FRANCA ONYEJE ATOKOLO: The rudest shock to all who knew me then was my engagement to a preacher.....

Strong, smart, independent-minded, Style Icon and a graceful woman of pristine beauty has once encountered the "number two" complex with her works, invisible investment, victories, virtually unnoticed. Years have gone by, she’s grown into a fine, mature virtuous woman. Busy with 3 kids and involved role-playing mother, counsellor, church leader, chaperon, an instant hostess, and a telephone answering service to her husband’s ever-growing congregation, her life is filled with  some joy, problems, unique pressure, dilemmas and responsibilities. The strong believer in her husband's calling tells Irigbonse Osa, Victor Oyeyode and Darasinmi Ogunnaike, why  her marriage to her husband was a rude shock to all who knew her, how she survives the cross and difficulty of being a Pastors wife, how she manages church without infringing on the home front, her idea of a romantic vacation and how her husband keeps things fresh between the sheets.

  • The rudest shock to all who knew me then was my engagement to a preacher....
  • They say that pastors’ wives are sex starved, my husband keeps things fresh between the sheets...
  • If my husband ever cheated on me, I would forgive him.. 
  • Being a pastor’s wife is one of the toughest roles a woman can play, as can be extremely demanding, self-sacrificing and emotionally draining.
  • As the wife of a pastor, I am often required to take on unglamorous roles and duties never dreamed.
  • Sundays are my best days, because I always look forward to the worship and the word.
  • We do face challenges as pastors but it does not negate my love for the work. .
  • My husband is more expressive and definitely more romantic.
  • I like the elegance and regality a beautifully embroidered kaftan gives
  • For my husband, I do my best to make sure he is well dressed, though he could tend to care less about such things
  • it was not glamorous to marry a pastor at the time I agreed to marry him. I did because I love his work.

A peep into your Education, Career?
Born in Zaria,then my family moved to Benue State where I  enrolled and completed my primary education at the Makurdi International School. I proceeded to Federal Government Girls College Gboko in 1986 to begin my secondary education. After that, I was granted admission into Benue State University in 1992 to study Economics. After my university education, I took a short break from academic pursuits and went for spiritual enrichment. After a while, while already married and nursing my son, I enrolled at the University of Abuja to obtain a Post Graduate in Education in 2006. I have other professional trainings to my credit in other aspects of education such as the Accelerated Christian Education and Montessori Method of Teaching.

I started my first business while still a student. There has never been a season since I got married I never had a business running, mostly in sales and marketing.

As a response to God’s call on my life and a passion to inspire, mentor women to realise and actualise their unique potential, I founded the Balanced Feminity Network fifteen years ago.I have positively affected olad and young women. I have always had a love for education and strongly believe in a holistic approach to education.


What is your story?
I am from Benue State, the fifth of nine children born to Hon Anthony Akoto and Mrs Catherine Akoto before my dad became a polygamist. So I'm from a large family of many siblings. I had a good childhood with great and interesting memories, though I had some struggles because of things I needed to overcome to be whom I am today. At 19, while in my third year in university, I gave my heart to the Lord and there I found an entirely new meaning to life. With my new found faith and exposure to God's word, I began to understand that God loved me beyond words and that He had a better plan for my life than what I could comprehend. As I sat under the balanced teaching of the word of God, I began to find my true identity in Christ. As I walked with God, He began to reveal me to me, how He saw me, and His definition of me nullified all the lies the devil had been whispering to me all along. I remember how I failed for the first time in my life. My classmates had to leave me behind and proceed for the one-year NYSC because I had two courses I carried over that resulted in an extra semester. God used this incident to teach me humility and that it’s okay to fail sometimes, but to fail forward.

The rudest shock to all who knew me then was my engagement to a preacher.I didn't look like the ideal preacher wife. The stereotype idea then was that a pastor's wife should be vibrant, and very confident. she has to be very mature in the Lord, and be able to sing and preach. She shouldn't be too beautiful or attractive, or they’ll say she is a mermaid or seductress sent to destroy the ministry. I wasn't all these and more. But one thing I knew back then as I prayed was that the opportunity to marry this pastor was God’s will and it was my gateway into God’s plan for my life. It's been 21 years since that journey began, I've been married for 18 years and it has been an interesting and amazing unwrapping. My story is that of transformation which was only possible by the help of God. I haven't arrived at my final destination yet, but I've come a long way.

