Sunday, 11 May 2014

Secret of our 57-year marriage— Octogenarian couple

In this interview with ARUKAINO UMUKORO, 83-year-old Albert Kehinde and his 80-year-old wife, Margaret, talk about their 57-year-old marriage
When and where were you born?

Mr. Kehinde: I was born on March 23, 1931, at Ode Remo, Ijebu Remo, in Ogun State.
Mrs. Kehinde: I was born on February 2, 1934, at Ijebu Ode in Ogun State.
How was it like while growing up? 

Mr. Kehinde: At that time, there was no civilisation like we have it now, but we coped. We played and had fun while growing up together with our friends.
Mrs. Kehinde: Growing up was nice and peaceful. You could go out anytime and play with friends and neighbours. But these days, children can’t do that. Then, one could be allowed to leave home and stay with relatives for some time. But nowadays, one has to be careful. Then we were so free to do what we wanted to do.


What schools did you attend?
Mr. Kehinde: I attended Wesley School at Ode-Remo, from 1938 to 1942. In 1943, we went to Abeokuta where I finished my primary school in 1947. From there, I proceeded to Baptist Boys High School. I was there from 1950 to 1955. Then I went to work at the Ministry of Education, Abeokuta. I resigned in 1956 and relocated to Lagos. I worked briefly with the Nigerian Ports Authority for about four months, and then BANCO British West Africa now called First Bank from 1957 to 1959, when I resigned to further my studies in England. I went to England in November, 1959. I attended the Norwood Technical College and the last year of study was done at Borough Polytechnic, all in London. At that time, you worked and studied part time. I did Radio Communications and finished in 1957.
Mrs. Kehinde: For my primary education, I attended Wasimi African School, Ijebu Ode, from 1940 or 1941, I’m not quite sure. Like my husband said, one had to touch the other ear with his or her hands from across the face to be able to start schooling. Afterwards, I attended Anglican Girls School, Ijebu Ode, from 1950 to 1952. After that, I went to ENTC Teachers Training College, Abeokuta. I left in December, 1953 and was posted to one village in Abeokuta. I was there for about two years and relocated to Lagos where I met my husband and eventually got married in 1957.
Where else did you work?

Mr. Kehinde: I worked part time with Philip Electric Co. from 1961 to 1967 while I was schooling. I also worked for about two years in the radio section of the Home Office, UK. I also worked with General Electrical Company, London for about eight months before I decided to return to Nigeria in August, 1969.
I joined the Nigeria External Communications in September 1969. I worked there until September 1975, when I joined the Nigeria Airways. I worked there from September 1975 till November 1986 and retired as communication technician. I’ve been on my own since then. When I retired, I did small business. But in this country if you don’t have connection, you don’t get any contract. In 1989, I decided to return to London, England to try my luck over there. I worked with Rembrandt Hotel as linen keeper. I worked there for 10 years and retired. Over there in England, when you reach the age of retirement, you are not the one to tell them, they know and would retire you and give you your pension, unlike in Nigeria, where pensioners don’t get their pension for donkey years. I’m still based in England now and I’m living on my pension since 1999. I and my wife just came to Nigeria on holidays.
Mrs. Kehinde: I was a teacher in Lagos at Methodist Primary School, Herbert Macaulay way, Lagos, from 1955 to 1961. In 1961, I went to join my husband in England. I left two of our children with my mum in Nigeria, but we had three more in England, although we lost one of them. In England I didn’t think I could teach them, how would one communicate with them? I had to do odd jobs to make ends meet. I did factory work. I worked at Philips and Timex where they assembled telephones. I also worked where they assembled staplers. But after some time, I had to stop working so that I could take care of the children. Along the way, I studied Insurance in the School of Economics, Holborn and Clapham Junction College of Commerce. This was in the 60’s. All our children are married. We have 11 grandchildren and about six of them were born in England.

