He didn’t propose to me directly, he met my dad –Woman says
He didn’t propose to me directly, he met my dad –Woman says
Mr. Edwin Achum, a retired Area Comptroller of Customs, and his wife Dr. Grace Ekpoanwan Achum, a journalist, have been married for 27 years. They have four children, all boys. Despite language barriers, they have stuck together and never allowed tribal and family differences to come between them. In this interview, they shared their marital experiences with Vera Wisdom-Bassey.
What was the attraction?
Husband: I begged God for a good wife, because I knew the village where I came from, they worship idols. So I spoke to God even when I was not prepared for marriage. I married late when my age mates had already had their children, but I knew what I wanted and God gave it to me. When I came to Calabar, the moment I set my eyes on her I knew she would be my wife, but, by then she was a very small girl. There was nobody at that time I really wanted to marry, but there was something in me that kept telling me that she would be my wife.
How do you mean?
Husband: That is why I say that nobody should see the power of God as a joke, because God lives in us and He talks to us every time. It was the same voice that told me when I first went to the family to ask for her and failed, the same voice was still telling me that, that girl I saw was my wife. So, that was why I insisted and God eventually gave her to me.
How did your family members react when you decided to marry from outside your tribe?
Husband: I was almost stigmatized among my person for marrying someone who was not from my tribe. My brother vowed that it would not happen. When I told him I saw a girl in Calabar, he shouted and said ‘no way, I have kept a lot of girls here in Osala, Awka for you’. But I told him vehemently no, that none of them was for me, that I had seen a girl whom God said I would marry. I don’t see God, but I see God acting everyday in my life. He leads me to a lucrative job that only those with godfathers were given. It was the same God that I believed in. The same thing happened in Calabar when I went to marry her, and since I got married to her I have had nothing to regret. If I hadn’t married her, by now I wouldn’t have survived. She’s an extra-ordinary girl.
How did he propose to you?
Wife: He didn’t propose to me directly, he met my dad. From my dad to my uncle, who was making case for him. While I was a toddler, that my uncle took me to (Gen. Olusegun) Obasanjo when state power was at Dodan Barracks. So, you can imagine the closeness and tie between that uncle and I. So, my uncle told me that I was going to marry the man. I wondered how I would leave my sisters and my family and get married, but he assured me that they would be there for me. He described marriage as a journey of good faith and promised me that my intended husband would be like a father to me and take care of me. My mum did not tell me anything as a woman. The day he finally came to marry me, I still was not convinced that I would want to marry him.
Before my marriage I was closer to my dad than my mum, so my dad took time to talk to me that I was to be married out of the family, and that my uncle in Lagos would be looking after me, and that I would be attending all the schools that my siblings had attended. Eventually we had the traditional marriage and the dowry was paid.
How were you able to approach your in-laws?
Husband: It was a very difficult issue, I went in with one of my friends, Mr. Victor Agbah who was a Police officer, but I first of all told my colleague, a Customs Officer who was in the same barracks to come with me to see my in-laws, but he refused. But when I called the Police officer he followed me. More so, he’s from Calabar. When we got there, I met my would -be- father- in-law, who offered us drinks and we whiled away the evening. Later I visited him again and we became friends. So, when I told him, he just smiled and promised to give me a feedback, which never came. Later, he said it was not possible, because he would want her to go back to school just like the other children. It was her uncle that made the union possible. That is why each time we want to get angry at each other, we reflect on how we started, and those early beginnings always bring back memory to us and make us behave and then continue in our relationship.
Why was her mother against your marrying her?
Husband: Her mother wanted to know if I had already had children, and whether I had ever contracted any major sickness before. She also wanted to know if I had dated any woman and later disappointed her to which I said no.
So, the mother said age wise I was older than her daughter and that I was not from Calabar. I was close to 40 years that time. Today, her mother is my best friend and the best in-law in the family.
My parents attended Apostolic Church and I grew up in Apostolic Church, and while growing, my mother was against my attending Catholic Church, but the funny thing was that when I was wedding, the Apostolic Church choristers hired a vehicle and attended my wedding. My younger sister is married to a Knight of the Catholic Church. My younger brother’s wife is a Catholic. My mother is the one spreading the gospel that Catholic people are good, so you can see the irony of marriage.
How are you able to cope with the language barrier?
Husband: I happened to be lucky as well in the family of my in-laws, and they understand a lot. All of them crack jokes with me that I am supposed to understand Efik by now, but, unfortunately, I do not understand. She is too versatile. My wife had to buy an Igbo book, so that she could learn the language. So, it was not difficult for her to communicate with the people.
As a journalist and a mother, how did you cope with your career and home front?
