The #NairaLife of the 19-Year-Old Student Who Doesn’t Mind the ASUU Strikes

July 11, 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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When we asked the 19-year-old on this week’s #NairaLife about the ASUU strikes stopping him from graduating, he replied, “I don’t mind. They should take their time.” And why not? He’s a millionaire.

What’s —

My earliest memory of money? 

LMAO, yes

I used to collect ₦10 from my mum for school, and I spent it on Tosco every single day. Good times. 

Tosco?

It was a popular yoghurt brand in Kaduna where I grew up.

Tell me about growing up in Kaduna

It’s a pretty great place to live. If you remove the fear and insecurity that comes with living in Northern Nigeria, it’s perfect. I’m Yoruba, and I never really learnt to speak Hausa, but the Hausa people around me were always super nice. When I moved to Ilorin for school in 2018, I also realised the north is super cheap. The foodstuff you’d buy for ₦100 in Kaduna was ₦300 in Ilorin and maybe even more expensive in Lagos. 

And your family?

We were pretty comfortable. I grew up with two sisters. My dad was a doctor who worked in Kano before he died, and my mum was a teacher in my school. We could afford three meals a day, extra money to buy snacks, new clothes, toys, everything we wanted, really.

When did you lose your dad?

Ten years ago (2012). I was 9.

Did things change for your family after he passed away?

Thanks to my mum, no. The only reason she was a teacher was that she wanted to have time to take care of us. She was a certified accountant, which meant she was in charge of my family’s finances even when my dad was alive. So no matter how much we spent, we always saved and maybe even invested. My dad’s death didn’t change the way we lived. 

What did you study in university?

You mean what do I study. ASUU strike is holding me from graduating o. 

Ouch. So what do you study?

Water resources and environmental engineering. And no, I didn’t choose it. I finished secondary school in 2017 and couldn’t get in to study electrical engineering the first time, so I had to wait for a year. 2018 came and I still couldn’t get in, so I just accepted what they gave me. 

What career did you plan to get into after school?

Oh, I just wanted to be a professor. I still do. I think I fell in love with teaching in senior secondary school when people who didn’t understand commerce and accounting — my mum’s subjects — would meet me, and I’d give them extra lessons. 

When was the first ASUU strike you experienced?

The one that kept us out of school almost throughout 2020. Honestly, I didn’t care about the strike. I just wanted to stay at home and sleep. 

Professor professor

LMAO, please. It’s not like the Nigerian education system is great anyways. 

Did you use that period to build any skills?

By 2020, I’d already been coding for eight years and —

Pause. What?

There’s a game we had on our home desktop — Tank Racer. I liked it so much I wanted to build my own game. So I went online and researched how to make computer games. I found C and C++ but it was too complicated for my 9-year-old brain so I settled for learning a version of JAVA and Python 2.7 online. I also started learning HTML and CSS. 

How did you know to do these things?

I had an uncle who was a computer science student, so I asked him questions, and another uncle who visited us regularly and taught me how to use the internet to get information. One of my mum’s students introduced me to W3Schools where I learnt HTML and CSS. Also, I grew up with a desktop at home, so using computers wasn’t a problem for me. 

In 2013, I found out about the National Institute of Information and Technology (NIIT) through a radio ad calling for people who wanted to learn programming to apply for a scholarship. I registered, and when I went to write the exam, I was the only child there. 

What type of exam was it?

A simple IQ-type test. Like advanced quantitative reasoning. A few weeks later, they called my mum to say I got 95% in the exam and they wanted me to resume the scholarship.

A genius

But I didn’t go. I was a child. I couldn’t attend the program myself after school, and my mum was busy, so we just decided to wait one year and write the scholarship exam again to see if I would qualify. 2014, I got 97%. But there was terrorism in the north, so my mum decided I should be at home as much as possible. Once again, I didn’t take the scholarship. 

What I did instead was visit a neighbour who was a WordPress developer. I would do this every day, watching him work and learning from him. By 2015, my uncle got me a laptop so I spent the next two years learning PHP and building projects. 

