Love Life is a Zikoko weekly series about love, relationships, situationships, entanglements and everything in between.

Audio: 26 Years And We Have No Regrets

Amina, 52, and Aneru, 58 have been married for 26 years with four kids. Today on Love Life, they talk about meeting on a farm, managing a long-distance relationship at a time where there were no mobile phones and growing old together. 

Love Life: Aneru and Amina

What is your earliest memory of each other?

Aneru: It was at a farm in Agenebode, Edo state where we both worked. I was the company’s project engineer — I had just been transferred from Benin to Agenebode. Amina worked in the fishery department. She had a friend, Jane, who was from my village and worked in the same department. The day I met Amina, she was with Jane when I stopped for a chat. Amina wasn’t smiling — she didn’t even pay attention to what we were saying. 

Amina: The first memory I have is different. Jane and I were headed to the canteen. I saw Aneru from a distance outside the canteen, but then he left. We saw him again on our walk back to our department. Jane told me that her dad had asked her to befriend him because they came from the same village. She was too shy to talk to him, but I encouraged her to. 

What were your first impressions?

Aneru: I wondered why she wasn’t smiling. I saw her again with Jane at that same location, and she wasn’t smiling as usual. After I finished talking to Jane, I asked her, “Why are you always frowning? Anytime you see me, put a smile on your face,” and then she smiled. I started thinking about her smile. 

Amina: I wondered why he was after my smile. 

How did you go from that to lovers?

Aneru: I started thinking about her. At the time though, I had a girlfriend, Kate, in Benin, but I didn’t think we were going to get married. She was Esan. Back then, people believed that Esan women were bad housewives. I was especially wary because my elder siblings who married Esan women had issues in their marriages. I didn’t want my marriage to be like theirs. 

At the end of September 1990, Kate came visiting. And all was well until October 1st. I threw a party at my place on that day and invited my colleagues. Then I told the head of the fishery department that he must make sure all the women in the company came, especially Amina. 

Amina, did you go?

Amina: Ah yes. My boss tricked me. He invited Jane and I to his house and when we got there, it was empty. We were about to leave when we saw him waving at us from the apartment opposite his. It was Aneru’s house, and he was having a party. I wanted to leave, but Jane encouraged us to stay.

Aneru: Amina and I had an in-depth conversation for the first time that day. Kate got upset. She had been cooking and serving food, but when she noticed how close Amina and I were getting, she left the house. I didn’t notice she had left till it was time to share refreshments with our guests.

Amina: I took alcohol for the first time that day and danced with Aneru. As we got closer, I noticed a girl kept coming in and out, looking at us. That was interesting.

Before I forget, Aneru kissed me while we were dancing. I was angry because I didn’t want to be kissed. But I le tit go. Eventually, my friends and I left that party for another. 

So… Kate?

Aneru: Haha. When Kate returned to the house, we argued but brushed it aside because we had another party to attend. Imagine my surprise when I saw Amina there. 

This time, I was determined to make my intentions clear. I made an elaborate plan to get close to Amina at that party. I was with my friends, Jolly and Officer. I asked Officer to dance with Amina and Jolly to dance with Kate so I could breeze in and take over dancing with Amina. Kate didn’t like this, but at that point, I had made up my mind that Amina was going to be my wife. 

And Kate?

Aneru: Well, Kate went back to Benin and Amina, and I got closer. I encouraged her to come to my place so we could leave for work together. Kate came to visit me some weeks later and saw that Amina came around often. There was an unspoken agreement to dissolve the relationship after that visit. 

Mid-October, I told Amina that I wanted her to be my wife.

Just like that? Amina, how did you feel?

Amina: He told me he had something important to say, and he wanted to meet at the only hotel in Agenebode at the time. I was on my way, on a bike when I remembered that he had kissed me without my consent. I asked the bike to turn back. We were on the way back to my house, and his bike passed mine. He sent someone to my house a few minutes later to tell me to meet him at Jonathan’s house. 

There, he told me he wanted me to be his wife. I was surprised because I wasn’t expecting it. I didn’t know him well enough. I asked him his age and he asked me mine. He was 27 at the time and I was 23. We exchanged childhood stories and spent the rest of the day talking about our future. I asked for time to think about it, but by the end of the day, I had made up my mind to marry him. We had spent a long time together, and he didn’t make any moves on me or talk about sex. 

Aneru: After that day, I stopped at her department regularly to check on her. The following week, she asked me to meet her at Jonathan’s place. There, she told me that she wanted us to begin courtship, but on the condition that she would go to school. I had no issues with her going to school but she said she wanted to finish school before getting married. She said her elder sister’s husband made the same promise and her education stopped after marriage so I agreed. She asked for my school certificate because some people say they went to school but didn’t. LOL. I wasn’t expecting those questions. 

Amina:  I also told him we would both get a genotype test. He was laughing but I didn’t mind him — those things were important to me. 

