with a Christian bookshop that attracted patronage from students of institutions of higher learning around and the general public. There was this particular day I was waiting on God. The next morning while I was in the office, something made me step out of the inner office into the bookshop and she just walked into the bookshop. She was looking at the books and immediately I set my eyes on her, I just heard a voice saying ‘this is your wife.’ I went back to my office. When she left, I called the young lady who was doing her National Youth Service with me and I asked her ‘who was that lady?’ I asked the girl to call her back and she came. I asked her name and where she works. She told me her name and that she was doing her youth service with the Christian Missionary Foundation. I asked her which University she finished from and she said University of Ife. I just said: ‘Thank you, it is good to meet you’ and that was all. We never met again until sometime in February 1985.

How did you meet your husband? Was it the same way?

Wife: That’s what he has just described. Anyway, I was on my way to my office and I like books a lot. By that time I was just trying to build up my Christian library, and I stopped over at the bookshop to get some books. I think I bought some books that day and left. But the lady selling them ran after me and said her Oga wants to see me. I was asking myself which Oga? I went back inside and he was asking me questions: ‘What is my name?’ and ‘where do you work? Out of politeness, I answered him and left.

At what point did your relationship become romantic?

Husband: Like I said, we met again in February the following year. Before then, no further thoughts about her crossed my mind. She stopped by to relay a message from a very close friend of mine with whom I did my youth service in 1983/84. She met him at a prayer programme in Kaduna. It was like he was also interested in her but I did not know. When he came to visit her in January, he told her that he has a great friend she must meet and he said his name is Gideon. When they came, they didn’t meet me because I had traveled. Later in February, she came to deliver the greetings from my friend and that was how we reconnected. I then invited her to a training programme at Forestry School, Jos. Even at that time we were just relating as good friends. I never followed up on what God told me that she is my wife. The next time we met was in March during the Easter period. Her younger sister who was reading law at the University of Ife came to visit her and didn’t know anywhere but she knew that her sister was serving in Jos with a Christian Ministry but she didn’t know which one. She went to Challenge Bookshop to say she was looking for her sister who is doing her youth service there. The Bookshop Manager sent her to me and I said I know her sister but she was serving with a Christian Missionary Foundation but I haven’t gone to her office before. She described where she was living. I asked her to wait until I close from work. I later took her there in the evening and returned to my house.

How did you propose to her?

Husband: After one Christian conference held at Bauchi and which she attended, I eventually expressed my feelings to her after I had prayed through. She said she had the same feeling too but that my friend who gave her a message to give to me had also proposed to her. Also, before she left Ife, there was a postgraduate student who had also proposed to her. I discovered that I was number three on the queue.  She said I should let her pray more about it before giving me a reply. But after two weeks there was nothing. This is somebody I told I was having feelings towards her and she said she was having the same feelings. Then I was going for another training in Bauchi, at ATBU. Before I left she came to me and gave me a small note. I collected it and left. I later opened it, and in it, she wrote: ‘concerning the proposal, the answer is yes.” That was how she said yes to me, very unusual.

Was there any challenge or objection from her parents, more so that you were going to marry a Yoruba lady and you are from the North?

Husband: A lot of things happened that would have made that wedding not to take place. In 1985, after we were engaged, she took me to go and meet her parents. My father-in-law, Chief Ayo, God bless his memory now, when I went to see him, he said a Gambari from the North cannot marry his daughter (the couple laughs). He swore that nothing would make him change his mind on that. My late father-in-law was into politics. He was in Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) at that time and the military came in and he was suspicious that Nigeria may not be one country. It is not the no that was my problem. He looked at me straight in the eyes and said: ‘if you came all the way from the North to say you want to marry my daughter, a Yoruba girl from Ondo town, then, you must be a fool. It is not possible.’ He said only God can make him change his mind.: My mother-in-law said if we go to the Rev Father and he interviews us and says he is okay then she will give her blessing to us. She sent us to the Rev. Father, an Irish man. He interviewed us and said he was going to communicate the result. But instead he told my father-in-law that his son-in-law is a false prophet, that he should avoid him (both laughed) for two reasons. One, I was working with students. That idea of evangelism he did not buy into it. The second reason was that when he asked us if we are going to raise our children the Catholic way I said I couldn’t guarantee that. Actually, I said we will raise our children as the Lord leads and my wife supported me. Because of that he said I am a false prophet that I might have confused my father-in-law’s daughter. But thank God, my mother-in-law stood by us although she was not too happy about that and we married.