How and when did you meet your husband?
I became a member of his church after my conversion in 1995. He was my pastor and I predestination happened.

What are the roles and challenges of being a pastor’s wife?

Pastor's wife’s role is multifaceted, but majorly to be a supportive help to him, and ensure he is well taken care of at home so he can function effectively as pastor to his congregation. A Pastor’s wife faces unique challenges because of the special position she occupies. It’s one of the toughest roles a woman can play, as can be extremely demanding, self-sacrificing and emotionally draining.  She lives in a glass house where she cease has no privacy, and as most people peer through the glass, they do it with shades of prejudices and biases. So most of what they see has been distorted because they are not seeing with clear eyes, thus resulting in unnecessary pressures, criticism, and unkindness from church folks who expect a pastor’s wife to be perfect, but she is not in any way. She is a normal woman like any with emotions, interesting hobbies and hopeful dreams.

Do you ever feel vulnerable as a pastor’s wife? Do you also feel the same way about your husband?

Yes. This feeling is bound to occur because of our position and visibility. Pastors are always criticised and attacked by dissatisfied followers and ignorant folks who might not necessarily be connected to the ministry. The wife usually faces attacks from congregants as either too forward or too laid back. Often times, neither the pastors nor their wives can defend themselves.

How do you as the pastor’s wife serve the church?

I serve by discovering my natural and spiritual gifts and serving the local church with them.

Where can a pastor’s wife take all her cares, burdens, anxieties, and even ministry-related complaints?
Wisdom requires a leader passes his or her burden up, not down. A pastor’s wife should share her burdens with her husband who knows and understands her heart more than any living mortal. He might be very helpful. And where God has given her other female mentors that her husband approves of, she can reach out to them, though this must be done with much discretion. Under no circumstance should she pass her burdens to church members or the people she and her husband are serving. Most importantly however, she should learn to pass her burdens to God in prayer.

Are you involved in your husband’s work, and at what point did you become involved?

Yes I am. I’ve always been involved from when we got married. However, the depth of direct involvement has grown over the years. For my role on the pulpit, I can remember the first time my husband asked me to speak in church; I prepared for two weeks and was able to speak for only ten minutes. But the story is not the same now; God has grown me to where I now handle special meetings, conventions and conferences both within and outside the country as God keeps opening the doors.

How do you handle stress and pressure?
Once I notice I’m getting stressed, I slow down and rest. I rest my mind from work and focus on God for refreshing and rejuvenation.

What are your greatest strengths?
I consider my greatest strengths to be loyalty, administration and organisation, focus and excellence.

What is your description of a successful pastor and would you say your husband is successful?
A successful pastor is one who has discerned God’s specific assignment for him and he is diligently pursuing it. He is one who is content with and confident of his call, gifting and he is comfortably serving the people of God with them. A successful pastor is one who has made a lot of impact on lives and multiplied himself in others. Yes, he is a very successful pastor judging from the general impact he has had on the body of Christ.


Are you a territorial woman?

Yes, shouldn’t I be? I know my territory and I do all I can to protect it. I am not careless about it. But I am not possessive in any way, and my husband can testify to this.

Have you ever felt insecure in marriage?
Yes there are times I have felt insecure, but I don’t stay in it but seek to deal with it as quickly as it comes.

Can you point to a time when you laughed at the thought of being a chauffeur to your pastor-husband?
I haven't really thought about that being a full time assignment; however I have driven him several times.
As a pastors wife,  I am often required to take on unglamorous roles and duties never dreamed.

Sundays are sometimes the least favourite day for pastors’ wives. Do you agree to that?
This is not my personal opinion. Sundays are my best days, because I always look forward to the worship and the word.

Being a pastor’s wife is a little like having a cat on your head, even though you are not asking for it. You have your private, everyday life just like everyone else, yet you are married to a man whose job is public. And despite shifting notions of celebrity, the church tends to hold an unspoken expectation that pastor and their wives live in a special category of Christian. How do you cope?
I make sure I'm in sync with God most times. I’ve learnt to make God my refuge and fortress, to trust him to keep my husband. I try to be myself as much as possible. I've learnt to stay within God's frame of perfection not man's frame of perfection. I try as much as possible to do things that I enjoy and what makes me happy..


