Rev. Dr. Banjo Ajao and his better half, Esther Oluwayemisi Ajao, who live and carry out their missionary duties today in Kaduna were one-time members of the choir in a Baptist church in Ibadan. There they developed interest in each other though the man had, at first, to go through ‘alarina’ (an intermediary) to propose marriage to his sweetheart. But living apart for some years, from each other after marriage, nearly marred their relationship. In this interview with SOLA OJO, in Kaduna, the couple who has been married for about 26-years shares their experiences.
Can you recall how you came in contact with your wife several years back?
Husband: That was 26 years ago. We were members of the same church at Oke Ado Baptist Church, Liberty Road, Ibadan. She was in the choir and I was also in the church choir and that was sometimes around 1987. That was when the journey started.
And what journey started then? Are you talking about marriage proposal?
Husband: In those days, the normal way of approaching a lady was to go through an intermediary. There was an older woman I contacted in the choir to express my interest in the lady who is now my wife. She talked to her in addition to my love letters and that took us about three years. I proposed to her through a love letter. She did not reply or consent to that letter until three years later.
Was there any opposition after the proposal?
Wife: No. There was no opposition. I came from a polygamous home. And my prayer as I grow up as a lady was for the Lord to give me the bone of my bone as husband. But as at the time he approached me, I was yet to receive the go-ahead instruction from the Lord until after three years. So, I initially told him that his proposals still stand.
Husband: There was no any opposition. My dad was late then while my aged mother was in our hometown. We met in Ibadan. So, it was only when we have finally agreed to marry each other that we introduced ourselves to our family members without any opposing view.
But then, what were some of the qualities that you saw in each other that convinced you to agree to marry when there were several other prospective bachelors and spinsters around then?
Husband: Well, she met the qualities of the woman of my dream. I wanted somebody beautiful, intelligent, plump which she still maintains, someone who is committed to God and His interests. Apart from being in choir together, we both served in the youth week that year where I was the youth pastor and she was one of the youth deaconesses. In fact, it was after the youth week programme of that year that I had the boldness to tell her that, even though I was using other approaches to get to her, God has ordained us to be together.
Wife: I had always wanted someone that would appreciate God in me, someone who, in addition to being good-looking, disciplined, self-controlled is God-fearing, someone I can trust. I have no regret that God answered my prayers.
Did you see the possibility of him becoming a pastor because many young ladies of your age then would have opted for a businessman or civil servant?
Wife: He was even a student pastor then. What really happened was that, I have seen what it entails to be a pastor because my mother was a Christ Apostolic Church midwife and I knew what pastors were passing through then; the insults and all that. But when the Lord said He’s in the picture and that we should go ahead, all my fears, worries, and uncertainties disappeared since it was God telling us to go ahead.
Considering the fact that you are a career woman, you still have to manage your husband, children and influx of visitors, how have you been carrying out these roles without one affecting the other?
Wife: Actually, when I got married, I made my home the first Baptist church. I never allowed anything to affect my home because I saw what others have experienced especially some pastors being busy on church activities and didn’t have time for home. So, I prepared my mind that whatsoever it would take my home to continue, I would give it. As at that time, he was working as a missionary under Operation Reach Out. So, when he was called into the church, I had to forsake my appointment with the Oyo State Teaching Service Commission where I worked for 15 years as a B.Sc holder. So, I had to do compulsory retirement. I came to Kaduna without any hope of getting a new job. As an enterprising Yoruba woman, I started making local drinks known as kunu and akamu to support the family until I eventually got a job.
More than 26 years in the union, how has it all been?
Husband: By His grace, we are what we are today. The journey was not that smooth initially. The first three years of our marriage was turbulent. Immediately, we consented to marry each other, the marriage processes began and we got married about seven months after. Even after the wedding, we did not have the opportunity of staying together. I was a student pastor in the seminary while she was working in Ibadan. So, we were doing weekend husband and wife then. Even when I finished my programme, we could not secure apartment. I was living with my principal and she was living with her family and that continued until we welcome our first child and then we were able to get our own apartment. By and large, that temporary distance made it a bit tasking to study each other’s character well. Family, relations were forces that almost separated us in the first three years.
Wife: While he was not always at home, we had siblings living with us. So, the issue of siblings and culture caused temporary misunderstanding among us. Ordinarily, when he traveled and returned, I would not relay anything to him. But some people would and he would start reacting. We got to a stage that we talked together that we should not allow third party to cause problem for us. Eventually, God helped us and we were able to overcome the issue.
How were you able to manage your marriage while staying away from each other because that has led to a lot of broken marriages?
Wife: Ideally, couples are supposed to be together when they get married. It is not good at all for them to live separately as being together will enable them to understand each other as time goes on. In our own experience, it was the grace of God that helped us identify the issue and come together to address it.
Husband: In addition to my wife’s position, staying together will mean studying each other which is sacrosanct. Today, separation from each other easily separate homes and families. What helped us then was involvement of God in our relationship – with a solid foundation premised on the Word of God. For couples, it is important to spend the first three to five years together before going up and down. This will help in building trust and effective management of homes.
When children started coming, was daddy there to babysit them at all?
Husband: Raising our children has always been joint efforts even though their mother played a larger part. That was because I was in my busiest time as a minister. I was a traveling missionary. In fact, two of our children were born while I was away. But when daddy is around, I play a lot with them and we all grew together. While she was babysitting them, I was offering spiritual and physical support.
What word do you have for bachelors?
Husband: Bachelors should put God first in their attempt to make it in life. They should be close to God. They should not get married due to societal pressure because marriage is designed to be permanent. They should be productively engaged before getting married. They should seek the face of God when it is time to have a partner.
What word do you have for spinsters?
Wife: Well, every woman wants a happy home. To have a happy home, we need to know what we want from the onset and pray to God to guide us aright. Young girls should not be carried away by their beauty and things of the world. They should grow not to be dependent. Today’s world is on the fast lane and ladies have to be wise in the Lord. Pray hard before you say yes to that man. Avoid comparison in any form. Be contented. Don’t just go and marry because all your friends had. Don’t forget, there is appointed time for all of us. Once you are in God, you will not miss what belong to you because He will show you.
What word of advice do you have for those who are planning to divorce?
Wife: Divorce is not the solution to many challenges in marriage because there is no perfect marriage anywhere. 98 percent of children that have problem today are those from separated homes. For us and our children to have a good future, it is better for us to stay together. When we stay together, with the help of God, we will be able to bring them up in the fear of the Lord and when they grow up, they will not depart from those trainings they may have undergone under us.
My advice for this generation especially mothers is that they should bear with their husbands. Our foremothers like Sarah, Elizabeth and others in the Bible also passed through their own thick and thin but they were able to scale through. We must be willing to give all it takes to make our homes stand. Communication is very important. 25 percent is verbal while 75 percent is non verbal. The non-verbal is what can affect the home. So, husband and wife should develop a robust communication at all times. This will help them address issues as they show up. They should not allow technology to come in-between them. Husband holding his phone, wife watching movies in the same house will create communication gap if not well managed. It is not good at all to postpone issues. Issues should be addressed as they come so they can move on. We should not forget that our children and society are watching and learning from us.
Husband: Young couples should fear and love God in all they do. God is the originator of homes. If there is any problem, they should go back to God and not the third party as such. There is no smooth home without its own problem except if we want to deceive ourselves. Couples should pray together, talk together and share their daily experiences together. If at all they want to talk somebody about their home, that should be God and they may do that through their spiritual leaders. If I fail in my home as a pastor, I don’t have a ministry because home is the nuclear society.