At present, the name Thelma Chukwu might not ring a bell like that of Aliko Dangote, Mike Adenuga and Femi Otedola, but the founder of Roomies Connect, in a chat with Temitope Idris, speaks on her desire to make a difference and prove that she can actually set a unique pace in the corner of her world
In spite of having a background in finance, she understands the importance of technology.
What she does may look hard, she has made it easy with sheer innovations, consistency and passion. Her company, Roomies Connect, is an online platform that provides suitable roommates for people.
Speaking on setting up roomieconnect. com, she says when she returned to Nigeria after completing her university education in the United Kingdom, she wanted to share an apartment with someone in Lagos.
It was shocking to her that there was no platform to connect her with her roommate. She said, “I was not staying in Lagos at a time and there was no one or company to help me to get a suitable roommate.
I had to live alone. After a while, my friend complained bitterly about the same issue. I also saw some people who had the same issue. I had actually thought of having this kind of platform for a while, but I guess I was waiting for a push or afraid since I did not know much about technology.”
But after attending a conference organised by Access bank, she became more determined to provide a solution.
“I saw the reason to start something when I went to an Access bank conference, at the Eko Hotel and Suites. The speakers discussed about growing one’s passion and I met many young people who were already into one thing or the other. That was the defining moment for me.” For Chukwu, she is learning the ropes.
Though she is not in a rush, she explains that more people have shown interest in working with her. “The past few years have been all about learning for me. Since I am not a developer or a designer, I have to consult people. When the idea came, I hired a developer to help me actualise it.
This is new for me and I like the experience because I love challenges. Anytime I have problems with my work, I have a close friend who is into IT that helps,” Chukwu shares. From a family of six, she was born and raised in Port Harcourt.
She had a good childhood but her parents felt she would benefit more from getting her university education outside Nigeria.
According to her, she studied Economics at the University Of Portsmouth, England.
She also did a course in Chattered Financial Analysis just as she has dreamt. She, however, insists that there is no way she will abandon finance totally, even if it seems she has diverted. She still reads Financial Times, Bloomberg, among others on a daily basis. She also feels her background in finance will help her to become a better manager.
“In life, the only constant thing is change. I have always been passionate about finance, especially Economics, which was why I studied it. I started working as an Equity, Sales and Trade Analyst on the Stock Exchange and from there, I did Corporate Finance in investment banking.
So, I actually have a finance background. I also went into oil and gas at some point. “I never knew I would like tech, but things happen.
I think tech is actually the next big thing, as everything is now done online. You cannot just wake up one morning and start something; it is about having a problem or identifying a problem and solving it. Ability to do both means you are not just an app developer.
“There were times I questioned leaving a career to start a business on my own. I now believe that I am in the right place, despite all the challenges I have encountered. For me, all those challenges made me even stronger.”
As an entrepreneur in the technology industry, she is aware that one has to invest before money profit comes in. The first and second year, according to her, has more to do with investing in the growth of the business.
“People need to get used to the application and services we render. I started with little savings I had and I am seeing the potentials.
We now have registered users from Ghana, Kenya and here in Nigeria. We hope to get more investors because we are now expanding. So far, we have had over 4000 registered users, excluding those that registered and later deactivated their accounts,” she notes. Roomies Connect works in three segments.
The first segment, she said, has to do with people who need rooms and it saves them the stress of contracting an agent.
“You just want to get someone that has an apartment to spare, so you register and browse through all the people that have existing rooms, communicate with them through the message center, exchange numbers or emails and ask questions.
“The second segment is for people that have extra rooms in their houses and need cash. They come online to look for a roommate.
When they get someone, they go on house hunting together to look for the kind of apartment they want. It is all on the website because we are testing the market, but our mobile application would be launched in June.”
However, schooling abroad is another factor that has influenced her school of thought of setting up roomieconnect.com.
According to Chukwu, her first culture shock is that she had to change her name to Thelma when she got to UK, because they struggled to pronounce her native name. “I am Igbo and people have always called me Ogechi. But it changed when I got to UK.
People couldn’t call my name so I had to switch to Thelma. Even when it came to my pronunciation and accent, it was tough for me at first because I am a Nigerian and we have our distinct ways of pronouncing things. I got corrected many times.”
