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Valentine’s Day: Nollywood couples share secrets of enduring love

By Shaibu Husseini
08 February 2020   |   4:20 am
There have been so many cases of divorce and or separation involving entertainers. Although not peculiar to the entertainment industry, the manner at which these celebrities...

There have been so many cases of divorce and or separation involving entertainers. Although not peculiar to the entertainment industry, the manner at which these celebrities take to the social media to either dissolve their marriage or announce their separation has made it appear as though it is only prevalent in the showbiz industry. But even in the midst of all the scandals, there are celebrities that are still waxing stronger and that have become something of a good example of what a good celebrity relationship should be like. From a short list of Nollywood couples who have been married for over a decade and half and who have continued to live happily as husband and wife, Gloria Young (married to the method actor Norbert Young for 18 years) and filmmaker Mahmood Ali-Balogun (married to the PR Specialist Nkechi Ali-Balogun for 28 years) share the secrets of their enduring relationship. The families are of the opinion that it takes only two to tango and that the survival of any marriage is not in the hands of friends and colleagues, but in the hands of those who took the decision to become husband and wife.

Norbert and Gloria Young
The secret is basically that we are friends. Basically that is what it is. We are close friends. We quarrel a lot but at the same time we settle and we don’t let things fester. That is actually what it is.

You don’t let things fester. You don’t take things for granted, like ‘I have explained and he or she is supposed to understand’. And then communication is key. It is very important. We are always talking. Since GSM came into existence in Nigeria, I think that we have both spent the most on call cards because we are always talking. No matter where it is in the world, we are always talking. If I travel, immediately I get there I must look for a local SIM card to call and he does the same thing when he travels. We talk and there is always something new to talk about and it is not just talking about ourselves, but we talk about everything under the sun. So, we are always talking and we quarrel a lot especially when it comes to politics, because my husband and I don’t agree. But basically that is what it is. We find something to laugh about and we find something to talk about to, at least, try and cheer ourselves up with. And then we understand each other. We understand what makes us who we are, as individuals and as a couple. I know the kind of person he is. I know his likes and dislikes and so on. He knows the same for me. So even if sometimes we butt head, we will still come to some form of agreement at the end of the day. And basically the number one thing is that we did not marry to get divorced. We never had that at the back of our mind. You know a lot of people just get in and decide to quit if it is not working. We never thought of that. We knew it was for the long haul and we both worked towards it.

Courtship also helps a lot. I think we started out as friends, courted and then got married. You know it is such a long time ago. This is the 18th year of our marriage and before then we were going out like for three years. But he made me like him and made me enjoy his jokes. So, it was courting more or less and we became friends. I could tell him things and he would give me his own idea and I look forward to talking to him and he looked forward to talking to me. That just helped. He is not one to ever knock my ideas away—like I am talking rubbish. He will listen and put me through. So, I have a chance to express myself. Even if I am talking rubbish, he will listen and that is very important for a woman. She needs to know that somebody who is close to her, somebody who she sees as her loved one listens to her even if she is talking rubbish. And then again, he respects my view and I respect his too. You know it is different when I say he respects my view, because a lot of people believe that marriage is such that a woman should just sit down and just answer yes or no without expressing herself and when the marriage starts crashing they don’t understand why. There is no manual on who a wife is or should be. You have to develop a manual yourself.

Yes, being in the same profession for us is a plus. We understand what we are doing. If I am away he knows and understands why I have to be away because you can stay away for days and weeks in our kind of job. Yes of course, we grumble but we know it is the job. But if I was married to say a lawyer, he would not understand why I cannot be at home to make breakfast, lunch and dinner. So, that helps a lot and then when he is gone for weeks, I understand. We discuss our roles, the technique of the job and that has helped greatly. It also helps in the sense that I can bounce my idea on him and he understands where I am going and he can do the same for me. We run our lines together, and whenever he has difficult lines to read I serve as his prompter. He does the same. So it is nice we are in the same profession and mind you we are not competing which is one mistake people do. We are not competing and we don’t have to compete. No one is a star. We are husband and wife. And there are no two bosses in one ship. There is only one boss in a marriage.

