By Edgar R. Batte
For many newlyweds, finances are a place that is hard to navigate. The young couples simply do not know how to deal with this situation, but have you thought about the option of transparency? Martin Aliker shares how he and his wife, Camille have handled their money as they celebrated 60 years in marriage which doubled as Aliker’s 90th birthday, on Saturday February 23, at their home in Gulu Town.
Aliker is by and large a successful man. He is an accomplished businessman, dentist, former minister, presidential advisor, Victoria University Chancellor and has served as board chairman of several organisations, including Monitor Publications Ltd and Uganda Breweries Ltd.
Aliker says one of the reasons he has spent 60 blissful years in marriage and counting is because he shares all his financial details with his wife and she can withdraw any amount of money from any of his bank accounts without consulting him.
“Our finances are one and the same. We have no secret accounts. Camille can withdraw money from the bank and all of it,” Aliker told his guests. “If for 60 years she has not withdrawn all of it, I do not think she will,” the ever humorous Aliker said, sending guests into bouts of laughter.
For many couples, the issue of financial details is a closely guarded secret, but if the Alikers have been financially open to each other, then that is a lesson to pick.
The colourful function started with a thanksgiving service led by Northern Uganda Bishop Johnson Gakumba. The Alikers later treated their guests to a sumptuous traditional meal and later winding down with an assortment of drinks. For entertainment, it was traditional Ding Ding and Bwola dances.
How they met
Aliker met Camille more than 60 years ago when he went to study dentistry in America and not only returned with a degree, but also a wife.
“I have often asked Camille why she married me because at that time, Africa was the Dark Continent and a number of people did not want to be associated with Africa. Camille had many suitors in Chicago and beyond, but she chose to come to Gulu,” Aliker recalls.
He said Camille’s American brothers were also against her marrying an African and leaving America, but they later turned out to be very good friends. For Camille, coming from America to Africa was a whole new experience and she admitted it was a bit frightening.
“I arrived in Gulu as a big-eyed scared girl. I came on a flat boat made of bamboo,” she narrated her journey to Gulu.
Aliker’s father, Lacito Oketch, was Rwot (chief), and he organised a big homecoming for his daughter-in-law. “My father-in-law had a huge gathering to meet me. I was frightened to death but I did not show it. One of Martin’s sisters made it her business to check on me every 10 minutes. She would look at me, smile and run away,” she recalls.
To Camille, their marriage has been nothing short of bliss. “Marriage has been fantastic. Men should take some lessons from him (Martin). God has been present in our lives. It has been wonderful, fantastic, fulfilling … every superlative you can think of,” she told gets at their anniversary.
But of course, every marriage has those trying moments. “It has not always been rosy but when you put God first in your marriage, you can succeed,” she said.
Aliker’s humour must have contributed to the success of the marriage and he was not short of it even at his 60th marriage anniversary.
“Young people ask me what the secret to a lasting marriage is. I tell them there is a book called the perfect marriage which has not yet been written, but which every woman has read,” he said.
“A friend told me, in order to get this marriage going I have to treat it like a warfare. You have to expect that the is enemy going to strike today,” Aliker said before narrating the day “the enemy” struck him with her silent treatment.
“I was a university chancellor and after I made a speech, a female minister said, ‘you people do not know what Martin and I mean to each other.’ She went on to narrate how we had a long history of friendship. I had never seen that lady before and she was not even born when I was a student at Makerere,” he told the guests attentively listening to his story.
“When the function ended, sergeant major (referring to his wife) gave me the silent treatment until we arrived home and then said, ‘I did not know you and the minister were friends.’ To cut the long story short, you never know from which direction death is coming for you,” Aliker joked.
She believes in me
However, despite the few hiccups, Martin Aliker says marriage has been blissful. “On the positive side, I have been very happy. I have a woman who is understanding, believes in me and we have done many things together,” he said. His only regret is that she has one other love – her hair. “I think she thinks about her hair more than she thinks about me,” he said.
He added that he also likes Camille because she reminds him of his mother. “My mother’s temperament was similar to my wife – slightly mad,” he said. But if you think Camille was insulted by this, then you are wrong, because Aliker is a good orator and these lines are meant to provide comic relief.
This endless laughter is one of the reasons the couple has stayed together this long.