Ever since their paths crossed and finally led to a blissful marriage, Opral and TOS Benson had remained a cynosure in the eye of the enthralled public that couldn’t help but marvel at the two love birds. Theirs was the classic case of the meeting of two magnet and iron fillings opposites that attract instantly. Forty-five years old handsome TOS Benson; the young Minister of Information of the then newly independent Nigerian nation was love-struck and instantly too, on setting his eyes on twenty-six years old elegantly beautiful young Liberian woman, Opral, who just returned to her native Liberia after a successful academic stint in the United States of America.
In May 1961, TOS Benson met his wife, the ravishingly beautiful and trendy Opral Amanda Mason in Monrovia, in the course of an official state assignment to Liberia. Opral had just returned from the United States with two academic degrees and had earned herself a prominent government appointment in the administration of the late Liberian President, Willam Tubman. Opral had just been appointed the Assistant Secretary-General of the Monrovia (May 1961) by the Liberian government, while the late Alhaji Isa Wali was appointed the Secretary-General by the government of Nigeria. The Monrovia Conference, which was attended by TOS Benson, the charming Federal Minister of Information as a member of the high-powered Nigerian delegation, gave birth to the Organization of African Unity (OAU).
A year later and very unique in his style of doing things, TOS Benson took the woman after his heart to the altar when everyone was still guessing about their relationship and thereafter sailed away on their honeymoon. Expectedly so, unprecedented cheers greeted the newly wedded couple on their arrival in
Monrovia, Liberia aboard a luxury ocean liner named AUREOL in early January 1963. What they had in common was an extraordinary passion for each other and living life to the fullest. Their historic marriage consistently made good copy and as chronicled by the Nigerian press, which referred to their marriage as a union of two countries” It’s a statement that has not been controverted. This claim was further buoyed in a newspaper interview in which Opral glowingly refers to her husband as “the greatest love of my life” In 1996,23 years after their wedding, Opral in an interview granted Times International
Magazine, a publication of Daily Times, recalled that: “I fell mercilessly in love with TOS.”
The marriage of TOS and Opral was the marriage of two nations – Liberia and Nigeria. A Liberian newspaper succinctly captured it in these evergreen words: “never was the friendship between two countries brought closer and more vividly to the people of Liberia.” In Monrovia, the Liberian President, WVS Tubman, gave an unprecedented government reception in honour of TOS Benson and his wife, Opral, which was attended by his cabinet, a large delegation from Nigeria with an impressive turnout of the Diplomatic corps. The then Governor-General of Nigeria, the Right Honourable Doctor Nnamdi Azikiwe, reciprocated the Liberian gesture with a State House reception that had in attendance the cream of the Nigerian political class, traditional rulers, the business community family members and friends.
In 2008 when the respected Otunba TOS Benson celebrated his 90th birthday, and forty-six years after the exemplary couple exchanged their marital vows, Precious Benson says her parents have not ended their honeymoon, which began way back in 1962. Looking back to when TOS proposed to her, Opral Benson recalls: “I was a bit startled. I didn’t know much about Nigeria, but I wanted to see what was in Nigeria and I didn’t think it was a problem, because we’re all Africans and West Africans. And I also liked adventures and I wanted to see what Nigeria was all about.” It has been a worthwhile adventure: “my husband was quite supportive. As a matter of fact, when he was in politics, I used to go around campaigning with him because he was part of the politics of the First Republic and I was around then and I had to hop from one part of Lagos to the other on his campaign train. And he is aware of what my own likeness is and he gives me the support that I need. So, I think it’s because of the supportive nature of both of us towards each other’s professions that helped in strengthening our marriage and made it survive for long – almost half a century!”