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Saturday, 12 August 2017

What I miss in my late husband -Chief Mrs. Emily Sakpere (wife of Ex-FAAN Ag. MD Engr. Isaac Sakpere)

Chief Mrs Emily Sakpere with Late Husband Engr. Isaac Sakpere

Last week, society people poured into the home of Chief Mrs, Emily Sakpere in Lagos, they were there to console the top society businesswoman, on the recent loss of her husband, who died in London. 

Engineer Isaac Sakpere was a popular staff of FAAN who returned home after much learning in Germany and Canada to work in Nigeria. He later became a Director in FAAN and then and Ag. Managing Director.
Still mourning, the new widow, in this interview with Paul Ukpabio, recall the good moments, happy memories of the over forty years marriage and how she copes with her children, some who are married to foreigners and living in foreign lands. 

Sorry about the recent loss of your husband. What happened?
Thank you. Monday was a very interesting day for me. We got the news on Sunday and Monday was a tough day for this family.  He went for his medicals in London couple of months ago. He was said to be okay and about to return home this coming Sunday only for him to pass away last Sunday (July 30). In fact he was already running around and doing things by himself in London and we were all happy. 

But what was his ailment?
We took him there to treat his diabetic condition and his eyes. Before he left, he was busy with a small building in the compound for his advanced age; initially I felt he was losing too much energy on that, but I later allowed him to have his way because I saw that as a form of exercise for him. He fell sick and we flew him out for treatment. 

Over there, he even marked his 76th birthday with his grand kids who were all over him. In London, he was the one opening door for guests and visitors. Before anyone knocks twice, Daddy will go and open the door. Even if they are police or council people, he will go and open for them. At times we will tell him to relax and let the children do those chores, but he will say ‘let me open the door for them. I am not afraid of anybody. I am not a criminal, I am a learned person’. He was full of life. He is a strong man, even here in Nigeria; he will always be the one to open the door for his visitors. In fact, when the medical officials (ambulance vehicle managers are passing by our home in the UK) they will stop by and hail him, saying ‘Papa’ and he too will hail back. He became so accustomed to them. Again, if we go out, before we return home, Daddy would have arranged the entire sitting room and we kept wondering where he got such energy to lift those chairs and tables. Even myself, at my age, I cannot lift some of those items. But Daddy will do and re-arrange the whole apartment. It is quite an interesting some of the Clergy men who visited last Monday said some people are like that, they get healed and go peacefully but I still find it puzzling because he was such a great human being.  

Tell us about your early married life to him
He was supposed to be an architect and not an electrical engineer. That is what he said. He was a child of grace, he lived under grace. In his days at FAAN, he was such a transparent person. His colleagues said he was transparent to a fault. He was the only MD of FAAN that I know that will drive himself in his car with no escort. He had no police orderly or retinue of aides like others. He used to drive himself from home to office and back. No airs of importance. He served Nigeria diligently. When he graduated from school in Canada in the 60s, he was on the prime list of three international firms, Siemens and two other global firms in Germany and Israel desired his service; Philips Engineering was also calling him to come to Germany to work, we were young couple of the time and we just had our first child at New Found Land, Canada. Then another company in Israel wanted to employ him because they said he was brilliant in his measurement of electrical data and all that; but I think he just felt his brain was for the development of his father land—Nigeria. The offers were many but he chose Nigeria. Well, he served Nigeria but he didn’t like the way his efforts for fatherland was treated. He is gone and I think we should just respect his memory. 

They were ready to make him work for them in their respective countries, ready to give him all he wanted, but he turned down their request, instead opting to work for Nigeria. He said Nigeria was his passion. He served as Director of Engineering of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria for 12 years and Acting MD at various moments.

When he retired what was he living on?
He was living on his pension?

