Theirs is love redefined. Its love rejuvenated at the dusk of
life. Everything about 80-year-old Pa Adetunji Boladale Akanni and his
78-year-old wife, Mojisola Bolatito, spells affection. Really, their
53-year-old union gives you the kick and you wonder what has kept them
together for so long. Don’t be impatient, they bare everything in this
interview with Kemi Ashefon..
LH: When and where did you get married?
Mum: We got married on March 12, 1964 in London.
LH: Who saw who first?
Pa Akanni: We didn’t start in London. We met in Nigeria. It was at the
Teachers College that our friendship started. The first time I saw her
was in 1954. Then, she was head of a school owned by my employers. A
teacher disobeyed her and I was delegated to inspect and give a report.
Also I was to make recommendation. So, I went there, studied the
situation and queried the teacher. I submitted the report to the school
authorities and the teacher who was heady and disobedient was
disciplined. But I didn’t know that I would meet her again at the
Teachers College. Later, after some period of teaching, I changed to the
civil service from where I travelled to the United Kingdom.
LH: But what really made you think she was your wife?
Pa Akanni: One day, at the Teachers Training College, there was
scarcity of water in the city of Ibadan. Then, students were asked to go
and fetch water and amazingly, she said I should not go and volunteered
to go instead. She took my bucket and went with her colleagues. She
didn’t let me go but brought water for me. That created a liking for her
in me and something told me I should persist.
LH:What was the attraction that made you say yes?
Mama: It took a long time. We went to the Teachers Training College the
same year. We were classmates and after fetching the water, he
appreciated me. We were at the Divisional Teachers Training College Oke
Are, Ibadan. That was in 1956 and he was made a Health Inspector for the
college. He was always putting on white and was always very neat. The
white clothes were always well-washed and ironed. I said to myself,
‘With this man that is always neat, there is a future for him.’ That
attracted me. When we were leaving in 1957, he asked me, ‘Now that you
are leaving the college, and if we are posted to different schools to
teach, how would I know that you would still like to marry me.’ He asked
to call my cousin, who was a friend of his, to be a witness and I
should say before him that I would still marry him. I said, ‘I don’t
need a witness, let God be the witness. Then, we were Muslims. We left
school in 1957. I was teaching in Molete Ibadan and he was teaching
somewhere else. Later on, I went for Grade 2. After 1957, I taught for
another two years before I went to Teachers Training College,
Ilesha(1960-61) He didn’t return for Grade 2 but sat for his GCE and was
working in the ministry at the Inland Revenue. He travelled in June
1962 and when I left Grade 2 in 1960/61, I was teaching at the Islamic
Secondary School, Agugu, Ibadan.
Was the relationship intact before you travelled to the United Kingdom?
Pa Akanni: No but on the eve of my travelling to the UK, I went to her
and asked her some questions which she didn’t give me any positive
reply. But I believe God has already ordained it and persisted. When I
got to the UK, I kept writing her letters, only to discover she was
coming to Britain in December of that same year. I think my persistence
LH: Did you go to meet him in England?
Mama:No, I went to England to study. It was on my brother’s sponsorship.
I travelled to London on December 2, 1962 and expected to be met at the
airport by my cousin, who he was also close to. It was Tunji (Pa
Akanni) I met at the airport in England and not my cousin! I went to
study Secretarial Studies and I also sat for my GCE in London. Tunji
started coming to visit me after which I agreed to marry him. I informed
my parents and they made inquiries, necessary introduction and we got
married at the Central Mosque, London on March 12, 1964. We returned
from England in 1969.
Pa Akanni: She mentioned a cousin who was close to both of us. I
remember visiting this cousin about three days before her arrival to
London. He was the one who told me she was coming. I told him I had
written her letters and she didn’t reply me. He now asked if I would go
and meet her at Heathrow Airport and I obliged. On the eve of her
arrival, I went to join him and we traveled to Heathrow together. She
came during winter and that year had the most severe winter in Britain.
She was shocked to see me and we travelled to South of London where her
cousin lived. From there, I started building a relationship and later we
got married. We had two kids in London and had two in Nigeria.
LH: What do you think is missing in most marriages now?
Mama: First, the fear of God is absent. Many couples don’t commit
their unions into God’s hands. Many marry for money and not love. The
men too are not serious either. Marriage is forever and when two people
are joined together, its forever. You forget everything pertaining to
LH:How did you handle your in laws?
Mama Akanni: We both had our mothers but the most important thing is to
commit everything into God’s hands and God would know how to control the
minds of the parents of the couple. They can’t intrude. Moreover, when
they see how you relate with each other in a godly way, they know your
marriage is a no-go zone. Some parents like controlling their sons but
if you see it from God’s point of view and you decide ignoring many
things, you would be happy. If you know that the mother of your husband
is your mother and treat her like your mother, there would not be
trouble. Moreover, when a mother-in-law sees a daughter-in-law as her
daughter, peace would reign. Unfortunately, most girls of nowadays don’t
want a man who has a mother. Maybe they have forgotten that they would
become parents and someone would want to marry their sons someday. Just
take things lightly, pray and be of good attitude to your in-laws and
you will enjoy your marriage. Learn to tolerate them or else they make
life unbearable for you.