What kind of projects?

I built a blog, a to-do application and a student management system application. Just practical things. 

In 2017, I joined a Facebook group for developers in Kaduna. One day, the group administrator, a top developer in Africa, posted one of those “What’s stopping you from being the best developer you can be?” posts, and people replied with their problems — electricity, etc. My laptop was bad, so I mentioned it in the replies and he DMed me. We spoke for a bit and when I sent him links to stuff I’d done, he asked me to come for an event at his workspace. My mum didn’t want me to go at first, but when she found out my neighbour was also attending the event, she allowed me. 

I met the man, and after we spoke, he promised to get me a laptop. It was only after I got it I found out the workspace/hub used their Twitter account to ask for a donation. The laptop was from a total stranger. Wherever that person is, God bless them. 

When I got the laptop, I started learning JavaScript, and that’s what I did for the rest of 2017. I also wrote my first two technical articles in December 2017.

Technical writing again?

LMAO, yes. I’ve always loved writing. I used to write an essay every day, almost throughout secondary school, and submit it to my principal, who also taught English and was my private lesson teacher. She didn’t ask for it o. I just wanted to improve my writing skills, and she was happy to give feedback every day. I even graduated as best in English. 

So when my mentor asked me to create a tool that turns images into favicons in December 2017, and I successfully did it, I decided to write about my process so anyone who wanted to do something similar could learn from it. The next day, I wrote about how to use a tool that’d been helping me with my coding. I published both articles on a site where programmers go to ask questions and share knowledge. 

Who was this mentor? 

I met him on Facebook in 2017. He was on one of those programming groups I was on, and after we interacted, he asked if he could be my “remote mentor”. 

What happened after 2017?

I got my first job via Twitter in May 2018. I was doing university remedial courses and someone texted me on Twitter to ask if I wanted a job writing technical articles for them because they saw the stuff I wrote. The pay was $300 per article but $250 for my first article. It took them a few months to publish the first one. I think $250 was about ₦68k then, so I became a big boy. 

LMAO

Every chance I got, I was at the mall buying chicken and fries. 

I wrote for them again in December 2018 and got paid $300. This was like ₦96k. I used most of it to buy crypto. Speaking of crypto, I have an interesting story from my past. 

Tell me

In 2012, I found out about crypto on Facebook and used my mum’s card to buy ₦20k worth of Bitcoin without telling her. When she saw the debit, she went and rained hell at the bank. She told them they had to return her money or she’d move the remaining out of the account. My dad’s gratuity had just been paid, so there was a lot of money in the account. Well, the bank found a way to reverse the money and my account on the crypto site was banned. Imagine what ₦20k Bitcoin from 2012 would’ve been now.

My chest. I’m curious, did you eventually build the game you wanted to?

Nope. That’s why I kept learning new programming languages, but at some point, I just decided to settle for web applications because game development is hard. 

Did you continue writing for $300 after 2018?

Nah, I only wrote those two articles. Then, 2019 happened. Oh my God, 2019 was the absolute ghetto. I didn’t get any writing gigs, and I was already used to having money and spending recklessly, so my ₦20k allowance was not doing anything for me. I even took out all my crypto to have cash at hand.

In August, some guy found me on Twitter and hired me to do some small coding work. I only got ₦30k from him. I didn’t even continue after that month because he stressed my life.

Was 2020 any better?

In December 2019, I was discussing with a friend and they encouraged me to look for writing gigs online. Because of how bad the year was, I’d lost the motivation to write or develop myself. After that conversation, I reached out to a product analytics company that regularly put out content and told them I wanted to write for them. 

On January 1, 2020, they reached out with a contract offer. $350 per article. I grabbed it with both hands. As the year went by, my writing became much better and the editors didn’t have to review it too much before publishing. By September, another company reached out to me, and I got the contract. $400 per article. 


