I wouldn’t have allowed my sons to marry white women — 85-year-old retired midwife
Eighty five-year-old Taiwo Olaide Johnson narrates how she lived with her husband for 36 years without a disagreement in this interview with Tope Omogbolagun
Where did your parents come from and which school did you attend?
My father was a prominent man from the Olowu family in Idumagbo area of Lagos while my mother came from the Kosoko family of Lagos, so I am a true Lagosian. I was born on September 18, 1928 in Lagos at a time when life was slow and peaceful. There were few schools at the time when I was born and being the daughter of parents who loved education, I was enrolled at the Methodist Primary School and later attended Methodist Secondary School.
When last did you visit the schools?
I don’t even know if the schools still exist. It was a long time ago and many schools have since merged and now exist under new names. What I know is that at the time when I was young, the missionaries were establishing schools in Lagos.
Do you miss your youth?
This is natural but I feel very strong and agile. I still remember events of the past, important dates and my date of birth. My mind is still sound which makes me remember names also. The only problem I have is that my legs are weak but I have a physiotherapist that threats me.
How was the relationship between girls and boys in those days?
We had respect for each other. We met at social events but peer groups were sometimes determined by sex, but not at all times. In school, we discussed and played together. But generally, we maintained the normal gap that existed between opposite sex at the time. Civilisation has bridged that gap now, although it came with its benefits, children of nowadays take undue advantage of the situation.
How did you meet your husband?
I met him when I was living with an aunt called Lady Ademola, who is now late. He visited our house regularly and that was how we became friends before he proposed to marry me.
How did friendship turn to love and later marriage?
It was simple because of the situation we found ourselves. I was a hard working and modest young woman who lived with an aunt I respected so much. The Yoruba tradition and culture were rich in the way a girl transforms to a young woman and it’s just unfortunate that the values are being overlooked now. In those days, these features must be visible, especially when relating with the opposite sex. I am sure that my husband must have noticed these traits in me because he came to our house often. So it was not hard for him to decide to marry me.
Did you immediately accept his proposal?
He was a very hardworking young man like me, who never got intimidated by what other people had. He was always contented with whatever he had and he was also caring. He never walked away from his responsibilities and in those days, he talked a lot about the future. I realised that he was a kind-hearted man who would love his family. We got married on September 14, 1956. It is normal for a couple to disagree on issues, but people still do not believe that I never quarrelled with my husband until he died.
How did you achieve this in your marriage?
I think the reason for this was that we were made for each other. Our thoughts were always one. It’s easy when the two parties understand one another. I did not compete with him over the leadership of the family. I was very submissive and supportive of my husband.
How many children are you blessed with?
We have five male children. They are Olumide, Oluyele, Oluyemi, Dayo and Olufemi. They are all married with children.
Do you have any regrets for not having a female child?
We have no regret at all. My boys are the best any parent would wish to have as children. They are men now living with their families. Girls are known to be emotional towards taking care of their parents. The belief is that they do it better. But my children have risen to the occasion. They do more than most women would do because I trained them to be kind and generous.
Although I have no female children, my sons’ wives and their daughters are my children too. I now have five daughters-in-law, so why should I complain that I have no daughters? God has blessed me with what I wanted from Him.
How were you able to cope with training five boys?
When you have five boys to train, you must be ready for a hard time. But I was not alone in it. God stood by me and my husband never left me alone. He was always there to instill discipline. He played the father’s role and I played the mother’s role in the family. Because of the unity that prevailed in our home when we were training these boys, it was not as hard as people thought it was. They listened to us and were excellent in their studies. The most important thing is to ensure that your children have the fear of God. My children were brought up that way.
We encouraged love in the family by eating together from the same plate. When my work was in the way of giving proper training to the boys, I quit my job to concentrate on the family. I became a full-time housewife when they were growing up and returned to work when they became grown-ups. It was a sacrifice that worked and I thank my husband for supporting me.
Where did you work?
I worked as a receptionist in a family planning organisation owned by my father-in-law in Lagos. That was where I got the knowledge of midwifery. Because he did not have a daughter, my father-in-law treated me as his daughter. When I returned to work, I was employed as a midwife.
What was your husband’s occupation?
My husband was a senior staff at the National Electric Power Authority, now Power Holding Company of Nigeria.
He died in an armed robbery attack in 1992. On the day he died, we were at home after dinner when some gunmen came in and attacked us. My children were at the back of the house and they did not know anything was happening.
They hit my husband’s head with the butt of the gun and left him in pain. We took him to the hospital for treatment but he died. My first child was already working at the time so the organisation he worked for took care of the bill.
How have you been coping without your husband?
His death brought sadness and sorrow to me but the family and most especially my children have been supporting me in great ways. I am blessed with great people around me. The vacuum created by my husband’s demise has been filled by my children. Some of them were still young when their father died, but I was able to train them through the help of my husband’s family. Above all, God stands by the family at all times.
One of your sons married a Ghanaian. What was your response when he introduced her to you?
I did not oppose his choice of a woman. I just prayed that God will be with them and bless their union. As a parent, it is my duty to support my sons whenever they take great step in life. My parents-in-law accepted me when their son introduced me to them as his wife. I knew how happy I was on that day. Why should I make a woman my son has chosen to be sad?
Their marriage is blessed with lovely children now, which was my prayer on their wedding day. I love her as my daughter. I have never influenced the choice of my sons’ wives. The only choice that I would oppose was if a white woman was presented by any of them. We are Africans and we should embrace inter-marriage between the tribes on the continent.
How have you coped with a daughter-in-law who does not understand your language?
Love stands in place of every gap that a situation brings. She is now a Nigerian and having stayed in Nigeria for some years, she now understands our culture and language.
Does she prepare Ghanaian food for you?
She prepares a lot of Ghanaian food in the house and I love eating them. She is a great woman who trains her children in God’s way.
What is your favourite food?
I really do not have any special food, just like my late husband. I just love to eat vegetables, with lots of melon, assorted fish, crabs and crayfish. In those days, there was a woman who sold them on our street, but I don’t know where she is now. It was not expensive at the time, but now, with N2,000, you cannot even cook enough food for a whole family. I miss those days.
Would you wish that each of your children have more children than you?
I have no control over the number of children they wish to have. I have five of them but it is left for them to decide how many children they want. You cannot compare the economy in our days with what we have today. Raising children is now expensive, especially the cost of education. They don’t have so many and I think the economic factor might have played a role in their decisions not to have many children.
What do you do to unwind?
I really do not have anything serious that is keeping me busy. But I listen to music every night before going to sleep.
You are a twin and your mother had another set of twins after you. Would you have wished to give birth to twins?
I don’t know. It is God that determines that. Maybe it runs in some families also. But I hope my grandchildren would give birth to twins.