- If we quarrelled and I saw I’m wrong, I apologise and it ended there
- We never had any issue that made my husband to beat me
Tell us a little about yourselves
Husband: I am Matthew Omale Itodo. I went to school in 1956 and finished in 1962. I couldn’t immediately go to secondary school after my primary education because my father was contesting to become a chief then. It took about three to four years after primary school before I went to secondary school. At that time, I went to stay with my mother’s uncle in Kaduna. While there, I joined the Baptist Mission. I heard about the mission schools examination and enrolled and wrote the exam. I selected Baptist College. I later gained admission to Kaduna Polytechnics to study Accounting. While at it, I got a federal scholarship, an oversea scholarship. Immediately I finished, I wanted to go abroad but people advised I get a job first. So I got an appointment with Benue-Plateau State in 1975. But shortly before then, in April 1974, I got married. After a year or two with the state government, I went overseas with my family for three years to further my studies. I came back, to Nigeria and stayed for three years then went back for my masters. That was between 1981 and 1983. When I came back I continued my job with the state government and retired meritoriously in January 2010.
Wife: I am Dr (Mrs.) Francisca Itodo née Abah. I’m from a small family in Otukpa. My husband and I are from the same area but from different clans. My father was the chief of Otukpa District then. I grew up with my senior brother who was a teacher. I was with him, completed my primary school and then gained admission to Holy Rosary College, Adoka, where I did my secondary school. That was in 1969. I passed out in 1974. You know in our time, as soon as you finish your teacher qualification education, you would be given a job. You didn’t have to look for job. So, immediately I finished, I got a teaching job and was posted to my village.
How did you meet each other before you decided to marry?
Husband: One of my relations first told me about her. That time, she was in Teachers Training College. Incidentally, we are both from Otukpa in Benue State and she’s a daughter of our traditional ruler at that time. One way or the other, we were introduced to each other and we started writing letters to each other. You know, that was the fastest way of communication then. I was writing and telling her sweet things and sometimes, these letters were accompanied with pictures. May I also mention that in Otukpa culture then, when you’re courting a lady, you are not allowed to come near her. We could write, we could talk and so on but it didn’t go beyond that. We eventually got married while I was in Kaduna Polytechnic. That was on April 14, 1974.
Wife: As my husband rightly said, it was while I was in Adoka that he started writing letters to me about friendship. And that is how it was until I finished in 1974. Then, he approached my parents about his intentions about me. We eventually married that same 1974.
How long did you court before you eventually married?
Husband: We courted for about three years before we got married.
Was there any issue that almost made you back out of the relationship?
Husband: The only issue that I could remember was when a cousin of mine started telling me that since my wife-to-be was a Catholic, what would I do if she decided to continue with her Catholicism? I said she wouldn’t decide like that but he suggested that she might continue as a Catholic after our marriage. He went ahead to ask me if I would change and become a Catholic with my wife and I told him I would never do that. That was the confusion that man wanted to bring to our marriage but we were able to overcome it. There was no issue from that side at all. My wife accepted me and followed me to my church without any problem.
How did you propose to her?
Husband: Well, we didn’t have the type of proposal you people are having now; kneeling down and all that. In our own case, we have written letters, sometimes, we exchanged specially packaged gifts. Because she was in school then, I sometimes bought relevant books that would help her pass her examinations and send to her. When we were ready to take our relationship to the next level, I went to her parents with my family and we talked and her parents agreed to give her to us in marriage. We later went back to her family to do all the necessary formalities.
How did he propose to you?
Wife: Initially as he was writing to me for friendship, I was snobbish. I wasn’t replying him. Then while I was home during one of the holidays, he came personally to tell me that he is interested in me and that he had been writing to me. He went ahead to tell me that what he wanted was for me to be his future wife.
What was your reaction when he proposed?
