Living with the oracle of Niger Delta- Preye Evah

2015-04-18
VANGUARD Newspaper- Azu Akanwa

Mrs. Preye Magada–Evah symbolizes the common maxim: “behind any successful man is a woman.” The calm and ever smiling wife of foremost Niger Delta activist and coordinator, Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG) shared her life experiences with journalists to mark her 20 years of marriage to Comrade Joseph Evah, popularly called the Oracle of Niger Delta.

HOW WE MET
Preye Magada Evah

Preye Magada Evah

was 19 years old when I married my husband. I had just left secondary school at Iseyin in Oyo State and was waiting for my WAEC result. I came to Lagos with my mother and he met me at my uncle’s house in 1995. He had lost his late wife the previous year. I was even asking him why he wanted to marry again so soon. He said he was too lonely; that he had lost his wife and twin babies during childbirth.

He had also lost his late wife’s mother as a result of the trauma of her daughter’s death, making it four, the number of people he lost at once. He said it gave him serious psychological pains, so he needed somebody that would help him overcome the depression. I said to him, “what do I know about life to be able to save you from depression?” I was only 18 at that time, approaching 19.

He preached and preached. You know he is good at talking. Let me tell you one secret: I met my husband when he was living in one-room apartment. One of the heroes of Atlanta 96, Joseph Dosu, the goalkeeper of Super Eagles at that football tournament in America, was in the same compound with my husband. My husband started the struggle from June 12, 1993 during the annulment of the election.

He was living in a room and parlour between 1993 and 1994 when his late wife died and the financial crisis that followed his late wife, twins and mother-in-law’s death forced him into a one-room apartment where Joseph Dosu lived. He was still staying in a one- room apartment after we met.

He was staying there when he took the military government to court to stop the dredging of River Niger, and funny enough, the building where he was living is the next street here in Alapere, Ketu where we built our house. I thank God we have democracy now because every time my husband criticizes the government in those days, I would nearly have heart attack. Abacha arrested him and his leader, Chief Saturday Eregbene, over oil companies and community problem. In fact, I was so afraid he would not survive the arrest.

MY PARENT’S REACTION

My Father was bitter that a girl waiting for her WAEC result would consider marriage. My husband vowed to send me to higher institution, but they doubted him. I asked him, “you have a lot of admirers, why are you disturbing a poor girl like me?” He said he wanted to start from nothing to something. So a lot of people who knew that he was a journalist then believed he just wanted to use and dump me. It was not only my parents that doubted his sincerity but my friends too. It is a long story.

He took his family members to visit my family at Iseyin town in Oyo State where my father was serving as an officer in the Army. I warned him that my father would arrest him and detain him in the barracks for wanting to marry almost an under-aged girl like me, but he boldly went there for introduction and my father rejected him because he wanted me to go to the university and not marry at the age of 19. But Comrade continued to mount pressure and when my parents realized we meant business, they accepted and all is now history.

MARRIAGE AND MY LIFE STYLE

Marriage has molded me to be more focused and patient in life. Marriage is like a school. You learn everyday, but to be frank with you, marrying a Comrade is like marrying a soldier. My father was a military man. I lived in the barracks all my life, so I see the pressures in the life of soldiers’ wives especially during the military regime. So marrying a Comrade and seeing the pressures all over your husband was not new.

You see people always bringing one problem or the other for your husband to solve. Every time you hear his phone ringing, it is either somebody needed money for school fees or somebody in the hospital needed money to pay hospital bills, or to release somebody in detention. It could also be that somebody wants to marry and needs money, or somebody wants to bury his relation or parent. When he is not at home or outside the country, the pressure is on me. It is not easy at all.

FULL BLOODED IJAW

I am a full blooded Ijaw woman. It was military service that took my father to Iseyin in Oyo State. In fact, I was born in Sokoto State. It was also military service that took my parents to Sokoto State where I was born. But I am fully Ijaw.
Evah-and-hussy-and- president jonathan

Evah-and-hussy-and- president jonathan

PROMISE FULFILLED

I am doing my second degree at the Open University now. I obtained my first degree when my first child was two years old. My husband encouraged me to go to school and motivated me a lot. He also introduced me into business in 1996. In fact, if I was not working hard on my studies, he would remind me that he had openly said he would send me to school, so I should not disgrace him by not working very hard.

