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.
What was the first thing you did for money?
Everytime my dad returned from work when I was a kid, he gave us coins. If you had saved, say X amount, he’d add another X. So you could say I saved for money. But the first proper thing that I did was work for my dad during school holidays – he worked abroad at the time, so I’d travel to go meet him. I was in JSS 1, so when it was summer holidays, I worked as his secretary at his law firm. I went in on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. All I did was arrange files in the office, doing invoices, etc.
He used to pay me daily at the time.
Yes. I remember giving some of it to my mum because she wasn’t working – she was a housewife. It’s why I never want to not be working. I gave her £100 and I told her it was a gift. And she said no, that I should save it or buy stuff. I felt very bad and told her I was not taking no for an answer. So I kept the money in an envelope and I put it under her pillow when I was getting ready to travel. I left a note. So when I travelled, the following day she called and said she saw it and she couldn’t send it back.
She always says that I was the only person that actually gave her money. Like, I was the only person that came around and gifted her money. She lived Abroad too.
We used to get money for school, but I used to feel like it wasn’t enough. It actually was, but then, I was in a private secondary school, so compared to my peers, it was small. The latest cars came on visiting days, convoys and all that.
What year was this?
2004. We – my brother and I – thought about how to make money, My brother had school fathers, so he came up with an idea. Because we were day students, boarders were always begging us for food and cold water. So we decided to tell our house helps to help us freeze water so we could sell it. Sachet water was ₦5 then and we’d sell it for ₦20. My brother would distribute everything so quickly. We also started selling food. They used to make us choose between buying food in school and giving us food, but we would insist on taking food to school. So we’d take food to school and charge them about ₦250. I was in JSS2 and my brother was JSS1.
Oh okay. What came next?
I worked in SS3, that was when I knew I never wanted to work in radio. I followed my dad for a meeting, I was on holiday, he went to see somebody at a radio station and the person noticed my foreign accent. So they decided to bring me in for voice-overs, and they offered to pay, but my father never gave me the money.
How much were you paid?
I don’t know, my father never gave me the money. The job was very frustrating, I’d sit in a cold room, repeating the same lines over and over. My father gave me more allowance than usual, but still not my salary.
So basically, they hired you for your accent.
Yes, that was when I realised my accent could help me. Which was surprising to me at the time.
How much was your pocket money then?
₦1k. Sometimes he would give me like ₦3k for 6 weeks. That was when I learnt to budget. Budgeting is key to everything. The next time I worked was Uni.
What year was this?
This was 2011, that was when I graduated secondary. I entered University and saw the world.
What do you mean?
I was 17, and I discovered ushering and ‘thanks for coming.’
When there’s an event, they’d handpick babes to do the ushering. They’d pay like ₦10k per day for 2 days. They paid depending on the girl and the event. If there were stricter rules for selection, there would be more money. And they always picked me, from concerts to events. Guests would say and do inappropriate things and you couldn’t do anything. The rule is that you’re not allowed to complain, except you don’t want money. My father gave me 20k every month, but it was hardly enough
I’d want to treat myself and not want to bother my dad. I never asked for allowance, he just put it in my account at the beginning of the month.
It took a toll on me. I had to wear heels a lot, I had a lot of breakouts because of wearing makeup for long hours. But I’d just see the money and forget it all. And it felt good to have my own money.
My dad didn’t ask until my grades started to drop, and then he told me to stop working. It really was a trying time. I was depressed and it made everything worse, I was depressed and poor.
I started hanging out with a group of friends. There was this girl, she’d finished uni and wasn’t doing anything. She had her own driver, and that was when I started doing drugs. Prescription drugs, alcohol. One time, we were at the backseat of her car, and her driver wasn’t paying attention. She said she had codeine on her. I had tried tramadol on my own.
I got so dependent on tramadol. Like I would wake up in the morning and pop like 3 pills. I felt very ill, ended up in a hospital, and almost died. All my rich friends abandoned me and that was like a wake-up call. I couldn’t even call my dad.
I came home for the holidays and had to stop because I didn’t have access to drugs at home. My dad noticed I was bored. He was doing his PhD at the time, so he asked me to edit and proofread his projects and he’d pay me for it. He said 20 naira per page and I said no. So I said for every mistake I find, he’d pay ₦200 naira.
I made like ₦10k in the first reading. I used it to go out and that was like the last time I made money in a while, so I went back to school and had to focus on my final year.
After I graduated, I stayed home for a year and it was the most depressing time of my life. I was home with a woman that didn’t like me because my dad was away for work.
I went to meet my dad’s friend to see if he had an opening. He offered to pay me 15k, then I said I’d work part-time, only 2 times a week.
What did you choose?