What were his last moments like?
I think he was very happy to see his grandchildren in London. During his last birthday on June 13, he danced and danced with them. He was in a very high spirit. He was so happy that you will wonder if he won lotto (Laughs). There was a day we went out in London, just few days after our arrival and when we returned and he saw the children (twins) of one of our sons. He has not seen them since they were born in the last one year. He only saw their pictures. So he asked, ‘Who are these people?’ (Laughter) you know my husband at times can make everyone laugh. His sense of humor is high. I said to him ‘People? They are kids! Why do you call them people?’ we laughed over it and I said ‘these are the Brumei twins’. Brumei is one of our sons. He was so delighted seeing them and on his birthday he requested that all of them be brought around him and he really, really made merry with them. He had many of them (They have 5 boys and 3 girls with the last girl in school) we never knew he was saying ‘Good bye’. He was a great man. In fact, Doctors who treated him said he is a strong man because he managed his diabetes for almost ten years. Nobody believed he could live so long but God gave him the grace to live so long and since his demise, the condolences have been falling in. I thank God for his life and I thank Nigerians who have been visiting to support us in this critical moment.   

What other things did he do in London?
One of his former staff at FAAN, Mrs. Kabiowu visited him in London with her son, Yomi who flew into London from Australia to see him. When she traced our place and knocked the door, it was Daddy who opened for her. She was quite shocked. She never believed her eyes. He said ‘Come in matron’ and she asked ‘You still recognize me?’; he said ‘Why won’t I, didn’t I employ you?’

How long have you been married?
For over 40 years, he was a complete husband and father; a mentor and leader. Above all, he was a gentle man to the core. A nationalist who worked and promoted all tribes in FAAN as the Acting MD and Director of Engineering, he was so loved by many for his astuteness. My happiness is that he died a Christian. His heavenly abode is assured. 

What has been the secret of your marriage?
The secret of my marriage has been patience. Marriage is not just about love, because when you marry your husband in the first two, three to four years, it is love that will work for you. But after love, patience is the next tool because the man may do some certain things you may not like and if you don’t have patience you will just quit the marriage. But because I have patience, that is why you still see me with Daddy today and I always advise my children too, to study me and Daddy, without Patience, me and daddy won’t be together. We would have been separated and we might have become single parents”.
How do feel about being a grandma?
I am the happiest woman on earth. I feel happy and I feel successful because God has given me twins for the first time through my son. I love twins but I never had the privilege of having twins throughout when I was having my children. So, with this I know God is on my side, God is with me and God is great by giving me twins as grandkids too.

How did you receive the news of my twin grandchildren?
It came as a big surprise to me. When I heard that my daughter-in-law has put to bed, that she delivered twins and that the two of them are boys. I said ‘thank God o.’ My son has a daughter as his first child and today, he has two boys at a go. God is marvelous.”

Your advice to young couples?
The advice I will give them especially the wives is that they should have patience. The husbands should love their wife, that is the first thing to do because, if you don’t love your wife, even if you give your wife money, the money is nothing. The wife on the other hand must be tolerant because men will always offend their spouses. They offend their wives twenty four hours. They will tell their wives all sorts of things including lies and if the woman is not tolerant, she will run away. That is why you see so many families having divorcees, we have single mothers and many frustrated parents all over Nigeria. It is because we don’t have patience. But if you have patience you won’t lose your marriage, you won’t become a divorcee. Patience allows you to see things differently and tackle them differently. With patience, your marriage will last.

There is a big age difference between you and your husband
Yes, we were very young at the time and men had their ways of getting ladies along at that time, they will say ‘oh, if you marry me you will enjoy. I will do everything for you’. In his own case, he used to cook for me. Before I return from any outing, he would have made food for me. Yes, we were married quite early because he was just leaving high school in 1971 when we rolled the tape. He was a young up and coming engineer and all eyes were on him but he did not follow all those eyes (laughs) because he chose Emily. So, he loved to cook for me. He later got a scholarship to study engineer at New Foundland, Canada and even in Canada he will baby seat and take care of the baby whenever I go out shopping. When I return he will say ‘Emily, I have bathed for the baby already. I have showered for the baby. I have fed the baby’ because the feeding bottle and other utensils were always there and my husband will prepare the baby’s food and feed the baby. I think he was an all-round man. He dealt with me compassionately and that was why I loved him and stood in the marriage with him. 

