Stand-up comedian, Bethel Njoku, popularly known as Senator, and his wife, Kemen, an entrepreneur, tell ARUKAINO UMUKORO about their five-year marriage
How did you meet?
Senator: My wife is a younger sister of my classmate in primary school. I have always known the family, but we (my wife and I) were not close until I relocated to Lagos. She studied at the Lagos State University. She is a French graduate. We dated for five years before we got married. We have known each other for 10 years now.
Kemen: He studied Theatre Arts in Jos and he was my brother’s course mate and friend. We knew each other way back then. We met again when I was at the French village in Badagry, Lagos. He and his friends came for a programme. We exchanged telephone numbers from there and kept in touch.
How did you propose to your wife?
Senator: I proposed to her on the day she was passing out from the National Youth Service Corps scheme. She said yes immediately, of course; we have known each other for five years prior to that. There was nothing elaborate in my proposal. I just spoke to a friend of mine to accompany me on that day. We bought a cake and put the ring hidden in what looked like a rose flower stuck to the cake. At first she didn’t know what it was until she came closer and saw it wasn’t a rose flower but an ‘attachment.’ When she opened it, she started crying.
How did you feel when he made the proposal?
Kemen: I was happy even though I knew he had something up his sleeves during my passing out after the NYSC programme ended. I couldn’t, however, figure out what it was exactly. It didn’t click. But I was happy. We had known each other for a long time and we were more like best friends already. He knew so much about me even more than my sisters at a point. I knew I was getting married to my best friend.
What attracted you to her in the first place?
Senator: She is beautiful, pleasant, respectful, very industrious and purpose-driven. She connects with me more than any other person.
Kemen: He is easy to communicate with. He is loving, understanding and hard-working among other good qualities. I married my best friend.
How would you describe your marital journey after five years?
Senator: Funny enough, I sometimes lose track of the number of years. She is the one that reminds me. For me, it’s like living with one’s close sibling or family member. It’s been a wonderful journey. Compatibility is very important in marriage. It is important to marry someone one is compatible with, one that complements one. At certain times, it’s not all about love. Even when that love is not really there, one can always fall back on the friendship which will still be there. If one can’t find it (friendship), then one is not compatible with that person.
Kemen: It’s been a beautiful journey but I think just like any other marriage, it has its challenges. Sometimes, there are a few arguments but we always resolve them. We have learnt to understand each other better and spend more time together. Friendship, love, mutual respect and understanding each other are key ingredients of a successful marriage. Also, it is important to be prayerful as partners.
How often do you have arguments?
Senator: It is not that often.
Kemen: Not too often, but when it happens, we resolve it quickly because we understand each other.
Who apologises first when you have disagreements?
Senator: My wife apologises first. The truth is that there is no marriage that does not have disagreements sometimes.
Kemen: I am the one who apologises first all the time even if I was not the one at fault. I do that for the sake of peace (laughs).
How do you cope with female fans?
Senator: They will always be there. Female fans help to increase our fan base more than the male fans. But at the same time, one should be able to separate one’s public life from one’s personal life. Fans should also understand that there are certain levels they should not go. I have also learnt how to handle them with wisdom.
Kemen: I just cope with them. Sometimes, I go on Instagram to see the comments from his female fans. But basically, I don’t do anything about them. When I got married, it was something we had already discussed and agreed upon. I close my eyes to such things. I only advise him to be careful.
Why do you think many celebrity marriages crash?
Senator: One question people need to ask themselves is ‘am I getting married to the person because I want to have a fairy tale wedding?’ Besides, some people invest so much in weddings but not on marriages. Wedding is a one-day event, a one-day of show-off. The real deal is the marriage which is meant to be forever. Beyond the wedding, there is a life to live after. Social media, in itself, isn’t bad but family and marriages are more important. Marriage is an institution. While it is nice to want to celebrate one’s spouse or something in one’s marriage on social media, one should not make it the centre of one’s marriage, so much that almost everything about one’s marriage, good or bad, goes to social media. People misinterpret things a lot on social media. The moment one starts to involve so many people into one’s marital activities, like putting it on social media, one is courting trouble because everybody wants to know what happens afterwards. Any little thing one does, one wants to put it on social media and the day one doesn’t put anything, people start asking questions whether the couples are quarrelling or having issues.
Kemen: I think social media is one of the major issues affecting marriages. Also, some celebrities like to marry celebrities; I think that is also a major issue because they don’t consider other aspects. I feel putting one’s marriage in public space should be done moderately.
Do you have a joint account?
Senator: Yes, we do.
Kemen: Yes, we operate a joint account now.
Do you have pet names for each other?
Senator: Yes, I call her ‘babe.’
Kemen: I call him ‘babe’ too.
How do you unwind as a couple?
Senator: We go to the movies, club or we just spend time together at home, especially now that we have a son. One needs to sacrifice for the love of the family.
Kemen: We go out, watch movies or attend events together. But with our son in the picture now, we spend more time together indoors.
Can you describe one memorable event during your marriage?
Senator: A memorable event was when my wife gave birth to our son in the United States. It was a joyous occasion. Also, our second year anniversary was memorable.
Kemen: Which should I pick? I would say the wedding; first of all, it was one of the most memorable events for me.
How do you cope being married to a celebrity?
Kemen: To be honest, it is not easy, especially with his schedules. Sometimes, he comes home late because most of the shows/events he comperes are at odd hours like 1am, 2am. There are times when there are important events and we can’t attend together. But at the end of the day, that is what puts food on the table hence one has to cope with it.
Do you allow third parties to settle your disputes?
Kemen: No, we don’t. Whatever happens in the house (between us) ends in the house.
Do you help with the house chores?
Senator: Yes, I do. We don’t have a housemaid. She does the ones she can do, while I also do the ones I can to help out.
Kemen: He helps out with the domestic chores.