Gen. and Mrs. Momah’s inspiring story (2) How to remain faithful in marriage despite temptations
In the first part of this interview, published last week, General Sam I. Momah (retd) and wife, married for 50 years, told the story of how they were able to weather the storms brought about by their decision to cement their love for each other by being joined in holy wedlock. In this concluding part, the couple share with readers how they overcame trials and temptations that came their ways over the years, to remain faithful to each other in marriage. It is a story that is sure to inspire newly married couples, especially in security services or in profession where regular contact with the opposite s*x exposes one to strong carnal temptations, to remain faithful to each other, no matter what. They spoke to JULIANA TAIWO OBALONYE.
Did you agree on the number of kids you would have from the onset?
Husband: I wanted three maximum. We had the first three and they were boys but she kept pleading with me to get a girl.
Wife: It was my mother that said, boys? They belong to some- body else and since you are still within the biological age, you better look for daughters because, you don’t know the kind of girls your sons would bring home and you would become a ‘witch.’ But now that you can still bear children, have your own daughter because even if you are crippled, your daughter would still welcome you. But in your son’s house, you don’t know who he would marry and you become a ‘witch’ and your son would be like, ‘Mama, you didn’t tell us you were coming’, and because you love your son and you don’t want to cause problems in his marriage nor make him unhappy, you would respect yourself and stay in your house. But if you have you daughter and you are lucky your sons have good wives, then you would be singing, Hallelujah. That was how and why we had our two last daughters. When I had my first daughter, my mum again said: ‘friends are friends, sisters are sisters. Your daughter needs a sister to play with, gossip with, if you tell your sister a secret, you can be sure the secret with remain with you but with a friend, you are not so sure.’ That is how come Ada is five good years older than Amaka because my husband kept refusing that he doesn’t want. But man proposes God disposes.
Husband: You see that is another hand of God. After the birth of our first daughter, I told her no more please because I have always calculated when I would retire which is at the age of 60 as required by the law. I had calculated that by the age of 60, my fourth child would have left university so that I don’t have to pay school fees in retirement. But I didn’t know that God has his own plans that along the line I would even become a minister. The fifth child and the second daughter coming was the Lord’s doing. Today, she is everything to me, she is everything I desire in a child. Her name is Precious and she is really precious. So I thank my wife and my mother-in-law for insisting.
How involved as a military man and, (turning to the wife), as a teacher, were you in raising your kids?
Husband: The training is really with her because the military life did not even allow me to interact so much with my kids. The military is such a career that you can’t predict the next moment; you can be posted out at any time. You might have to work 24 hours, wherever you are going, you have to sign a pass: you can’t move out of town without clearance. So she did the raising of the kids but what I tried to do since I was not always in town, I tried to visit as often as I can until eventually we were able to relocate to one place. So it was not easy at all but the truth is that they are nice kids, they are above board, they are not children you can worry about so much and she being a teacher, it helped her to coordinate and put the children through. When I look back and I see children who refused to go to school, to get married is a problem, and it’s one sad story or the other. But the kids are now all self-sustaining and are doing well in spite of the harsh economic realities of Nigeria. So we thank God for that and I thank her for that too.
Wife: Like I said, I am a teacher by profession and the beauty of teaching makes you available to the children because you close early from work unlike other professions like doctors or bankers. You drop them off in school, pick them up when you are done, help them with their homework. But their father was always helping with their homework whenever he was available which was very helpful. You know, he is very brilliant and so the children got very intelligent genes from him and I am good in mathematics, so it’s a good combination. The children are very intelligent and I am very proud of them. My children were always the stars in their classes; they were always so proud of them. Any school they attended they were always the yardstick. As a matter of fact, when we were in Makurdi, we had a big house and everybody used to send their kids for weekends so that they can emulate our children.
You have been married for 50 years, how has it all been, what’s the secret that kept you together?
Husband: Like I said, first and foremost, it’s the love and there was courtship which was for almost 10 years. So the foundation was properly laid and we got to know ourselves. Life has not been easy but with that love, we were able to surmount most trials and temptations. And then when things happen one should learn to forgive each other easily no matter what happens, trust each other. She is my greatest asset. She is a sister, a mother, a wife, everything to me and the trust is just there. There is nothing like doubts that should you turn your back, she would do anything funny. Because of the love, you know you are in this covenant together and you must respect it accordingly and with that you will have other factors under control. God is love and the totality of this life is love.
Wife: The secret is the fear of God. When you fear God, you have nothing else to fear. The fear of God means what you don’t want somebody else to do to you, don’t do it to other person. With this principle, you will never go wrong. Obeying that golden rule makes life smooth and interesting.