Wife: Just because I love what I do. My husband even wanted to stop me from journalism. He went to the extent of getting a job for me at the Public Relations Department of Chevron, but on the day of the interview, I refused to attend, because I have a deep passion for journalism.
I had visited that department before and seen how busy they were, burying their heads on the computer, but for me I love something that would give me freedom. So, I told him that I was not going for the interview and I did not attend.
Although, most times I would tell him that I don’t have money, I love a job that moves me around all the time. That was my dream job. Even when I was pregnant I only needed to arrange my schedule. I tried to wake up on time, have our family devotion and put things in order at home. It was a joyful life.
In the morning when we pray, even the smallest child in the family joins in prayers. From 4am- 4:30am I would be in the kitchen preparing food for the family. After that I would prepare the children for school. While they were growing I never wanted them to be in boarding school, so that I would monitor them instead of leaving them in the hands of house-keepers in the school. They are all boys. I had a very dedicated driver then who would drop them off at their various schools. They attended St. Jude’s Catholic School for primary and nursery.
So, after school hours the driver would pick them and take them home and by the time they arrived, I had already prepared their food and put them in their different coolers. Even though we had house-helps I made sure things were in order before leaving for the office.
I even made sure I prepare my husband’s meals to make sure he ate at the exact time.
Even when he was in Nasarawa, I monitored his meals, because I would be telling his aides what to give to him.
What have been your marital challenges and what has kept you going?
Wife: A lot has kept me in this marriage. Many times I had thought of running away, but when I look at him, I discover that he is a peaceful man and he is the father-figure to me, both in age and mannerism. He does not have his biological brother around, but his nephews and nieces are with us and we have trained a lot of them. Even as a Customs Officer, he never for one day looked away from others. While he was serving, he assisted four people from his village to get employment.
Although he came from a poor background, when he retired some people from his village insinuated that I was bewitching him and so they never reckoned with me in anything. So it was one of the things that made me work harder. They never wanted me to work but I fought for it. After my father’s death in 1996, my uncle continued to make sure I attended school, so, from FSNB to Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ), and then to Lagos State University (LASU). I went into journalism school to do PGD. After my school I had my IT at Daily Times after which I resumed work there in 1997. For two years I was still working, but each time my husband asked me I would reply that I was doing my IT, because he never wanted me to work. He wanted me to quit after my IT.
Did he ever find out?
Wife: The only way he got to know was when I wrote a cover story during Abacha’s death and the Police were looking for me. I ran to my uncle’s place and from there I telephoned him that they were looking for me concerning that story, and he screamed. My husband insisted that I left journalism, but I begged my uncle to step in, because I would not want to leave journalism, instead I would leave the marriage. As a result of my uncle’s intervention, my husband succumbed and I continued with journalism. After this, I was appointed to head the Style Desk, and I later became Style Manager.
What advice do you have for women?
Wife: Parents, especially mothers, should not expose their husband’s financial situation. If your husband is incapacitated either financially, health wise or anything, share it with God, and if you have money, give it to the doctor, forget friends, because it is the same friend who would be hard on you. I am talking from experience. When a man cannot even earn a kobo and you go about talking about him, it might affect his health and even his children. Try as much as you can to stay by your husband, just like Mary did. Women are the care providers, let us attend to our families, and create time for them.
Try as much as you can to give your husband food on time. As a business woman, leave that business and attend to him even if it means closing your business by 5pm. For me, by 7pm my kitchen is already dry. Every kitchen utensils has been washed and kept in their various places. A lot of women are careless and I blame them, but I am telling them the truth. For a successful man, there must be a caring wife and mother that would lead the family through. She is the custodian of life, you must preserve the life of your husband and that of your children. Don’t be a careless mother, don’t say because you are in one club or another, then you see yourself as a minister and then you don’t know your responsibilities at home. Please change, for God is still giving you that time to change before it is over.
What is your advice to men who beat their wives?
Husband: Sometimes I wonder what makes a man raise his hand on a person he calls his wife, or even if she is a woman. I will never do that, even if the trait is hereditary, you need to pray it out seriously. So beating the woman who had children for you, is not it.
My advice to men is that they should stand up to be men; the men we heard of were like St. Joseph the husband of Mary. He was a model for men today because when Mary was discovered to be conceived of the baby Jesus, it would be difficult for any man to believe that his wife was not carrying a holy child. He never had any carnal knowledge of Mary. It would have resulted into beating his wife. So, why can’t men play the role of Joseph to Mary today? Joseph is the symbol of a good man, if only they will invite the spirit of Joseph into their families, there will be peace. If there is no money it could create friction, but why can’t they look at Joseph? He was just a carpenter. They should pray to the Almighty God. When there is peace in the family good things happen when there is a problem the devil lurks around. You may not know that the devil is lurking somewhere, so don’t beat each other because it might result in death.
Credit: Sun news.