A Job With No Salary: What A #NairaLife Is Like On A Furlough

June 8, 2020

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.

Tell me that story that’s going to cross your mind now from when you were a kid

I was watching a movie on VHS and we needed to get a tissue to clean the tape. So I told my dad “let’s just buy it, it’s just ₦20”. My dad asked me to beg God for forgiveness because I said “just ₦20” Hahaha. I think I was about 6, and this was in 2001/2002. 

Also, there was that one time in 2005 when my dad gave me 50k to keep for him. I kept that money, and you know what happened? 

What? 

I forgot where I kept it. Hahaha. My dad was angry, but Nigeria was better at the time. I didn’t find it for another month though. He beat me and then took me to Mr Biggs to apologise. 

You know, 2005 was a generally interesting year. 

I’m listening.

My dad was a pastor. He was also a businessman, but he had a partner who did all the day to day running of the business. They were traders – they imported stuff and sold. They were also taking their proceeds into real estate, buy properties and stuff – they were diversifying, basically. 

But my dad made one mistake. 

What did he do? 

Trust. They were friends, so he didn’t put all the details in the paper. This man duped my dad of ₦16 million. 

What?! 

Yes. It hurts to date. 

It’s not even my money and it hurts. 

My dad could have done better. I didn’t even know the money was that much. I overheard him talking about it later. It was a big big issue at the time. He called church elders, they had meetings. His partner agreed to pay back, then he turned his back. It was so annoying, watching my father frustrated. 

Do you know what my dad did?

Tell me. 

My dad let all that money go. He was a man of peace, and to be honest, I think it was a weakness on his part. He said he wouldn’t allow anything to get between him and his God. That’s why sometimes I don’t like the Christian way. It kept happening, debts that never got recovered. 

Wow. 

₦500k here. ₦1 million there. It was such a rough time. 

Do you think it affected you in any way? 

I think we’d have just had better odds generally. Maybe a better secondary school. Maybe it’d have been invested in something that’d be useful to us. When he was alive, I knew my dad was just working to pay our school fees at some point, and I pitied him. There were four of us. 

Ah, he passed away. Sorry about your loss man. 

2016 – I finished university the following year. He was 55. He used to tell me what he’d have given us had he not been miscalculating his money decisions. He wanted all of us to school abroad, he wanted to get each of us a car when we finished school at some point. A trust fund, all of that. Gone. 

What did he leave behind? 

A house. Some landed property in a remote place. To be honest, I’m not even sure anymore because I haven’t seen a document. Sometimes I wonder what was going through his mind. 

You clearly think about this a lot. What about your mum? 

She’s a teacher. I don’t have a relationship with her beyond the mother-son one with her, it’s just there. 

What’s the first thing you did to earn money?

I’d just finished school and was tired of staying at home so my mum told her pastor who knew someone – the CEO of the firm. It was supposed to be a ‘marketing’ job. 

What I quickly realised is that it was a sales job at an agency where they sold shaving sticks. My salary was ₦30k in 2017 – I started Uni in 2013 and finished in 2017. I’d go to the office to take stock, get transport money and trek around streets to sell stuff so I can meet my target. It was crazy. 

Tell me about your most memorable day on that job. 

I was supposed to sell at a market, but I went there and no one wanted to buy. so I started selling in the streets. I trekked for at least 15km that day. Then I saw one church and took a nap on the pews. That nap lasted for 4 hours. 

That is intense. What was your daily target? 

It is what it is. ₦16800 or so. I realised that in the corner streets, I could sell to smaller stores and people with kiosks. I eventually quit, of course. 

When you quit the sales job, what did you do next? 

I went to serve in April 2018. I was a teacher in a very small town. I earned ₦5k monthly, plus ₦19,800. 

What type of life did that fetch you?

I used the ₦5k for data. I used the ₦19800 to buy provisions for the month. Whenever I got broke, I’d call my uncle or mom. 

Post-NYSC?

