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Most couples don’t prepare for nuptials, says ex-CBN senior manager turned marriage counselor

Modupe Ehirim is an engineer who became a senior official at the Central Bank of Nigeria before she took to professional marriage counseling. Read her riveting story!

My name is Modupe Ehirim. I was born in Plateau State over six decades ago. I grew up in a nuclear family, and I have four siblings. My earliest influences were my parents. They taught me to see other people as human beings first, before considering their character and place of origin.

I was also influenced by books because my parents introduced me to different genres of books at a very early age.

Education
The first school I attended was St. Child’s Nursery School, Surulere, Lagos, before proceeding to Surulere Baptist School, also in Lagos. Back then, primary school education lasted for eight years. I was one of the first people to go to secondary school from Standard 4, and that was even before primary education became a six-year programme.

whenever I’m doing something, I always ask myself, ‘Modupe, is this the best you can do?’

After completing my common entrance examination, I got admitted to Queens School, Apata, Ibadan. I also went to the Federal Government College in Ilorin. I obtained a First Class Honours in Chemical Engineering at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University). After that, I was privileged to obtain a Master’s degree from the University of Aston, Birmingham, United Kingdom.

I am grateful for the high intellectual capacity that I was blessed with. My university supervisor, Dr. S. R. A. Macaulay, guided me through a paradigm shift that has been very helpful to me in my adult life. He taught me that I shouldn’t measure my performance against the performances of my classmates and peers. Rather, I should measure my performance against the potential that God has put in me.

Since then, whenever I’m doing something, I always ask myself, “Modupe, is this the best that you can do?”

Career
My childhood dream was to get the best education possible, get a job, and retire at 60. Today, I have fulfilled those dreams. I worked as a civil servant for 17 years and rose to become a senior manager at the Central Bank of Nigeria. I voluntarily retired before clocking 60 because I wanted to explore other areas that I’m passionate about.

After retiring, I started a retail bookstore business called Hidden Treasures Bookstore. It was located in Enugu and was in operation for 13 years. After I shut down the bookstore business, I went on to start The Right Fit Marriage Academy.

Marriage education and counselling business
I used to volunteer as a premarital counselor in church, and during my time there, I discovered that most couples do not prepare for marriage. Back then, communal marriage education was done in families. However, this generation needs new marriage education structures, otherwise, our communities will fall apart.

In fact, they are already falling apart. I started The Right Fit Marriage Academy (TRFMA) in 2016 to address the challenges seen in modern marriages. Every organization needs funds to function optimally. So, when I started this online marriage education business, I was clear from day one that it would not be a charity business.

As of March 2023, The Right Fit Marriage Academy has over 19,000 members on Facebook. Most people who joined our Facebook community were invited by friends who saw the impact of our mission. We also have a growing community on Instagram.

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When Wazobia Radio heard about the academy, they invited me to do a weekly one-hour programme on Marriage and Family Matters, and I have been doing that since 2018.

Challenges
The primary obstacle I experienced was inadequate knowledge of how to start and continue the operations of the Right Fit Marriage Academy. Since the academy was operating online, the starting costs were very minimal.

I received coaching for three years to support me in building my online presence. I actually started by providing free training online in a Facebook group, and when people learned about me, they started paying for my counselling services, books, and programmes.

Over the years, I have noticed that many people have good intentions to help people with marriage problems, but the problem is that some of them fail to get the appropriate training that is required. Since they are half-baked counsellors, they end up offering the wrong advice to their clients. This is a major challenge we are experiencing in this niche.

Family and marriage
I am married to Boniface Ehirim. We met during our NYSC and have been married for more than 37 years, but I’ve known him for 42 years. We have two sons and two daughters who are doing well. I also have numerous people who have adopted me as their mother.

Secrets to happy marriage
When two adults who have different origins, upbringing, life experiences and exposures come together in marriage, it takes commitment and intentionality to become a team. To make the marriage work, the couple must learn how to solve problems and positively influence one another. The first secret is the willingness to learn and the openness to change when the need arises.

I am in an inter-ethnic marriage. When my husband and I got married, there was no internet and no satellite television, and people lived most of their lives in one geographical location. When you look at the world today, if one or both of us had been unwilling to learn what was required for our marriage to continue existing through the myriad of changes we have gone through, there would be no marriage today.

The second secret is accepting that once you get married, you can’t have everything that you could as a single person. Marriage will cost both husband and wife something very dear to them. My husband and I were willing to pay the price for being together in marriage.

The third secret is that we both chose to be transparent and trustworthy.

My self-fulfilling moments
I have been working as a professional marriage counselor for about six years now. It has been really rewarding. I feel overjoyed whenever I get feedback from people who have been a part of our online community as well as from clients I have worked with. Particularly because they become part of an army of people who make up the new communal structure for marriage education in our land.

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If I was not a marriage coach, I would be working on developing people in other aspects of our communal life. Besides helping couples fix their marriages, my ultimate goal in life is to receive a crown from God when my journey on earth is over. I pray to hear Him say, “Welcome home, thou faithful servant.”

Retirement plan
I am a founding member and the first president of the Network of Family Systems Engineering Practitioners. The over 200 members of the network were trained by the Institute of Family Engineering and Development, Lagos, Nigeria, to provide professional services in marriage, parenting, and family life. There is another set of people who were trained but are not practising professionally.

I plan to continue coaching couples for as long as I can. But I will turn over the operation and administration of TRFMA to younger Family Life Practitioners. I am thankful for the privilege of being a model for these people, and I am looking forward to training more people in the future.

Leisure
I relax by watching drama series and reading books. If I had the opportunity to meet a public figure, I would like to meet John C. Maxwell because his books on leadership have been very helpful to me.

Advice for women 
You are unique. Everyone around you has a mould they want you to fit into. You are not obliged to accept that. Take responsibility for identifying the mould that is comfortable for you.

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