By FEMI SALAWU
They are Nigeria’s favourite TV couple. For almost a decade and half, the duo of Isaac and Nneka Moses has brought nonstop excitement and entertainment to TV viewers with their popular show, Goge Africa.
Nigerians have also followed them on several voyages through different cultures and festivals around Africa and the rest of the world.
The lovebirds who both hail from different towns in Anambra State met by chance on the set of a movie location almost two decades ago and since then, have stuck together like Siamese twins.
While Nneka, currently in her 40s, is a graduate of English from the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and hails from Ihiala; Isaac who is a graduate of Insurance from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (ABU), is from Enugu-Ukwu.
But unknown to many, their benign smiles hid a deep pain and anxiety of childlessness that challenged their marriage for almost 14 years. If that anguish was obvious, their countenance never betrayed much of it. But all this however changed in February this year, with the arrival of their first baby named Chikamara (God knows best).
“Initially, when the first Lab confirmed that I was pregnant, I went to another Lab; I said this can’t be a normal pregnancy,” an ecstatic Nneka Moses told EE. “The anxiety was not really there, I was just focused on carrying the baby in my hands and the thought of it overshadowed any anxiety. My husband was there for me all through. It is a dream come through. I couldn’t believe it,” the latest mum in showbiz further gushes.
In this riveting chat, the couple separately shared their private pains and agonies of the past 14 years and eventual triumph with Entertainment Express at their Maryland, Lagos office. They also spoke on how they are coping with their new responsibilities as parents among other germane issues.
I did not marry my wife just to have kids –Isaac Moses
We would like you to tell us how you have been coping since February that you became a proud father?
It has been challenging, it has been good. The difference is that now I have to deal with all the stress, sleepless nights and chores. It has been like this all this while, waking up in the middle of the night, to play, eat or do any other thing. But we do it happily, it has been nice, it has been fun. We wake up early in the morning, having not slept properly. I am now used to not sleeping properly again. It is becoming a part of me. Madam usually wakes me up to help her out, it has been stressful but fun.
Tell us about the joy of fatherhood
Being a father is a blessing. Being a father is the additional blessing of the marriage, just like going to school, what you go for is the education, you get a good job, and then the money comes with it. So basically you get married because you love the person, because you understand that person, you communicate well, and then as time goes on, God blesses you with children which are additional blessings. If children are the only reason we get married, that means any woman can give you a child. But that is not the only reason that is why you choose that special one. You can even have children without getting married. A lot of people I know have children but are not married. So if children are the only reason you get married, after one or two years and there is child you risk losing that sparkle of love.
From what you are saying, having kids was not the reason you married your wife?
I did not marry my wife, just to have children. When I met my wife, I was a man about town, being out with several women, rich, beautiful, dark, fair, tall, short, all kinds. But when you see that one, you will know. In this show business, guys were not into one man, one woman thing but as far as I know marriage is sacrosanct, it is an important and serious institution. So I knew before I got married, I had to be sure I knew what I was doing.
What was the attraction?
For a guy who meets different women, it was not about beauty or any thing. When I saw her, there was no particular yardstick really, it was about the person, the rapport, the chemistry we had.
Can you remember your first encounter with your wife?
It was at an audition, a long time ago. They said you are going to play this lady’s boyfriend, I said which lady, they said that lady there. I tried socializing with her, asked her name, and all that. We were looking at the script together, so that was how we met. With time when we started playing the character, she started opening up. After the role, weeks later I tried to locate her, and I saw her. We became friends, she visited me once or twice, then I was staying at a hotel. However, she insisted that she would not visit me again, unless I leave that hotel. I explained how things were, I didn’t have money to pay for two or more years’ house rent, but I had money everyday to pay for my hotel bills. I found out that other babes were coming, we will go to grand slam, go to different parties, clubs and we were always hanging out with Chidi Mokeme, JT Tom West, Hanks Anuku, and many others. But I discovered that she would not come to visit me, she insisted that I go look for a house to rent and stay, that if I think I am saving money by staying in a hotel, over time, I would have spent more. I told myself that other babes are coming but why is this one forming? Eventually I started looking for a place, in fact, that was the first time I had it in mind that I needed to look for a place. Gradually, I started building up from there. I eventually got a one-room self contain. And so she started coming and cooked for me a couple of times, like that. I noticed that she was not too bothered about other people, she wasn’t asking too many questions such as where you went to last night, who did you go out with, she wasn’t asking those questions. I will just return and she won’t bother. When I am going for a production in Jos, she will cook and pack a bag for me with items such as tooth brush, paste, towel and even a condom. When I see condom inside I would be surprise, she became more intriguing. That way I found that she was more matured, very reserved. Some women would want to get information from you, even fight you to get it. She doesn’t talk too much. All these things led to that attraction. Sometimes, I would book appointments with a lady and the money I was expecting would not come, I would just cancel the appointment like that, but in her case it was not like that. She even offers to pay for our bills at times. She was just what we guys call a wife material; you cannot particularly tell what attracted you.