How were you able to combine parenting with studying and working?
Mr. Kehinde: We kept one with a nanny, because she had to go to work, like myself. Then, I had to go to school in the evening to do part-time study from 5pm to 7pm. That was what I was doing at that time before I finished my first education in communication. Anytime, we had to go to school, we found ways to manage it. I bought a scooter to make it easier for me to move around and get to school on time instead of waiting for the bus or train. When I finished with my studies in 1968, I also did some odd jobs. We would have come home earlier but because of the civil war, we stayed back. Then, England was so nice and there was nothing you couldn’t get over there, unlike in Nigeria, where you couldn’t get things, even though you need them. We stayed back there up till now because of our health and their quality healthcare system. They have better health care system and there is no discrimination, they give you the same quality treatment.
Mrs. Kehinde: I worked for years but when I had my fourth child, the second one in England, I stopped working. So, it was easier for me to raise the children. In England, they subsidise everything, so it was easy for me to cope. Also, they have a better welfare system. All our children are girls. It was also through God’s grace that I managed. Before I stopped working, one of them was placed in the care of foster parents, but I had to withdraw her because I was expecting another one and we couldn’t afford it. So, I had the two of them with me. If I wanted to go to the clinic, because it was in England, they would ask a social worker to come and stay with the other one at home until I come back from the clinic. It was not easy but with God’s grace and the support of my husband, I was able to cope. The other two never joined us in England, but they came visiting regularly and the ones in England also came to Nigeria to visit. Then we were not so enlightened, and we didn’t have the idea of settling there for too long.

What’s your view about the way the Nigeria treats pensioners compared to what obtains in England?

Mr. Kehinde:  There is no comparison. Nigeria seriously lags behind in the way it treats the pensioners. Over there in England, you don’t beg for your pension. They write to you and tell you how much you are entitled to, and would start paying you, depending on when you want it: weekly, monthly, or yearly. In Nigeria, it is not so. For example, I left Nigeria Airways in 1986, but we had to go through a lot of difficulties to get a little amount from our pension. That was in 2006 before we started getting something. Despite promises that they would pay us the balance, we have not received anything since then. But I have been getting my pension in the UK since 1999.
How come you went to work in a hotel in the UK, considering your education and work experience? 

Mr. Kehinde: Over there, before you get a job, they would consider your age. At the time I went back, I was over 50 years old. So, it was not easy to get another job again. Also, I didn’t think I would be staying back for long. I just picked up the job that was available, thinking that if I worked for a few years, I would return to Nigeria. But we decided to stay back when we started receiving news of the condition in Nigeria, especially as one couldn’t get his pension here. I was contented with what I received in the UK. If I had been given a job in communication, they would know my worth. But because of my age, I couldn’t go back to that line.
How did you meet your wife?

Mr. Kehinde: I first saw her when I went to visit an uncle. At the time, he was teaching in Abeokuta and I was still in Abeokuta. One day, I saw her when she came out of her house to watch a town masquerade. Since I had seen her before, we started a conversation. That was in 1955. Yes, she was beautiful and she looked like she too was interested. We relocated from Abeokuta to Lagos almost at the same time, coincidentally.
What attracted you to her?

Mr. Kehinde: Up till now, I can still say she is very beautiful. You can see her stature; it cannot be compared with her age. You would think she is much younger than 80. You have to admire someone who can take good care of himself or herself. She shows her love to me sincerely, that’s why I stuck to her. But it was not easy to woo her at the start. Yes, she was beautiful and the first impression wins the battle. We got married in 1957 in Lagos.
Mrs. Kehinde: Like he said, we were in Abeokuta together before we came to Lagos. When he first approached me, those days, one wouldn’t want to let one’s parents know anything about it. When I told my cousin who was staying with us then about his interest, she said in Yoruba, “ah, mum should not hear this oh!” The only thing was that he persevered. He kept on coming every day to see me. My cousin was baffled why I had not accepted his proposal and wondered why I was giving him all the trouble. I told her that I did not want to marry him, I gave excuses that he was not tall and this and that. But because he was coming every day, I decided to give it a second thought.
How long did it take you to decide to give him a chance?

Mrs. Kehinde: It took one year. And in that one year, he was coming to see me every day before I said yes. As he said, there was a cousin of his who was married to my uncle. So he would come during the holiday because he wanted to see me and say hello. All those factors contributed to my decision. He persevered and showed me love and did not go back on that. However, some men would claim to love you but the next minute, they go away to meet other girls. There was a friend of his, now deceased, who was always with him. I just put two and two together and agreed.
As a mother and grandmother, how do you feel about the abducted Chibok schoolgirls?

