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.
In 2020, this 33-year-old got a ₦10m loan to start a farm. Today, the farm is not operational. He’s also been a teacher, gym instructor, HR manager, tailor, marketer, admin assistant and army recruit. He hopes to add ‘governor’ to that list. You’ll enjoy his #NairaLife.
What’s your earliest memory of money?
I went into my mum’s purse to steal money to play PS1. It was about ₦5 per game.
How old were you?
Between six and 10.
You were already going out to play games that young?
Yes o. I was one of those children that matured pretty fast.
As a child, I was abused by an older lady, so I think that made me grow up faster than people my age. Before my friend introduced me to gaming, all I did after school was read. My dad didn’t like beating me, so he always found punishments that encouraged me to read or just be smarter.
It started with writing one to 1000 on foolscap paper. After that, even when he wasn’t punishing me, he’d bring home up to 20 short books every Thursday from his office’s library. I had to read and summarise them for him by Sunday evening. All that reading also helped me develop faster mentally.
When my friend introduced me to gaming, I started to read faster so I could have time to go out.
I’m now curious about what home was like
I was an only child until I turned six, so I was often bored. My dad is a chartered accountant, and my mum is a caterer. Ours is a humble background.
What does that mean?
I had garri for breakfast and lunch almost every day for years. In retrospect, I think that’s why my eyesight is terrible now. It was common for me to be sent away from school because I defaulted on fees. I had such low self-esteem. I used to run away from church before service closed because I wore tatters and didn’t want to interact with my age mates who were better dressed.
When my parents had me in 1989, they weren’t even close to being financially stable. I think it’s these days people look for financial stability before getting married. Things started to get better when I was about nine years old.
How did you know things were getting better?
Yorubas have a saying — “T’ébi bá kúrò nínú ìsẹ́, ìsẹ́ búse”. It means once hunger is no longer a part of your problems, you’re no longer a pauper. We started eating less garri and more rice, beans and spaghetti. Chicken was still a luxury, but things were getting better. I also wasn’t getting sent out of school anymore.
But it’s not like things were great great. I still had to walk about eight kilometres every day for my six years in secondary school.
What happened after secondary school?
I finished secondary school in 2009 and didn’t pass maths in WAEC or GCE, so I couldn’t go to university. To be honest, I didn’t even want to. I wanted to join the army. All the books and newspapers I read growing up gave me knowledge about politics and history, and the army just felt cool. Being in the army was popular when I was growing up, even until Obasanjo was president. Also, because of my parents, I listened to a lot of old songs from Fela and the likes that spoke about change. Many of these songs mentioned the army.
In retrospect, too, I think I wanted to be in the army because of my self-esteem and anger issues.
So you joined the army?
Not immediately. I first went to computer school for six months. There, I learned Microsoft Word, Corel Draw, Excel, how to clean a hard drive, and how to fix computers. It was ₦15k, but my dad could only afford ₦7k. Thankfully, they never asked for the balance because the owner took a liking to me.
I talked about history and politics with him. So instead of sending me away when it was time for defaulters to leave, he sent me on errands instead. I bought food, delivered messages and shared flyers convincing people to join the school. At some point, I even taught other students.
After computer school, I did factory jobs that paid ₦5k a month just to hold body. That’s how most of 2010 went. In 2011, I joined the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA).
How does one join the NDA?
I don’t know about now, but I had to write JAMB and pick NDA as my first choice. If you pass JAMB, you then have to do physical and psychological evaluations before you’re admitted. NDA is free to attend because it’s in service to your country, so my dad didn’t have to worry about money. In fact, I got monthly stipends from the government. Like ₦15k. Because of my political dreams, I decided to study political science.
Study political science in NDA?
Yes, the NDA is like a university. In addition to military training, you also study a course for four years so you can specialise in the army.
Makes sense. What was NDA like?
I dropped out after two years.
An uncle in the army advised me to. He thought I had “bigger potential” than being a soldier. For example, if I became a governor — I still want to — I’d have soldiers at my beck and call. He wanted me to go to a university, get a proper education, and establish myself as a non-military man. Being in the army meant I could only get promoted when the army wanted me to. On the outside, I had the potential to be whatever I wanted.
I’d probably even be dead now if I was in the army. If not from Boko Haram, then from being too radical and getting in trouble.
Yep. After I had to rewrite WAEC. I studied public administration. It was meant to be political science, but I made a mistake with the JAMB form.
Did anything fun happen in school?
When I was in my second year, in 2014, there was a long ASUU strike. Because I was bored and broke, I decided to look for ways to make money. I went to a school near my house and told them I wanted to teach for them, and they agreed. The pay was ₦14k to teach government. Over time, they added English, commerce and literature with no additional pay. But I didn’t collect my salary until the end of my six months there. I told them to keep it for me because I wanted to use it to buy a laptop. The money I survived on was after-school lesson money. Like ₦5k a month.
There was also a brief stint where I learned to sew during this strike period. I had to stop because my eyesight was a problem.
By the time I was resuming school in late 2014, I’d used my saved salary and a ₦20k bonus to buy a ₦52k laptop, pay my ₦20k fees and buy foodstuff. When I got back to school, I started a security business.
LMAO! I’m naturally big, so I reached out to departments on campus and offered them bouncer services for their parties. So I and a few other big guys would stay at parties from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., and depending on the size of the party, get between ₦5k and ₦15k to share amongst ourselves.
By the time I was nearing my fourth year, I had to stop because I’d become my department’s president, and I couldn’t be doing stuff like that anymore. That’s the only business I did in university.