I chose NYSC, and even though I finished school in 2015, NYSC came in November 2016. I decided to go to camp instead of convocation, so I started planning. I only had like 10k. I didn’t have anybody to brief me on what life was like in camp. I really wanted Lagos. I always wanted to move to Lagos, because the Southeast was too quiet where I was and there were limited opportunities.
What a wow.
Anyway, I got redeployed. People posted to the region I was posted actually got redeployed easily – security and all. I got redeployed to the Southwest.
At my first PPA, they said I had to live in the boarding school. I had to beg the Principal to reject me.
Is NYSC the one place that people beg for rejection?
Perhaps. She rejected me o. I eventually found another place, and a house to rent nearby.
How much did the house cost altogether?
The house cost 170k, then I also bought a wardrobe, mattress, and a gas cylinder. I lived off Nysc money and didn’t get any money from my dad. I made extra money writing research papers for undergrads, but it was seasonal.
So, after NYSC?
I got a job at a company where I worked in comms. They paid me ₦50k a month. So I went from ₦19,800 to ₦50k per month.
Where did you live?
I lived with a friend. I wasn’t paying house rent, but I was giving 5k a month to the house, in addition, to paying for laundry. The rest was for transport. I wasn’t eating much. I couldn’t really afford much, so I usually only ate dinner.
Then my mum sent me ₦90k for house rent –
I was going to ask about your mum.
Yeah, she was living abroad, and this was her trying to get back in my life. Anyway, that’s how I came up with ₦200k for house rent.
So, ₦200k for rent. What happened next?
I ended up spending that money and suddenly had nowhere to live. I moved in with another friend. I went from ₦50k to ₦90k on probation for three months. Then I went up to ₦110k. My role here is Customer Relations and Social Media Management.
When did you start earning ₦110k?
July 2018. As I was leaving, they gave us ₦30k in the middle of the month. I got to work and they said they were going to start giving us ₦30k for allowance every month, that month I earned ₦125k. I freelanced for a while, helping people write papers and all kinds of things.
Currently ₦115k, but that’s after my probation ended in January 2019. Before then, it was ₦90k. But for the next three months, I was earning ₦65k.
My income is quite weird.
My laptop spoilt, and I had to buy a new one and pay in instalments. But let’s use an ideal month here:
You save a huge chunk of your money.
I try to save but I also like food. My favorite thing is to chew.
LMAO! Are you me?
I’d have spent like ₦10k on snacks without knowing by now. But it’s mostly because I don’t have many responsibilities, so I don’t have much to do with money.
Financially, what’s something you wish you could be better at?
I think that would be saving, but sometimes I save money and realize it doesn’t make you richer, you just have more funds, and investments scare me.
We don’t have a lot of honest conversations about money. My dad did investments but never told me what exactly he did. He was always saving, spending, or earning more. Investments scare me, because I don’t know enough about them.
If you were going to live comfortably now, how much would you have to earn?
I’m very easy to maintain, it probably won’t take much, if I was earning ₦350k, but I can live comfortably on ₦250k, my baby brother asks me for money sometimes, but it’s not a burden so I don’t feel guilty.
At ₦350k, I’d put away like ₦200k for savings and some months even spend more without feeling guilty. I feel sad that my partner has to carry a lot of the burden because he earns like double my income and he has more responsibilities.
Yes, it’s kind of a weird balance, I would like to earn more money to help out sometimes, I wouldn’t do his responsibilities but at least support.
Is there anything you feel like I should have asked you, I didn’t ask you?
What I would be doing if I wasn’t doing this.
What would you be doing?
I’d probably be like a therapist or a psychologist.
Financial happiness, 1-10, where are you?
It’s a mixture of money and career, I feel like I could be doing a job where I’m not doing so much and earning ₦200k, I’d feel restless, so I feel like your money and career need to match up at some point, I guess I’m only like 3, I can’t do shit with my money.
What would give you a 10?
Flexibility, both money and career-wise, I want a job that’s flexible. Also, more money. If I was earning ₦200k, it’d go up to like a 6.
I get the sense that you have the opportunity to leave the country and possibly earn more. There’s your mum who lives there, for example.
Where I am right now generally just feels right. I might be leaving to go to school next year, I think here is just home to be honest. I’ll probably still gravitate back again. There’s way too much untapped potential here. It’s crazy to not acknowledge that.
What’s the future looking like from where you’re sitting?
I probably want to do psychology someday and end up doing something with my mum. Like a practice, working with women who have been victims of abuse, etc. I also have an interest in film making.
In the end, I actually don’t want a lot of money, I just want to be comfortable.
Check back every Monday at 9 am (WAT) for a peek into the Naira Life of everyday people.
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Every story in this series can be found here.