Raymond Ozoji, Awka
Nwanna Happiness Chidiebere dared to trade where men have dominant bearing – shoe making. The 22-year-old Happiness is from Umuayom Village Awka, Awka South Local government area, Anambra state. At a distance, she cuts a picture of a no nonsense person, intelligent and hardworking.
An encounter with her confirmed the above qualities and more. She is not only very intelligent and a footballer of repute, but when the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) decided to deal with her, she went into shoe making at No 4 Isiagu street, Amikwo Awka near Eke Awka. She is already a cynosure of eyes.
She scored 276 in JAMB in 2019 with Post UTME 49 to study Law at Unizik but did not get admission. The cut-off was 250. Before that, in 2018, she wrote JAMB and scored 235 for Mass Communication and her Post UTME was 46. She didn’t get admission as well both at Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka (Unizik), Federal Polytechnic Oko, and Anambra state University.
That was strange because she was supposed to make her result at a sitting judging by her intelligence and hard-work. She now explained how she was forced to write sciences during Post UTME against Arts she studied. Her petition to the school management was not considered. She lost interest probably out of frustration and reinvented herself to avoid succumbing to frustration.
She noted: “When I wrote my post UTME examination, normally four subjects are made mandatory which consists of the subjects I wrote during my JAMB examination. I noticed when I wrote the exam, subjects were mixed up. For instance, I am an Art student, so tell me, why will someone give me a science subject to write? And, I also noticed that within the specific period of time the exam lasted, most of the art students were given science subjects to write and vice-versa which is absolutely so wrong.
“There is no way the student would have written it well unless the lucky ones or I should say the ones who are blessed were lucky enough to be given the subjects they included for the examination.
“And I did fall a victim of this because I never offered science during my secondary school days, I was but a pure Art student. So, there was no way they would have expected me to write a science related subject and score high (I’m no magician) when I know absolutely nothing about science. So, this really affected me and many during the examination because I knew my post UTME score would have been much better than what I had.
“This is me trying to speak out for myself…this is me speaking out for other students too.
Many were a victim of this and as such, we wrote letters directing it to the schools Vice Chancellor and I personally made reports on the day of the exam when I noticed what I was given to write wasn’t what I applied for.
“All the supervisor I met could say to me was that I should write what was given to me or leave the hall. So, I believe this is a system that can still be rectified because I don’t know students that would fall prey to this ill menace tomorrow and would fail woefully too.
“So please the government and the universities practising such act should please look deep into this. They should always endeavour to give students their supposed subjects to write and not introducing a totally different subject off what one registered for.
“We are told to read wide and versatile, but I as an art student don’t have any business with science related subjects. So, I see definitely no reason I should leave art related subjects I should be reading to read science related subjects. To me, it is one being confused which I am absolutely NOT. So, this ultimately needs to be addressed.”
At Capital Secondary School Awka where Happiness graduated with the overall best WAEC result in 2017, she was the Deputy Senior Prefect 2017/2018 where she introduced sex education for teens like herself with a corps member known as Matches from Calabar supervising. She covers three classes every day, even when Matches left after her mandatory one year programme, Happiness continued her sex education. She was preaching on the essence of young girls retaining their virginity and boys too. She later started going from school to school to preach her love for chaste life by youths.
She has even spoken at an event hosted by wife of Enugu state Governor, Lady Monica Ugwuanyi, where over 120 schools were in attendance.
She isn’t regretting any bit of her step in learning the shoe making business as already her boss, Mr Ejioffor Odizo John from Enugu state is impressed with her fastness in learning.
Though, Happiness was asked to pay N20,000 to learn the trade, it was hard for her to raise because nobody is picking her bills, But Ejioffor was considerate to allow her time and she has gradually raised N15,000. What of her transport and feeding daily? Happiness is a chap anyone who comes across her would fall in love with as she has so many distractions and frustrations at some points from family, but she remained focused.
Her father, Dr Nwanna Mathew Kanayochukwu, has been bedridden in the last 7 years. This she attributed to wickedness in the world as someone laid charms for her father. His Pharmacy at Amudo Awka and other businesses before that collapsed. His ailment has defied all medical solution, though God has shown Mercy, as he has started healing. Her brother Nwanna Chukwuemeka Collins had similar experience as he was showering in the bathroom, when a cat jumped on his chest. After three days of this ugly incident, he slumped at the staircase and died at the hospital.
