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.
When today’s subject on #NairaLife was 8 years old, he wanted to be a fraudster. Now, he’s managing projects for financial institutions and growing his career. But he’s not satisfied yet — not until he has four full-time jobs.
Tell me about your earliest memory of money.
I’m the last of four children. When I was about 8 or 9, my eldest brother had friends who had much more money than they should have had. Here’s how I reached that conclusion — my dad was a banker, and he couldn’t afford all the things they were affording so easily. They lived flashy lives, had cars and bought pizza often, and they didn’t have jobs. As I got older, I started going to cybercafes that doubled as game centres to play FIFA. Whenever I went there, my brother and his friends were there. I also knew that they used to pay ₦250 to stay there for overnight bowsing.
With time, I realised they were fraudsters who made a living by doing love scams. I wanted to be like them so bad. I started asking them to teach me and the answer I got was always, “When you get older.”
Did you ever learn?
Nope. I started hanging out with my immediate older brother who had converted from Islam to Christianity and was now playing the guitar in the choir. I only wanted to learn the guitar, but I ended up converting to Christianity as well. This was in 2007 and I was 14 and in SS 1. Because I was hanging out with a different group of people and going to church where they preached against things like fraud, I lost interest.
What did your family think about your conversion at such a young age?
For a brief period, my dad was against it. But because he was concerned about my eldest brother’s lifestyle and friend choices, and he saw that my other brother and I were well behaved, he left us alone. If changing religions meant we would turn out better, then he wasn’t against it. His family members slated him for it. They said he wasn’t man enough to take care of his children.
And your mum?
She left Nigeria for the UK to find greener pastures for us when I was a kid — sometime in the 1990s. At some point, her papers expired and she couldn’t come back to Nigeria, so she just stayed there illegally. She sent money, games and clothes from time to time, and we spoke almost every day. I guess she was also okay with my conversion.
So things were good at home then.
My dad’s job at the bank meant we lived a modest life. It wasn’t as great as people in our community thought it was, but it wasn’t bad as well. My dad paid our school fees and gave us money to survive, and that was it.
However, things changed in 2008 when the restructuring in the banking sector happened. He lost his job. He’d been working in the banking sector for over 25 years and was soon going to become a manager.
It was also during that period that I had to go to university. My older siblings had gone to private universities, but now that it was my turn, there was no money. My dad suggested a public university, but the suggestion didn’t fly with my mum, so we decided on a private university.
It was difficult for my dad to cope with the payment of fees, but he managed. Sometimes, he had to sell an asset — a car, land — for us to survive. In addition to this, he was giving me ₦10k every month as allowance. My mum also gave me ₦10k most months. I didn’t think surviving on ₦20k a month in university was bad until I heard my mates were collecting ₦120k from their parents.
LMAO! Did your dad find work after?
Nope. He tried to do “business” by giving different people money to start their own businesses, but they either ran away or duped him. He hasn’t worked since he lost his job in 2008 till today.
People can say, “Yeah, but he managed to give his children a good education. He has tried”. That’s valid, but you can also look at it from the angle that his not working means he became a financial responsibility for his children much earlier than he should have. And it’s not because he couldn’t avoid it.
Did your mum return at any point?
She returned in 2012 when I was in my third year in university. She was deported. She came back with nothing. She’d been doing menial jobs in the UK, so she didn’t have the work experience to get jobs in the Nigerian market.
I tried selling hair products briefly in university to make more money but stopped almost immediately. I bought a pack of 12 hair sprays for ₦300 each and sold them at ₦1,500 each. Good money, yes, but the stress of going to hostels to advertise was too much. I stopped after that one pack.
I chose to study economics because I was good at economics in secondary school, but what I met in university was different. In secondary school, all I had to do was read my notes and that was it. In university, I had to do extremely complicated math, and I was terrible at math. I eventually managed to graduate with a 2:1, but my plan after uni was to drop economics and just do a graduate trainee program in an oil company. I heard oil companies paid a lot of money.
Is that what you did?
Yes, but I failed every exam I tried my hands at because they had math in them. After many failures, my dad linked me with his friend who had a company that sold discounted flight tickets. I worked as the man’s “PA” and got paid ₦10k monthly to run errands. After three months, I tried another exam and passed. This time, it was for an insurance company. My job role was deputy sales manager, and the pay was ₦45k.
Five months into the job, I decided to do a cold call, so I walked into a company’s building and said I was there to see their “oga”. By the time I was done pitching to him, he said he was impressed with the way I convinced him to get insurance and purchased a year’s insurance worth ₦600k. Apparently, he hated the concept of insurance because, “How can someone be telling me to insure my life?” He was amazed that I was able to convince him.
One month later, the head office thought my branch wasn’t profitable, so they fired everyone and closed the branch.
This one must’ve hit close to home.
LMAO, it did! I went back to the man I sold insurance to and told him I was out of a job, so if he needed me, I was available. Shortly after, his company reached out to me and said they needed a project manager. When they asked me how much I wanted, I told them it had to be more than my previous salary, and then lied that my previous salary was ₦90k. They couldn’t afford more than ₦70k, so they persuaded me to accept it, and I did.
