Love stories come in different shapes and forms. We just heard one at the Democratic Convention where President Bill Clinton shared his love story: how he wooed and married Hillary, the glass-ceiling-breaking woman who has made history as the first woman US Presidential candidate.
But interesting as the Clintons’ love story may sound, it cannot hold a candle to the love story of Mr and Mrs Nnamdi Ezeigbo, the couple who founded SLOT and grew it to become Nigeria’s leading mobile phone-retail chain stores. Tomorrow in Ikeja, there will be an evening of celebration of the 50th birthday of a man who worked so hard to achieve the Nigerian dream. In celebrating Nnamdi Ezeigbo, we are also celebrating his elegant wife Nkechi whose 40th birthday on July 8 had the Koko Master D’Banj around to serenade the Queen of SLOT.
I was with the Ezeigbos. As their guest, they feasted me with their dramatic love story and their entrepreneurial journey as husband and wife in joint business. The American presidential election has proved that love stories matter even in winning an election. I tried to unlock the key to their exemplary marriage and business partnership. Their story is a lesson for the young girls of today going into a relationship: look at the big picture rather than the immediate picture! Pray for God’s hand to lead you. Don’t be discouraged if the guy has no car and can only move around with you on okada top. This is the Nollywood-style love story of the Ezeigbos personally narrated:
My wife Nkechi and I have been married for 18 years. We started from humble beginnings and moving on up to glory, piloted by the hand of God. She is so wonderful a partner. We met when I was nobody. I am sure she saw in me a young man who had vision. She complements me. She is so adorable. She is my best friend. It has been so wonderful from the first time we met. Up till today, we have seen the hand of God. We pray together, we work together, we do most things together. It is a perfect partnership. I usually like this part of the Bible that says one shall put to flight one thousand, and two shall put to flight ten thousand. I see that as something that is working for me very well.
Before I met her, I took six months to pray for a wife. And this is no joke. Friends laughed at me. They will see a beautiful lady and would urge me to make my move but I will say “she is not the one I am looking for.” For six months, I was asking the Holy Spirit to direct me. And the moment I saw her, I knew. I was actually standing at the bus stop, and then she passed by on top of okada bike. The moment I saw her, I said “that’s her.” I got on another okada and told the bike man: “Please chase that okada and overtake it. I want to look at that lady properly.” And the okada man did exactly that. He drove past them and I looked at her and the Holy Spirit told me clearly “that’s her.”
Before I met her, I told myself I wanted to marry somebody from Igbo-speaking part of Delta State, taller than me. We overtook and got to the bus stop before her. When she arrived, she gave the okada man money but the man said the money was bad.
“What is wrong with the money?” she asked. “This is Nigerian money, you can’t reject it.” I saw an opportunity to intervene.
“Excuse me lady, what is the problem?” I asked. And she said, “I just paid for my fare and this man is telling me the money is old.”
Then I said, “Don’t worry, I will take care of that.” And I paid. Then I said, “How far are you going?” She said she was going to Ikeja. I said: “Okay, let’s go together.” So we joined the bus together. We sat together at the back of the bus. I introduced myself. I said: “My name is Nnamdi.” She said: “Really? That is my younger brother’s name.” I said: “So you are Igbo?” She said she is Delta-Igbo. She was working at Chachangi Airlines. We got talking and I said: “You have to come to my house tonight when you close from work.” She asked: “What for?” I said: “Don’t bother about why I want you to come to the house; you just have to come to my house. It is very important.”
I gave her my house address. There was no GSM at that time. I told her to come by 9’o clock. I didn’t say “I like you or I love you.” I was in the spirit. I saw clearly. Luckily, she came to my house. The next day I asked her to stay in my house. Three, four days later, she moved into my house. And in less than three months we got married. I took her to my mum and the moment my mum saw her she gave her a name: Chisaram, meaning God has answered my prayer.
Ever since then we have seen God’s hand from one level to another. We used to live faraway at Meiran. That was where we met and we lived there together. We lived in a two-bedroom apartment there until we moved to Abule Egba, stayed there for some time again and then moved to Ikeja. So you can see the movement of our growth from one level to another. We grew the business gradually. We tried not to live above our means. Right from the onset, she was part of the business. She was working at Chachangi Airlines and I asked her to resign to join me. In fact, I didn’t register the company until she joined me. We registered the company together. She is a shareholder. When we met, I was working as a computer engineer, repairing computers. You can imagine the small office and your wife seated somewhere there trying to attend to people. She was like the first secretary I had. When customers come she would attend to them and I was at the background fixing computers. We had tremendous patronage.
Mrs Ezeigbo takes over the story: When I had my first son in 1999, we took Marwa (tricycle). It was not enough to contain us all. My husband had to trek down to the house. His mother was around and also my nanny. So we first squeezed into the Marwa, with the new baby, my first son, Choba, so my husband trekked down to the house. God has been faithful. My husband led me to God. He showed me the way to go. He is close to God. He is a man of God. Then things were not like this, things were not really easy for him. And then, I lost my mum. I just came to Lagos in 1996. We met 1997, got married 1998. Then I was just 22. I said: “God, the only way I can stay in this Lagos is for you to bless me with someone that will be like my mum.” When I met him, I said: “God, I think this is somebody my mum wants to bless me with.” Because, even the first day, he was talking to me about the way of God, encouraging me. That was what even drew me closer to him.
Last question: Were you Nnamdi not intimidated by your wife’s height? “Intimidated? I don’t get intimidated by anything. They called me Nnamdi Omeifuku––Nnamdi, the one that does big things. That is what they call me. Even my in-laws, that is what they call me too. They don’t associate me with small things.” You can now understand why SLOT is a big brand today—getting even bigger by the day.