Wednesday, December 23, 2020 8:15 am
By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
I cannot believe that I am the jolly good fellow of the birthday song.
Not many blokes gave me any chance at all that I could ever strike the mighty age of sixty given the gung-ho escapades of my life and times.
Let’s for now leave out my fights with all principalities and powers, as they say, and concentrate on the vexed matter of marriage because even fewer people believed I could ever get married.
In fact one holy pagan had predicted that my marriage would not last longer than the wedding mass!
Well, I am not dead yet, and I happen to be still married, as my mind races back to the year 1990 when I traveled from Lagos to Enugu with my buddy, Gerry Ofor, to grace her sister Ify’s wedding.
Gerry is blessed with a handful of beautiful sisters, and one of them who received us at the Enugu home, Chidinma, got this instant message from me: “You are my wife. Finish!”
Many years later, as Gabriel Garcia Marquez penned in One Hundred Years of Solitude, I was doing next-to-nothing on the matrimonial front until my father, Chief S.N. Uzoatu (Mgbeamurudikenamba, Odu 1 of Umuchu), reminded me towards the end of one festive Christmas season that I had given him the promise that I would introduce the lady I planned to marry.
“So where is the wife?” asked my father.
“Ok, let me go and discuss with her family first,” I replied.
“Which family are you going to?” my father asked, and added, “Is the lady from this our town?”
“Well, it is the Ofor family I have in mind,” I said.
“Which Ofor are you talking of?”
“Chief Innocent Ofor,” I answered, and added as an afterthought, “Your friend.”
I left the old man and told my cousin, Benjy, to drive me to the Ofor household in Amihie village of our Umuchu hometown.
Much to my embarrassment, just as I arrived with Benjy at the Ofor home, another car pulled up in the compound, and, lo and behold, it was my father who had commandeered my younger brother, Isidore, to take him and my uncle, Leonard, to Chief Ofor’s house.
My old man and his brother came with a keg of palm wine to initiate the marriage proceedings such that I would not be left with any chance to chicken out as they feared I would!
Chidinma’s brother, my buddy Gerry, was astonished at the sudden invasion of their house by the Uzoatus without any prior notice to him whatsoever.
Gerry was still in wonderland when my father sat Gerry’s father down and broke the espousal coconut: “My son has come to marry your daughter.”
Chief Ofor (Udora of Umuchu) had always been a father figure to me, and I had been to his house countless times over that Christmas period without broaching the marriage matter to him.
In truth, I thought of him more as a father rather than a father-in-law, so it would have been quite difficult telling him I wanted to marry my own sister, the daughter of my father!
In his as ever polite manner, Chief Ofor told my father that so many suitors have been coming to ask for Chidinma’s hand in marriage.
While my “two fathers” drank the palm wine downstairs I took Chidinma upstairs to tell her to ask the other moneybag suitors to go learn some poetry!
I was soon coming downstairs, laughing in the company of Chidimma’s younger sister, Chika.
As a background to the marriage story, it’s cool to recall that back in 1978, when my school certificate results could not be released in time to send me off to the university, I ran to Chief Ofor, who was then in-charge of the education ministry of the state, and I stayed in the boy’s quarters of his house at Savage Crescent, GRA Enugu, to secure an appointment as an “auxiliary teacher” on a salary of N96 per month!
When I took Chidinma to our capacious Uzoatu household as bride-to-be, an uncle of mine, Alexius Uzoatu (Igwe Ikegwu-onyije), saw how the babe was following me all over the place and offered this advice: “Two of you should remember that both your parents are strong leaders of the Catholic Church, so you should take it easy and wed in the church first!”
Now, some 22 years after, the four children of the marriage, namely, Ziozioma, Oluebubechukwu, Makanna and Chimel are kicking fine and laughing heartily as the daughters and sons of “incest”!
A beer for me for turning sixty and staying married against all odds!
-Uzor Maxim Uzoatu, poet, public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos