#NairaLife: Nine Years After Secondary School, This Security Guard Still Has University Dreams

August 1, 2022

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.


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Since the 27-year-old on this week’s #NairaLife finished secondary school in 2013, he’s had just one dream — to go to university. For now though, he’s working two security guard jobs in Lagos and running a small farm in Benue.

What’s your earliest memory of money?

I remember making ₦120k in 2016 from soya beans storage. That’s the first time I ever made that much money, so you can imagine how happy I was. 

Can you explain this storage thing? 

In Benue where I grew up, when crops are in season, they’re very cheap. So to make a profit, people buy and store them in perfect condition so they can sell when the scarcity of those crops begins. I bought six bags of soya beans for ₦8k each and stored them with my older sister. When soya beans became scarce, I sold each bag at ₦20k each. 

Was that your first time doing storage?

Yes. I was 22 at the time.

What did you do before then?

I worked as a salesman at a pure water factory. I started working there in 2013 after I finished secondary school. My original plan was to go to university to study engineering, but my parents couldn’t afford it so I just decided to work until I could sponsor myself. I worked at the pure water company from 2013 to 2017. 

How much did they pay you?

When I started, they paid me ₦10k per month. In 2014, they increased the pay to ₦12k. My job was to follow the drivers around and offload pure water for whoever wanted to buy. Because I was getting older, I decided I wanted to be a driver and not a salesboy, so I begged the drivers to teach me how to drive. By 2016, I started driving for the company and they increased my salary to ₦15k. 

So this is your earliest memory of money

Haha! That’s true. How did I forget? 

Tell me what it was like growing up in Benue

I grew up in Konshisha Local Government. I’m the third of four children. My father is a farmer and my mother sells things like onions, palm oil and pepper. By the time I was about to finish secondary school in 2013, my father was getting old and couldn’t do farm work so much. That’s why he couldn’t afford to send me to school. He’d already sent my older brother to a College of Education and my sister to a School of Nursing. So it was left for my little sister and me to take care of ourselves. That’s why I moved to Makurdi immediately after secondary school.

Was ₦10k or ₦15k enough for you to survive?

No, but I survived. I had to look for other ways to make money sometimes. For example, the company told us to sell bags of pure water for ₦80 to customers who sold in bulk and ₦100 to customers who didn’t. Many times, I sold the bags at ₦100 to everybody — even people buying in bulk — and kept the difference. That’s how I made extra money.

Food in Benue is very cheap, and my house rent was ₦18k per year. So I survived. 

What did you do with the ₦120k from the storage? 

I gave my uncle to help me put it in shares, and after a few months, it grew to ₦150k. I collected the ₦150k,  bought an okada, found someone to ride the okada and told him to bring ₦4k every week. 

Businessman! 

Well, after two months of collecting ₦4k weekly, the bike man called me one day to say he went to eat in a restaurant, and by the time he came out, he didn’t see the bike again. That was one of the saddest moments of my life. 

Ouch

Because I didn’t want the sadness to affect me too much, I decided it was time to move on and go to school since that’s actually what I wanted to do with my life. 

Wait… Did you ever try the storage thing again? Seems like it was an easy way to make money

Yes o. December 2016. This time, I bought ₦50k worth of soya beans but stored it with my uncle who stayed in Makurdi. By the time I was meant to resume school in 2017, I went to meet him for the money and he started giving me excuses about how he sold my soya beans at a profit, but his own yams didn’t make profit so he just kept the money from the soya beans. 

He later gave me the ₦50k, but it was after plenty fight. And he sent it small small. Today, he’d send ₦5k, tomorrow, ₦3k. 

What school did you go to?

I wanted to apply to universities but my JAMB scores weren’t good, so I just went to Federal Polytechnic, Nasarawa, to study surveying and geoinformatics. 

How many years was your program?

Two. I finished in November 2019. 

How did you survive those two years?

I always had someone to stay with. A friend. In 2017, my brother finshed from the College of Education so he was able to support me from time to time. He really wanted me to stay in school so he tried his best to send money the few times I asked. 

Apart from my brother, there was a God-sent man who also assisted me. 

Tell me about him

We were in class having tutorials one day, in my first year, when the teacher made a mistake. I stood up to correct him because I’d seen it in my textbook when I was studying. After the class, this man who was much older than the rest of the class came to me and told me he liked what I did. When we were speaking, my mum called, and I spoke my native language to her. This man embraced me right as I finished the call. He was from my place in Benue too. 

As we got talking, I told him I wasn’t happy with studying surveying because I actually wanted to study engineering. Then, he told me his story. 

