Every week, Zikoko seeks to understand how people move the Naira in and out of their lives. Some stories will be struggle-ish, others will be bougie. All the time, it’ll be revealing.
After three years making millions as an influencer, the 23-year-old on this week’s Naira Life is following God’s plan and starting a career in music.
Tell me about your earliest memory of money
When my family moved from Lagos to Jos in 2008, I think. My mum sold books, food, and did stuff like printing and photocopying. My brother and I helped with food delivery . Not far delivery o. I was only 9. It was just stuff like, “Take this to Mr X’s shop across the street.”
Do you remember why you moved to Jos?
My mum wanted to be on her own. My dad had left by the time I was born, so she lived in her family house with her two children. Moving to Jos was one of those independent moves for her.
How cold was Jos?
Cold. Very cold. Also peaceful, until the riots started in 2010.
We started hearing gunshots and explosions from the estate where we lived. We had to move.
Where did your mum go?
Lagos. We stayed there for a few months, then moved to Ilorin.
Tell me about Ilorin
It wasn’t as cold as Jos, but it was calm and peaceful. But I always thought things around me weren’t developing. Whenever I went to Lagos for holidays with my mum’s family and came back. It was like I was returning to a rural place that had stayed the same for years.
Was there money at home?
We were surviving. Sometimes, it was good. Other times, it wasn’t. An uncle handled our school fees, and mumsi handled day-to-day stuff like feeding and transportation. We got ₦50 or so to take to school every day. We had to decide whether to use the money for food or transportation. If we chose food, we’d have to walk for hours.
To make extra money, my brother and I sold mangoes and lemons from the trees in our compound. For the lemon tree, a mallam that usually came and filled a huge sack gave us ₦900. Now that I think about it, he was cashing out on our heads. I majorly used the money to buy airtime to boost my 2go rankings.
Did you ever reach master?
What was uni like?
Chaotic. I can’t say I fully experienced it because I was drunk about 80% of the time, especially from my third year. I was just vibing through life. I made the most money in my life, so far, in uni though.
Tell me about it
I first waited at home for a year because federal universities weren’t taking 15-year-olds. That year, friends online introduced me to digital marketing, so I worked with people who were creating and promoting content. I was learning, but I got some money too.
The next year, I got into university to study mass communication.
It started with me seeing a popular event producer on my university campus in 2015 and walking up to him. I introduced myself and told him I did social media and content creation, in case he had any gigs for me. Thankfully, he was setting up a gaming centre on campus and needed someone to help promote it to students and get people to show up. I took the job.
How much did it pay?
₦30k monthly, and it came with a phone. I think the salary increased at some point. He also sent me social media management and content creation gigs here and there.
On the side, my personal social media pages were growing into hundreds of thousands of followers because I was creating viral funny and creative content. Basically, I’d become an influencer. So brands were reaching out to me to promote them.
By the end of the first semester of my second year, I quit the on-campus job because I wanted to focus on my personal brand.
How much were you making from these brand deals?
I wasn’t tracking, but I was doing at least ₦100k per month.
Where was all this money going?
Flexing, drinking, feeding. Zero savings. I occasionally sent money home, but in retrospect, I should have sent way more. I even bought a car for ₦850k in my third year.
I also started two businesses. One was t-shirt retailing. I bought shirts and resold them. The other was personalised merch. I threw funny captions on stuff and sold them. I didn’t have any problems selling them because I had an audience. But I also wasn’t so serious.
Whenever I sold a batch and made plenty money, I stopped until I needed money again. And when I was leaving uni in late 2019, I stopped the businesses altogether. I had a different plan for my life.
What was that?
Acting. I got a small role in a stage play in November 2019 that paid ₦200k, and thought, “This is good. I want to enter this industry.” So I began to plan my own stage play. I wrote a script with a few friends. By February 2020, I had 40 people show up for my stage play. It was great. After paying everyone that worked on it, I made about ₦50k. Then lockdown happened, so no more stage plays.
2020 was a big year for me because Jesus found me. I grew up in a Christian home but didn’t really take my spirituality seriously until I woke up on the day after my stage play and had a sudden distaste for living in sin, then began to seek God. I also started a Bible Study group online, started creating Christian content, and these activities challenged me to study and pray more.
Before the lockdown, my brother and I partnered to create a website that delivered food. Just think of something like Jumia Food. He built the website, I did the promotion.
How did that make you money?
We made ₦100 on each food pack sold through the app. We split it 50-50. We only did it for three months, but we made about ₦1.3m in revenue.
My uncle gave me ₦300k when NYSC posted me. His plan was for me to leave the northern state after camp and redeploy somewhere, maybe Jos, even if I didn’t want to return to Lagos. He was willing to pay my rent too and fly me abroad to start my life after NYSC. But on the last day of camp, I was just sure God wanted me to stay, so I sent him a long text and he replied “Okay”.
We’ve hardly spoken since then.
What was your year in the north like?
Wonderful. I was completely away from friends, social media, noise, and everything. I read a lot of self-help books, and grew spiritually, emotionally and all round, mentally. It was like I took a year off to understand God’s will for my life.
Sounds great. How were you surviving?
Before I moved to the north, I sold my car for ₦350k and added ₦150k from what my uncle gave me to put in a forex trading company. I got ₦65k monthly for like two months, and then the thing crashed, and I couldn’t do anything about it.
I survived mainly on NYSC’s ₦33k and my PPA’s ₦12k until September, when I got a remote digital strategist gig that paid ₦50k monthly.
Did you stay in the north after NYSC?
I wanted to. But God said I should return to Lagos to make music. That’s what he wants me to do.
Nah. Great secular music that’s not about fraud, sex and drugs.
What was your plan to execute this?
To return to Lagos, make music and use my social media influence to blow in like two weeks. I didn’t realise I needed to put in work, learn, grow and go through a process.
How did it go?
I wrote, recorded and released a few songs, realised I was broke, got a ₦120k/month content job in April, used the money to buy some equipment, and made some more music.
I also brought back the retail clothing business. I’m not making as much sales as I used to when I was in university, but I’m still putting things in place.
Have you made money from music in the past year?
Maybe like $5 from Spotify.
Let’s go and paint the town red
LOL! But I did get ₦5m from a family member for my music.
I received ₦2.5m in November to buy more equipment and do artist development — vocal training, performance training, and to make more music. After six months, I’ll receive the other half to promote and market my music.
All for free?
I offered him 7% of all my streaming revenue for whatever music I make in the next 10 years. It’s a great deal.
What are your finances like right now?
I have like ₦50k saved and like ₦700k in mutual funds and shares.
Is there something you want but can’t afford?
A power bike. There’s traffic in Lagos. Plus, I’m a cool kid, so why not?
How do you break down your monthly expenses?
How financially content are you? The scale is 1-10
3. I’m aiming for a lot more because I know I need money to achieve my goals as a musician. I need to be making like ₦200k in profit from my clothing business and another ₦800k from somewhere else.