When she is not working, she stays at home and see movies. According to her, she only goes out when it is necessary. She also likes swimming, yoga and travelling. Chukwu describes her style as simple, which goes a long way in telling who she is. She loves jeans and shirts. But, she states that she can’t also do without her earrings, laptop, iPad and phone.
This might come as a bad news for her admirers, as the young lady said she has no plans to get married anytime soon. “I am yet to get married because I have given myself a milestone and until I reach that milestone, I don’t think I will get married,” she maintains.
February 14: Widows’ day out
With smiles on their faces and shoulders held high, widows in their hundreds celebrated their Valentine party in grand style on Wednesday. The ‘Head High International Organization’, a Non Governmental Organisation for widows, gathered widows together at the VGINIS hall in Yaba axis of Lagos, as part of its visions to give succor to widows on a day famously celebrated as lover’s day all over the world.
These women have no husbands or supporters anymore. They are left to cater for children single-handedly in a society where forces against single-women are on the increase. Head-High foundation did not, however, leave these women to bow their heads in shame or feel irrelevant, rather, they gave hope to those who felt they were hopeless and had their heads high again.
Highly respected female personalities were present at the event. Personalities such as Her Excellency, Dame Abimbola Fashola, wife of the Minister of Power, Works and Housing; Honourable Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Mrs. Lola Akande represented by Jumoke Odusanmi; Mrs. Laide Latinwa representing the Honourable commissioner of youth and sports.
Showers of love flooded the arena as warm hugs, handshakes of hopes were exchanged among the widows and the trustees of the organization. There were also souvenirs distributed to the widows in the spirit of the season.
While rendering her welcome address, the executive director of Head High International Organization, Pastor (Mrs.) Tinu Odugbemi established the purpose of the gathering. According to her, the Valentine love feast is a way to reach out to those who might be missing their loved ones during Valentine and may be feeling lonely and neglected; setting up a platform for widows to mix with peers, relax, network, be encouraged and enlightened also reconstructing love both in pattern and expression at Valentine season.
She added that at the 16th year of the organization, it has really attracted widows whose loves had been impacted in one way or the other, “many of our widows have been empowered through our skill acquisition schemes and at least 280 women and girls including widows and their daughters and 17 men have benefitted from these schemes”
She, however appealed to the widows to help the organization with its social and skills centre currently under construction at Isolo and to use the skills acquired to benefit themselves and the society at large.
While rendering the keynote address titled ‘Not without purpose’, Her Excellency, Dame Abimbola Fashola encouraged the women to truly keep their heads high and see God as their husbands.
She stated that there is no woman God created without a purpose whether widow or not but that the difference lies in the nature of the assignment given to each person and individual discharge of duties assigned them by God. She asserted that a woman was created by God to have dominion and nurture the earth.
She then enjoined the women to live impactful lives as expected by God and pray for other people around them because if everybody engages in selfish prayers, at a time of need, there would be nobody to pray for them.
Before rounding off her speech, Her Excellency gave the widows three key areas to improve upon in order to live impactful lives “First and foremost, you have to love God; Secondly, love people around you and when you do that God averts evil for you. Also, take care of yourselves. Eat the right meals, use the right drugs because health is wealth.”
She also encouraged them to teach their children to love God, let them develop personal relationships with God and see how things would turn out for them. “And you shouldn’t be complaining instead you should give thanks, because it is you that is blessed, you are not the dead one, you are alive, you are not in the hospital neither were you brought here on a wheel chair”.
She also advised widows to learn a vocational skill to empower themselves and try to learn something new every year. She enjoined them to make their children acquire skills too asides formal education. “Anything a child wants to do, let him do it, some of you parents, simply because you don’t want people to mock you, you push your children to University. In as much as there is nothing bad with a University degree, I decided not to attend one and I didn’t, I made up my mind to be a secretary and today I am one and proud of it”
The state Commissioner of Youth and Sports duly represented by Laide Latinwa encouraged the women to endeavour to engage in activities that would make their impact felt even by the unborn generation.
She also encouraged women whose lives have been touched by the head-high international organization to help lift other widows around them, “let the lifting efforts be multiplied”, she said.