LH: Was there opposition from her family?
Pa Akanni: No. My brother-in-law (now late) was like a father to me. He
was my mentor and before I left Nigeria and I visited her in their
house, he was very understanding. He was very friendly too and I
respected him. He took me as his brother and encouraged me.
LH: How old were you when you got married?
Pa Akanni: I was about 27 years.
LH:Was that not too young for a man to marry?
I don’t think so because my mates got married at 25. After studies and
you have a job, nothing stops you from getting married. What is
affecting lots of marriages now is interferences in the couples affairs.
If you have the grace of God on you and you are mature, you allow your
parents understand that this is your home and you have your lives to
LH: I think finance is also one of the challenges of any marriage. How did you handle yours?
Pa Akanni: Nobody is perfect. Money is very essential in marriage but
it didn’t control us. When we got married, there were sacrifices that we
had to make. When she finished her studies at the college, I was
working and we later resolved that I should concentrate on my studies
and she would continue working. When I completed my studies, I started
work again. Till date, we have a common purse. Though we still have
separate accounts, there was a common purse.
LH: One of the problems of marriage is communication. How did you as a couple carve out time for yourselves?
Pa Akanni: We communicated well and we had time for each other as a
young couple. Even now that we are grandparents, we are always together
and our communication very effective.
LH: How did you convert to Christianity?
When we returned to Nigeria, we were practising Muslims. She was the
first person to become a Christian. Initially, we were practising
Muslims but God’s intervention and grace made us become Christians. Our
young ones were in Government College and went to the University and
whenever they came home on holidays we saw that they prayed in tongues.
It was amazing and we watched them. Later, she (my wife) joined Rhema
Chapel when it was newly established in Ibadan. Later I joined too
LH: Do you have pet names for each other?
Pa Akanni: No, she calls me Tunji, I call her Bola.
LH: Who is the most romantic of the two of you?
Mama: He is romantic and also helps me with house chores. When we were
abroad, he helped with the laundry, the kids and helped with the
shopping. In Nigeria, maybe due to our culture, the kitchen is for the
woman and looks strange for a married man to be working there. He still
helps me and I cannot recollect the last time we had a domestic help.
All my children especially the boys are good cooks.
Pa Akanni: We have always been fond of each other.
LH: What has kept you together for 53 years? Don’t you quarrel?
Mama: We do have misunderstanding but we always resolve it quickly. A
marriage is about tolerance. Differences would arise but understanding
your strengths and weaknesses would make you win.
Pa Akanni: There should be understanding, accommodation and respect for
each other. You know what your partner likes and what she doesn’t like.
You need to tolerate each other.
Mama: Don’t let the in-laws interfere in your affairs. Don’t report yourselves to your parents.
LH: Was there a time you lived apart?
Yes, there was a time we were not living together. Then, we returned
from London, the job he got was in Ibadan. Later on, he was employed in
another company and transferred to Kano. I was working at the University
of Ibadan in 1972. Then, we were contemplating that I would resign and
go to meet him in the north, but he was given another transfer to Lagos.
We had to stay put in Ibadan. When he came from the north to Lagos, I
had to resign from University of Ibadan and joined him in Lagos. When we
were in Lagos, he was transferred to Ibadan! I was able to take care of
three children in Lagos. That went on for a long time. We were still in
Ibadan when he was transferred to Lagos. It became rigorous but we were
able to cope.
LH: How did you cope with challenges as a couple?
Mama: I always tell couples to know each other, study your characters
and attitude during the period of courtship and work on all these. There
is the need for patience too because you cannot both react to things
negatively. There is also the need to be prayerful.
LH: How did you handle temptation from other women?
Pa Akanni: Yes, but one must be able to allow self control. You also want to respect your wife.
LH: How old are you?
Pa Akanni: I was 80 in September 2017
Mama: I was 78 in January 2017
LH: Did it occur to you that any woman could snatch your husband when he was not with you during his transfer?
Mama: I was never troubled with the thoughts of any woman snatching my
husband. I’d rather pray to God to keep him. I have my kids to attend to
and not thinking of such.
LH: What are the secrets of your graceful ageing?
Pa Akanni: Nothing but God’s grace. She makes my food. I take tea in the
morning with two cubes of sugar, biscuits. I think it has to do with
spending time with God’s word, prayer and rest. Also, learn to love.
Spend your time in communion with God, get spiritual materials (Bible,
spiritual books). Be careful of friends who could also be instrumental
to your marriage falling apart.
LH: What other things do you still do?
Pa Akanni: I still drive. I take fruits— watermelon, apples, oranges. I
take water in the morning and I still read without glasses.
Mama: I take lot of tea, I also go for exercises to make me healthy. I
have a bicycle in the house. I can walk and run. I still drive our car
within Ibadan and I go shopping.
Photos: Olere Photography