By Benjamin Njoku Their story runs like a movie thriller, yet it’s real: Pretty Okafor, President of Performing Musicians Association of Niger
By Benjamin Njoku
Their story runs like a movie thriller, yet it’s real: Pretty Okafor, President of Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria, PMAN, and his sweetheart, Nneobo. Nneobo, a former student of University of Calabar, met Pretty through her friend, Georgina, and what began like ‘a hide and seek game’ later grew into a flourishing relationship. 14 years after their union, the couple relives events that almost ruined their marriage. Nneobo reveals how she opted to get pregnant for her husband contrary to her parents wish before marriage, just as Pretty confesses that apart from being calm and crazy, he decided to marry Nneobo simply because she had everything he wanted in the right proportions.
•The Okafor family
Meeting my husband
I met him when he was on a road show. Benson & Hedges had organized a competition for bands across the country tagged ‘Grab the Mic.’ I was at my 100-level at the University of Calabar. A couple of friends on campus, informed me about the show and the musicians that thronged Calabar, including the AJ singers, Junior and Pretty. Apparently, Pretty was in charge of the crew going from street to street, sharing fliers and inviting youths to come to the show. His senior colleagues in the entourage had all settled for one babe or the other for the night like men on the road.
However, each time they went out to unwind, Pretty was always by himself. At a point, a friend of mine walked up to him and said, “Guy I have been watching you for three weeks now, you don’t have any woman around you” He replied her, “I don’t have the time really, and, besides, my bosses are relaxing and I am the backbone of the show.” She insisted that he could not leave Calabar without having a woman he could always come back to see. Still prevailing on him, my girl friend inquired to know his ideal woman. He replied her: “She must be tall, light-skinned and has the right curves”. And my girl friend said, “Okay, among my friends, there are two that fit into the description. While one smokes and drinks, the other neither smokes nor drinks”. He said to her, ‘Since I neither smoke nor drink, I will be fine with the one that neither smokes nor drinks”. This was happening around 1997. Then there was no mobile phone. I was on holiday in Lagos and my friend contacted me on the landline, urging me to rush down to Calabar, that she had found a man of my dream. I told her that she should better be very sure because whatever is it that was happening in Calabar should be worth my time. And true to expectation, it was really worth my time. Pretty is the shyest man I have ever met in my life. When he met me after he climbed down from the stage, he simply muttered, “How was your flight to Calabar?” I replied ‘it was fine.’ He added, “You don’t smoke and you don’t drink too?” I replied him in the affirmative. And he said, “So how do we entertain ourselves?” I told him that the sad thing about life is that I only drink water and I get high on the oxygen in it. He also told me that he gets high on the oxygen from the air. And then, I said to him “we are birds of a feather, let’s fly together”. We left the show venue and went to a quiet place to get bonded.
In the course of having heart to heart chat, he didn’t remember to find out my course of study nor my level at the university. When the show ended in the early hours of the following day, I went back to my hostel. But before I left the venue, I begged him for his T-shirt, which I wore because I was feeling very cold. The following morning, I washed the T-shirt and waited until it was dry before returning it to him.
Women chasing him
When I got to the hotel lobby where he was lodging, there were about one hundred ladies waiting for him and Junior. I started wondering whether they were organizing auditions for them. Anyway, I asked to see Pretty at the reception and the receptionist went through his visitors’ list, and found my name in it. She allowed me to go upstairs to see him, and when I was about to climb the staircase, the ladies almost mobbed me because they claimed that they had been waiting endlessly and the receptionist kept telling them that Pretty was not around. They didn’t allow me to go upstairs to see him, until the security men at the hotel intervened and brought the situation under control. So, when I met him in his hotel room, his friend, Junior, spoke to him in Igbo language. He wanted to know if he should dismiss those ladies waiting for him at the reception or not. He replied him in Igbo, saying, “I am okay with the lady I saw yesterday night. Please, dismiss all of them.” Fortunately, my mother is an Igbo woman, so I understood everything he said in Igbo. Instantly I fell in love with him because I saw in him a decent guy. Unlike when we met the previous night, I was now the one doing all the talking.
After all said and done, I went back to my hostel and continued my studies. Two weeks after, Pretty returned to Calabar in search of me. They were on a two- week break after being on the road for six weeks. Unfortunately, while he was Calabar, he couldn’t reach me because there was no GSM at that time. And my friend, Georgina, who linked us up was not in town. So, they kept asking about the girl with orange hair. He didn’t know my department neither did he know what level I was in the university. How did a man storm UNICAL to look for a girl with the orange hair? He was in Calabar for two weeks without locating my whereabouts. He was by himself, while the security guys that accompanied him to Calabar were catching fun. Out of frustration, he ordered his men to go into town in search of me, promising to pay anyone that found me N10,000. Interestingly, I was at a friend’s birthday party which was holding at a particular hangout, when one of the security men walked into the place to buy a drink. While they were attending to him, he turned around and saw a funny looking hair, and he shouted “Nneobo! We have been here for two weeks in search of you”. Out of excitement, he carried me on his shoulder and rushed back to the hotel, Paradise City Hotel, Calabar. I was screaming and screaming, but he wouldn’t put me down until he reached Pretty’s hotel room. And when Pretty saw me, his joy knew no bounds. He asked the security guy to put me down and I was fuming, why would he take me from a birthday party to his hotel room! He apologized to me and discharged the guy. And the rest is history. You wouldn’t believe I was 17 years when we met. But I told him I was 21 when he asked me about my age because I was already a big girl then. My dad said I was too big for my age. At that point, he said “I think I want to marry you”. I said to him, “just like that!” I asked him if he was aware that I was in my 100-level and he replied: “Yes I’m aware.” I asked him: “How do we make this relationship work because you are always busy, travelling around the country. Would you be offended if I had to follow another guy to a nightclub in your absence?” He answered in the affirmative. Again I said to him, my social life was going to end because I wanted to go into a serious relationship with a guy who was never in town. “You are only in town as and when due. I can’t even see you regularly”. And I said to him, it wouldn’t work between us. “I know that I love to party, to hang out with friends and all that”. That was how I called off the relationship.