What happened after?
I finished in March 2018 and wanted to go into human resources management, but I didn’t get a job on time. In May, I saw an ad for an administrative assistant at a NGO that was right beside my house and I applied and got the job.
What did you do there?
Where should I start? It was an NGO whose focus was to help widows and orphans. Because I had teaching experience, one of my jobs was to teach the orphans every evening. Whenever we had events, I was head of operations. I was also the principal’s PA and bouncer because of my size. And I was a typist too.
For how much?
₦30k. Thankfully, I didn’t spend any money on feeding or transportation because work was right beside my house and I could go home to eat whenever I wanted. By December, I left because I got a new job.
A small start-up that was looking for marketers. I got the gig from a church-member-turned-mentor. This job paid ₦45k, but I couldn’t survive on it because of transport costs. I sha managed for six months until I went for NYSC right before I turned 30. I specifically wanted to go to the north to serve, so I worked my NYSC to Jigawa.
I’d been hearing all around that agriculture was the next big thing, and I wanted to learn. Agriculture is big in the north, so why not?
While in camp, I came second in the Mr Macho competition, and that meant I got to pick the local government I wanted to serve in. My aunt lives in Jigawa, so I picked her local government. My PPA was a school, and I only had to show up during my period. I spent the rest of my time working on an Alhaji’s farm.
How did you meet this Alhaji?
We ate at the same canteen and got talking. He liked me because, according to him, I wasn’t a bigot. Apparently, many corp members who he’d met had a thing against Hausa people.
On his farm, I learned how to care for, butcher and prepare farm animals — goats, cows, fish and sheep — without pay.
After NYSC ended in early 2020, I returned to Lagos. I briefly worked with my mentor at the same job again. The pay was ₦50k this time. He’d bought a small land for farming in Ogun state, so I took over and helped him plant vegetables so that we’d sell, make a profit and use the profit to start animal farming. When lockdown came in March, we couldn’t move the products, so we made a loss. That’s also when I left the company.
By July, I had a bright idea. I was going to start my own farm in Ogun state too.
With which money?
I drew up a business plan and sent it to my cousin in Canada. ₦13m. He didn’t have ₦13m, but he had ₦5m he could loan me. I bought two plots of land worth ₦750k, 12 pigs worth ₦700k, and spent ₦300k on drilling a borehole. When I was done spending the ₦5m, we decided to go big on the farm, so I got another ₦5m, bought four more plots, and built a bigger structure. I also hired people to work on the farm and an accountant for the books. Lastly, I rented an apartment near the farm for ₦400k.
How long did this take?
What was your cousin’s profit from loaning you the money?
He’d get a five-year repayment plan with 5% interest per year and a 50% stake in the business. After those five years, I’ll then own 70% of the business.
How much does the farm make you on an average month now?
I’ve paused operations because I made mistakes in the setting up of the farm. I spent almost all the money setting up assets and was left with little for running the business. So I was paying salaries, spending ₦300k to ₦500k monthly on feed, and spending money on transportation with the money I had left. If I’d gotten a vehicle for the business, for instance, I wouldn’t have had to pay ₦35k monthly to transport feed to the farm. I should have also gotten a shop where we kill and sell the pigs instead of optimising the sell them whole. It’s more difficult that way. And if I wanted to optimise for selling them live, then I have to have a vehicle to transport them.
How much did you make selling pigs?
Between 2020 and early this year, the 12 pigs I bought reproduced to about 120. I sold 70 for an average of ₦150k each and 50 died. I didn’t keep the money from the 70 I sold. I was repaying loans to my cousin because I wanted to be done in three years. Again, not the smartest decision.
So what do you do for money these days?
From December 2020 to January this year, I had a job as an HR manager at a government parastatal. It paid ₦50k, but I didn’t have to be at work physically. That’s how I survived. I left because working for the government is the ghetto — office politics and toxic work environment.
After that job, I took some free and paid online and offline certifications on personal training. I’ve been a steady gym bro since 2020, and because I’m buff, people always ask me to train them. I’ve been inconsistently training people since February and I’ve made about ₦100k. Other than that, people call me for HR consulting, training, strategy and the likes. Small gigs.
What’s next for you?
I’m looking for either a job or a vehicle.
If I got a job that paid ₦200k right now, I’d restart the pig business. I’ve recently learned that some farmers are desperate to sell off piglets at ₦10k. I already have the structure. If I get 30 piglets and feed them for four months until they reach 65kg, I’d sell them off at ₦1k per kg and make almost ₦2 million. My business model before was to keep them until they reached over 100kg, and even have them reproduce, but I’m not looking to do that anymore. It’s just to buy and sell them all now. Obviously, I’ve not factored feed and transportation into these calculations, but at least I know it’s possible to restart this business after a few months of ₦200k.
What about the vehicle?
If I got a Sienna right now, I’d become a driver for a few months — taking people to work on Lagos Island and driving others interstate. I think I’ll make good enough money from doing that to restart the farm. Once the farm is running, the vehicle will also be used to transport my farm produce. I’ve planned everything in my head. I’m even thinking of using my credentials as collateral to get a loan for the Sienna.
What’s one thing you want but can’t afford right now?
What about your plans to become a governor?
When I start making money, I’ll buy more land in Ogun state —that’s where I’m from. The land is for schools, hospitals and orphanages. I want to give to the community before I begin my political aspirations.
Can you break down how much you spend in a month?
What’s your financial happiness on a 1-10 scale?
2. I’m broke.