In her message, the state Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty alleviation, Dr. Lola Slander duly represented by Jumoke Odusanmi, established the sufferings of widows in a typical African setting highlighting the inhumane treatments they are made to go through even in the 21st century of which Nigerian widows are no exception.
She, however, believes that it is time for women to come together to help tackle the challenges such as violence and discrimination against widows of all ages, “we must ensure that widows are well treated with equal opportunities for education and participation in the economy.”
The honourable commissioner also reiterated the efforts of the ministry towards poverty alleviation for widows through the skills acquisition schemes and programs organized by the ministry at intervals, “we would not relent in our campaign for women emancipation and empowerment. In the ministry of women affairs alone, there exists eighteen skill acquisition schemes established to empower young people and women across the state, most especially, widows. It is worthy to note that the short term and long term trainings are totally free of charge.”.
Some of the widows shared their experiences with New Telegraph one of which is Mrs Justina Ugwu, a mother of four children, who had lost her husband since 2006. She lamented that since the death of her husband life has been tough and hellish but with God by her side, she was able to overcome as three of her children had been in the higher institution one of which is currently in the compulsory National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC). “It was not easy at all. My husband’s family abandoned me and the children to survive alone and God helped us. I am a teacher in a private school so what I’m earning is just peanut so it was difficult for me when my first child gained admission into the University but God saw us through. I give him all the glory. ”
Mrs. Ogunmade Juliet stated that it has not been an easy journey since there was no one to support her, though her husband’s younger brother tried to make some efforts, he could not cope with it. “I have lost my husband since 33 years ago now. I never enjoyed my marriage because my husband died young. He just celebrated his 45 year old birthday. He had future plans for us but death cheated us. Since then, I have been running here and there to train my children to the level they are now and truly, God has always been faithful”.
She said that she appreciates the woman of God that have been helping widows and prays that God takes her higher.
Deaconess Busola Shomade, a mother of three, who lost her husband since year 2000 said that widowhood has not been easy on her. She described it as a tough one, that sometimes when a widow wakes up in the morning, her next option might be to cry knowing that her husband is nowhere but that God has helped her through it all.
“When I lost my husband, my mother-in-law sent I and the children out if the house so we had to look for our own apartment. But then we continued collecting the rent but later she stopped us from collecting the rent and took over though she promised to send us feeding money but we didn’t see anything. However, when my daughter gained admission into Yaba Tech last year, she gave us 20,000 but one thing is that God has always been my husband. He has always been there for me”.
Also speaking, Deaconess Opeyemi Falaye, a member of the trustee board stated that everything was rough but with God, it went well. She said that her husband died in year 1999 and her first son was in the first year in the University, the second was writing his senior WAEC while the last born was in his penultimate year in the secondary school.
“But today, with God by my side, all of them have graduated, they are doing well, they are in good places of work and they are taking care of me but initially, I thought I was going to die, I could not go to parties, I could not mingle with people, even friends that promised heaven and earth abandoned us. Initially, I was annoyed but later I realized that everybody has his cross to bear. So, I give God all the glory”
In an interview with Journalists, Pastor Mrs. Odugbeni spoke on what led her to establish the organisation
She said that as the first female pastor among her peers, she felt an urge to influence other women’s lives, “so I made up my mind to read the two books named after women in the Bible. I started with the book of Ruth because I was quite familiar with Esther. It was then that God arrested me, he showed me that there are different categories of widows.
With the information God gave me, the first thing that came to my mind as a journalist was to start a magazine or newsletter for widows but later we started with a Television series on NTA ten and with the way things turned out, I knew that was what God wanted me to do. This later led to a widows it held at Isolo where widows spoke at length and wanted more meetings. That was what led to this”.
Speaking on the challenges of the organization, she mentioned finance as one of the major challenges of the organisation and called on the government and other corporate bodies for assistance. She also expressed her gratitude to the sponsors and donors of the Head high international organization.