Wives don’t exactly always love their husband’s work. Is that true?
The notion depends on your values. I count it a privilege to be called specially called serve. I love my husband’s work, because I count it an honour and a privilege for to serve God and His people. In fact that is one reason he chose me above others years ago. Where we lived, it was not glamorous to marry a pastor at the time I agreed to marry him. I did because I love his work. We do face challenges as pastors but it does not negate my love for the work. .

How have you managed the endless hours, nosy, demanding congregants?

The rule is to walk by faith, and walk in love. God takes care of all other details as we daily obey Him.

Have you at any time thought that your husband would choose a different profession?
Never! I haven't thought about it because it would never happen. He is so convinced and consumed with ministry. It is his life. For him, ministry is not a profession but a divine call! He received the call as a little child of eight years old, so he is lost in it, and I like that focus.

There is the notion that pastors’ wives are sex starved, thus the increase in divorce between pastors and their wives. In a candid response, does your husband keep things fresh between the sheets?
You've got to trust my husband on this, he definitely does.

Who is most romantic of you and your husband?
My husband is more expressive and definitely more romantic.

You have a penchant for looking good. What inspires your sense of fashion?
I believe in excellence. So with that value in mind, it reflects in my appearance.

Most hysterical/ridiculous college memory/most trouble you’ve ever gotten into?
It was in college. We get hungry a lot as young people. I and four other friends had money on a particular day that could purchase just two of a special specie of Benue mangos. So we planned mischief, to invade the seller’s goods, confuse her and picked five mangos instead of two. So we stole three additional mangos so that each person would have a whole mango to herself. I look back now and can't believe we did that.

Five must haves for you.
I can't do without God; He is everything to me. I love my Amplified Bible, pen, my cheque book and lipstick.

What is your go-to outfit?
I like the elegance and regality a beautifully embroidered kaftan gives me
When you read a newspaper, do you read the fashion pages? If so, what sort of information do they usually provide?
Yes I do to because they provide the latest fashion styles and how clothes should be worn.
Does the media (or the fashion industry) play some role in creating or continuing stereotypes? What duty, if any, does the media (or fashion industry) have to change these stereotypes?
Yes to a large extent the media or fashion industry has played a significant role in creating and maintaining the stereotype. It keeps evolving, and has defined, set the mould and pattern of dressing. If the fashion industry as well as the media is invaded by Godly individuals with a strong sense of decency and moral values, things will change.


When you pass a shoe shop window do you usually stop to look at the shoes? 
What about your husband?

I love shoes because they are a necessary accessory that make a huge difference in my appearance. I don't stop to look, but I definitely catch a good glimpse. For my husband, I do my best to make sure he is well dressed, though he could tend to care less about such things.

How much time do you spend in front of the mirror in the morning?

I like to wear make-up, so if I'm doing a full make up, I spend about 30 to 40 minutes , but if I don't have time, in ten minutes I do my make-up and I'm off.


What is the ideal number of calls a couple should exchange in a day?

Ideal here would be relative because every couple is unique and a lot depends on the kind of job they do. These specifics require they figure what works for them.

Would you compromise your happiness for the success of the marriage?
I don't need to compromise my happiness for the success of my marriage. Marriage was instituted by God for our benefit, not against us. Marriage is not a trap neither is it a prison room that is meant to rid you of happiness as some people take it to be. Rather it is meant and ordained to be a good thing, to increase and multiply you.
What’s your idea of a romantic vacation?
A cruise on one of the Caribbean Islands.

What’s the single most important thing for a marriage to be successful?

Godly wisdom.

If your husband ever cheated on you, would you ever forgive him?
Yes. There is no sin God cannot forgive us. So there should be no sin we cannot forgive another human being. I am grateful to God, however, that I have never yet needed to experience this.

What is the most special memory of your union that you hold?

Our 10th wedding anniversary. We renewed our vows and threw a big reception. It was quite memorable.

Which love song best describes your marriage relationship with your spouse?

I fell in love with my best friend, by Jason Chen..

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