This short video clip below is our new school project at Warri, Delta State.
You can see my wife with a white T-shirt, marching around, inspecting the project, like a soldier.
We were driving back home after inspecting the project and I said that marriage is not necessarily sustained by love or emotionalism, but by responsibility.
My wife and I agreed that it is responsibility to each other, the family, society and Jehovah that has kept us this 33 years in marriage.
Marriage is like an susu or a (finance) cooperative society, your contribution will determine your credit worthiness. We were being chauffeured in the SUV that my wife and my son bought for my birthday in 2015. I was listening to a song, titled endless love (by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross), and tears flooded my eyes when I reflected on the following incidences in our past 38 years of relationship and partnership in this marriage.
1. I remember when we were just newly married, and we put our few belongings in the boot of the 504 Station Wagon. We had paid for the two back seats and we were left with about 4 Naira. My wife was pregnant with our first son, now a medical doctor in Germany. When we got to Aba, in Abia State, we were left with 2 Naira, Fifty Kobo. This young 24-year-old girl took a great leap of faith.
2. I remembered that my wife went to the market the same day she delivered, now, Dr. Mimi Apoki with episiotomy.
3. I remember I used to wash napkins because there was no helper; we were alone with Mimi before my in-law came.
4. I remember how I had to trek from the Health Office, in Aba, through Faulks Road to look for private jobs to do as a young doctor to take care of my wife, baby, and two aged and paralyzed parents, with a mentally retarded immediate elder brother.
5. Then we later finished our posting for NYSC and we were working in a private hospital. We would not be paid regularly and my wife would go to Ehere market and buy akamu (pap) on credit. I remember in December 31st, 1987, when my daughter nearly died because I could not take her to hospital because I had not been paid for 3 months and I was buying medication on credit from a nearby patent medicine store. I must add that we make it a duty not to owe our workers. For the past 30 years of being employers of labour we have never owed our workers any day. We pay salaries twice in December. The pains you pass through in life should teach you not to allow others pass through the same challenges.
6. I remember when we decided to sell second-hand clothing to augment our income because we wanted to be free from the bondage of salary.
7. I remember we could not buy proper beef; my wife would buy the pancreas and the lungs. I remember vividly where we used to go and buy chicken legs to cook. In fact, one day, that was what we cooked for Christmas and we still had to take some from Aba to Otokutu in Delta State to feed my paralyzed and aged parents on Christmas day. As we sat in the car I glanced at my wife and realized, again, we have come a long way. And the song was still on Endless Love. We were committed to making the marriage work and we did not want our friends to make mockery of us because we married early.
8. At a point I was the major breadwinner. When I started selling cars, my wife would standby in the clinic. I remember when I imported fishmeal from Pakistan with my pastor friend, Felix Aihie, and I had to supply a consignment to Enugu after work. I had to sleep in a mechanic workshop made of zinc roofing sheets because I could not get a vehicle to Aba that evening
9. Most importantly, I remember when we sold the hospital and came back to Ughelli, Delta State. We would go to Warri to do several things, including checking emails and making phone calls; heading home to Ughelli in the evening, we would be clinging to each other in the very tightly-packed public transport, with our wet clothes; the rubber trees embracing each other over the Ughelli-Warri Road looked like a tunnel. I would feel a wave of depression flood my soul as if I had made a mistake to sell the hospital and go into full-time ministry.
10. I remember my wife would come and harvest cassava from this same land where we are building this new school and some of our in-laws will make mockery of her. One once said that those who went to school are now the ones peeling cassava to make garri. She told me! She told me!! I made a vow that I will not answer verbally, I will answer with results.
This school is in my wife’s name. All the documents are in her name. When her father died, she was just in class one and her father’s people said they should not train her because if they do it would be for her future husband. However, her mother stood up and said she would train her. She trained her by selling kpokpo-garri (manioc) and starch at Kpesu Waterside at Warri.
At one point she was a housemaid to an uncle. We have had several girls live with us and we have made it a duty to always treat them like our own children because of the humiliation my wife suffered as a housemaid. Today, see what God has done in our lives. Remember my post on living as a homeless stranger. My mother-in-law lived with me for many years in her last days and we took the best care of her. I used to wash her when she messed up herself because she trained my wife with her meagre earnings.
This school building will be bigger than the one we currently run at Ughelli. I will put my mother-in-law’s picture on a wall and write underneath it “Mama wey sabi better thing“.
The lessons from our marriage has been not what we expect from each other, but what we can contribute to each other and the susu of this marriage. We add value to ourselves, our children, and to our society.
May God give you a testimony greater than ours in Jesus name, amen.
On my 60th birthday, I will hold my wife very tightly and my children will tell the DJ to play that song, Endless Love. I can see the lighting of the hall.