I didn’t sacrifice my career for family – Professor Folayan
To some, life is just a phase, a compendium of events. To others, life is seen as an opportunity to achieve milestones that would make significant marks on the sand of time. In the latter category is Mrs. Morenike Oluwatoyin Folayan, an associate professor of Child Dental Health, Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital and member of the College’s research and partnership unit. In a chat with Elizabeth Ogunbamowo and Mayowa Ososami, the scholar speaks on her career
What motivated you to toe the teaching line?
I ventured into the teaching line by accident. I never planned to be a lecturer. I trained as a dentist and I had a very experienced professor- Odunsoya. I would say that almost 90% of my set came back into what we call the residency programme where we specialize. In our own world then, that was like a PHD and you know when you get a PHD, the more you research, the more you get interested. In our world then, there was a lot of gap in the academia and once you do your fellowship, there is always a space for you as a lecturer. I got in there. I think what I enjoy most is the research work. Teaching gave me the opportunity to share that and mentor young people. As an advocate also, I could share my research findings to change the world and students are the most available persons you can share that with. I enjoy that. I do not really enjoy clinical work.
In a University, you must do three things. You teach research and do community works. For most medical doctors, their community work is what they do in the teaching hospital. For me, my community work revolves a lot around advocacy worker.
What were your challenges like?
Yes, there are challenges but for me I have lived a life of overcoming challenges such that it has become a part of life. I could very well say that working in the University has its own peculiar challenges. I guess I could complain, just sadly I don’t. For me one of the things that was a challenge and extensively challenging was not having supporting seniors. I did not have supportive seniors so I had to learn the ropes myself and I had to climb the ropes myself. I think that is the only thing I can think of. Then it was a tug of war. I had to fight my battles. I fought battles people had never fought. I probably survived because I had God and maybe one of these miracles.
What are your teaching philosophies?
One thing for me, I think I got that from my own teacher, that when students fail, I failed. I remember the time that I was HOD, I was excited that I had a one hundred percent pass rate. The second year, it wasn’t the exact rate. But I was able to do a one hundred percent pass, so for me, when students fail, it should be me that failed.
In recent time, the second philosophy I share with my students is that, I am working with you to be everything you want to be in life, you make the choice. When I am in class teaching them, I make them to understand that I’m working with them. So that when they pick up their CV, there is something extra in that CV that gives them the likelihood to be taken up anywhere else despite the fact that they studied in Nigeria.
How is your marital life?
I am not married now. I am divorced. I was married then to Mr. Ukpong and he was supportive of my career. As a researcher on HIV/AIDS, I remember the times that HIV patients would come to the house and sleep over but my husband would not kick against it. They would use the bed in the guest room because we were staying in a two-bedroom flat and my husband never bothered me.
As a career woman, how do you jostle between the home front and your career?
I think one of the things that probably made me call for a divorce was that I could not sacrifice my career for my home and I am happy I did not. Because now that I’m divorced, I’m still going on, I don’t feel any loss and I don’t feel that I’ve wasted my life. In addition, I must acknowledge extensively that my husband stood at home front for me, spent a lot of time with the kids. He did and I would always acknowledge that.
However, following up my teenage years, I think I had trained my children to become very independent. That is one of the things that make me sad, sometimes. My kids do not really need me around. At times, I just wonder if my kids really need me.
Actually, the three of them are now in the UK, one of them is married and two are in school. I send them text messages through Whatsapp, Messenger, and two weeks after, they reply. I really brought up independent children, it has its disadvantages but it allowed me a lot more in my career.
What do you hope to achieve in your teaching profession?
I am looking forward to highly successful students. I usually tell my students that I want them to become the people that would fill those spaces up there. I want them to be those I would be watching on my TV tomorrow. I want them at the top.
As a researcher in areas of HIV/AIDS, will you say it is reducing or on the rise?
Excellent question! There has been a lot of progress in the field of HIV response. However, we do know that it is an infectious disease. It is not an infection you just go and catch because it is invisible. It is transmitted in such a way that you do not see the event happening and even though we have globally controlled the epidemic, in Sub-Saharan Africa, it is still a problem. In Nigeria, it is still a real problem. It is a problem that if not reinforced; you just want to start all over again. Although, it is in control in some parts of the world, in Nigeria it is not and without funding, it would still be a problem.
How can a woman in a typical African Society live a self-purposeful life without having to pay for it?
