It was either ‘yes’ or ‘I die’

Ridley and Patience Abimanya have been married since October 2015,  having met two years earlier. PHOTOS/Courtesy 

What you need to know:

In front of 20 strangers, Ridley Abimanya proposed to his then girlfriend, Patience Nayebare. Although he knew she would never let him down, he was afraid she might say no and kill his dreams, Joy Aheebwa writes.

This was a Friday like no other. It was dark and chilly. The stars in the sky seemed to be on a spying mission for the many uninvited guests to this rather intimate and grand day.

Bright candles, specifically on this table of four, and soft music in the background did not do much to ease the tension Ridley Abimanya was under as he awaited the arrival of his darling, Patience Nayebare.

Having arrived at Jack’s Lounge, Mbarara earlier according to the plan, the thought of asking Nayebare to spend the rest of her life with him in front of the about 20 people who were visibly minding their own business was clearly eating at the 34-year-old.

But his two ‘partners in crime’, best friend Isaiah Nasaasira and Agnes Asiimwe, Nayebare’s sister, were there to support him.

In Ankole, kneeling is not a common practice by both men and women so it takes a lot of courage or eternal love’’ as in Abimanya’s case to get the man down on his knee for a worthy life partner. 

The proposal

“My heart has never beaten as hard and fast as it did when I took the knee with the ring in my hand as she walked toward me. In this moment she literally became the air I breathe,” he recalls.

“The closer she came towards me in her little blue dress, black high heels, the more unsure I became about the answer she would give. I expected a ‘yes’ or I die.” 

Jack’s Lounge was a favourite hangout place for the two lovebirds. They always had their dates at this venue every Friday and the sight of Abimanya kneeling completely shocked Nayebare, 31.

“When I saw him on his knees with a ring in his hands, I froze. I did not see this coming at all. I was scared and wondering why he was in a rush (to propose),” Nayebare recalls.

“Standing in front of me with her hands on her face in disbelief, I asked if she would marry me. She said yes!” Abimanya says.

All of a sudden, to the delighted amazement of the couple, everyone in the room shouted congratulations.

Hathcing the plan

Abimanya had made all the arrangements to have a very intimate, simple and real ‘African’ romantic proposal with Nasaasira and Asiimwe.

“My parents and family do not like a flashy pompous lifestyle and prefer doing things the simple way regardless of one’s status. I admired their sobriety and simplicity which inspired my idea to propose the way I did in spite of the public display of affection era we are in today,” Abimanya says.

Around a week to the D-day he bought the ring and gave it to his best friend on that day for reassurance of its availability at the special moment.

“I could not trust my nervous self to remember everything especially the most important one of all, the ring. He handed it to me when I was taking the knee,” Abimanya says.

Nasaasira was responsible for making sure Asiimwe was on time and kept on the lookout for Nayebare to make sure her arrival did not catch them all off guard.

 “He played a great role keeping my confidence,” Abimanya adds.

Asiimwe’s role was to show up on time and represent Nayebare’s friends and family. She is the one who informed their family about the proposal as they only knew Abimanya as a friend by then. 

How they met

In 2013, Nayebare, a banker and Abimanya, an accountant, met and hit it off with friendship while working under the same project for about 14 months.

“I liked her from the moment I set my eyes on her and reached out by treating her in a special way at work.  She was welcoming. We shared much about our personal lives and discovered that we had a lot in common. She was beautiful, intelligent and developmental with very many good ideas. After about a year, our friendship gradually advanced into something more,” says Abimanya.

It was a no brainer for Nayebare that he had taken a liking for her based on how he treated her differently at work, helping her beat deadlines, dropping her home every evening after work and calling every evening.

“He would take me for dates, surprise me with gifts which, indeed, assured me that he felt something special for me. Being close uncovered the man of my dreams in him. He was hardworking, God-fearing, very friendly, and handsome and above all, had respectful qualities I always wanted in a husband,” Nayebare recalls.

The couple figured building a lasting relationship did not necessarily depend on a third party’s opinion which led them to keeping their love under wraps at work.

Did she suspect?

“There was no way I could suspect a proposal especially given the venue and the day Abimanya chose to do this. It had become part of the wonderful bonding routines we had developed as a couple so I came to enjoy a good evening with my mwami as I called him long before this day,” says Nayebare.

Even her sister Asiimwe did not leak any information about what was to happen on this particular Friday evening. “Perhaps I would have dressed to kill,” Nayebare jokes.

According to Nayebare, everything was amazingly planned because she believes that when a proposal is kept among very few close friends, it indeed becomes a surprise. If more parties are involved, someone could have leaked the idea.

“If I had been given a chance to participate in the preparations the only thing I would have changed would have been to invite just a few more friends and a good photographer,” she adds.


Nayebare introduced Abimanya to her parents and family at their home in Kabwohe, Sheema District on October 9, 2015.

A day later, the Abimanya’s tied the knot at St. John’s Church, Nyakitoko, Buhweju District and had a reception at his ancestral home in Buhweju District.

Saying I do was worth it.

“It is the best thing that ever happened to us. There’s nothing like marrying and being married to your friend. You plan, pray, grow, celebrate, cry together and develop as a team,” says Patience.

The couple is blessed with two boys, six-year-old Melvin and two-year-old Micah. They have been able to build a home and started a goat farm among other financial projects. 

“I would encourage young couples to consider going back to the basic principles of life where parties are but means to the end, in this case the marriage. I strongly advise against spending a lot of money on them but rather plan better for life after the wedding day,” Abimanya says.