The tests conducted didn’t show anything as the cause of his collapse and sudden death. The late Chukwuemeka was a bundle of talent as he began phone repairing with ICT and had customers across Eastern Region without learning it anywhere. He started the business when his admission delayed and married at 25. The children were taken care of by her for 3 years without doing anything for herself.
Young Happiness was looking at her brothers and sisters dying one after the other. They were eight in the family but only four are surviving today. Two boys and two girls died prematurely in mysterious circumstances. That was enough distraction for the young girl, yet she smashed her JAMB and WAEC, though did not get admission. Is help coming her way?
Happiness is still very grateful to God for sparing her life and that of her surviving brothers –Nwanna Mathew Obiorah a graduate of Political Science and her sister who is a nurse and another of her brother.
She is proud of her mother, Mrs Nwanna Felicia Chioma, a retired teacher and now a caterer as she even cooks for wedding etc.
She has conducted home lessons for years at N5000 for several homes before stress nearly killed her. She was equally attacked by gunmen who wanted to rape her.
That left her with sour taste as she fought back to save her virginity. She was shot and injured. She has never dated anyone and her first attempt with her mate was appalling as the guy started demanding sex and she bolted. ‘’I said it was over since I cherished my virginity’’. She has never been molested until she was attacked on her way home after a private lesson visit. She was taking a call when two men accosted her with a gun.
She surrendered her phone and appealed to them to allow her go with her bag containing some expensive phones belonging to people for her brother to work on and her teaching kits but they insisted on going with everything. And rather than go, they wanted to rape her. She fought forgetting they had a gun but luckily she survived it with injuries. Her valuables including schemes for her home lesson stolen.
She isn’t happy the world is full of evil people waiting to take advantage at any slightest chance from the vulnerable youths like her. And because she is good in English language, she helps some teachers in making their lesson notes and marking exam sheets to survive. She virtually does everything not evil to survive. She leaves on struggles and good will.
Shoe making wasn’t her first trade. She has learnt clothes making but her boss, a man, stylishly refused to teach her details why she was there. She had to leave. She has understood it is a man’s world but is ready to break the ice ceiling and make a huge success for herself. She won’t allow anything hold her down.
She decided to go into shoe making but there was no hope to see a place in Awka unless Aba, in Abia state, until her girlfriend Chinenye John from Umuogbunu village, Awka who deals in unisex shoes trekked from Amaenyi Awka to Eke Awka looking for a place.
They later saw Ejiofor’s shop and negotiated. She had opportunities to do salesgirl and other works to be paid monthly salary but that wasn’t her calling. She needs to make her own money and empower other girls.
Happiness recognizes God as she insisted that every human being needs grace to get whatever she or he needs in life. That’s the grace she is asking God to grant her to actualize her dreams of setting up her own business as an Entrepreneur.
She isn’t the outgoing type but goes for her training, cooks and back to work. She has nothing to regret including the work. She insisted she doesn’t regret the family issues, because according to her, “she is alive. I give God the glory. This is my three months and I am still marching on. I am just happy. I am actually happy to be here.”
Happiness plays football with Queens Club Awka. Her coach is Jude from Umuzeocha village Awka and the sponsor is Dele. She wants equal rights, opportunities and privileges for young girls to enable them to survive the unhealthy competition in the society.
Her boss, Ejiofor, was full of praises for Happiness for her doggedness and diligence but cautioned her to bend down more to learn so many things she has not captured to enable her to stand on her feet after settlement.
He was surprised Happiness was committed and dedicated to the job despite the profession was mainly dominated by men and boys. He even tried to discourage her from learning the trade but when he saw she was serious, he picked interest in her and decided to support her fully because according to him, so many women and girls came to learn but never lasted more than two weeks. Though, her stay has brought another young girl which Ejiofor says she is going to influence a lot.
