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MARITAL MESS: Ex-Super Eagles Benedict Akwuegbu, wife, bicker over divorce, second marriage

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It is not the best of time for former Super Eagles striker Benedict Akwuegbu and wife Ifeoma, whose 18-year old wedding is on the brink of collapse. Taiwo Alimi interviewed the couples and captured the most recent feud about to end it all.

What started off as a dream union between two love birds; the then Super Eagles’ new kid on the block, Benedict Akwuegbu and his wife Ifeoma, has become a subject  of nightmarish acrimony, discord and mud-slinging.

The 18-year old marriage got fractured eight years ago leading to the couple’s separation. And both have been living quietly apart until Ben attempted to marry again.

Ifeoma is raising hell over Ben’s second attempt at marriage while still legally wedded to him. Nevertheless, Ben claimed he has severed all ties with her and going ahead to remarry.

The young Ben had hit it big with the Nigeria senior national team from 2000 and was touted to step into the boots of goal king Rashidi Yekini.  He was also doing well at his Austria club; Grazer AK.

The world was at Ben’s feet when he met Ifeoma, a ravishing 16 year-old daughter of a close family in Jos-Plateau State where the Akwuegbus were bred and buttered.

Though his siblings-all 10 of them- kicked against the union, Ben defied them and took his bride to Austria, while his parents carried out the traditional rite to solemnize the marriage at home-the local way.

Bride price was exchanged and the first few years were blissful for the young couples. In quick succession, three children came-two boys and a girl. By 2006, Ben’s form had dipped significantly as he neared the end of his career.

At this point, a sharp disagreement shattered the peace in their homes. Ben, who had gotten the Austria permanent stay card, preferred the family stay in Austria while his wife wanted the family to move back to England citing a mutual agreement between them upon marriage.

When Ben did not yield, Ifeoma took their children and moved to London while Ben stayed back in Austria-occasionally coming to see them.

That created more cracks and a breakdown of affection. With no love lost between Ben’s family and his wife, the cracks became bigger overtime. Currently, they have turned sworn enemies.

For eight years, Ifeoma confirmed they have lived apart. “At first he used to stay at our London home whenever he was around, but later stopped. He stopped paying for our flat in London too and stayed with his sister who also lives here instead,” Ifeoma said.

All hell, however, broke loose last week when Ben unveiled his wedding invitation to another woman-Ruth Fuki Damla in Nigeria. The wedding was to take place in St Monica’s Catholic Church, Rantya, Jos-Plateau State on December 5, 2020.

Angered by the turn of event, Ifeoma kicked against the wedding saying it is unlawful as she’s still married to Ben.

She traced the genesis of their failed marriage to an incident that happened in Abuja-Nigeria eight years ago.

“This marriage began to fail when Ben decided to put his siblings ahead of his wife. My husband locked me out of our Abuja home because of her sisters. When I confronted him, he said his family comes first. I lost all respect for him. I had to move abroad to keep my sanity.”

What is left of the union is accusa tions and counter accusations. The once love birds now throw mud at each other.

“She wants to ruin my life. She was in the union to ruin me. She does not care for my family. She has not spoken to my mother for 18 years. I am just her passport to go to Europe. She left me to go to the U.K once and returned when she could not secure stay permit. I forgave her and took her to Austria and immediately she got her papers she left me for U.K again. I was devastated and for many years was depending on siblings and friends to fend for myself. I sold my properties because of her. She destroyed my career. It was so bad I did not have a place to stay. For five years I was living in my sister’s house. Ifeoma left me in Austria and took our children to U.K to live as a single parent. She left me for 10 years,” Ben said.

•Akwuegbu with  Ifeoma and their  children
•Akwuegbu with Ifeoma and their children

Reacting to the allegation, Ifeoma said: “I left Austria with our children more than eight years ago. We had an agreement that when he is done with football, and the children have grown we would go back to U.K, so that our children can go to proper English school. But, when his football was not making sense again, I told him, but, he was not forthcoming. Each time I muted the idea he would have an excuse. So, I left with the children. For a while, he would come to visit but stopped coming after a while. I heard that he was staying with his sister in London but will not come home. So, we have been living separated for more than six years.”

Ben further accused her of filing as a single parent in the U.K and having extramarital affairs: “Ask her why she filed as a single parent to the U.K government if she is still married to me? She has been collecting benefit from government and dating other men? Ask her if I’m lying?

Her reaction: “I’m still bearing the name of my husband; I am known as Mrs. Ifeoma Akwuegbu so how can I have filed as a single parent? He has been telling people that I’m with other men, which is not true. It is because he has another woman and is looking for a way to discredit me. I am a qualified nurse and I work and earn money to take care of our children. Is it the 50 or 100 Dollar that he sends that will take care of us? Every month I pick bills of over 3000 Pounds.”

Ben also claimed that he has severed all ties with Ifeoma. “Last month my parents met with her parents and severed our marriage traditionally. They have been to their house asking for the bride price to be returned. We have done the right thing by telling her family we are no longer interested and they should return the bride price. In the first place, it was my parents that paid the bride price on her, not me. I am moving on with my life. I have suffered because of this girl. I have a woman in my life. I am happy with her and ready to marry her legally. I have a right to do what makes me happy. It is now that she’s waking up to stop me from doing what will make me happy. I’m going ahead with the wedding,” he said.

Responding, Ifeoma said: “All I want him to do is to divorce me officially. He has to do it legitimately before marrying another woman. It is because of her he abandoned his wife and children, so I don’t have any problem with that. I am ready to give him a divorce and then we can share the property. That is all I want. I don’t know what he is saying about bride price, his parents did not meet with my people. My parents said some people they don’t know came to the house claiming they are from Ben. They are not his parents. Is that how to go about divorcing your wife?”

With the couples at each other’s throat, event took a turn at St Monica’s Catholic Church, Rantya in Jos-Plateau State-the church wedding Ben and Ruth.

The Nation gathered that the officiating Reverend Fr. Wukari purportedly declined performing the joining together when he found out about Ben’s first marriage. The family quickly secured another minister, Monsignor Obidiegwu to wed them. However, that too also failed.

Monsignor Obidiegwu told The Nation on phone that the wedding won’t hold in his church. His words: “The wedding will not hold because Benedict has not produced enough evidence to support his divorce claim. He wanted me to do it but he could not produce the divorce paper so, my church will never do what he’s asking for. The wedding will not hold.”

Asked if the church would join the new couple together upon receipt of divorce paper, he answered: “There is no way we can do it. Benedict said the matter is before the court. Besides, there must be no objection to the marriage from any quarters.”

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