Four years later
However, four years later, we ran into each other again. And it was during American singer, Wyclef Jean’s visit to Nigeria. He had a back-to-back show in Lagos, Port-Harcourt and Abuja. I was in PH to visit my friend , Georgina, and guess what! Pretty’s company was producing Wyclef’s show. Unknown to him that I was in PH, he invited my friend to the show and she told him that she would be attending the show with one of her friends. When he saw me at the show, he almost fainted as he hugged me and that was how we rekindled our love. There and then, he asked if I would marry him again. His words: “Four years ago, I asked you to marry me. Are you ready now to marry me?” I told him that before we get married, could we at least know each other very well? And he said to me, “what is there to know again?” That was how we started our relationship again and, four years later, we got married. We will be celebrating our 14th wedding anniversary very soon. Our marriage is blessed with four loving children.
Objection to union
Though late now, his parents approved of the union but my own parents objected to it. My dad studied quantity surveying while my mum had a doctorate degree in English. When I was 23 years, my mum called me one day and said: “Nneobo, you are getting too old and one expects you to find your own man by now”. I replied: “Mum, am I supposed to find a man for myself?” She said to me, “What are you talking about!” I replied, “I didn’t know I was supposed to bring a man home”. That was when it occurred to me that it is the woman that brings a man to her parents. So, when he proposed to me, I told my mum about him so that I would introduce him to my parents formally. He had been visiting our house right from when I was 17 years. When I told my mum about his intention, she expressed reservations that my dad would be mad at me that I was bringing a musician to our house. I reminded her that she said I was supposed to bring a man to our house. That was how she started looking for her friend’s son or cousin to match us. Then she would ensure that I accompanied her to every party and wedding ceremonies she was attending. When her plans didn’t work out, she called me one day and asked me to stop seeing Pretty. She said a lot of discouraging words to me. But I became serious with Pretty when I was 21. I found out that he had been born again since when he was 14. And I became born again when I was 19. I should have married him when I was 23 because that was when I made up my mind and told my mum about him. I accepted to marry him when I was 21, but I insisted we must court so as to be familiar with each other’s bad and good characters. For me, my bad character would be I hate being upset. Anything that make me upset kills me. I like to be active and lively. For me, I just want us to be happy. So, when my mum swore that over her dead body should I marry that man, I said to her that she was taking this thing too far. At that point, I called my husband and told him that if I didn’t get pregnant, our union would be a mirage. Finally, when it happened, my parents were spitting fire. But at the end of the day, they welcomed him into our family and we got married. That’s our story.
Love at first sight
Not really because I didn’t want to meet him in the first place. When I did, he was too shy for my liking. I can tell you that I am a restless child. I was so restless that my dad called me a lizard. I can’t be in one place. When we started dating properly, he started calling me a butterfly because as soon as I am on one flower, I am flying to another. My husband is too quiet and decent. It took me two minutes after our first discussion to conclude that he’s a decent guy.
Fear of the unknown
I asked him a question; two weeks in Calabar without any woman, how did he survive it? He replied that “I like when I do the chasing”. I asked him what he meant, he replied again: “I like when I see something and I go for it. When you run after me, my spirit tells me that something is wrong with this woman.” He doesn’t know that for women, when they like something they go for it. If you are in the entertainment industry, without asking for some things, they will come to you free of charge. But he wouldn’t take anything from you for free. I think from my second day with him, I knew he was a decent person, and I wasn’t even afraid.
What keeps your marriage going?
I like to diversify. I don’t like when things are normal, but my husband like when things are normal. I can decide to change the position of the bed, the light and the colour of the room. And when he returns home he would be surprised. I don’t know whether it’s my weakness or my strength. So, once I change, he aligns. I think it’s his ability to contain my restless that has kept us going.
I wanted a beautiful, curvy and respectful wife, God gave me an angel —Husband
My ideal woman
I knew her when she was 17 years. She was wild, crazy and, at the same time, calm. She had everything I wanted in the right portions and proportions. I knew after two days of meeting her that I wanted to marry her. I proposed but she said she wanted to see the world. Then I was a very calm guy and nobody knew my crazy side apart from Junior. I told Junior that “when she finishes seeing the world, she go use her leg waka come find me”. Why? Because I showed her extraordinary love and care but an unassuming affection. I watched her become a woman, but now a magnificent human being with a heart of gold. All I just wanted was a beautiful, curvy, homely, respectful wife but God gave me an angel.
I am from a poor home but grew into a rich boy. I kept it cool because I wanted a girl to love me 100% and not my money. When she finished seeing the world and came back, as planned, she then discovered that I was rich from day one and got angry, saying she wanted a normal person and not a rich guy. Instead she got a rich boy with a normal person’s character and lifestyle.
From the day I set my eyes on her, I knew she was my wife but played down on myself because I never wanted a wasteful wife. But now she’s my superwoman, a mother of four with two on the way.
My wife is a unique creature from heaven that can juggle 10 responsibilities at a time. I thought I was a workaholic until my wife started handling businesses for me. I just knew that I was a learner.