… From The 50th Wedding Anniversary Of The Ibe’s
My kids laughed uncontrollably at the sight of my dressing. I wore an “Umuahian” red suit and the school badge was on it, conspicuously radiating that uniqueness of the prestigious school, albeit in those years. “Was this your school uniform?” they queried, sarcastically. “How can it be? was I this big in the first place, while in secondary school?” I retorted.
I joined in the laughter when I got to the Christ Church, the venue for the event. This time, the laughter was more at myself and what the kids would say if they saw “umu classi mu” (my school friends), with all their white and gray hairs to match their golden ages. They may not understand, but this is one of the privileges in attending one of the early schools that came with the white man. It was not surprising that Dr. and Prof. Mrs Ibe’s 50th wedding anniversary attracted a rare privileged gathering of “Umuahian’s”, (ex students of Government college Umuahia), I suspect he is the only one with a vast historical knowledge of the school and the activities of its students. A very humble and unassuming guy who is able to connect with both the young and the old, and interestingly, he calls all by name.
I was however disappointed that the celebrating couple came to church late by forty minutes, and that did not escape the officiating minister. He pointedly reminded them that they called the meeting in the first place and hence to arrive late was not acceptable. But the reason for the lateness (albeit my interpretation) was later explained by the Dr. himself as I would explain later.
My major take away from the sermon delivered by the retired minister of God was around his theory about the ten commandments of marriage. He claimed the Ibe’s must have got no less than 65% of the theory for them to have made it to the altar 50 years after, with their chief bride’s maid and best man all intact! He summarized the theory into three key parts. First is that biblical advice to women to submit to their husbands and husbands to love their wives. Second is the seventy times seven injunction. You know that one now! “Father simu yoo gi mgbaghara” (The reverend father said I should ask you for forgiveness) was how my relative put it, when he was advised by the priest to ask the wife for forgiveness. He threw his face the other way in that egoistic manner characteristic of men when they know they have wronged their partners, they won’t accept the obvious and be humble enough to plead for forgiveness. The last he mentioned is the praying ministry with emphasis on the need for both to pray together, at least once every day.
With the sermon over, came my nightmare! It was time for chops. After we all laboured in the Lord’s vineyard, the officiating priest declared that only the celebrant and his family were to receive the Holy Communion! I sure was not alone in my revolt, as the guy at my back murmured ‘it is not fair now!” Inukwa! (exclamation) was all I could say to myself. Anyway, I have chosen not to be surprised at any doctrine I witness in any church these days, I’ve really seen so many. In one occasion, a couple to be joined in matrimony, were asked to walk slowly on the altar towards each other from about seven meters apart! They were to spread their hands like the cross, and embrace each other as a sign of the joining, no ring exchange or anything of such! With such denial of Holy Communion, I was tempted to withhold my offering but finally changed my mind since it was not my church and I was not aware of the details of their reasoning.
As part of the Ibe’s testimony during the service was a revelation, first of the fact that Doc’s first encounter with the wife was when he was asked to teach the wife Calculus and obviously he enjoyed that so much that it landed us all in the occasion. The other was the revelation that they quarrel in the marriage. (ana aku okpo ebe a – we fight here, like I mentioned in my essay “Why Every Husband needs to recapitalize”, you can Google it!). From the humorous testimony, we gathered that they quarrelled on their way to the church and will likely quarrel on their way back, this was greeted by laughter from us all. And it occurred to me that, it may indeed be why they came to church late!
The chop the priest denied us, Dr Ibe and wife made up at the reception as they recognised the Umuahian’s and every other person who graced their beautiful occasion. As it turned out, I met an elderly friend from my NYSC days at NNPC, and in whose office also my wife worked at the time as an IT student. I had been friends with the family who happened to be one of the parents of the famous “Aluu Four”. We lived close-by then, and in one of those days he had couriered my calculus assignment to my wife without knowing it. Seeing the wife, I asked her what brought us together only for the wife to mention that the husband was trained by Dr. Ibe!
One thing I found very instructive was the calibre of people who came for the occasion. In spite of this, the occasion was without the riotous sirens and security retinue that follow such high brow occasions. There were sure big men in the midst but all had decorum and their orderlies were respectful, they didn’t go about securing the little space God gave all of us for their bosses like some big men will even do on the roads as they chase away people who elected them to serve! Perhaps, my utmost excitement came at the introduction of one Dr. Chukwukere, an old boy, whom they mentioned wrote the Umuahian’s anthem. I got talking to him and he revealed he wrote the song as part of their prep’s one and half hour assignment. Chukwukere is of the class of 1947, a time when my dad may not have dreamt of marrying my mother! That every Umuahian enjoys that song today, is a testament to this great guy. The song makes us so proud, especially when sang in public to the cheer and sometimes “bad belle” of some others who think that Umuahian’s make a lot of noise about their school as I overheard someone say after the church service as if we asked his dad not to send him to a similar school.
It was indeed a great time to be amongst friends and senior colleagues and as the Ibe’s wrote in the brochure, see you in 2027 at their diamond jubilee celebration. We all pray to God to give us the grace to be faithful and follow in their footsteps to make our marriages work.
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