We don’t go out of our way to mark St. Valentine day. In fact most times, the exigencies of life and work takes over and when that happens, we won’t have time to hang out for valentine. But it is not a big deal for us because everyday is a special day and we don’t pick any particular day to express our love. We mark valentine everyday. I am constantly reminded that as my husband, he is the head of my home and so I must treat him accordingly. But I find out that a lot of our ladies especially the ones that have become superstars get into marriage and expect to be worshipped and they don’t understand the husband and wife thing. But there are no two Oga in one ship. Only one and the husband is the oga so no matter your status as a wife, you must accord him all the respect he deserves. As the wife, you are the neck so you must know how to move the head around. You must know your duty as a wife.

“Well I will advice young entertainers who want to get married to make friends first, court and then get married. Marriage is not what you rush into. If you rush in, you are most likely to rush out. So they should make friends first, they should be friendly they should have fun and look for things that will make both of them happy. They should be friends with their fiancés and enjoy the friendship first before you can take it to the next level because marriage is very serious.

Mahmood and Nkechi Ali-Balogun
I think the number one secret for me is fear of God and our decision to anchor our marriage on what the word of God says about marriage and what it demands from us as husband and wife. That is the number one. I always think that may be if I was not a Christian my marriage would not have lasted this long. We are admonished as Christians to make every effort to make our marriages work. And again, there must be a relationship between the couple such that even if things are going awry you got to look back to when you all started, when everything was lovey dovey and you reflect on it and smile and forgo whatever wrong that must have been done by the other partner. And then again, being aware that nobody is perfect. That is very important too. Marriage is about compromises. We are two different human beings. Even with all the talk about compatibility we are still two different beings. God made us in our unique ways. Your ways are different from my ways but you see those ways that are different are areas that you both need to look at and understand. But overall, the understanding matters and must be present for your marriage to endure. One thing also that is critical too is having that forgiving spirit. There is no way that you will not encroach into each other feelings.

You are sure to step on each other toes, but what should make the difference is the ability to forgive and let go. That is very critical. Some people say love, love and love. But love comes in different ways. The kind of love that can sustain a marriage is the love of God. If you take someone as your wife or your husband, there are things that will happen between you and you know, you are not at fault. If it requires that you say sorry for there to be peace, for Christ sake, say sorry and move on. And what is critical too is that the other person must be ready to accept the apology. And really, apologies in marriages is not because you are right or wrong. It is because you want to keep your marriage going. You want to keep your relationship going. There may be a need to bend over backwards to say oh okay, I know that I am not the one that is wrong here but I don’t like the atmosphere in the house. You just go ahead and say sorry. That action is likely to make your partner who really wronged you to apologise to you later. We have had that kind of experience and we have resolved it so well because we understand ourselves. And the older you get in marriage, your level of understanding of each other gets better and in some cases also, you begin to discover certain things about each other that you never knew before and you must be ready to accommodate it.

We have been married for 28 years but we met in 1987. As for St. valentine day, we celebrate valentine in our own ways. Earlier in the marriage, we use to go out and really commemorate it. But one thing I know my wife for is that she always wants me to be at home on valentine day. So I close early and go home and she makes me my special. I also don’t forget to give her a lovely and well-worded card, because my wife is a card person. She loves cards. So because she loves card, I must get her one.

It doesn’t matter if you are in the same profession or not. What both of you need for an enduring relationship is trust, discipline and fear of God. The fact is that discipline is required on both sides and then the fear of God is very critical and I say this because our industry is an interesting one when it comes to relationship. Couples in the entertainment industry must try not to expose themselves unnecessarily and they must not engage in any activity that will affect their marriage. So, it is about both of you. You are both in the public glare and so you guys must comport yourselves and so far so good we have been able to manage it well. And then you must avoid unnecessary exposure that will lead to pressure on both of you particularly in these era of social media. They must try to keep what is private, really private. So, the number one secret of enduring relationship is fear of God and then love. Men must love their wives and loving their wives is inclusive of submission. Likewise, wives should submit to their husbands. Another thing is to allow your wife to express herself. There is no restriction as to what she wants to become. You must encourage each other. If she wants to study up to becoming a Professor, encourage her please.

