I can’t remember really what brought us together, he said
At 70, geologist and explorationist, Prof Chukwuemeka Ekweozor, still feels very energetic to work. He and his wife, Dr. Chinyelu Ekweozor, recently celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary, even as he clocked 70. The Nigeria Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE) did not only sponsor the exotic celebration, which held at the Presidential Hotel in Port Harcourt last week, but also organised a public lecture, titled, ‘Lokpanta Formation: Re-defined Pathfinder of Buried Treasures in Nigeria’s Inland Sedimentary Basins,’ in honour of the couple, who have contributed significantly in soft rock geology, oil exploration and medicine. The couple, who were both lecturers at the University of Ibadan, spoke with ANN GODWIN in Port Harcourt on how it all started, their achievements and their marriage 40 years after.
…He Came During The October Rush, She Recalled
On how the 40 years of togetherness started, Chukwuemeka Ekweozor reminisced: “We met in the University of Ibadan in the very early 1970s. I came in to do science and she came in to do medicine.
“We came in the same year, 1970. I was higher in class, because I came in with A’ Level and she came as a prelim. So, I was a year ahead of her.
“She was in school for six years and I was in for just for a three-year programme and after seven years of courtship, we got married. We have been together since then and we have four wonderful children.”
Asked what attracted both of them to each other, Ekweozor said: “What was quite clear was that she was a very committed Christian at that time. I wasn’t so committed. I just came out from the war.
“I noticed her at the University of Ibadan Christian parties. I can’t remember really what brought us together, but I remember one Ebere Nduka, who was my classmate in Township School and was her mate in the Prelim class.
“I think probably through that my friend, we became more intimate.”
His wife, Dr. Chinyelu Ekweozor, added: “They called it ‘October Rush’ in the university then when fresh students came in looking for friends.
“Many people were coming and he was one of many and I wasn’t serious with any, because I had made up my mind that it must be somebody that knows and fears God that I would ever be associated with.
“They came, we talked and left, but out of them all, he was more Godly than the rest and was very charming. One thing I didn’t want at that time was to talk about marriage, because I didn’t want to be distracted from my study of medicine.
“So, for some reasons, he didn’t come direct to talk about marriage; we just talked about things like brothers and friends and was not even insinuating anything.
“Gradually, we grew in love. That was how it all started.”
Regarding life at 70 and 40 years of wedding,
Prof Ekweozor said: “The years have really gone very fast. Sometimes, it feels somehow to say I am a 70-year-old man, because I still feel very energetic.
“But that is how it is. It is true, I am 70 and God has helped me. My strength keeps waxing; I have never had any serious medical condition.
“Also, it has been pleasant to be together for 40 years, though there have been challenges here and there, we lost our parents along the line. There were challenges in the work system; both of us voluntarily retired very early.
“She travelled outside the country and did her postgraduate in medicine, came back, became a consultant in the University College Hospital and a lecturer in University of Ibadan
“I also, after my PHD, became a lecturer. So, both of us were lecturers in the same university and along the line, she was doing her PHD, but we decided to retire due to the alterations in the educational system over there abroad where our children were schooling and here in Nigeria where both of us were lecturers.”
Asked how both of them were able to cope as lecturers in the same university, considering challenges with present-day couple, who rarely find it ease to work together, Dr. Ekweozor responded: “My husband likes work; he can work from morning till night. So, I was quite aware of that and built myself in a way to absorb it.
“One day, we were supposed to take a flight outside the country, but he was still in the lab as at the time our flight was to take off and I had to walk into the lab and called his attention to our trip.”
She recalled the early challenges witnessed in their union. “Obviously, there are challenges early in marriages, but what has helped us is knowing God, praying and living according to the scriptures, which says you should not allow the anger to stay for too long and be able to forgive ahead of time, and also knowing that we are not perfect.
“We do not concentrate on other people’s failures in marriage; we concentrated on ourselves and worked on ourselves, knowing that heaven is real and God is real.
“One day, when I had something bothering, I waited and when he was alone, I went and met him and we discussed it. We did disagreed often, but we never allowed anyone, not even our children, to take note of it.