Mrs. Kehinde: It’s terrible and painful. I weep for them whenever I read about them in the papers. How can they abduct children? It’s not that they are criminals; these are students who were busy studying. Who knows their whereabouts now, or whether or not they have been killed. It’s so painful. I just pray that they would be found intact, not their corpses.
Mr. Kehinde: I don’t know what to say. There is no reason for them to abduct those children. If they were not satisfied with the government, they should go for the government, not children. Now, nobody knows where the children are. We are all praying that nothing happens to them. As parents, it is very difficult. I cannot praise the government because they have not done anything to rescue these children. When I read about their abduction, I was sad. When I now heard that the US was coming to help us, I was very happy. There is no cause for this government to say no. The US is telling Nigeria what she should have done. I hope they would succeed in rescuing these girls.
You’ve been married for 57 years now. What makes a successful marriage?

Mr. Kehinde: It’s a pity my wife is around because it would look like I am praising her in her presence. I’m not trying to praise her because she is around, but since 1957 up till now, I have never raised a hand to beat her, never. Even though we disagree at times, our disagreements don’t last. This means she knows what I want and she tries her best to make me happy at home.
Mrs. Kehinde: The secret of our marriage is that we understand each other. We never do anything to harm each other. When there is an argument, because you can’t do without having that, we don’t let it stay for too long. We sit down and iron it out. We tell ourselves the truth. Don’t tell your husband you’re going to the East when you are actually going to the North. Then, we trust ourselves. Good communication, truthfulness with each other and trust are very important in marriage. With husband and wife, you can have 20 arguments in a day but you have to resolve them immediately. They should not last.
In those days, when one is of a marriageable age, your parents would ask if whether or not you had a boyfriend. My mother approached me one day when he came visiting and asked who he was. I shrugged it off and wasn’t straightforward. But she probed further and I told her he wanted to marry me, he was still proposing then. She asked about his parents and background. I told her. She later made enquires and was satisfied with what she heard.  Nowadays, young people don’t ask for parental advice when starting a relationship that would lead to marriage. This is the reason why some of them go astray and are not making headway. They forget that parents can’t deceive them and know better than they do, although they would say this is the jet age. But there is nothing like jet age when it comes to marriage. That tradition and culture is still there. But these days, children don’t even understand that. It is when they fall into a pit that they would cry back. The advice of parents is very important to help them go the right way. If children take to their advice, I think it would be better for them than it is now.
What’s your favourite food?

Mrs. Kehinde: Any healthy food is my favourite. I like vegetables, fruits and jollof rice. I like preparing food for my husband, although in Nigeria, the grandchildren prepare his food for him. In England, you have to do a bit of everything and there are no house helps or grandchildren living with you. So, in that aspect, we are better off here than there because of the house chores.
Mr. Kehinde: She has never prepared any food and I refused to eat it. So, I can jolly well say that what she wants is what I want.

Do you have the same preferences for same television programmes?

Mrs. Kehinde: I wouldn’t say no or yes, because when you men start to watch football, one cannot watch anything else. As time went on in the marriage, I just resigned myself to fate and started watching football with him in Enlgnad, that now I scream out the names of the players, oh that is Beckham. So, now, we watch football together until he is tired or is not around. I am now a fan of football because of him.
What football club do you support?

Mr. Kehinde: I have two clubs that I like, Manchester United and Chelsea. I played football when I was younger and used to do some other sports like athletics. I like sports.
Mrs. Kehinde: I support Arsenal more because of one of my grandchildren who is an Arsenal fan.
What kind of exercise do you do to keep fit?

Mr. Kehinde: I exercise my two legs on the bed and sometimes I go for a walk.
Mrs. Kehinde: Don’t ask me about exercise because you will be disappointed. Although yesterday I went to Oshodi, which is very rough, that’s some exercise. Where do you want me to exercise here (in Nigeria), on this rough road? But in the UK, I do a lot of walking. But here in Nigeria, I don’t. I don’t want to die prematurely.

You don’t look your age. What is the secret of your youthful looks and longevity?

Mrs. Kehinde: There is no secret. God is helping me to keep myself well so that I can age gracefully. But I eat well and have a good diet and take good care of my skin. It’s by God’s grace. I also exercise and I like dancing to any kind of music that has good beats. But if it is out of tune, leave me out of it.
Mr. Kehinde: I am contented with what I have. I don’t chase after money. I also do exercise. I was involved in sports in my younger days. I also like dancing.

Punch

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