I met my wife, Bola, for the first time at a party in Norman, Oklahoma. It was the highlight of my time in the United States to meet a young lady from Nigeria, and from the moment we met, she was simply stunning, extremely polite and intellectually focused.
When I introduced myself as a fellow Nigerian, she was polite, though not impressed. After we covered all of the social niceties – what part of the country did you grow up in? what tribe are you from? – she asked me a more pointed question – what do you do now? It was a tough question because I was a professional student pursuing my doctorate degree at the University of Oklahoma and had not yet established myself professionally.
Though my response did not impress her, I persisted – since I felt strongly that the good Lord had finally introduced me to my future wife. More importantly, we spoke the same language, even though she came from the big city of Lagos, and I grew up in the interior of Nigeria in the city of Ibadan.
The song “Careless Whisper” by George Michael began to play, and I asked Bola to dance. She hesitantly obliged. Deep down, I was thinking that she must be crazy about me, but was playing the traditional game taught to all Nigerian women – never show how much you like a young man the first time you meet him.
When the song ended, Bola told me she was leaving the party. I asked for her telephone number and asked if we could see each other again. Her response stunned me. “No, I won’t give you my number,” Bola said. “I want yours.”Her reply convinced me even more that she was head over heels for me. And so I gave her every number I had – my phone number in the dorm, the number of the public pay phone on my floor, and even offered my social security number, which she respectfully declined.
I left the party shortly after she did and ran home to wait for her call, which never came. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years. Five, to be exact. And every time I would hear our song, “Careless Whisper,” I would remember the beautiful girl from Nigeria that got away.
I was determined to find my Bola, so I spread the word that I was looking for her, and somehow imagined that she was looking for me, too. Nowadays, it’s easy to find people through Facebook, LinkedIn or any other social media platform. But this was the late 1980s, and that option was not available, so you had to go about it the old-fashioned way by telling everyone you knew and keeping your eyes open everywhere you went.
My search finally came to an end when my cousin ran into Bola at a baby naming ceremony in Dallas. He called me from the party and said excitedly, “She’s here. Bola is here!” I told him I would be right over and jumped in the car and drove the two-and-a-half hours straight through from Norman to Dallas.
As soon as I arrived at the house, I walked right up to her. I was relieved that she remembered me, though she looked surprised to see me again. “You look very different now,” she said. “Your afro and sideburns are gone. Wow.”
I asked her if she had misplaced my numbers. She hesitated at first and then said, “No, I just wasn’t interested and didn’t bother to call you.”
I was grateful for her honesty, but I wish I had known that the afro and sideburns had ruined my chances with her when we first met. We chatted for awhile, and from that point on, we became inseparable. My life has been enriched every day since then by her presence, and we’ve been blessed with three wonderful daughters, Moyo, Anjola and Reni.
Our story is a combination of fate and persistence. While Bola and I are from the same country, I had to move far away to Oklahoma to meet her. Then it took me another five years to find her again. When you find your true love, you always know, and you never let it go.