How do you two manage?
Don’t forget that we are producing Goge Africa all these while and that we had access to events, shows both outside and inside the country. Sometimes a president of a country makes us a special guest and so they provide us with different options we enjoy and you find out that you are never bored. We get different trips lined up. I have always loved hotels, when I travel they put me in very good hotels. Me and my crew, it is fun, with all types of facilities, pools and all that. We can even go to clubs. Sometimes we might say, let us do a story about the night life of this place. We tell our tour guide, he puts everything in place; he informs club owners and people that he knows will take care of us, we eat many things like meat of different types, and they make us have fun. If we are indoors, we watch TV, I love football a lot but my wife doesn’t. So sometimes I give in to her and allow her to watch her movies, before I switch over to my football, so it is pretty interesting. It has not been boring and if I was not producing Goge Africa, don’t forget that I have always been a radio man, a voice man on radio and TV commercials (TVC). Other people will call me to come and put my voice in a documentary, and I get paid doing that. So it is not going to be boring, I like traveling and incidentally she also likes travelling. Each time we have a trip to make, she starts packing, I don’t know how to do that, she does, and she knows everything we will need for the trip.
Does she still put condom when packing now?
No, that was then, not now. She just puts everything in place for us. Do we have this, do we have that, she grinds some Egusi, grinds some Okro, so we can just fix something to eat once in a while. She arranges the things and we are good to go, so I am not bothered about anything, she takes care of everything.
Your good looks have not changed, tell us how you handle attention from ladies?
These things are natural even she gets attention from other guys. The same things for me, some ladies still make passes at me, but I turn them down and tell them this is my wife. No big deal, it is normal, she doesn’t take offence from those things. I have female friends, she knows them, most people she knows, I know, most people I know, she knows.
For the 14 years you were childless, how did you cope with the society and family pressure?
These things are natural especially from relatives. Aside relatives I don’t think I owe any other person any explanations, apart form my relatives. What is going on, hope you guys are going to the hospital, we tell them yes. We go to medical checks, so no problem, and we are praying. What most people don’t realize is that most married couples that are spiritually alert would know that it is not a physical battle, it is spiritual. You see a woman in her dreams will miss her period, and then get attacked in the dream, then wakes up in the morning and the whole thing is gone, it happens. So it is a different ball game. You can even go and do IVF, it won’t work, and everything went well, with very good doctors who are professionals in IVF, good Gynecologists, and while you do this as far as I am concerned is to fulfill all righteousness, because I know that God alone makes it work. At the end of the day, if it works or not, you will know you have done something. But if you fold your hands and do nothing, that is when you start having problems between yourselves. Blames will start coming, if you had seen that doctor this wouldn’t have happened, that wouldn’t have happened. A time came when we stopped trying, we stopped looking at calendars and we gave up. One time madam said it is like menopause has come in, she can no longer see her period, she was asking somebody do you know any drug that can make me see my period again, the person then asked, have you done a test, and how did you know if it is menopause. She was like, which test again, I am tired of all these things please, so to fulfill all righteousness she went for the test. This was last year, and there was not any sign of pregnancy. You know God is so wonderful, my pastor was always telling us that God will answer us, that it is like a petition, God will answer everybody one by one. So if you are not patient, you are going to do something stupid, you will think God doesn’t answer.
Can you say how much you have spent on medications before God answered you?
I won’t say that, you know why, I don’t think like that. But over time we spent money, it is like somebody asking you to state how much money you have spent in your life. I always believe that the ones I have lost is always going to be less than what I will make in future. I still have earning potentials, my phone can ring now, and it is money. There is no point crying over spilt milk, there is no point.
Going forward now, what is the next level for Goge Africa?
It is another challenge, a baby is another responsibility again. Very soon, one is going to be looking at school fees, I am going to have to work harder, broaden my horizon so as to meet the responsibilities that are waiting for me now. But I know that God always provides, He doesn’t give you responsibilities you cannot handle.
Very soon Chikamara will need a toddler to look after, what are your plans towards giving him younger ones?