Happiness was emphatic that her shoe making unisex business will take her far. According to her: ‘’It is a shoe making business based on unisex. That is, both boys and girls can use our material. By the grace of God, I have this feeling to start up this business here in Awka. Then when I look at myself within a specific period of two to three years and I see what I have on me, then if I’m able to work on my papers because I really want to travel outside Nigeria to learn more techniques including mechanized ways of doing things because everything will not be from there.
“We get their knowledge and improve on them for our own industry here. So I just want us to have somebody here doing this business internationally and that person is me Happiness Nwanna. The machines and everything are here.
“I’m good in hand making of shoes and even in using the machine to make the shoes. I also want to have many employees I will be teaching. I want to create employment for both the boys and girls where they will be earning salary under me.
“I believe that once I teach people the ways of making shoes, they can open a shop of their own like this and the cycle will be going on and before you know it there will be employment everywhere.’’
But, is Happiness regretting anything? ‘’No! Not even for a second because I am very proud of the business. I’m very proud of myself. People kept asking me, ‘of all the businesses like Salon, sewing etc why is it this one?’
“That this is for boys and men but I tell them that what a man can do, a woman can do it even better. So doing this, nobody forced me into it. As it is now, my father doesn’t know I am doing this except for my mum.
“Even my brothers don’t know but I just told my mum so that she would not be worried whenever I leave the house. I just want to stand on my own. I want to be an independent lady; hustling for myself. I know that there are other immoral ways of earning money like sleeping around or something like that but I just want to make this money in a straightforward way and I also have plans of going back to school.
“As it is now even going to school is a problem because my late brother left three kids. They are in school and are being taken care of. Added to the number is another boy living with us making it total of four children under our care.
“So for me, I don’t want to be a burden to anybody. I just finished my SS3 with WAEC’s best result in my school and should be in school but circumstances changed the narrative for me. So the least I can do to help out in the family is not to be a burden but to hustle for myself which I’m doing now and I’m very proud of it.’’
Asking her if she needed any support to enable her to break the ceiling earlier in attaining her desires in life since it’s a male world, she said: ‘’It is a very good thing. People should help me because I am down already and fears no fall. If God sends a helper, I shall remain indebted. As I said at the beginning, I want to be a lawyer.
“I’m always bent on being a lawyer because I have seen several cases of people being maltreated, molested and the rest. So I don’t mind creating a non- governmental organization for myself where I can speak out for people. That has always been my dream. As a lawyer, I can just help people gain justice as well as help draw attention of people, government, higher authorities to human rights abuses.
“I will really like my knowledge to be shared out to the world, to people that need it, the less privileged just like my boss is doing for me. He helped me in terms of the payment, feeding and transportation.
“So this is something great to me. I needed it at this moment and he was there for me so the same way I would be there for another person that doesn’t have what it takes to start up business because every act of kindness that one does somewhere, somehow, somebody benefits from it.
‘’Yes, I’m calling on spirited individuals to support young girls to be on their own to learn trade and go to school. I really want the girl child to stand on her own, to be independent because these days, we are no more in the world of women education ends in the kitchen. These days you have to hustle for yourself.
“I’m really disappointed when you ask a lady ‘after school what is next?’ They will tell you ‘marriage.’ Marriage is a good thing but that is not an accomplishment. Why not start up something so that if your husband is not fine you can help out in the family. It is wrong for women to be totally dependent on their husbands. So, I advise the girls to hustle and stand on their own. Learn work, just calm down and learn work.’’
On whether she has suffered mockery by her peers, Happiness said: ‘’As far as I can say, none has ever done it except for one girl. The girl was the dumbest person we had back then in the school. She passed across our shop one certain time and was like ‘so Happiness, you of all people with your popularity and intelligence in school, this is where you ended up?’ So, I smiled and I can remember dropping a statement for her like ‘you won’t understand. Everything is just for a reason.’ So, I tried challenging her in what is wrong doing the work, but she was gone.’’
Any role model? “The late Prof. Dora Akunyili was and still is my heroine and role model. I look up to her. When she was alive, she did wonderful things. She really made me proud and I’m very proud of her. Also, if I’m able to live to the standard of my mum, I will be a fulfilled woman. As a teacher, my mum has raised so many prominent men and women in the society and has also saved so many from living a bad life,’’ Happiness said.