How did you manage the women who ran after my husband?
That is why I told you initially that patience is the bedrock of any lasting marriage. Let me give you an example, when you see a car now and you are admiring the car. You love the car, you desire to have that car, let’s say a Rolls Royce or Lincon Navigator or any of those cars that glides, you put in the pressure to work for the money and you now buy the car. The moment you acquire that car, that old passion to own it disappears and that is how a woman is with her husband. I told you earlier that in the first four years of marriage, you might still be in a honey moon atmosphere but immediately the kids starts coming and reality starts to hit you, tolerance will be the next instrument that will keep the marriage going. Love has taken you guys from the campus or street or work place into your respective homes but tolerance will be the next vehicle that will keep you going for the rest of the journey. I am not saying don’t love, please, love because even without love you cannot tolerate. Tolerance takes you miles away from noticing each other’s short comings. Now, when my husband was the Director of Engineering, FAAN, he had women who admired him simply because he was a gentle man who was in the limelight. I understood that fact and I never let it get to me. Some of those ladies will even phone me and say ‘hey, we are Daddy’s girl friend o’ and I will just say ‘Congratulation’. That is it. I can’t be bothered because I have no issues with those women. I have the issue with my husband and he will always come back home to me. That is the patience I am talking about and when he returns home, he will say ‘Haa, when I leave home, you will carry phone and be phoning women all over the place and calling them my girlfriend’ and I will say ‘thank you sir’. And it is the girl friend that called me to insult me not the other way round o. So, it is the same patience, not love because if you don’t love you will quit. So, patience is very powerful. Love will do the work at the early stage of your marriage but patience will take you to the very end of the journey,”

The couple with Chief Mrs Sakpere's cousin Richard Mofe Damijo and wife Jumobi
You have eight children, how did you raise them?
Raising my eight children was fun and at the same time challenging. The difference was the fact that I have an understanding husband who loves to share house chores with me. He loved his kids passionately. I was into business while he was an engineer. If he returns home before me he will help the children to prepare their food. In fact, at times, he will be the one to go and pick them at school. That was when he had not taken higher responsibilities. In the early moments of our marriage, he was doing that before we became bigger and engaged house helps. I think the secret was that we rationed our activities. He who returns first cooks the meal. It was fun then because a lot of people used to wonder how a man will go to that extent to show love to his family. But to us, it was normal and I can say that is one of the secrets of our over years marriage. He loves his children just the way I love them and he does not boss me around. He appreciated the fact that raising a home is a joint effort. That really helped me.

Before your husband took ill and left for London you were both living in Nigeria without your children, how were you coping?
We coped because there are certain things I have put in place that is aiding my life style here. For instance, I have house helps here who do things for me. I have stewards, I have maiguards and I have a driver that drives me around. You see, my children choose to live abroad. They choose to live in a society where things work and I cannot blame them for that. From time to time I do travel to help their wives take care of new babies. I just returned from one recently before this my son gave birth to twins. That keeps me busy. I don’t feel lonely.  Anytime I feel lonely I just buy ticket and take the next available flight to London to see them. For my husband, he was an introvert. Since he retired he has been more of a home person except anytime his ideas are needed by any government parastatal. He was in his 70s and I am in my late 50s. Once in a while we do travel together to see our children and grandchildren. He does that once in a very long while but for me, I couldn’t afford to be too far from them. Not even now that they are raising their children. I have to always be with them to render my service as a grand ma.

Three of your children are married to foreigners, how do you cope with them?
Yes, one of the boys is married to a Saudi Arabian Princess, the other ones married British citizens. I will say it is a very interesting experience. It is called intra-cultural marriage.  Whenever I go to see them, they are really, really happy. In fact my in-laws are very lovely people, especially those from Saudi Arabia and the British ones. They are very enlightened and universal in their disposition. In fact, my daughter in-laws do tell me that they prefer Nigerians even than Ghanaians. So, I was surprised hearing that and I was equally happy. I am fulfilled.

Can you advice other parents whose children live abroad?
For people of my age, if your children lives abroad and you live here, make sure you have somebody you trust around you, a steward, a driver or a nanny to keep you busy. With that, you won’t miss them. But if you don’t have anybody around you, and you are living alone, it is better you join them abroad. Because without joining them and you live alone without having someone to keep you busy here, I don’t think you will stay more than two or three more years before you die because you will feel lonely and you will feel left behind. 

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