On 19th December 1998, THISDAY editorial Board Chairman, Olusegun Adeniyi was among 20 grooms facing the congregation at the Living Faith Church, otherwise known as Winners Chapel, in Ipaja, Lagos. But he was the only groom without a bride. Two days to the 25th anniversary of that dramatic wedding ceremony, he shares this slightly amended recollection, first published five years ago. Veteran journalist and former Editorial Board Chairman of the rested Concord Newspapers, Segun Babatope, who played a critical role in events leading to the wedding and chaired the reception completes the riveting narrative…
As each of the 19 couples exchanged rings and were pronounced husband and wife to thunderous applause from the congregation, I was in a state of utter confusion. Numerous times during the service, including while the sermon was preached, I had rushed out of the church, only to be forcefully brought back by my Best Man and former Edo State Commissioner for Information, Louis Odion. The late Chief Mrs Elizabeth Funmilayo Adebayo also deployed her training as holder of a master’s degree in Guidance and Counselling as well as her instincts as a mother. But her assurances that my bride would come fell on deaf ears.
Alone in my own world, amid the more than a thousand people in Church, I pondered several questions. If Tosin changed her mind, why did she have to wait till our wedding day to disgrace me? For a moment, I thought of the possibility that something might have happened to her or to somebody in her house. I used that to console myself that perhaps it was a situation beyond her control. But then, I also surmised, whatever it was, why didn’t someone send a message rather than make a fool of me in front of a huge church congregation?
Meanwhile, there was no way of contacting Tosin or anyone in their family to ascertain what was going on. This was the pre-GSM era when telephones were beyond the reach of the average Nigerian. At some point, my cousin, Wale Banmore, hopped into a vehicle to go in search of my wife-to-be. Wale did not return. My friend, Ola Awoniyi, who came from Abuja (where he was Bureau Chief of Tribune Newspapers at the time) found himself playing the role of a ‘motivational speaker’. When it appeared as if I was bent on leaving the church premises, Louis moved from being my best man to a bouncer.
To be sure, the authority of Louis’ position was not only due to being my close friend but also because the two of us had planned the entire wedding together, in the newsroom of Sunday Concord. Even the way we obtained the money to buy the wedding suits, delivered only the previous night, is a Nollywood story on its own. I am sure Mr Tunji Bello (to whom I was deputy at the time) will chuckle at this because he facilitated the writing assignment from which we earned the money. And the honeymoon at Sam Health Resort had been facilitated by Concord Press through a barter arrangement.
In a way, the wedding was a newsroom community affair. From Messrs Yomi Idowu, Kayode Komolafe, Waheed Odusile to Sam Omatseye, (then in faraway America), everyone had designated Tosin as my wife right from the first moment they met her. But it was on 1st January 1998 that the plot was taken to an incredible level. I arrived at the office that day to be informed that the Concord Editorial Board Chairman, Mr Segun Babatope wanted to see me. On getting to his office, Babatope said, “Segun, I did something crazy today. I am just coming from Tosin’s house where I went to meet her dad. I said he should allow his daughter to marry you, my son.”
I was stunned. While Babatope brought me to journalism and had always treated me with much affection, I did not send him on the mission he undertook. Yes, I recall that a week before, he was in my office where he met Tosin and asked, “When are you two getting married?” I replied that Tosin’s father did not even know I existed. He turned to Tosin and said, “Give me your house address. I am coming to meet your dad to tell him you should get ready to marry Segun.” I laughed. Although Tosin gave him the address, I considered it a joke at the time because I never imagined anybody would do such a thing.
But that was exactly what he did on a new year day! When I asked Babatope how Tosin’s father reacted to his request, he replied: “Of course, he was dazed and dumbfounded. After a while, he said he and his daughter are very close, and she had not told him she wanted to marry anybody.” At this point, Babatope shook his head and then added: “It was when I left the man that I also realised the gravity of what I did; especially since today is January 1, the first day of the year!”
Well, as it turned out, following that visit by Babatope, Tosin’s father sent for me and the process for our wedding ensued. But on 19th December 1998, as the church service was going on without my bride or a representative from her family, everything came back to me. Perhaps it was all a joke. To compound my problem, I could not see any member of the Good Shepherds Pasture (GSP) of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Alagomeji where I was a worker. As I would later learn, they were all trapped in one of the worst traffic jams ever experienced in the Lekki axis of Lagos. My wedding coincided with the weekend of the first Holy Ghost Congress of the RCCG tagged ‘Lekki 98’!
I must state of course that my friends, Oti and Ireno Yonwuren, who were also at ‘Lekki 98’, still managed to show up that day. I will never forget that, even though Pastor Niyi Ajibola made the whole church to apologise to my wife and I the next Sunday. Nor will I forget that the then Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) Chairperson, Princess Vivian Anazodo attended the reception where she added pomp and colour to the occasion.
