A Week in the Life is a weekly Zikoko series that explores the working-class struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week.
The subject of today’s “A Week In The Life” is a security guard. He talks about being intimidated because of his job, forfeiting 50% of his salary to security companies and spending all his time at work. He also talks about his plans to escape it all.
The first thing to do when I wake up na to thank my God because I no know wetin happen for night. And things dey occur. After thanking God for protection, all other things follow — bath, brush and toilet. By 6 a.m. sharp, I don pull boots to wear and my day begins.
I work one week on and one week off. The week I’m on duty, like today, I run 24-hour shifts. This morning, the first thing I do is to walk around the compound to clear sleep from my eyes. In this job, I only get to sleep at night but last night was rough.
Our small and tight security room with only one window was hot like an oven because NEPA took light. As a result, I had to carry my mosquito net and bed outside to sleep under fresh breeze. But it started to rain so I couldn’t sleep because there was no cover. Between the hot room and cold outside with nowhere to stay, I ended up not sleeping and pressed my phone from midnight till around 5 a.m.
This job is taxing [on the body] because even on a day like this, I still can’t afford to rest. I still have to be at constant alert: I have to open the gate for visitors, receive packages and ensure visitors are who they say they are.
I will try my best today but there’s only so much I can do with little sleep. One day, I’ll talk about the problem with this job where you can’t do anything else apart from it. I’ll also talk about the not so great pay.
But today is not the day. Today is for surviving the day on minimum sleep.
Today is better than yesterday. At least, I slept without any disturbance last night. Even though it wasn’t deep sleep, because I was waking up to patrol every one hour, I still feel relaxed.
Today I’m looking back at how far I’ve come. I initially started life as a waiter in a big hotel in Lekki. Although the salary was small, I used to make at least two times my salary from tips and service charges before the end of the month. Unfortunately, due to some things that happened on the job, I got fired.
After that, I went to a sack production company. I started as a loom operator and then moved to become head loom manager. From there I moved to the quality control department. As I was enjoying my new career, the company folded and we were all sent home.
So that I’ll not just be at home sitting down idle, I decided to pursue security work while searching for jobs. It is going to be two years now since I made that decision.
I don’t mind the job because I find that security work is all about intelligence and using your head. It’s also not hard because we didn’t bring the job from heaven; we learned it here. Apart from the basics like checking surroundings, etc we didn’t cover a lot of new things during security training. Additionally, as a contract security personnel, I wasn’t taught about arms because I’m not allowed to carry them.
God forbid bad thing but if armed robbers attack now, as contract security, my job is to hide, take my phone and call the police. Because of this, I’m always reminding myself to use my senses on this job.
It’s intimidating being a security man in Nigeria because most people assume you’re done for. They think because you’re wearing a uniform you can’t ever make it in life. The wiser ones among them understand that it’s Nigeria of today that’s pushing some of us to do the job. But the majority of people, you’ll greet them and they’ll reply with their nose. Nothing spoil. God is upstairs and he’ll answer our prayers one day.
I’m at work today thinking about how my current company has good people. This is the first place I’ve worked where people don’t look down on security people. Everyone here is a guy-man. But me, I still don’t pass my boundaries. I’ve learned to read body language and facial expressions to use in determining when to greet or when to keep quiet.
I’ve never been molested or insulted and I want to keep it that way. There’s no one to report to if anything happens with the client. Is it the security company that will save me?
The same company that told us that the customer is always right and the best we can do is record any incident in our logbook pending when a supervisor comes around. And God knows the company will always support the client because that’s where they’re seeing money. Is it the same company that collects ₦50,000 from clients and pays security people ₦25,000 that’ll protect us?
I can stand every aspect of this job but you see that poor pay? I hate it. By the 18th, 19th of every month, I’ve exhausted my money and I’m struggling to meet up. I think my situation is even worse because I’m a family man and many people are depending on the small money.
I’ll not lie to you, this work is somehow. I love the people I work with but I dislike the job.
This job takes and takes and takes from you with nothing in return. The most recent thing it has taken from me is my church-going habit. Because of the nature of my shifts, I don’t attend church as much as before. I’m either working or resting because I’m tired from working. As a result of this, I spend extra time thanking God this morning. I read more Bible passages and sing more worship songs.
I know God is still with me. Even if I don’t frequent church regularly, I know that when I call on him he’ll be there for me, especially in my days of trouble. I trust that the God I serve is in control.
Once I’m done praying, my day begins.
This is my last shift of the week and I’m happy today. I already have plans for my week off. Every day, for three hours, I’m learning how to drive at my friend’s place. My plan is that in the next two months I’ll master driving and become a commercial driver. Someone has promised that by the special grace of God he’ll buy me a car for Uber. At least, I know that one is better than a security job.
I won’t mind if I can even go from ₦30,000 a month to ₦80,000 — that’s still something. If that happens, I can even bring my wife and my boy to Lagos. Since I started this security job I haven’t been able to rent a house so I sent them to Benin to stay with my mum. Every month, from the little I earn, I try to send them upkeep but it’s never enough.
It’s been two years — since May 2019 — since I saw them last. I miss them so badly but I can’t bring them to suffer here with me in Lagos. This is July, the plan is that if everything goes well, I’ll bring them to Lagos by January 2022. I want us to be one big happy family again.
I know God is in control so I’m not too bothered. I’ve done many things before now and I’m not afraid to try new things. However, this job has taught me something: Security na human being. They no just fall from heaven and most of them, na condition make them do the work. More people should treat us like human beings. Sometimes, the insult we receive adds to our problem. It can be very painful when someone looks at you from up to toe and just concludes that you can never make it. It’s unfair.