Other Celebrity Marriages That Have Remained ‘Rock Solid’
Here is a preview of some celebrity marriages that are still waxing stronger in the midst of the tales of divorce and separation

Bob Manuel and Cassandra Udokwu
Notable actor and politician Bob Manuel Udokwu and his adorable wife, Cassandra have been married for over two decades and they are still counting. Being a top player in the entertainment industry where practitioners are often vulnerable to distraction, observers consider the tall, handsome, dashing and well-built actor as one who can be considered very lucky in his marital life. Anytime Bob has an opportunity to speak about his wife and mother of his children, he lavishes her with thanks for the stability and success of the union. Bob would always explain that one of the reasons they walked this far together, is the commitment they made right from the very beginning that they must make their marriage work. “My wife is not only a homemaker, but she is a friend, lover, wife, mother, partner, adviser, confidant and many more positive attributes rolled into one. We dialogue and show mutual respect to each other and for us it is till death,’’ he says, stressing that they have never contemplated and will never contemplate separation or divorce.

Olu and Joke Jacobs
They recently celebrated 34 years together as husband and wife. For these couple, both of who are iconic artistes, divorce or separation has never been an option. Indeed if an award for the long-standing celebrity and Nollywood couple is to be given, then it should rightly go to Oludotun and Ajoke Jacobs.

‘Uncle Olu’ and ‘Auntie Joke’ as younger colleagues call them have been married for over three decades and they are still counting. Interestingly, they are both active players in the industry and very busy at that. They have both featured in many Nigerian movies, participated in several projects and have won both local and international awards including receiving the national honours of Member of the Federal Republic (MFR). In spite of the temptation that comes with the terrain, Olu and Joke Jacobs have continued to wax stronger together. To prove that for them, it was for better for worse and like an observer quipped, the ‘older the sweeter’, the couple in 2011 called out friends, colleagues and family members to a quiet but unique wedding anniversary ceremony where they renewed their marital vows. The couple explained that they held the event to remind themselves that theirs was a total commitment to each other for the rest of their lives. Since then, nothing has changed between Uncle Olu and Auntie Joke whose marriage is blessed with children. They have continued to wax stronger as they age gracefully.

Omotola Jalade and Captain Mathew Ekeinde
Accomplished actress Omotola Jalade Ekeinde and her husband Captain Matthew Ekeinde have been married for over two decades and they are still counting. In fact, their success story as a couple has been an inspiration to many. A multiple award winning actress, Member of the Federal Republic (MFR) and a philanthropist, Omo T, as the actress is affectionately called by her fans has consistently maintained that for her and the father of her children, divorce will never be an option. The actress of vast credit has also consistently maintained that her marriage to Captain Ekeinde has worked and will continue to work because for her, Captain Ekeinde whom she affectionately calls ‘Honey Boy’ is and will always remain the head of the home while she will always be the assistant. “I don’t believe in gender equality. I don’t believe that God made man and woman to be equal in any way. I believe that in any organised institution, there is always a head and an assistant. It doesn’t mean that one should take another for granted or disrespect the other. I believe that the husband is the head of the home and the wife an assistant,’’ the Times 100 personality said, adding that couples must try and be so close to each other and must not allow a third party in their marriage.

Omoni and Nnamdi Oboli
Award winning Delta State-born actress, producer and director, Omoni and the amiable Nnamdi Oboli have been married for close to two decades now and they have continued to be stronger together. Nnamdi and Omoni who are blessed with children, met in 1996 but they started dating four years later when she was in final year at the University of Benin. She recalled that Nnamdi proposed two weeks into the relationship and the rest as they say is history. Today, they are ‘the best of friends’ and even Omoni declared that she could never have found someone more suited to her than Nnamdi. By far, one of the busiest actress and off stage personality working on the turf, Omoni who has won both local and international awards for her efforts as an actress and producer attributes the success of her marriage to the ‘grace of God’, effective communication between her and Nnamdi and knowing her husband’s likes and dislikes. “Put God first and also communicate with each other so that things don’t get out of hand because of things unsaid,’’ she said.

Other Nollywood families with enduring wedlock are Ejike and Ogechi Asiegbu; Zack and Ngozi Orji; Victor and Rosaline Osuagwu; Richard and Jumobi Damijo; Paul and Barrister Chibuzo Obazele; Ramsey Noah and Emilia;
Francis Duru and wife; Tony and Patsy Umez; Alex Usifo- Umaigbo and wife; Desmond Elliot and wife; Emeka and Stella Enyiocha; Kanayo Kanayo and wife; as well as Emeka and Stella Enyiocha. The list is inexhaustible.