You said typical. She will pay for it. In a typical African setting, you are assertive and pursuing your goal. You are going to pay for it because there is no way out, you just have to choose to pay the price or you conform. That is the chart you have in a typical African setting. You would pay the price of stigma, rumors and backlashes. The only thing that saves you is if you come out well, the gist, rumor, backlashes would become less if you succeeded but if you are assertive and then you fail. You are doom.
Cases of domestic violence flood our societies daily. Do you think it is on the increase as against what was once obtainable?
No, it is not on the increase. It has always been there. I think there are lot of noises and voices around now. I think what you are just seeing is a lot more of harvesting. People are now speaking out and going to the court.
Can financial independence of a woman be a factor for home-break?
It is not about the economic empowerment of women. It is just that women are becoming more educated and this translates to financial independence. Financial independence of a woman does not determine a broken home except both parties do not manage it well and home will break whether you are financially independent or not.
So you do have people that their home are broken but are yet in marriage. What you will find out is that with more independence, your life becomes prior and you don’t necessarily have to go through the torture of maintaining a home. Therefore, independence does not necessarily mean home-break; you have to work it out. In every relationship, partners have to work it out together.
Victimised for her passion
For her passion and activism, she is being victimised and even persecuted. Maria Nwachi, an Ebonyi State lawmaker and photographer, was suspended for practicing her passion aside being a lawmaker, UCHENNA INYA reports
This is not the best of time for Mrs. Maria Nwachi, member representing Afikpo North East constituency in Ebonyi state House of Assembly. She is in the eyes of the storm again in the state for engaging in her second business (photography/image making) after law making, Nwachi is currently the most popular politician in Afikpo Town. Youths, women and men folk love Nwachi for her philanthropy, empowerment and emancipation programme. She is popularly known as Afikpo Chic, Nwanyi Afikpo, ‘Best Chic Ever Liveth’.
In 2015, Nwachi contested House of Assembly on the platform of Progressives People’s Alliance(PPA) and won. PPA was very unpopular in entire Afikpo and her constituency, Afikpo North East. She had wanted to run on the platform of People’s Democratic Party but changed her mind. She was elected the Minority Leader of the House of Assembly.
Prior to her emergence as the state lawmaker, entire Afikpo was in darkness for two years, as Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) could not supply electricity to the town. Nwachi swung into action and reconnected the area to the national grid while the people enjoyed constant electricity supply. They nicknamed the electricity supply her name, MARIA.
Six months after, the area witnessed another period of power outage. This prompted the youths to go on rampage. They vandalized EEDC properties in the area. Nwachi was blamed for not controlling the youths and she was suspended by the state House of Assembly for three months. The suspension lasted for six months.
Last year, she defected to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Her party, PPA kicked against the defection by filing a suit against her at federal high court, Abakaliki. PPA is seeking the court to declare her seat vacant. The State PPA Chairman, Samuel Udeogu said the suit was filed because Nwachi who was sponsored on the platform of the PPA during the last general election was now a member of PDP in the State. “My reason for taking this matter to court was because the actions of Hon. Maria Ude Nwachi which my party sponsored to the House of Assembly were against sections 106 sub-section 1d and section 109 sub-section1g of the constitution of federal republic of Nigeria as amended in 1999.
“It is a settled law that once there is no division in your party at the national level or there are no talks of merger with any other political party or group that defection in that instance becomes a nullity.
As the suit lies in the federal high court, Nwachi who has declared interest to go to National Assembly in next year’s general elections was suspended again by the state House of Assembly. The Assembly suspended her for two weeks, January 23rd, 2018. Nwachi was allegedly suspended for gross misconduct and for posing as public photographer.
In a motion moved by the Leader of the House, Hon. Joseph Nwobasi representing Ezza North East constituency and seconded by Hon. Franca Okpo representing Abakaliki North constituency, Hon. Nwachi was reported to have been recalcitrant to earlier warning by the Assembly to desist from being a photographer in the state. She was therefore suspended for 14 days pending the time the committee constituted by the House to investigate the allegation against her conclude its report. Nwachi was also reported to have been recalcitrant to earlier warnings by the Assembly on her activities.