But back to the wedding. Louis eventually succeeded in dragging me back inside the church where I resigned myself to fate. With the service over, the presiding cleric was about to pronounce the final blessing when the entire church stood up with applause. The noise roused me to consciousness as I saw Tosin running inside the church to join me at the altar. The standing ovation did not end until the pastor turned to Tosin and said what I will also never forget: “You are almost late. But you are not late.”
Even though it was a mass wedding, the drama of the late appearance of my bride had turned us into a star attraction. After the service, people milled around to congratulate us. Of course, many were also curious to know why the bride had come late. It was a period of acute fuel scarcity in the country when vehicles queued for days for what was not available. But on that day, about three fuel stations on the LASU-Ipaja expressway had fuel and the uncontrolled queues of desperate motorists it generated created a serious traffic jam along the way. Tosin was caught in the gridlock.
Although I felt relieved that the fear of being abandoned on my wedding day was misplaced, I was also worried about what had just transpired. Was this an ominous sign? I had never been superstitious, but I continued to ask myself whether a marriage contracted under such dramatic circumstances would last. So, 25 years after that drama, on a day such as this, I can affirm that Tosin and I have had an amazing journey with the additional blessing of three wonderful children: Toluwani, Ifeoluwa and Oluwakorede aka Kody!
As I stated when my wife clocked 40 in April 2014, the virtues that other people saw in her have been a blessing for me. In good and bad times, Tosin and I have together taken leaps of faith. In most instances, I simply coast along, ever trusting in her love, wisdom, and strength of character. And on a day like this, as I reflect on how the journey began 25 years ago, I cannot but thank God for Tosin and all the good people He has sent our way.
The Missing Details…
By Segun Babatope
My dear Segun, l read your wedding story with nostalgic interest. Your power of recall and nose for details is unassailable. Congrats for the journey thus far, with added felicitations for the glorious future ahead of you and Tosin. I am assured that you will continue to steer the path of the Lord so that He might fulfil His Superior and elevated desires for the two of you.
However, much as you tried to wholesomely recall the build-up to your conjugal union with Tosin, there yet remains a missing gap which must not be glossed over. And I am not talking about the food that came late at the reception (after many guests had left) or the fact that, following the apprehension by Tosin about missing the church marriage proper, I performed my pastoral duty by joining the two of you shortly before the reception ceremony which I also chaired. I can understand your leaving out those details.
I am even more persuaded and emboldened to contribute to this discourse because you brought it to the public domain and because as you pointed out l played more than a cursory and peripheral role in your unfolding journey through life. You surely couldn’t have sent me to Tosin’s dad as that would have amounted to an affront on your part and a blissful demonstration of self-management which clearly flies-in-the-face of our cherished Christian convictions.
Unknown to you, and as l also discovered after the visitation, l was simply under divine compulsion to so do. Mr Salami (Tosin’s dad now of blessed memory) who later became my friend by proxy, was simply austere in receiving me. He didn’t offer me a seat throughout my stay and took his time before responding to my somewhat ‘egregious’ request. He was not hostile though. I got away with the impression of an absolute family head, whom no one dared look into his face. I graciously did and it paid off.
Segun, you forgot the fact that it took nine whole months before Tosin’s dad opened a discussion with you two. What happened thereafter, culminating in your marriage four racy months after, was simply a dramatization of a script written from above. I vividly remember that early in September that year, 1998, l had met Tosin and l asked if her dad had responded to the request l made to him nine months earlier. To my utter surprise, she said no. I then told her that l would repeat the visit to drive home my point. Tosin stoutly advised against it for a salutary consideration that has remained permanently etched in my memory ever since.
According to her, the nine-month waiting period had proven a learning curve in her understanding of the sacred tenets of the holy estate of matrimony as detailed by God. Until that period, she had held a rather secular and perfunctory notion of a marital union like most of our women hold, in which both husband and wife are no more than play mates in a relationship that is conveniently misinterpreted as social and cultural, than the sacred and mystic union that the Almighty designed it to be. To her, it had taken nine months for God to steer her away from such pernicious notion. Hearing such uncommon words from the peculiar lips of a young lady who was barely 24 years old at that time, was rather stunning and a massive surprise. Her unusual comments quite naturally elicited an emotional reaction from me. Mercifully, she did not notice.
The summary of my addendum is simply this: Your path with Tosin and all that you recalled in your piece last week, is a deft orchestration of God to accomplish an eminent divine purpose in your life. Yours is neither an accident of history nor a random error as most mortals presume. It is a gradual build-up towards a defined objective by God. I do hope and pray that you will humbly allow Him. Thank God that He has blessed you immensely with wonderful children and material wherewithal. Yet, God’s sacred marital union is by far greater than the appurtenances of marriages as we mortal men understand.
You must therefore allow the hallowed spiritual resources that God is gradually and massively building up in you for the pursuit of His greater glory and the benefit of mankind. Please learn from Zechariah and Elizabeth. Take a lesson or two from Acquilla and Priscilla. You will be wiser for it. Every blessing, with fond regards to Tosin and the children.
- Babatope, who turned 70 in September this year, is a Pastor of the Deeper Life Bible Church and co-author of ‘Kumuyi: Defender of the Faith.’