That night, my dad asked why I had been staying out later than usual so I told him of Aneru’s intentions to marry me. I told him I had not yet agreed, so he asked me to wait till he made enquiries about him and his family. The next day, he told me I could marry Aneru. He found out that he was the son of one of the women in his club. 

What happened next?

Amina: In December 1990, Aneru saw an ad in the newspaper for a school in Jos. Within weeks, plans were made for me to move to Jos with my brother for school. I was shocked but happy. 

Before I left, Aneru asked me to visit his village so he could introduce me to his mother. I was so shy. I braided my hair in a style similar to what we call Bob Marley now. We called it Raskimono. I did it to hide my face. I also wore big dark sunglasses. When I got there, she was so happy to see me. She made me seat on her lap. She gave me a name that day: “Onokpemekho”, which means, “The one I like.” 

By January, I went to school. 

What was long-distance like without phones?

Amina: Aneru introduced me to his friend Lawrence when I got to Jos. He was to make sure I was okay. During my first holiday, Aneru came to Jos to visit me, and we stayed at Lawrence’s place. 

We had a pattern. For long holidays, I went to Agenebode. For short holidays, Aneru visited Jos. We also wrote letters to each other. This strengthened our relationship. I was in Jos for three years. 

What happened after Jos?

Amina: In 1994, I came to Benin to do my IT. Aneru had moved to Lagos during this time. Nigeria was safer then. I used to travel to Lagos during weekends to see him. One weekend, Aneru showed up at my house, where I lived with my cousin. He wanted to do a surprise introduction. I was shocked and a little angry — I wondered how my family and I were going to prepare for it, but he said he had taken care of everything. When I told my family, they were confused as well but Aneru did great with the introduction plans — he had bought everyone clothes, food, everything needed to make it happen. My dad liked him so he didn’t mind the surprise. LOL. The introduction happened on Easter, 1994. After this, I moved with him to Lagos. 

Aneru: During Christmas in 1994, we travelled to Agenebode to see our family. Shortly after, Amina became pregnant and we moved to Benin, where I had been transferred to. We began wedding plans.

On the 7th of October, 1995, we got married. In January 1996, our first child was born. 

Love Life: Aneru and Amina

What was that like? 

Amina: It was such a scary experience. The pregnancy went past its due date by two months. The doctors had to do a caesarean section. Labour lasted up to 5 hours. Eventually, my baby girl arrived. She’s now a woman. LOL.

What was life like after having a child?

Aneru: It was during this period that I got my first official car. Life was rosy. We lived in a three-bedroom flat. We were happy. Watching the baby grow was a learning experience for me. She would always cry whenever I was leaving the house. Sometimes I would have to dodge. She was smart and she grew fast and beautifully. Within the space of six years, we had three more kids. Today, they are all doing well. 

Nice. What’s the best part of your marriage? 

Aneru: Looking back, I have no regrets about marrying Amina. She was exactly what I prayed for. I prayed for a good wife after seeing all the unsuccessful marriages around me, and God brought her to me. We have small arguments, but I can’t remember us fighting. We have so much goodwill, love and happiness. I couldn’t have had a better wife. 

Amina: I’m glad we’ve not had such issues. We have disagreements over things I don’t like. For example, I didn’t like him smoking and drinking. He was wasting a lot of money buying cigarettes and drinks. When we started dating, he promised to quit. He tried to, but he kept relapsing. Those were the things that caused our major disagreements. But he’s also very quick to apologise, unlike me. I’m glad now that he has quit finally. 

How did that happen?

Aneru: In September 2020, after a night of drinking and smoking, I fell ill.  After running a couple of tests, the doctor said I was dehydrated and needed to take drips. It was at this point I decided I had to give up on these habits. My daughter introduced me to Mentally Aware Nigeria, and one of their counsellors helped me through the first few weeks of sobriety. I have been sober for a year now. 

Congratulations! What’s your favourite thing about each other? 

Aneru: Meeting Amina for me was love at first sight. I was first drawn to her beauty, but it was her personality that kept me. There is nothing I want that she doesn’t possess. The way she carries herself, her organisation, her cooking and her home management skills. 

Amina: I like that he is a giver. He is so generous to the point that people have tried to take advantage of it. I think, in the beginning, we were frivolous with spending and had no investment sense. As we got older and things got tougher, I taught him how to say no. 

The good thing is that he always made sure he provided for his family. When the jobs stopped coming in for him, I knew I had to step up. I started my own business and sustained the family on that as much as I could. Things are a lot better now. He is also a good listener. 

How would you rate your relationship on a scale of 1 to 10

Aneru: 9, because nothing is perfect, but we’ve had a great life and we’ve been happy. 

Amina: 10 for me. When I think back, the positives outweigh the negatives. I look at our children and I’m glad that God helped us raised them well. They are all happy and doing well. 

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