“So, I will go to his office and we discussed on our issues. It is good to speak up and not to gloss over it. So, communication is very important in relationship, it sustains relationship.
“We also concentrated on the good qualities of each other. Sometimes, the devil can be crafty and may want you to always remember the bad aspect, that tiny thing, and because of that forget the good side. I can boldly say we have survived the union for 40 years and it is too late to start having issues now.”
Her husband chipped in: “We ignored things that are not relevant. The only thing she didn’t add is tolerance. When we newly got married, I remember some minor things, like where you keep your shoes and how you keep your things, and as the year goes, all those rough edges were cleaned off and we continue to get along.
“To us now, it is a case of working together. For 20 years now, we have been running a family business. When we returned from the United Kingdom, it was difficult getting another job for her here in Nigeria. She was very highly qualified to even be a professor. So, since we couldn’t get it, she had to work together with me in the company. I have learnt to work together.”
As for how he relaxes at this stage of his life, Ekweozor noted: “One is relaxed, either in church fellowship and in family fellowship.
“Two things challenged me in life- to make a success of my family and make a success of my work, both for God or in the secular. I think we are happy family.”
On what has been their driving force, he stated: “The work I am doing for God has helped me to have an insight. In my own area, as a researcher, I would say people have come to realise that we do what we do with integrity and professionalism, and that gives me joy and has helped me.
“Anywhere I go, people say, ‘I know this name.’ I remember I was at a conference in Paris and some Russians just came and greeted me, saying ‘the work you did has helped us so much.’ That is my driving force, knowing that the labour is not in vain.”
His wife added: “I am happy that his thirst for God is growing daily. That makes me happy, because that is exactly what I wanted in marriage.
“I am happy with the course I did and where I worked.”
How do they manage their health at this age?
“One of the things God has helped us with is good health. I was hypertensive and even slumped on an occasion. Before then, I used to give health talks, before the health talks, I usually read books and one of the books I hadn’t read was, ‘Halleluya diet’ and after that incident, I read that book and I agreed with what they said and started adding the juicy part of it to what we knew.
“At first, it was difficult for him to take raw juice, but gradually, it has become part of our diet since January 2011. We take it twice daily,” she recounted.
He added: “What she said is very true. I strain a lot and sleep maybe four hours per day. Even up till now, so the juice of common vegetable, pumpkin, pawpaw, watermelon, etc has helped us a lot to remain fresh and energetic.
“She prepares it and I take it twice a day and some things people of my age suffer, I don’t experience. My system is working perfectly.
“Last year, we had a medical screening in my church and the doctor that screened me said my system was very perfect and that I should continue to eat whatever I was eating.
“I am currently writing a book to answer numerous questions people ask about their health and it is encouraging.”
Still looking very strong at 70, is he still interested in active work? Ekweozor answered: “As far as active work is concerned, I am done. What I am doing now is to write down the numerous questions and answers people ask in the field and leave it as a legacy.
“We have been working and we will continue to work. I am a geologist working in oil producing areas, the Niger Delta. I have a lot of data on it and in the course of it, we found a very unusual rock and I feel we should not end it there.
“I am packaging it into a book, so that people can read it, work on it and improve on it.
“Right now, I consult for a lot of companies. I am a geochemist and an explorationist.”
On their advice to young couples, he said: “Marriage is a very deep issue. Part of the reasons why a lot of marriages these days collapse is that they do not factor God into their relationship. Many look at life purely in the materialistic way and that is where they make the mistake, because life is not just about material things.
“People can be very rich, yet they can be very unhappy. They need to have common faith. Those who marry and do not having a common faith, I don’t know how they cope. But I think it is a lot easier when you marry having a common faith.
“There is a need to also know what you want in marriage. Many think it is children they want, but if you intend to live happily, you must work on your relationship. Try to help the other one in his or her weak side.
“There is need for tolerance and love. Look for a way to blossom. African men are very loving, just that they are not the flowering type. They do not easily say it, but it is the way they were brought up. It is part of their cultural heritage, so the ladies should understand this.
“Couples should determine to make it work. If she is not working, you assist her to do something to give her a sense of belonging.
“Women should learn to be patient and prayerful.”
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