Me, I was happy I was earning that much, but my dad didn’t like it. He didn’t send me to an expensive school to be making peanuts. My mum, on the other hand, had moved to the US in 2015. She wanted to keep hustling and sending money home. She’s been there since then.
What did the company do?
They were a private consulting firm that helped the government reach their revenue goals for different states by making sure companies paid taxes. Three months after I started working there, they started owing salaries. In fact, I worked there for almost two years and only got paid for about a year in total. In the middle of owing salaries, they even increased my salary to ₦80k, and still didn’t pay.
Why did you stay?
Shortly after I started working there in 2016, a friend told me a bit more about project management and made me do an online course on it. From what I read online, I saw that if I stuck with it, I could make a lot of money. I also knew that I was terrible at getting jobs through exams, so my best bet was having job experience as a project manager on my CV.
A strategic man.
In 2018, my fiancée introduced me to a friend who linked me with a company that sold IT solutions to banks. With my CV showing I had both certification and job experience in project management, I aced the interview. When we got to pay, I lied once again that my former job paid ₦300k, and that if they wanted to poach me, they needed to pay more. We eventually agreed on ₦120k.
From ₦300k to ₦120k?
They didn’t have ₦300k to throw at someone with my experience level. But there was an unwritten clause — after my three-month probation, we would renegotiate. ₦120k was a good raise. It was the first time I wasn’t flat broke at the end of every month. I didn’t tell my dad my pay this time, but I was much more comfortable. Because the job was far from home, I moved in with a cousin.
Two months into the job, I sent a message to someone on LinkedIn to mentor me and he accepted. He was a big shot project manager who had just moved to Canada. In that same month, he got me a project management teaching gig that paid ₦70k for seven classes four times a year.
After three months at the job, I met my boss to discuss my confirmation and the raise. She was happy with the work I’d done and confirmed I was now a full staff. However, there was going to be no raise.
According to her, the company wasn’t profitable in that period so there wasn’t any sense in giving me a raise. After some back and forth, she looked me in the eye and said, “You’re not getting a raise. If you don’t want to continue with us, you can leave.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. Immediately she said that, I weighed my options. If I continued at the company after that, I’d lose every power I had to bargain for a new salary going forward. I’d also lose every sense of personal dignity I had working for someone who spoke to me like that. Right there and then, I quit.
I didn’t have any savings, and I was going back to live in my father’s house, but it was better than working for someone who didn’t honour their word.
What did you do after?
That experience changed me. I decided after that that I was going to go hard at making mad money. I hated that someone had treated me like crap because I was at their mercy. I went on LinkedIn and sent DMs to over 50 companies to hire me. They all said no.
Thankfully, my mentor had a job offer at a bank that he couldn’t take, so he referred me. It was a project manager role too. I lied about how much I earned too, but they were only offering ₦245k, and then a ₦200k bonus at the end of every three months. The offer sounded good to me, so I took it. I resumed there exactly a month after I quit the ₦120k job. October 2018 to be precise.
Lying seems to be working for you.
LMAO. At this point, my satisfaction levels were low. My experience with my former boss taught me to look out for myself wherever I went. I also learnt, from job-hopping, that the best way to increase your salary quickly was to change jobs. Loyalty gets you nowhere. I wasn’t looking to stay anywhere for too long.
In addition to my changed mental state, I got married in 2018, and my parents and siblings were also demanding more, so I absolutely needed to make more money.
Less than a year later, another bank reached out on LinkedIn to poach me and I left. It paid ₦330k. In 2020, I got a job at yet another bank. It was an operations manager role, but I did project management functions. This one paid ₦500k. By 2021, they increased it to ₦550k.
See as your income is flying.
The money was decent. My wife also earns a living, so our family’s finances were strong. However, I decided not to look for Nigerian project management roles anymore. Because we went remote when COVID hit, I went on LinkedIn, We Work Remotely, Dynamite Jobs and started searching for project management jobs online. In August 2021, I got a full-time project management job at a US company that pays $3,500.
Whoa. How do you manage both jobs?
My US job starts at 3 p.m. Nigerian time, so I’m able to do all my Nigerian work before then. I also make sure I don’t have any meetings after 3 p.m. so I can fully focus on my other job.
How would you compare working for a Nigerian company and a foreign company?
In my experience, working for Nigerian companies is trash. You don’t get monetary or other kinds of value for the work you put in. My short term goal is to quit my bank job and secure about four remote jobs that pay $5,000 each. When I do that, I’ll hire someone to help me manage my time and tasks.
What are your finances like right now?
I don’t have any savings in cash. All my money is in USDT. It’s about ₦1.5 million. I want to start trading crypto soon.
What happens if you have an emergency?
I have ₦100k that I never touch.
Let’s look at a breakdown of your current monthly expenses.
Is there something you want but can’t afford right now?
Nothing. I live a relatively simple life, so I don’t want anything that I can’t afford. I have everything I need.
And your financial happiness on a scale of 1-10?
10. After saving and giving in a month, my loose money is over ₦800k. That’s pretty good. My quest for more money is just a natural human instinct. Maybe in a few months, I’ll get unsatisfied and want to buy a house, but I’m pretty sure when I start making $5,000 from four jobs, I’ll be able to do that in less than a year.