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Nigerian entrepreneur breaks tribal and religious barrier for love

Real love is rare. Love that transcends barriers is even rarer. Paul Ozioko met his wife, Zainab Shittu while serving in Ogbomoso, Oyo state, in 2008. He was a struggling 'youth corps' who had just finished his first degree from the University of Benin. He had done menial jobs such as washing clothes to make ends meet and had graduated with a 2nd class lower result that tugged at his confidence.

Nigerian entrepreneur breaks tribal and religious barrier for love

Paul Ozioko (left) and his wife Zainab Ozioko during their traditional wedding Photo: MTN
Source: UGC

Three years later, while Paul was studying for his second degree at the University of Ilorin, the beautiful Zainab crossed his path again. Now that he had found her, he could not tell her that he washed clothes so that he could survive. But by a stroke of luck and a bit of CIA-level detective work, Zainab who had become suspicious ambushed him at the shop he used as his base for washing and found her way into the small room before he got back from classes - that was how the cat was let out of the bag. She has stood by him since then!

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Nigerian entrepreneur breaks tribal and religious barrier for love

Ozioko presenting the business plan for Mr Clean Drycleaners Photo: MTN
Source: UGC

He is a Christian from Nsukka in Enugu state while she is a Muslim from Oyo State. People didn’t understand their relationship - where were they headed? Would their parents agree? What would people say? They have been married for three years now. Paul has gone ahead to get a second-degree thanks to MTN’s scholarship scheme, and they now have two young children!

Paul was one of the 51 young entrepreneurs who pitched their business plans at the recently concluded Youth Entrepreneurship Development Programme, YEDP by MTN Nigeria - an initiative created to empower youth entrepreneurs in the country with up to 100 million Naira business support.

Nigerian entrepreneur breaks tribal and religious barrier for love

Paul Ozioko presenting during his presentation Photo: MTN
Source: UGC

He shared the very humble beginning of his business and why he would need the business support of 2 million Naira to grow his budding laundry business - Mr Clean Dry Cleaners - in Port Harcourt, Rivers state. His business model was based on grass root proliferation that would allow him to operate with the support of secondary schools in the area.

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Zainab, his wife, who has now become an experienced tailor, will act as the quality control expert. There were also plans to empower young undergraduates, with stories like theirs, to seek alternative sources of income that do not involve violence or other vices.

Nigerian entrepreneur breaks tribal and religious barrier for love

Prisca Etoh of Prisbuke Prawns Cracker Production during her pitch Photo: MTN
Source: UGC

The other participants in the programme showed various business plans targeted at improving the economy of their societies. Etoh Prisca plans to use her pram crackers and the Prisbuke Prawns Cracker Production to change the perception of small-scale healthy snacking in Port Harcourt; Olonisaye Timilehin Segun shared how Reliable Link Tutors, a training centre that also had an app and website, plans to pull young children away from the distractions of internet to a more entertaining educational curriculum.

In March 2020, MTN would announce the businesses who made the cut and why. It would be interesting to see the stories that follow this enterprising lot.


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Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka
Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka

Chuka is an experienced certified web developer with an extensive background in computer science and 18+ years in web design &development. His previous experience ranges from redesigning existing website to solving complex technical problems with object-oriented programming. Very experienced with Microsoft SQL Server, PHP and advanced JavaScript. He loves to travel and watch movies.

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