Sir Kanu Celestine Ibenyenwa Ihuoma, a Knight of the Catholic Church and Lady Florence Kanu have lived together under the same roof for 30 years as husband and wife. Celestine who hails from Amachi Nsulu read Agriculture in India, while his wife, Florence, a nurse is from Ntigha both in Isiala Ngwa North Local Government of Abia State. Their union produced four children, two of who are now medical doctors. In this interview with OKEY SAMPSON, they divulged the secret behind their long-lasting love.
Could you tell us how you met before you got married?
Husband: I didn’t meet her straight on; it was my late father that introduced me to my wife. My father-in-law was a teacher. My late father was also a teacher and my father-in-law served my father in one of the schools. So, when as the only son in a family of five, they were pressurising me to marry after my graduation and National Youth Service Corp (NYSC), I then gave it to them (my people) as an assignment because as at then I had no lady in mind to marry and I wasn’t really prepared. After I gave them the assignment, I went home on a certain weekend. My father told me to go to Ntigha and look for Mr. Ezeribe, that the man had some children that were mature for marriage. I went there straight, but they told me the girl I was looking for was at Queen Elizabeth Hospital (FMC, Umuahia). By then, she was a student nurse. I went with one of my friends. When we got there, they told us they were in the dormitory they call Egesi Quarters in those days where nurses stay outside the hospital. When we got to the gate, it was locked. I saw a girl that came down from the upstairs, tying wrapper. She came out to collect some of her clothes spread outside. When I asked her why the place was locked, she explained that it was not the main entrance to the hostel and she showed me the entrance. When I went in through the main gate and asked someone about the person I was looking for, it turned out to be the girl I met initially and who had directed me to the main gate. I concluded immediately that God must have shown me who my wife should be. That was in 1989.
Wife: Our first meeting was at Queen Elizabeth Specialist Hospital, Umuahia when I was a young student nurse. He came to the hostel requesting to see me having been directed by his father (my late father-in-law), Sir Francis Kanu, who knew my father and mother very well. Suffice it to say that both families enjoyed good family relationship before both of us discovered each other.
Was there any opposition from anywhere – relatives, friends, concerning your marriage?
Husband: There was no opposition. The family welcomed me. It was like trying to reintegrate ourselves again because her family was already known to my family. Incidentally, the mother is from the same village with my own mother. So, a lot of things tied us together and that thread that tied us together has remained till today.
Wife: There was no opposition from anybody or from any quarters when both of us pronounced our intentions to get married.
What made you decide to go for your wife out of the many ladies available for a pick within that period?
Husband: In the area of priority, I had thought I would have married a teacher because teachers, I believed at that time, normally have time to take care of their children. But for nurses, attending night duties, I believe by my own nature, it would have affected me. But when I saw her the first day through my father’s directive, I immediately fell for everything in her.
What qualities made you choose him above other eligible bachelors or suitors within that period?
Wife: When I first met him, he was a slim, tall and well-polished guy. He was a sincere, honest and a straight-forward person. All these qualities I discovered in him made me to accept him.
How did you propose to her? What exactly did you say to her as to make her accept to marry you?
Husband: Actually, the way I did the proposal was just as simple as ABC. I’m a man that goes straight to my point. I don’t rigmarole over issues. I told her I’m so, so person, and that I went to their village to look for her and her parents told me she was in school and I have come to see her and that my aim of coming to see her was for us to marry. That was all. She responded by telling me I should give her some time to think about it.
What was your response when he proposed?
Wife: When he proposed marriage to me, I asked him to give me time to think over it and also to investigate if we the share blood relationship because I had thought both families were related. After my investigations and considering the qualities I found in him, I was convinced beyond doubt that he was all that I needed in a man.
Was there any courtship between the two of you?
Husband: No, there was no courtship between the two of us.
What do you remember most about your wedding?
