Anytime Valentine’s Day beckons, one of Nigeria’s oldest female citizens, 90-year-old Chief (Mrs.) Funke Arthur-Worrey, is bound to be caught up, looking straight ahead in deep contemplation. Aunty Funke, as she is fondly called by her family members and friends in Isale-Eko, Lagos, is naturally chirpy; but she has always been filled with nostalgic thoughts once it is February 14, or a day after it…
She says this has been the case in the last 10 years, since she lost her husband and soul-mate, Chief Steady Stephen Arthur-Worrey, at 82. Arthur-Worrey, the England-trained lawyer, who drafted the Army Act, Navy Act and Air Force Act for Nigeria, died on February 15, 2008, a day after lovers’ cherished day -Valentine.
Beaming with smiles, Aunty Funke said, “Oh, he was a loving man, a great husband with a large heart and love for everyone around him. Once it is a day to Valentine, he would start giving out gifts to people. He would hug all the girls in his office and crack jokes. Then he would take me out to so many places.
“Apart from Valentine, he would just decide on a weekend and say, ‘Let’s go to Badagry, Cotonou, Kainji Dam, Yankari Games Reserve, anywhere in the country that something interesting was happening
“He was a man of many parts; he was loving, he was a good father and an excellent husband. He was my confidant, friend and God-sent partner.”
The truth is that, a man without a wife is useless; go and find out. At home, men can hardly do anything, they can’t boil ordinary egg. So, I urge the men to take out their wives for Valentine
ON THE ESSENCE OF VALENTINE
This nonagenarian, who will turn 91 in April, this year, said beyond the revelry of putting on the white-red apparel, which is the costume for Valentine’s Day, the day should be cherished for its import on relationship and happiness.
She admonished, “It is the day of love and the foundation of everything that is beautiful is love. If two people meet together, there is chemistry and that’s why nobody can comprehend the true meaning of love.
“It is also for that reason that a man must cherish his wife and care for her, the same way my late husband cared for me throughout his lifetime. The truth is that, a man without a wife is useless; go and find out. At home, men can hardly do anything, they can’t boil ordinary egg. So, I urge the men to take out their wives for Valentine, rather than use the day doing irrelevant things. There is great blessing in this.”
‘HOW I MET MY LATE HUSBAND’
Madam Arthur-Worrey recalled how she and her husband met, saying it was a chance meeting.
She recounted, “He was in England with his two other brothers and we kept hearing about them in Nigeria. But to my brother, Steady was his favourite of the three brothers in England. While Steady’s two other brothers got married to white girls, he insisted that he would come home and marry a black girl.
“So, we all went to welcome him at the Lagos Port in 1945, when he was coming home. There was no plane then; every international trip was through the sea; you would go by ship. So, when he came to Lagos, we lined up and we were so excited. So, as he walked past, he just stopped short as he got to me and said, ‘Hello’. I was also rooted to a spot; we were so timid then in Nigeria. He asked for my name and I said, ‘Funke’. He then looked straight into my eyes and said, ‘Funke, you are going to be my wife!’ I was as embarrassed as I was worried. I felt uncomfortable with him, as I was very shy. I couldn’t believe such a statement from someone just coming in from England, who had never met me before. But my sister told me not to worry, that it was the way of life of people living in England.
“So, after that encounter, he proceeded to Birnin Kebbi (in present-day Kebbi State), where he took up a teaching job. But before he left, he was in Lagos for four months. He took me to Kingsway and Leventis for shopping. Sometimes, he would come around and take me to the stadium to watch football or we go to CMS stores. In fact, he taught me how to play Crosswords.
“But when he departed to Birnin Kebbi, I felt so lonely and love-struck, that I could hardly sleep again. He would later tell me that the same thing happened to him over there. They gave him a very big room with everything to make him comfortable but he could not cope, as he was thinking of me always. We were only consoled through letters that we posted by P & T. He spent nine months only in Birnin Kebbi and returned to Lagos.
“It was following this that we got so much close that marriage became inevitable. We later left for England, where we got married.”
ON MARRIAGES, NOWADAYS
Madam Arthur-Worrey is particularly worried that many marriages have broken up these days, “because either of the parties is not ready to make sacrifice, as staying together as husband and wife is all about sacrifice.”
She also said another factor militating against the marriage institution was the parlous state of the Nigerian economy, noting that this even had debilitating effects on the children. “I feel sorry for our children (husband and wife) of nowadays. They wake up at 5:am, there is no light, no water; they struggle to drop children in schools, struggle to get to their work places inside traffic jam, and struggle to return home in the evening on bad roads and still without light. And there is no fuel at the stations to power their generators. They are dealt with by humming, wicked mosquitoes. Certainly, all these things will make partners to get frustrated, angry, and they will take to nagging, till complete hostility sets in. Remember, in our time, the economy was okay, in terms of getting all you need at affordable rates.”
According to the nonagenarian, marriage is not a bed of roses, as challenges are bound to spring up.
“There is no way the tongue and the teeth will not quarrel but they still have to work together. My husband and I quarreled occasionally, but we found ways of settling them. There was no time we ever called a third party,” she revealed. She particularly recalled a sad situation that shook her marriage to its foundation, but which she and her husband still overcame by accepting their fate with equanimity.
She was in England on a five-month course while her husband was here in Lagos. Their 10-year old daughter, Biola, went with other children to visit a family friend in one of the embassies at Ibeshe on the Island. There, the children, numbering 12, were swimming. All of a sudden, a strong tide came and swept the children away. Rescue efforts were made. They found the other children’s bodies; it was only her daughter’s body that was not found. That was in 1966.
At old age, however, quintessential Madam Arthur-Worrey is succoured and made proud by her two other children, Enitan, a successful business woman; and Fola, a prominent lawyer and former Commissioner for Lands, in Lagos State.