Like I said, when God blesses you with a child or children, you don’t just count and say he should give you two or three more. Like I said, it wasn’t about children, the children makes it even better. It was good even without children. It was love that sustained the marriage all through those times, the friendship, the companionship, the rapport we have, the understanding we have. We shared the same passion, the programme and everything.
Tell us about Goge Africa, what is the next level for Goge Africa?
Goge Africa is a culture and tourism TV programme. It has been set out to promote Africa like it has never been promoted before and so far, it has not fully achieved that. Africa has over 50 countries, we haven’t visited all. The whole idea was that people would begin to see Africa the way it really is, that it is not a dark continent. If you get to any part of Africa, you will discover that you will get something new there, beautiful cultures, beautiful fashion. Our fashion is so good, it is not only when you are wearing Amani, you can still wear our fashion and look good.
At some point, many people thought you guys took a break from TV, what happened?
No, we never had a break, the whole idea was that we were trying to get more TV stations as possible to air our programme. Currently, we are on about 30 TV stations. We are more on Nigerian stations; I want us to be everywhere in Africa and beyond. I went to screen a festival in Atlanta, and somebody asked me –‘do this people on your show live in Africa?’ I said yes, that is the Calabar Carnival, he confessed that he would like to visit and attend. I said okay, that is good. Other parts of the world just think Africa is all about wildlife, if they want to see wild life, they come to Africa, and they forget that people stay there too.
My pregnancy was a miracle -Nneka Moses
How have you been coping?
I have been doing my best, it is very challenging, feeding, clothing, bathing, playing with him. It has been very tasking. Apart from the sleepless nights, I have enjoyed every minute of it; this is what I have been waiting for so long. For me, I feel like the world is complete. The joy that the little child you are carrying today, would one day become a full grown person. I have been blessed with the opportunity to take care of him.
What is the meaning of his name?
Chikamara, meaning God is the all-knowing or knows best. In every situation we know God knows best. We have been looking for a child since and he chose this time to bring him, God has his reasons and he knows best, so we are expressing our gratitude to God. It is a statement, and it is very true. We had a baby the first year of our marriage but lost him, God knows why.
Should we be expecting more?
Wait let me finish taking care of this one. Let us finish counting one before we count two. Whatever God brings my way, I will take.
Throughout those turbulent years, what kept you going?
The truth is that Goge Africa has kept us very busy, but that did not take our mind off the fact that we wanted a child. What kept me going is when I look at my husband, he is a man of faith, and he does not make me any less a woman. He did not put me under pressure and he was always very supportive, and his family members are the best in-laws anybody can get. It was easy for me because I had good people around me that did not make me feel bad. If you are looking for a child and your husband makes you feel like it is your fault, it won’t be easy for you. My husband is a man of faith; he is a good guy, a great person. He made it very easy.
Did you come to any point where you gave up completely?
It is a never say never thing. Once you serve God you would know he can do anything at any time. Another thing is that, I could have come to that point, but he kept me going. In my mind I was having a doubt that is why up till about three months I never knew I was pregnant. Even when I knew I was somehow in denial, like no, this lab doesn’t know what they are doing. I was not checking anything again, my ovulation period, anything, so I never knew.
During your pregnancy period, were there anxious moments?
I think I was happy when I did the scan and I saw the baby growing inside me. The joy of the fact that I was pregnant did not give me enough time to worry about any problem that might come and disturb the pregnancy. Initially when the first lab confirmed I was pregnant, I went to another lab; I said this can’t be a normal pregnancy. The anxiety was not really there, I was just focused on carrying the baby on my hands and the thought of it overshadowed any anxiety. My husband was there for me all through. We did thanksgiving recently, people were jubilating I was just crying, it is a dream come through. It is the high point of my life, better things will happen in the future but I don’t know if I will be happy like this. I have a cousin that had a baby two years ago and she was 60. I couldn’t believe it.
Going forward, how has motherhood shaped your view about life generally, what lessons has it taught you?
Now I know God is really in control. There is nothing we can really do without Him. I do my best I leave the rest to God, it does not matter how hard you try and God is the ultimate. Those that have seven children did not make love more than those that have one or two, those that are very rich, did not work harder than those who are poor, it is just God.
Goge Africa has come a long way now, how have you and your husband been able to sustain it for this long?