Wife: I told him to give me some time because at that time, I hadn’t informed my parents about my relationship with him and about his intentions. When I told my mother where he is coming from, it turned out that he and my mother are from the same side of the village. So, my mother said she had no problem with the relationship because according to her, people from that side of the village are good people. It is customary in our place for your parents to know which family you intend to marry into before they accept your proposal. They would want to know the type of people there, what they do and all that. My mother gave her nod to our relationship and told me we could go ahead with our marriage plans. That was how we continued and eventually married in 1974.
Was there any opposition either from your family or her family at any point?
Husband: There was nothing like that from both sides.
What were the challenges (if any) that you faced at the initial stage of your marriage?
Husband: In that aspect, I want to say I am the luckiest man on earth to have the best wife ever. We never had any challenge and we hardly disagreed on anything.
Wife: There weren’t many challenges. As soon as we got married, we moved to Kaduna and later left for Jos. There wasn’t any issue that was serious enough to warrant any quarrels between us. I was working as a primary schoolteacher and he was with the ministry. We were not living above our means and so we were able to manage our things. Even in the issue of relations coming around, there wasn’t much of that on our own side. Those who were around us were relations that came to help us and they were not giving us much trouble.
Can you share some of the values that have sustained your marriage this far?
Husband: We have been married now for about 43 years. In all, I want to appreciate God for making us compatible with each other. My wife complements me so well that many people wonder if we ever disagree over anything. From the onset, she knew I wasn’t a flamboyant person. I didn’t have much money but she accepted me just as I am. Remember we got married while I was in school. She has been with me with understanding. One thing that has sustained our marriage is that all our lives we have never quarreled to the extent that we would take ourselves to a third party to settle us. Not even her parents ever interfered in our matter.
Wife: I think the most important thing is communication. You should not hide anything from each other especially finances. He has no problem like that. Any money that comes, we put together and use together. There was no issue of ‘this is my own’ or ‘that is his own’. As the woman of the house, when I collect my salary as little as it was, we share it together. And when his own salary comes, we do the same thing. Also, when our relations visit, there was nothing like ‘this is your family, so take care of her.’ There was nothing like that. We saw anybody from both family as one and we treated them so.
How do you resolve conflicts?
Husband: There is no human being that is completely perfect. It is the person that is close to you that can either offend or please you. In normal situation, if we have any quarrel and we just talk about it, if I see that I’m wrong, I apologize and if she’s wrong, she would apologize and it ends there. I don’t have time to think about what is past. I’m one man who does not accumulate wrongs or keep records of wrongs? I don’t habour ill feelings towards anybody in my life.
Wife: Definitely, there will be conflicts but like he said, we resolve conflicts on our own. Whatever had happened, we tried to talk it over at night and it ends there. We pray together and God has helped us greatly in that regard. We didn’t have to take our issues to a third party or to our parents to settle us.
What advice do you have for younger couples, considering the increasing spate of divorce and domestic violence in marriages today?
Husband: Be tolerant because tolerance is very important in marriage. Nobody is perfect. If your spouse has offended you, be patient enough to listen to his or her reasons before jumping into conclusion. Make up you mind from the onset to forgive. Forgiveness is very essential in marriage relationship. You may say that you have forgotten today and then tomorrow if something happens you say, yesterday you did the same thing. If you continue to count wrongs, it means you have not forgiven really and that can lead to bitterness. Another thing that is causing problem for young people now is money and materialism. Some people can pursue money to anywhere, even to the devil’s camp. If the devil does anything for you, you’ll be sure that he will get more from you in return. So, young couples have to be very careful. There’s no hurry in life.
Wife: They should have understanding between themselves. There’s no marriage that doesn’t have conflicts. But if there is understanding in the family, especially if they are people that pray together, they will easily be able to iron out their differences. But when you don’t have patience and you want your own will to prevail over the other person, then there will be issues. All my life, God knows, we have never had any issue that made my husband lift his hand to beat me. Our children had never seen us quarreling at anytime. I urge younger couples to understand themselves. If there is an issue and you know you’re wrong, apologise and allow peace in the home. If you are wrong and you can’t come down to say sorry for what you have done, that will escalate things in the family. So, young couples should know that they need peace to keep their families together.