I finished serving in March 2019. I was unemployed for a while, then an editor from a legacy publisher called me and asked me to write for him for ₦25k a month – I was writing about 3 articles per day. I did the job for a month, but I was unmotivated because I like money. Luckily, I got another job as a content coordinator of sorts. Basically, I was in charge of reviewing people’s submissions, and I was doing that for at least 1,000 articles a month. 

Wild. How long were you there for?

4 months. I interviewed for a job at another startup. This one was a digital marketing role. Also, the offer was double what I was previously earning. The work was also double. I started there at the end of 2019. 

Something interesting happened. 

Tell me. 

One day, they sent us a mail that we’d gotten a salary increase. I was happy. What I didn’t know what that I’d just lost my weekends. we started working 6 days a week 

How much was the raise?

+₦9,000. Hahaha. 

So, the almighty 2020. What plans did you have at the beginning of the year? 

Since I’m just about 2 years or so into my career, I didn’t aim too high to be honest. I just set my mind to learn as much as I can. Get a new job. Learn new skills on the job. 

Despite getting a raise at my job, I wasn’t learning as much as I wanted, so I started job hunting in February. For someone in a formative stage, I need quality experience. I feel like I made a mistake, but I’m not angry at myself anymore. 

So it was good for your salary cap but bad for personal growth.

Something like that. Anyway, I got informed that I’d be getting placed on furlough at the end of March. Since then, I’ve been doing little dummy projects to keep my brain active.

Ouch. How much cash did you have left when the furlough began?

I had about ₦150k. 

How much do you have left?

₦8k. It went to mostly data and food. I sent a friend ₦10k for his birthday. I think it was a mistake. I shouldn’t have done that. He’s a good friend, and I love him so much. So –

You know what? I don’t regret it. If I hadn’t sent it, I’d still have spent it on something. It is what it is. 

What’s the toughest thing about being without a job in this period? 

Apart from money, I don’t know. I was unemployed for 4 months before I got my first job. I used to feel useless and unsmart. I was just fresh off NYSC with no relevant experience. Now. I’m calm. I know I’m smart. I know I’ll soon get a job. In fact, I see this time as a rest period. I do lots of sleeping and writing. Now, I have some experience. I understand how recruitments work. I know more people who’ve access to jobs.

I also now know my job isn’t my identity. If I rest. I’ll get a job. If I don’t, I’ll still get one.

Let’s say you get a job offer right now, how much are you asking for?

At least ₦200k.

Let’s talk about the future, and how you want it to be different from the past. 

For starters, I don’t like to think I have an inheritance. I want to have legal documents in all my dealings. 

I plan to educate myself before investing in anything. I’m off land wahala. before putting my money anywhere, there’ll be something legally binding. No trust. Never!

Also, I see myself heading the comms or marketing team of a top financial institution. I don’t know when. let’s see how the next 5 years pan out. that’ll be a big determiner.

Random, but did your dad have a will?

Will ke? For where?

What’s something you want right now but can’t afford?

A new laptop and phone. My current laptop has been since 2015. I bought it for ₦66k at the time. 

What’s the last you paid for that required serious planning?

I’d say I paid ₦55k last year for a course on the financial models, but my mum paid.

When do you think you’ll be called back to work?

I’ve already zeroed my mind that I’m unemployed. The chances of us being called back are slim, I like to think. In the time being, I just want my skills to get better. I want to be a better writer. I want to learn the technicalities of marketing and comms. I want to experience a PR or ad agency. 

Let’s talk about financial regrets

I’m learning the importance of emergency funds the hard way. 

I ask as routine, but what’s your happiness level on a scale of 1-10, and why?

5. I’d be happier if I have a job. but I can’t kill over a situation I didn’t cause.

What happens when you run out of your last ₦8k? 

Honestly, I don’t know. I’m even going to use about $5 out of it to learn how to br proficient with PowerPoint. Luckily, I have a support system. Thank God. I’m just going to keep looking for paid opportunities.


The next Naira Life drops on Monday next week at 9 am. This is what you get when you subscribe to Zikoko’s Money Newsletter:

  • You get it before everybody else, plus all the things that didn’t make the cut.
  • You also get a #NairaLife throwback, where we check in with someone from the past, and see how they’re doing now.

Find all the past Naira Life stories here.

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