The Lady next door the one who was always washing clothes- Ogechi lived with her family. We had become good friends. When I told her what Wonnu did, she burst out laughing and told me that my relationship with Wonnu was never meant to be. We grew fond of each other and she started coming over to my place more often. As a Yoruba Guy, I couldn’t see myself even dating an Igbo Lady, but here I was slowly falling in love! She gave me so much encouragement. She was everything I wanted! The only problem we had, were her parents. They didn’t want their daughter to end up with “Onyi-Yoruba” especially one that was not rich.
When her parents knew she was with me, they’d keep calling over the fence for her to come and do chores. If she didn’t go back on time her dad would come himself and warn me to leave his daughter alone. On more than 2 occasions he deliberately splashed muddy water on me with his car. Her Mother was not much different, she would hiss and start singing Igbo songs that sounded like insults when she passed by me. She said I wanted to rubbish all her suffering by giving her daughter a poor, hard life.
Her parents physically fought me countless times. They said I had gone diabolical and that their daughter would ordinarily never want someone like me. In all of this, our love for each other waxed stronger. One Sunday, I overheard her mother talking with excitement over the fence, about some guests they were expecting. Some hours later, a black Hummer Jeep and two other luxury cars pulled up in front of their house. They had come to ask for the hand of Ogechi’s elder sister in marriage. Their Mother was so happy. She kept talking loudly knowing It was possible that I could hear her. She said things like “see correct people”. She laughed loudly intermittently.
Adanma, the proposed Bride didn’t like her suitor at all. She knew that, being the Ada of the family (first Daughter), it would break her parent’s hearts if she didn’t do their bidding. The man she really loved, was from Calabar. She didn’t want it to be said that she had set a bad example for her siblings to follow by marrying a non-Igbo man. Apart from that, her mother had said it was better to be rich and unhappy than happy and poor! She reluctantly agreed to marry the man.
After 5 years of being slapped, kicked and embarrassed by her parents in public, I asked for Ogechi’s hand in marriage. She agreed. She was so excited! When she informed her parents, they didn’t respond. One hot afternoon a brand-new Ford Edge, parked in front of my gate. I came out to see if the person had come to see me. There were 2 men and one Lady inside the jeep. They asked me whether “Mummy & Daddy” were home. I laughed and asked which Mummy & Daddy they were referring to. They mentioned Ogechi’s Parents name” I pointed to the next house.
Later on, Ogechi informed me that one of the men had come to ask for her hand in marriage. Again, her mother was all for it! It was funny that the woman who brought the suitor for Ogechi didn’t even know Ogechi’s Mum, they were from the same village but Ogechi’s Mum had given the contract to find a rich Nigerian American Husband for her daughter to one of her cousins, who connected the woman to Ogechi’s Mum.
I tried to eavesdrop, but all I could hear were muffled sounds. I didn’t see Ogechi until days later. As she walked in, I tried to read her face to see whether she looked apprehensive, like she wanted to tell me that it was over. She came close and sat on my lap and kissed me on the forehead. By the time she was through with her narration about the man who asked for her hand in marriage, we had tears in our eyes from all the laughter! The so-called suitor had come with drinks and gifts for her parents. He had also come with 3 suitcases full of women’s clothing -inclusive of winter clothing. Even though the suitor had seen Ogechi’s photograph prior to his trip he didn’t know what kind of clothing to get for her. He must have thought that the clothes would wow Ogechi.He was wrong!! We laughed some more! She told me that she waited patiently for the visitors to go before she called her dad and Mum aside. She said she went to kitchen and got a Butcher’s knife and threatened to take her life, if they didn’t allow her to marry me. They begged her to stop and reluctantly accepted.
The verbal abuse from her parents got worse and I was told that I had won the battle and not the war. They said they would “show me pepper”. I had been advised severally by friends and family to be calm and never to respond or show annoyance to them.
Fast forward to our traditional wedding. My parents and relatives sat around me under the canopy in front of Ogechi’s Family house in her village. The pre-wedding list was an arm long, but I didn’t care! The ceremony seemed to be deliberately long as though they didn’t want to let go of their daughter. It was about to end, when Ogechi’s Dad got up to say that he would not let the ceremony end without saying a few words. We were all quiet. My heart began to beat fast, as I didn’t know what he could possibly have to say. I didn’t want him to embarrass me in front of members of my family. I looked away as he began to speak, expecting the worst. He looked at my parents and said “I cannot let this day go, without telling you how sorry I am for the way my wife and I have treated your Son” He turned to me “My Son, you have shown me that truly you love my daughter! In spite of all we did to you, you never fought back. Please forgive and forget. I see that my daughter wants no other man and I am proud to be your new Father. This wedding is monumental for me because it is the first time in a very long while in my family that a wedding has not resulted into commotion and fights”. He shed some tears and sat down. I was stunned and I cried a little too from the pain of all the embarrassment and insults over the years. Ogechi cried too.
The rest is now in the past. I smile now as Ogechi’s Mum dotes on me and insists that we visit them frequently. As for my wife, I couldn’t have made a better choice!