Husband: What I remember most about our wedding was the way my father-in-law and the family welcomed me. It was so fantastic that they made everything easy for me. Normally in Ngwa land when you want to marry, there are a lot of things associated with it high bride price and the rest of them. But in my own case, it was cordial, everything went well. That was in the area of traditional marriage. But during my church wedding, the one they call white wedding, what I will not forget is what the priest said in the church. He gave us five minutes to look at each other’s face. The whole church was there and we were standing looking at each other. According to the priest, his reason was that he wouldn’t want a situation whereby tomorrow, ‘Celestine you would say you don’t want to see the face of your wife again. See this face now. And Florence, look at his face so that tomorrow you would not say I don’t want to see this face again’. After that, the priest gave me a piece of advice that I have continued to give to others. He told me that a woman is like a music organ. That if you want to play an organ and you know the keys, it will give you melody, music, lyrics, but if you don’t know the keys to play the organ with, it will give you nothing but noise; he said that women are like organ, that I should find time to study my wife and get the keys to operate my wife and that she will serve me as a good wife. He said that if I don’t get the key to marry her that I will end up having trouble in my marriage. So, I think I remember that very clearly.
Wife: I will equally not forget the advice that the priest gave us which I believe has remained a guide.
Could you remember your first misunderstanding you had in your marriage and how did you handle it?
Husband: We have never had any serious misunderstanding in our family. I tell you, there is no family that can stay without having trouble, but when that misunderstanding comes, it is within us, we solve it; it has never gone outside our bedroom. Our children have never seen us quarrel before and I don’t think they will ever see it as long as I’m alive.
Wife: Our first misunderstanding came when he was drinking alcohol. He knows quite well that I hated this habit. Thank God he decided to quit drinking entirely and it was resolved immediately.
What is your wife’s favourite food?
Husband: Normally, the family’s favourite food is eba (garri meal) and that’s her favourite food too.
What do you like most about your spouse?
Husband: Personally, I value my wife so much. I don’t even know how to equate her with a price. I love her so much and no single thing can be attributed to that.
Wife: He is just the ideal man for me, can’t say of one special thing.
What area(s) would you want your partner to improve on?
Husband: I would say that for me, for the number of years we’ve stayed together, I am the quiet type and she is the type that whenever she sees anything especially when it comes to children upbringing, she goes all out to talk about it and will stress it for a very long time. But for me, I am the type that if I observe anything going wrong in either my children or my family, I take time to weigh the pros and cons, negative and positive. I would think it all out before I take decision, but my wife is such a person that if she enters into the house and sees anything she does not like, she just clamp on it and starts striking. So, I would want her to really soft-pedal on certain issues, because at times she moves with anger and does certain things ordinarily she wouldn’t have done.
Wife: He’s a man with such a good character that asking for improvement will make no meaning.
What advice would you like to give to a young bachelor who intends to marry?
Husband: One thing in marriage is getting mature first of all because a lot of things are involved. One has to be mature enough to absorb some shocks from women because the way women were created by God, there are two different human beings coming together to live. If the person is not mature to absorb shocks from the woman, they will end up messing up the marriage and divorcing each other very early in their relationship.
What advice do you have for a spinster who intends to marry?
Wife: I will advise young girls who intend to marry to take time to pray to God for a life-partner. They should not rush into marriage; they should take out time to study whoever they intend to marry. Furthermore, a girl should understand what marriage is all about, what she is going to face when she leaves her parents to join another family in marital relationship. She should be mature and psychologically prepared before going into marriage.
In light of rampant divorce cases these days, from your own personal experiences, what pieces of advice would you want to give to newly married couples on how to make their marriage last as long as yours?
Husband: Young couples should know God and pray together because that early morning when you are coming together to pray, to talk to God should be an opportunity for everybody to voice out their own opinions about family matters: you voice out your opinion and she voices out her own opinion and even the children, give them the opportunity to voice out their opinions. By so doing, whatever you are doing in the family you put it to God first and that will help the family to grow well.
Wife: A woman should be humble, ready to adjust her lifestyle, be caring and accept her in-laws. Above all, she should be prayerful.