That chemisty was not put together by a pharmacist, it was a chemistry that God has allowed to be there. So if you come and ask me how we did it, I would not have an answer, it is people that even tell us that we have chemistry, I don’t see it. I just get on with it and do what my mind tells me. My body movement is not a direction from any director or anybody I just do what comes to my mind. I think it is what God has given us that we carry to the screen and people ask how we do that, I cannot tell you how we do that because I really don’t know. My husband knows I love him, I respect him a lot, I trust him a lot, I allow him to be the man, but if I have a suggestion, I am lucky to have a man who always listens to me. We have mutual respect for each other and I think that goes a long way into nurturing what God has given us. He is not too proud to tell me he is sorry, even when he knows he is not wrong, the same thing on my side, pride has to be put aside. A lot of sacrifice and compromise are involved.
As public figures, do the pressure of marriage and fear of break up get to you and how do you guard against it?
I am not guarding against it, what will be, will be. Sometimes it is not about trying too hard. You think those that got divorced have not guarded against it, you do what you do, and what will happen will happen, try to do your best, bring your man close, which is what I do. I try not to nag, I just lay complaints and he understands, I do it in a way that does not make him repulsive towards me. I make sure that he is happy always. When you go extra mile for a man, he goes the extra mile for you. I do the extra thing to please him, if he is not happy I won’t be comfortable in that house. The more I please him, the more he pleases me, it is a two way thing. I am very truthful, I don’t go anywhere he doesn’t know about, most of the time we even go together. Don’t do things that will make a man angry, like unfaithfulness and nagging. And always look presentable. Some women because they are married, just give birth, breastfeed, and won’t just take care of themselves. You have to package yourself, so that even if there is a woman who wants to take your place, she would have to be extremely good to be able to compete with you. After doing what I can do as a human being, other things are spiritual and God is in charge of that. He is to direct my husband’s actions, his thoughts and all and lead him right. I pray we don’t get divorced, but nobody knows tomorrow, whatever God brings our way, it is fine, but I don’t think it is nice to start talking about it. If we can really keep it together all these while we have been childless, why now that we have even more that binds us together. So this is just the beginning of our marriage.
There is no relationship without tensions, how do you deal with yours?
If the tension was caused by me and he is boiling with anger, I just shut up, I don’t talk. Whatever he says, fine; if I must talk, it is just to say sorry, that is all. Even if it is something I would still do, but for that moment I would still say I am sorry, I won’t do it again. I will wait for him to calm down, before I start making my point. I cannot be screaming back at him when he is screaming. People, who have stayed with us, have never heard us talking on top of our voices. When he is angry, I go the extra mile to control my self. When he upsets me too, he knows, and I wait for him to come and beg me (laughs). He is not like those men who think that they are God, he is a proud man, but not to his family. He can never correct me in front of other people, even when I am wrong, like wise me, we have mutual respect for each other.
What kind of upbringing did you have?
A normal home; my dad died early so it was mum that brought us up. My Mum is a business woman, a woman I look up to; I took after her in so many ways. I am very business oriented and I took that from her. Even when I was 13, she gaves me pocket money. I used to make Doughnuts and sell, I started making clothes, had my own boutique. My mum is also a disciplinarian; you can’t be sleeping after 6.a.m., whether you are going to school or not, you have to get up and do your chores, after then you can have breakfast after then you can return back to bed if you like.
Are you the first?
No, I am not, the first is like my big sister, there is a lot of space. I am the last born. We are very many in our house; it was almost like a polygamous home. My mum is the first wife.
What were you doing before showbiz?
I had a boutique; I was just into business. I love bags and clothes. I was also a fashion designer; I belonged to the fashion designers association of Nigeria, before I ventured in to showbiz. I don’t do those things again but I still utilize the knowledge I got from there till date, no knowledge is useless. The clothes I wear on Goge, I design them and I work with other designers who provide what I use.
How do you manage to stay beautiful at your age?
I don’t really know, just personal dieting and hygiene. I know that sugar is bad, I don’t take soft drinks and I don’t take a lot of sugar, I take a lot of vegetables and a lot of fruits. I don’t eat when it is late, I don’t drink cold water. But right now, I am becoming big, so I am trying to work on that.
What message do you have for people who look up to you?
My message for them is to mind their own marriage. Don’t listen to other peoples’ experience. My experience and what I think is right might not be the right thing for the next person’s marriage. So try to find out who your spouse is and go the extra mile to please him or her, because marriage is about compromise and sacrifice. If you compromise for me and I compromise for you, you find out that the marriage becomes easy. Let us put away pride and don’t try to be like others. What works for me might not work for you, above all put God first and ask him to give you the wisdom, when he does, you wouldn’t need all these advice and things will just be falling into place.