It was a joyous Friday night of celebration on April 29 for Barrister Mrs. Ngozi Ekeoma, the Managing Director of Nepal Oil and Gas who feasted friends, family and well-wishers to a lavish party at the Harbor Point, Victoria Island, Lagos to mark her 50th birthday. Celebrated Gospel music stars like Joe Praise and Mercy Chinwo entertained the high-class guests. It was capped by the appearance of Flavor who electrified the place with dancing to his popular songs. On Sunday, there was thanksgiving at the Presbyterian Church, Yaba, where Mrs. Ekeoma spectacularly knelt down to thank her husband Elder Ekeoma Eme Ekeoma for bringing her “all the way from Aba, cleaned me up and made me who I am today.” In a documentary, Mrs. Ekeoma shared her Road-To-Success story, hammering on the importance of hard work and staying focused.
ONE day I went to pick a cheque in an office and I overheard this conversation about oil and gas in which they mentioned bank letter of credit and other things. What I heard interested me. The business looked challenging. It looked sophisticated. I made up my mind to go research it. I am one person who believes that if there is anything another person can do, I can also do it. So I started researching. Then disappointment came.
Everyone I told I was going to do oil and gas laughed at me. They told me I couldn’t do it. They told me it was only men that can do it because it is a business with too many moving parts—which is true. I was like: “Is there no woman doing it?” I was told: “There is a woman doing it but she doing high-class level SPG.”
I said: “She will do her high class and I will do my low class. It’s still the same business we will do.” And that was how I started. Nobody knew Nepal Oil then. We were just doing little, little business: going to the depot, buy, sell in Aba, then I will come back to Lagos. Aba was where I grew up. That was where I was selling my byproducts. I will send it there, do the logistics, buying and selling. That was it. My business moved from that to selling at the depot. And that was how I got my first cargo and I sold it and it was sweeter, more lucrative than what I was doing.
I now said I must move to the next stage. With gratitude to God, Nepal Oil and Gas Services is today a major player in the downstream sector of the industry. And the rest is history.
For me as a woman, there is no limitation to what I can do, so long as it is not a professional thing like being a medical doctor which is technical. But if it is this trading, I can put my eyes down and learn it. I am a true unapologetic woman raised in Aba. All we do there is trade. If anybody can do it, so can I. To succeed, you must have this can-do mentality. Being a woman should not be a disadvantage. It should not count you out. That’s how I have been driving my business all these years.
I got married as a teenager. My husband came to pick me from Aba and brought me to Lagos. From there on, I had to develop myself to pursue a law degree. I wanted to go to school. I wanted self-advancement. I had to focus. I didn’t have time for frivolities and distractions. I didn’t have friends. I wasn’t going to parties. Life became focused for me at a very, very young age. At the age of 22, I already had three children. I stopped having children at 24. That’s a whole lot of responsibility. I didn’t have an office. I started buying and selling from offices to house supply and all that. Sometimes I will put my children in the car to go to my business. When they came back from school, I had to sit with them to do their homework. Every time I was always scheduling myself so that I don’t miss anything. In the night, I had to study hard because I was trying to go back to school. And when I started school, I was studying and doing those businesses as well as taking care of the children.
Most people think it’s very difficult playing all those roles. But if you are focused and determined, you will achieve your set goals. Today, I look back and I ask myself: “Ngozi, how were you able to do it?” Even my husband use to wonder: “How were you able to do all this to achieve balance in your life?”
Maybe the zeal to succeed made me very focused. When you are focused on anything, when you put your mind on something, definitely, you will achieve success. My second daughter was scoring “A” in English, literature and other subjects but not in mathematics. She loves literature and you will find her reading always. But I urged her to put the same interest she has for literature into mathematics. She did and she passed her mathematics. Whatever you want so badly and you focus on it, you will make it. Don’t tell me it’s impossible.
My advice to the youths: There is no quick fix to becoming rich. Everybody that has become successful either in business or any field put in a lot of hard work. Take one step at a time. Me that you see today, I have gone from selling second-hand clothing to selling fabrics to selling glassware to selling jewelry to selling all kinds of things till I found my hands in the ones I am doing now. All those things I was doing in those years were what God was using to train me to be able to stand the business that I am currently doing. And of course, my being a lawyer helps me a lot as entrepreneur. Everything in life has a legal dimension.