I am Mrs Clara Oguike.
I learnt that our first born, Mr Gilbert Maduako, gave me the name as he believed I would be bright. Clara means "bright."
My Igbo name is Chinyere.
I was born on 28 July 1964 to Mr Paulinus and Mrs Josephine Maduako. Both are late.
I am the only girl out of the five children. Our oldest is also late. He died in 1991. I will talk more about him as we go along.
Dad was a bricklayer while mum was a trader. She started with selling ukwa - breadfruit - before going into palm oil trade which was what she did till her death. She would go and buy the palm oil in Ideato for sale in the international market in our village, Umuna, in Orlu Local Government Area of Imo State.
Primary and secondary education
I attended two primary schools, one, Central School or St Joseph's Catholic School in Umuna and another one in Kano where I lived for two or three years with my brother, Gilbert.
The story is that he had told my mum that she was pampering me and he needed to have me live with him so as to instill some discipline in me. He was a strict disciplinarian. Imagine that after I would have swept the floor, he would use his bare feet to rub it, to be sure that there was no sand or the like. As young as I was then, he demanded much from me. I believe that it helped me on the long run.
He returned me to Umuna when he had to move from Sabongida, Kano, where we were, to another village.
For my secondary education, I attended Ojike Memorial School in Orlu in the early eighties, and when in Class Three, I played competitive hockey as the team's goalkeeper.
Growing up among boys, I got involved in all the masculine things they did. That is how I can explain why I played hockey and not netball or handball or the like.
Our school hockey team defeated Girls’ Secondary School, Orlu, which was known as Morning Star.
That was supposed to have qualified us to go to Owerri for the next level but something happened, which I cannot now remember, that made the Imo State Sports Council cancel our trip.
My mum died when I was in Class Two and things became difficult from then on.
It came to a point that some of my classmates were contributing money to help me pay my fees.
By then, I knew that I would not be able to further my education beyond secondary school.
It is not a story that I like to tell.
It was really painful.
Marriage and occupation
I got married in 1988/9.
I joined him in Lagos where he was a Customs officer and was then working out of Apapa Wharf.
We first lived in Festac Town, on 22 Road, and later at Agboju.
I had my first child in July 1994.
Although she has an Igbo name, I call her Bidemi, the name my Yoruba neighbours gave her, because she was born when her dad was out of town. That is what Bidemi means. My husband was then based in Maiduguri.
When we got to Lagos, I started going to Cotonou (Benin Republic) to buy fairly used shoes and bags which I then took to Aba to sell. I would then buy fabrics in Àba to be sold in Lagos.
I did this for a while until I met an Idoma lady from Kogi State, named Agnes, who introduced me to imitation jewellery trade. She would travel to India and import the items and I bought off her to retail. I had a shop first at Idumota and later at the Trade Fair International market in Ojo.
I preferred this because I did not have to travel up and down as I used to.
I did this for about six years.
Foray into catering
I would have continued but for a friend, Ugochi, who in 2006/7 invited me to Owerri to join her in the political campaign for her husband, an engineer, who sought to contest for the governorship of Imo State.
The husband was defeated.
Even so, his opponent who won lost out eventually to someone else through a court decision.
Anyhow, my friend stopped me from returning to Lagos, instead I became her worker in her restaurant, The Hungry Man.
It was like meeting my destiny: while in Lagos, my friends had always commended my cooking and suggested that I should be in the food business.
I ended up working in that restaurant for eight years and although I learnt on the job, I was responsible for many changes in the place.
I resigned when it turned out that some of the promises made to me were not kept.
Following my resignation, the company ran a Disclaimer ad in a newspaper against me.
I did not steal their money, I only wanted them to fulfil their promises to me.
My own establishment
In 2012, the Winners Chapel (Living Faith Church Worldwide), which I am a member of, held its yearly Shiloh, with the theme, Double Portion.
There I had a Divine revelation to start my own catering business, indoors and outdoors, using the theme.
When I decided to register the company at the Company Affairs Commission, it happened that Double Portion was unvailable: it had already been taken.
So, it was changed to Dawble Portion. That is how Dawble Portion Eateries and Outdoor Services was born in August 2014.
I was selling on the main road at Chukwuma Nwoha but people were patronising me wonderfully and within one year I opened this larger place at 8 Umez Eronini Street in Ikenegbu Layout. It was a manifestation of God's double portion on my business.
I once had thirty workers, none of whom came to me with any experience. I trained them all in every aspect of the business, from cooking to attending to customers professionally.
I have found out that many girls out there cannot cook. Even some married women too: indeed, some of my male customers were asking me to come to their houses to teach their wives how to cook. I am not boasting when I say I cook well.
So, I have the vision to start training these women how to cook. It can be between two and three weeks of practical training.
I want to transfer my knowledge of cooking to many out there who need it. What has been delaying me is funding but I know that God will come through for me.
At Dawble Portion, we sell only "swallow" and soups. I stopped selling rice because people were not buying it.
We do deliveries too. If you are in Owerri, you can visit us or call to book - we do mainly a la carte - on +234708 883 9663 or +234803 755 4775.
We are also into outdoor catering.
TO KEEP US GOING
This initiative which started as a demonstration project for an intern of The Journalism Clinic has, before our very eyes, taken a life of its own, demanding a lot more resources than envisaged.
Your kind support will keep us going. You can do so securely here.
May I also request you to kindly join our community by subscribing to our newsletter so that we can deliver the toris directly to your inbox, hot and fresh. Please fill the form here. So, as we keep growing the brand, we will be sufficiently ready for long-term support through product placement and sponsorships.
Taiwo Obe, FNGE
Commonwealth Professional Fellow
Founder/Director, The Journalism Clinic
+234 818 693 5900