He graduated many years ago with a degree in business administration and lived in Abuja. Things weren’t going well for him until one day, he met a surveyor who took him to a site and paid him ₦2k per day. He found the job interesting and continued to work with the man. After many years, he’d become a big-time surveyor himself and had made millions. The only reason he was there in polytechnic with us was because he beat a university-trained surveyor to a big-money client bid because he was cheaper. But then, the surveyor threatened to report him to the police because he was practising without a degree or licence. He wanted to avoid all that wahala.

Interesting

So we became friends. He gave me money from time to time and I helped him with tests and assignments. He was even the one who gave me money for my final projects. 

Why did you want to study engineering?

It’s just what I wanted to do since I was a child. I remember saying I wanted to be an engineer every time. 

What happened after you graduated in 2019?

I went back to Makurdi. I first tried to work at the pure water factory again, but they didn’t want to hire because business was bad. So I just went to church and prayed and fasted for God to send a job. I also called my friend in Lagos to ask if there was work available. He said no. 

By January 2020, that same friend called and said I should start coming to Lagos because he found a job for me at a company.

Nice

I didn’t have any money, so I called my mum and she gave me ₦10k. Bus from Makurdi to Lagos was ₦8k. So I held the remaining ₦2k and went to meet my friend. It was my first time in Lagos. 

When we got to the company, I found out they hired security guards. I was so shocked and sad. I thought he was inviting me to work with engineers or surveyors. I didn’t want to do security work. And I told him I wasn’t happy. Omo, he just told me to take it like that o. That there’s no work anywhere, so I should just take this one. I didn’t want to go back to the village, so I took the job. 

How much did it pay?

₦20k per month. 

Where were you securing?

They posted me to be the security guard of a surveying company. 

That must’ve hit close to home

Ah, yes o. I was security guard for a place where I could have been working as a surveyor. I tried to talk to the young technicians there, to let them know I could do the work too, but the only opportunity they gave me was to be a technician without pay. I didn’t take it. 

₦20k is not a lot in Lagos. How did you manage it?

My friend really helped me. I stayed at his place, and he fed me. That’s how we did it throughout 2020. People from home were calling me to come back but I didn’t want to go to the city and come back empty-handed so I stayed. My friend also encouraged me. He promised me that once the pandemic passed, I’d be able to get more than one job. 

Did that happen?

Yes. In 2021, I left that job and started working as a security guard at two places — a housing estate and an oil company. The estate paid ₦28k and the oil company paid ₦24k. 

Do you still work at both places?

No. I left the oil company and now work with two estates. The second estate pays ₦25k. So my monthly income is ₦53k now. 

What’s ₦53k like for you in this economy?

My brother, things cost die. Especially food in this Lagos. I try to wash the cars of the residents of these estates so they can give me ₦500 or ₦1k each. Sometimes, they give me money or food just like that. 

Is uni still in your plans? 

I’ve applied for surveying and geoinformatics in Federal University of Technology, Minna, but ASUU is on strike. I’m hoping I get the admission. 

Why not engineering?

I already have my OND in surveying and geoinformatics. Let me just continue with what I’ve started. 

What are your finances like?

I don’t have so much money because I don’t believe in keeping money in the bank. I believe in doing business. The small money I even had, I recently had to spend most of it, ₦70k, on my mum’s health. 

What business do you do?

This year, I bought two pigs at ₦15k each, and now, they’ve given birth to six piglets. Like that, I’m building a pig farm small small. 

Also, I spent ₦40k on a bag of soya bean seeds and fertilizer a few months ago. If the person planting it for me does it well, I should be able to harvest six bags by November and sell them at ₦30k each. 

In January too, I bought a bag of groundnut seeds for ₦20k, and by the time they were ripe this month, we sold the harvest for ₦20k per bag. That’s ₦200k.

Wow

Groundnuts grow really fast. 

Are all of these happening in Benue?

Yes. My brother helped me with the groundnuts. The soya beans and pigs are with a friend. 

Did you pay your brother?

My siblings and I shared the ₦200k. I got ₦80k. When you and your siblings are struggling, there’s no “my money”. It’s “our money”. 

Are you going to do the groundnut thing again? 

I think I will.

What’s one thing you want but can’t afford?

It’s to go to university. But I don’t want to go as I am like this that I don’t have money. It doesn’t make sense. I want to be buying foodstuff in bulk from Benue and selling them in Lagos. That way, I’ll be making profit and getting my education at the same time. 

How do you spend money in a month?

And your financial happiness on a 1-10 scale?

4/10. I cannot lie to you, my financial state is very bad.



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