He is a man who wants the best for his wife, children and the larger society. Everyday, he is worried about other people’s suffering, desirous that their situations should change for the better. He does not know how to pretend about such situations.

WHITE WEDDING?

From day one, my husband dislikes church wedding, he told me that I should remove my mind from church wedding. We married traditionally. He explained why and I accepted. He will never do something without explaining the reasons for it. That is why anytime he appears on the television to discuss any national issue, everybody wants to hear him speak. Wherever I go with him, people hail him like Nollywood actors especially at the airports and market places, as if he is a football star.

He told me that our marriage is blessed by God based on Ijaw tradition; and that wearing American or British dresses to church in the name of seeking God’s blessing is even provoking God. However, he is a Christian, in fact, he was in the Catholic seminary but because of his stubbornness, he was asked to go home.

He was sent packing. He applied to go to the Nigerian Defence Academy but one of his uncles who was already a military officer here in Lagos opposed his ambition and forced him to abandon the idea because he felt my husband was just going into the Army to become a coup plotter. He said my husband was a born rebel and should not be allowed to come close to the military in order not to put the whole family into trouble.

He makes sure everybody goes to church every Sunday but he hates foreign lifestyle or tradition and the use of God’s name to manipulate the service and promote alien lifestyles.

MY HUSBAND AND POLITICS

I doubt whether that will happen soon because he will not be a good politician in Nigeria. He has rejected many political appointments. I think he hates going into politics because of the do-or-die politics in Nigeria. Look at the last political campaigns. It was full of bitterness and hatred.

DISCIPLINE

He is a funny character. My husband won’t spare the rod if the need arises. He flogs the children with cane. He buys the cane and shows it to all the children. You know African culture. We have a crowded home: cousin’s children, uncle’s children, in-law’s children, all living together. So we have a large number of young people living with our biological children until when they would be able to fend for themselves.

We thank God that the family house is big enough for extended family members who depend on him. He makes sure everybody behaves well. One of the things they must do is to make sure the vendor supplies his newspapers before he wakes up from bed. When he wakes up in the morning, he must read the newspapers. He buys at least six newspapers every day.

MY CHOICE

In fact, on that, let me be frank with you; my husband is a man you can trust if he gives you his word. He trusts people a lot and he hates liars. He is a very stern person who does not change his mind easily. I think the harsh environment we experienced in Niger delta makes him talk with passion and bitterness. I thank God I made the right choice. A choice that is reliable and trustworthy.

HIS FEMALE FANS

My husband’s biggest fans are women. Most times when we are in public places, you see women coming to hug him. Some will tell me plainly that I should not be jealous, that he was made for the public, that he defends public interest. So many people who watch him on television are always excited whenever they see him physically.

I don’t have any bad feeling. In fact, even if he is out of the country and there are pressing needs from people such as school fees, or hospital bills; they come to me. I give financial assistance. I represent him fully because that is his own calling in life.Preye-Magada-Evah-and-husba

MEETING THE PRESIDENT

One day my husband came and told me that the president wanted to see me. I was shocked, and I said, “for what?” He said he was surprised too but jokingly said, “maybe president Jonathan wanted to find out whether I am a wife beater or a troublemaker like some husbands at home.”

So we went to the Villa and the president hosted us to dinner, just three of us, and thanked me for taking care of my husband.

He asked about the children and you know am a very shy person. I was reluctant to eat that evening but the president insisted that I must be part of it. He jokingly told my husband “don’t take your wahala face this simple and humble wife o” It was a memorable evening at the villa.

SAD MOMENT

I don’t like to talk about it because of the pain such memory brings to me. It was the death of one of my sons. Till today, his death created a vacuum in our hearts. My husband and I loved him dearly. He was very stubborn like his father but he was closer to me than his father. He can attack his father for talking tough with me. His father loved him for his boldness. He died at the age of 8. It was the wish of God that the sickness took him away. We give God the glory in everything.

RELAXATION

He used to take the family to the beach every Xmas festival. He loves boat cruise a lot along the creeks in Lagos. He is a storyteller. If my husband gives you an assignment, you must work like a machine. No excuse, your excuse will provoke him. He is an impatient boss. If you understand him, you will enjoy him because he appreciates anything you do for him. As he gives assignment, your reward is ready if you do it well; he likes to surprise people with gifts.


 

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