Can you recall your first misunderstanding in marriage and how did you resolve it?

Husband: That is an interesting question. The first misunderstanding was on how to use toothpaste. I like squeezing it from the bottom up but my wife grabs it anywhere and presses it. I used to wonder why she was doing that and, obviously embarrassed, she would say: ‘what is the big deal about how I press the toothpaste? What is important is how the toothpaste comes out and I clean my mouth that is all’ (the couple laughs at the remembrance of the incident).

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What do you like most about your husband?

Wife: I like his stability, maturity and depth of thinking. He is not a typical Nigerian man. A typical Nigerian man as I have seen them tends to be very arrogant, very self-opinionated. They think that they are always right; they don’t know how to say sorry or to be humble and they are not open and if they say, ‘this is how I want it’, nobody can change them even when they are wrong. My husband is not like that.

What do you like most about her?

Husband: She is a straight shooter, her yes is her yes and her no is her no. I am a straight shooter also, but sometimes I can be diplomatic. But being diplomatic does not mean I am ready to compromise the truth, I like that about her. Some other men may find that tough. They may think she is a strong-willed woman, but believe me I find that a fantastic virtue. She is a very humble woman.

Which areas of life would you like to see him improve?

Wife: Yes, there is always room for improvement in every human being. I want him to improve in the area of relating with our twins.. Listen to what they are really saying and learn to see things from their perspective; come down to their level.

How will you advise younger persons who intend to get married?

Wife: One of the things I say to people is: don’t be desperate to get married; listen to God. Some people marry because ‘he has a good car’, ‘he has a good job’ or ‘she is fine’, ‘she can cook’. Others marry because of some other trivial reasons. You must first listen to what God is saying. That you are a Christian doesn’t mean you are just compatible with just any Christian. I advise people to be very transparent and open to each other, a lot of people hide themselves during courtship and after courtship they let the cat out of the bag and become a problem. Be totally transparent, let the person know who you are. If he accepts you it is better than hiding yourself and later coming out to show who you really are.

In view of rampant cases of divorce, how will you advise couples?

Husband: This is a very good question. I want to encourage couples who are married to be patient with each other. Husband, be patient with your wife, wife be patient with your husband. Patience smoothens a lot of rough edges. Also faithfulness. Husband, be faithful to your wife. Wife, be faithful to your husband, whether you are in the house, in the city or you are travelling. Be faithful to each other. Don’t allow young beautiful girls, city girls to confuse you. You cannot sleep with another woman or man and expect that it will be business as usual. Also, don’t make money your God. You should be open. Don’t be afraid to let your wife know how much you earn. Wife, you should not be afraid to let your husband know how much you earn. It is very important. Also, put God first, the interest of God should always come first. If your wife is going to study, encourage her to study to the highest level she can reach. Empower and enable her; you should never be threatened by the education of your wife. Likewise, wife, don’t be intimidated by the educational attainment of your husband and never allow your work to take the place of your marriage.

As we speak now, there are couples contemplating divorce, how will you advise them?

Wife: Get counselling from the right place and there is need to really go back to God. We should listen to God rather than to our emotions. Build a strong relationship with God because it is that relationship that will sustain you during the difficult period, and every marriage goes through rough period. God should be the foundation. Secondly, effective communication matters in marriage.  A lot of couples don’t really talk to each other properly and that gives room to suspicion. Thirdly, don’t let people from outside dictate what happens in your marriage. Fourthly, build healthy friendship between the two of you and it takes love to actually build that friendship.