Husband: Nigeria is what it is today because there is no family life, the family life is collapsing. You cannot build a mansion without a foundation. Families have to be well-cultured and intact before the nation can stand. This is why in most countries of the world, before you become anything they look at your background, your marriage, your children, which is a major factor is choosing leadership. Unless we begin to do that in Nigeria, we won’t go far. We must start appointing leaders with sound family back- ground so that they will be a good example to others. We have been married for 50 years and I keep telling my kids, we have made it up to 50, this is a challenge to you: you must go further as long as we live. It is also a challenge to the newly married in Nigeria, we must all aspire to make it work; you must have confidence in the marriage, it is a covenant that has an entry but no exit. Once you are in, be determined to make it work, it’s not a bed of roses but sustain it for the sake of the children, for the sake of the nation. This is very important and government should try and put in place as a policy, to look into the family status of every aspirant to leadership position, no matter how low or high the position might be, we must look at the family background before we appoint or elect somebody into leadership position. We are old now but we are very much in love.
In the military, the men are said to be promiscuous and have children from different women. How were you able to remain committed?
Husband: I have to say the truth, it is just a love. There is no question about that. In fact when I was made a minister, the first six months was very challenging, I have never told her this. Women come to you openly canvassing that they love you; they want you, I kept asking myself: is this what leaders go through in this country. As soon as you are made a minister, they will try to break through and force you to succumb. But because of the love I had for her it never even crossed my mind. In fact, I didn’t know my director of finance was the one sending most of those girls. So one day he asked, “Oga, is your thing not functioning, I have a medicine I will give you that will make you perform” (laughter) I’m sure the girls must have gone to tell him that I was not responding. I believe once you are sincerely in love, you will be faithful to your wife. The idea that military men are promiscuous is wrong. Yes, majority are but we still have a minority who are not. So it’s wrong to conclude that all the military men are promiscuous, they are some of us who believe in the sanctity of marriage. The military in Nigeria had been classified unfortunately as being made of people who are nonentities, wayward and it’s not true. I was trained in an academy where being honourable is what they train you for, how to be gentleman to the core. That is why you see that military men are well respected overseas because they know they are men of honour. Yes, they are a few bad eggs but generally if you go to Britain, Germany, officers are well-respected. Any company that wants to hire some staff would look for retired military men because they are men of principle and you can rely on them. But unfortunately this is not the case in Nigeria, for whatever reason I don’t know. But the impression has to change and also the military men should try and help the situation by not displaying character that does not portray us as disciplined and gentlemanly. I think we are far better than what the public perceive us to be and it’s because of a few that are so noisy. It was the civil war that caused this if not, those who shouldn’t be in the army would not have been in the army. With the civil war all sorts of character found their way into the military because many people didn’t want to go to war, so the door was thrown open and the worse in the society found their way into the army because of the war and this is where the army got adulterated. But all the same I believe the image should be retrieved.
Wife: it’s good for a woman to work. I was busy doing my work and the years went by so fast, I had so much to do. I never had any reason not to trust him, it never crossed my mind; it was never an issue.
There are lots of broken marriages today and domestic violence seems to be on the increase, what is your advice to married couple?
Wife: Everything is in the Bible. If you read the Word of God, it will direct your footsteps. The Bible does not lie, if you study the Word of God, you will never derail. The problem is that some of us say we are Christians but we are not genuine Christians. If you follow the Word of God you will never go wrong.
Husband: Why marriages are crashing is because there is so much materialism. Nowadays, if a man doesn’t have a car nobody wants to marry him. I did not have a car when we married; she had to borrow her wedding dress but today see where we are. When I go to weddings these days, I am appalled by the lavishness, the splendour I see. I get worried because the income of that person getting married cannot cater for all those things. What I see today especially from women folk is that they are too materialistic, if a man doesn’t have today it doesn’t mean he will not have tomorrow. That is why in developed countries, if a couple goes to a restaurant to eat, whoever has money pays but here it the man that must pay even if the woman has money. I think we have to start changing our orientation, we should know that it is a joint affair. The young ones should try and be modest, you don’t have to have all the shoes in the world; you don’t have to have all the clothes in the world. A nation can be buoy- ant only if we can save. The Chinese are ruling the world today because I learnt they save whatever they earn, they spend less than 10 percent of what they earn and save 90 percent, this explains why they are moving forward. While we are all guilty of it. We believe that we must live in splendour, whereas a Chinese is contented living in a two bedroom flat and that shows the difference be- tween them and us.