For the $350 company, I wrote 12 articles between January 2020 and January 2021, and for the $400 guys, I wrote only three articles in 2020. This time, I was much wiser with my money. Yes, I bought a new iPhone and AirPods, but I also saved and invested in stocks. 

Did you get another job after that or just focused on school?

I got another job in April 2021. I reached out to these people on Twitter and told them I could write for them. First, they paid $250 for an article, and when they liked it, they wanted three more. The conversation progressed to a one-year contract in which I’d be a content writer and community manager. Their first offer was $1k per month because one of their investors was a Nigerian who said ₦400k was enough for the role. But I told them I wanted $2k instead, and they agreed. Along the line, it increased to $2300. That’s almost a million. 

Baller

Yes o. I started skin care, bought a MacBook, started sending my mum money, got an apartment, and created a home workstation; everything was good. I also had all the fries and chicken I could ever want. If you’ve not noticed by now, I like fries and chicken. But I was also saving sha. 

Let me not lie, I was even on the verge of resigning before my contract expired in April (2022). 

Why?

I was tired of working for them. They weren’t doing anything new, so it was difficult to find things to write about. Then, there was a change in management and a lot of clashing ideas for community engagement. Everything was just somehow. 

Thankfully, I was unemployed for only a short period before I found something new.

What was it?

My first ever programming job. I started in May. 

I’m on a Discord server with many programmers, and someone posted a job opening for a full-stack developer at a foreign company a while ago. I still had my community manager job, so I didn’t take it then, but I reached out to him in April, and he said the role was still available. I didn’t do any interviews or anything. I just sent him my past work and personal projects I’d built, and he gave me the job. 

How much?

I told him I wanted $6k, but he said the budget was $3500. I took it. 

What’s that in naira?

About ₦2.1m. I have another remote job I got last month (June 2022). They reached out on LinkedIn for a technical writer role, and I took it. It pays ₦500k. Thankfully, I only work a maximum of 20 hours a week on the $3500 job, so I have time to do the other one. But if they stress me, I’ll leave. 

₦2.6m for a 19-year-old is… a lot of money

I have friends who make up to $10k monthly doing software development for foreign companies. So I don’t want to tell myself it’s a lot of money. I’m not pushing myself to make that type of money now now, but I know I still have a long way to go. By next year, my income has to be much higher. Experience plays a huge role in increasing earnings in the software development industry, so I’m building that with this job. Also, even though there’s ASUU strike, I’m still a student.

How do the ASUU strikes make you feel?

I know it sounds selfish, but they should take their time to fight for their rights since that’s what they want. I don’t mind how long it takes because I’m using my free time to build skills and make money. 

Does your family know how much you earn?

LMAO, nope. Only a handful of people in this life know. In my family, only one of my sisters knows because I’m sure she won’t tell anyone. Telling your family you earn ₦2.6m will just lead to billing and expectations. I’d rather just be responsible on my own terms. 

For example, we’re building a house for my mum in another state so she can move away from the north, and I’m basically funding the entire project. Honestly, they probably know I make good money, but they can’t say how much. 

How much have you spent on the house so far?

₦4m. 

Tell me what your finances look like right now

If I join what I have in cash savings and assets like stock together, it’ll be like $20k now. 

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

There’s this nice Audi car I want. I can’t afford it, but even if I could, I wouldn’t buy it. The questions would be too many. That’s even why I don’t have a car at all. 

And what do you spend your money on?

How happy are you on a scale of 1-10?

9 because my mum and sisters are comfortable and happy. My mum earns ₦35k right now, so imagine her joy when I send her money. My sisters work, but giving them something extra is always refreshing. I know there’s food at home and they don’t lack anything. For me, as long as I have food to eat and clothes to wear, I’m fine. The people who matter are my mum and sisters. 

What about your goal to become a professor?

It’s on track. My first book will be published this month. The copy editing and indexing are done; the pre-final and final checks will be done this week. 

I’m writing books so I can become well-known and build an audience. Plus, you need to be published to become a professor, so I’m starting early.


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