The Assembly noted that Nwachi, a former Minority Leader of the House has brought disrespect and dishonesty to herself and the Assembly by bringing her image and integrity to the mud by posing as public photographer. Her suspension however generated mixed reactions from members of the public. While some described it as political witch-hunt, others said it was a welcome development to halt her increasing lifestyle, which has allegedly brought her name and that of the Assembly to disrepute.
Two days ago, last Wednesday precisely; the embattled lawmaker appeared before the Assembly 5-man committee set-up to investigate her alleged misconduct. The committee grilled Nwachi for more than 30 minutes and she pleaded guilty. She pleaded guilty at the Assembly Complex, Nkaliki road, Abakaliki during the committee’s sitting over her matter. She accepted that there were two sittings which she avoided because of her image making business for a prominent man in Imo state. She also accepted that she does some promotions for Governor Dave Umahi which according to her was to showcase the Governor’s achievements before the world. “I actually avoided the two sittings because of my private business and such behavior no matter the circumstances cannot be right. I cannot justify that and I do not see what the House has done as regards my suspension as a political witch-hunt. Rather, I see my action as very wrong and I cannot justify it,” Nwachi said.
She added that, “I actually do some promotions for my Governor, he is my Governor. I do promotions for him not image laundering. I have many people on Facebook and I know how to figure those things and my consideration for doing that is to enable the people of the country to know that my Governor is doing well and developing the state.
“Even before I came into politics, I have been doing Facebook business and managing the Igboist account which enjoys large followership, I have been doing lots of empowerment through it.
Usually, I use my resources to do those empowerment programmes but this time around I introduced a formular which the Igboist members can contribute to empower the people. It is a new empowerment scheme and it’s a sort of family empowerment for members of the Igboist,” she said.
Chairman of the Committee and member representing Ikwo south constituency, Hon. Chike Ogiji told Nwachi that the House was worried about her activities which he said portrays her and the Assembly in bad light, hence the suspension and commended the lawmaker for her sincerity on the allegations against her. “We are not interested in your private life, we don’t even intend to delve into your privacy. Nevertheless, what we want is that as long as you continue to be a member of this House of Assembly, it is collective responsibility and the public perception about your behavior and conduct is also important to us and that is why we have done this.
Adding that, “It is clear that you have accepted the mistakes you made and we want to tell you that we are not witch-hunting you. Our business is to ensure that you move as an Honourable member with the intension to protecting the collective interest of the House that we have the integrity and that is why the House frowned at most of your actions.”
Another member of the committee and member representing Ohaukwu South constituency, Hon. Frank Onwe also commended Nwachi for displaying sincerity on the allegations against her. “Dear colleague, I must commend you for making the work of this House very easy. By accepting responsibilities for all these things leveled against you. For the purpose of the public and records, people go out there to give misconceptions of what happened in the House. The House did not suspend you simply because you are photographing. For us, we see it as a hobby! When there is programme we go there, snap with people and get pictures.
But it becomes a problem when you go to a public place outside your area and in the process where you are pauperizing or you are pushed down and they will say it is ‘Maria, the legislator’ and where is the legislator from? She is from Ebonyi state. So, it takes something away from the House here that one of us is being pushed around. They will not know that you are doing it for just hobby purposes and that is why we are majorly concerned. Some of us here have cameras and if there is any function or public gathering, we snap. So, what we are saying here is that the image of Maria is very important to us,” he asserted.
Nwachi was born in Ozizza community, Afikpo, Ebonyi State and left Nigeria for United States of America in 1989 when she was 19 years old, she came back to the country middle of year 2000. On arrival to Nigeria, she got involved in Social Media related matters; news dissemination and was one of the early people that started News on Facebook Nigeria. she moved into Image-making in 2012 by managing Facebook Accounts/Pages and Social Media Accounts for top companies and establishments, top prominent men/women of the society; including governors and oil magnets. The first time she practiced image-making was for Jeb Bush in 2002 in Florida, USA when Bush contested governorship election.
Nwachi also serves as a Photographer. She personally takes the photographs of all her clients and equally does a very special type of editing on them. She was always seen in public functions with camera taking pictures of the events for her social media accounts.
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