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.
What’s the first experience in your life that made you realise ah, money sweet o?
That would be JSS1 in 2004. I went to a boarding school and it was my first time away from the safety of home. My pocket money for the term was ₦200, and I had classmates who had ₦1,000 for a week. That was when I realised, you don’t have money. Your father doesn’t have money anymore.
Yeah. My dad used to be work for the government, at some of the highest levels. There was some contract thing that involved bribes and all that. Super straight man, he didn’t want to be a part of it.
What did that mean for him?
He quit. He quit his job, and we had to move to a new town. He started a small business. Started building a house, but he never got around to finishing it, so we had to move to a house near my dad’s. Then two years later, there were issues with the landlord, and we had to move into the uncompleted house.
In primary school, my school fees never got paid early, but neither did my friends’ school fees. So we just hung out during school hours, outside school, and played, hahaha. I knew what we were going through at the time wasn’t normal.
I feel like knowing the money situation forces you to ask another question — where will this money come from?
Yes. There was the part where my dad paid us stipends to work at his factory for him. But my first lone experience has to be leaving home after secondary school and going to Lagos – this was 2011.
How did your folks react?
Oh, my dad was already dead. He died when I was 12 going on 13. He was the breadwinner and the controller – he was the one who sent you on an errand and knew exactly when you were supposed to be back.
He also didn’t let my mum work. He was the kind to go, “What do you want that I can’t provide?” even when he couldn’t provide. Also, he always felt like there weren’t enough opportunities for my mum where we were.
So, this was your mum that had never worked, and suddenly, she had how many mouths to feed?
Four. He was sick for a while, so his business was dying as he was dying in the hospital. When he finally died, his family wanted a burial they couldn’t fund.
In the end, my mum had four mouths to feed and a lot of debt.
It’s a tragedy that this happened, and I’m sorry that you all had to go through that. Another great tragedy is that this happens to a lot of women every year – I don’t have stats to back this up.
Yeah. My dad was pretty confident that we were going to be fine. He was polygamous, so somehow he believed his other, much older kids would look after us the children.
How did that go?
Well, the first one tried to kill my mum, because my mum refused to release my dad’s paperwork to him – death certificates, documents, etc.
But, he didn’t get it right?
He did. He was my father’s next of kin, and all my dad’s benefits went to him. Now, imagine my mum showing up from her shop one day and finding out that they’d put a notice at our house, ‘Caveat Emptor’ – he sold my father’s house while we still lived in it. Welcome to life.
Yep. I said that too many times. You know, my mum always told my dad to write a will, and he’d respond that she wanted to kill him. The day he decided to write a will was the day he died. Even worse, they were never legally married.
Shit. Leaving home at 15 suddenly makes a whole lot of sense.
I had a friend in Lagos, and I lived on and off with her for three years. The first job was short – I was an assistant. In the first month, I got my salary. By the second month, he told me to come to pick up my salary at his house on a Sunday morning. No, thank you. That’s how that ended.
I don’t remember that first salary from the first job, but my first proper cheque was ₦60k – 2012. I worked in client services. I also gained admission into uni that year.
How did you juggle that?
The bulk of my work was phone calls and emails. So I was doing that from school. Also, I worked from the office when school was on break.
I’m assuming your boss was reasonable – letting you work remotely and –
– Nope. He tried to grope me or kiss me every other morning I was at work. I worked for him for a few years sha.
Did he ever stop?
Nope. I didn’t quit because I had school fees to pay. This ₦60k was gold in my house at the time, so there was no quitting. In 2015, I did my Industrial Attachment at this place that paid ₦40-50k.
At this point, I’d squatted in a few places, and made a few friends, and I didn’t exactly need that ₦60k salary. So even when I finished my attachment, I didn’t have to go back to the abuser’s job.
I lived with someone I worked for, who is the kind of older friend that you call aunty. So she mostly paid in bits here and there, no lump sums. But the accommodation and the network was priceless.
How did 2016 go?
When was 2016 again?
The year Nigeria went into a recession.
It’s a blur, but I finished uni in 2017 and went to work at a firm that was supposed to pay ₦100k but paid ₦40k in the first month. There’s also the part that my boss tried to sleep with me again – they always do.
I spent three months at the job. He never paid that ₦100k. The time he paid ₦100k was when he wanted me to go buy clothes so we could travel for a ‘work trip’ to Ghana. Then when I was arranging, and doing bookings, he told me to book one room, instead of two. Because how would he ‘apologise properly if we were sleeping in different rooms.’
That’s not the worst thing that’s happened.
I dunno if I want to ask you about the worst.
Oh, you’ll hear it. It happened recently too. We’ll get to it. Anyway, I clocked 21 and quit shortly after that. That was when my life went to shit. You know how I had older friends that doubled as older siblings? They just started to disappear. Two had to relocate out of Nigeria, a third one died. And somehow, I managed to get blamed by her mother-in-law for killing her so I could marry her husband.
She pulled her wrapper and swore that I was going to die before the end of the year. This was Christmas Day. She kicked me out by midnight – I was staying there too because the couple were like family to me.
That is sick.
I travelled home to my mum, and I even followed her to church on New Year’s Eve. I held her hand all through because I was sure I was going to die. I didn’t die, obviously, but then I just started to fall sick a lot. The first half of 2018 was spent treating one thing after the other. Typhoid and whatnot. So I shuttled between my friend’s house and my mum’s outside Lagos. I wondered a lot, why did everything have to happen to me? And then came the depression. And a boy still managed to break my heart in the midst of all of this. That 2017 ended in tears.
I imagine your money problems didn’t go away.
Yeah, I had a job managing someone’s blog and social media pages. I had to write 20 news articles and one original article, Monday to Sunday. Then there was also social and Nairaland.
Ehn, how much?
₦40k. I still got owed for five months. Three months have already been paid though, but that job ended in November 2018. All I got was how I wasn’t ‘good enough’.
Anyway, I so I started working more actively on social media. Running small gigs on the side.
I joined a new company in December – I already arranged my posting to a company that was going to pay good money. ₦250k. But I got paid that amount once. This one also tried to sleep with me. Anyway, that was how that one ended, no pay.
In the time being, I started selling clothes, but I honestly wasn’t taking it as seriously as I should have. If I buy ₦50k worth of stuff and I sell, I can make up to ₦150 to ₦200k on Instagram.
I got another gig in July where I was supposed to lead creative direction on a project. The manager was pretty straightforward.
Straightforward about what?
Sex. He literally said, “Don’t fight it” – this one was a job in the entertainment industry. Anyway, by the time I quit that, I just grew completely tired and took a break. I’m completely tired of office work. I need these assurances:
- Really good money
- Not being owed
- Not being sexually harassed at the office.
Every man you’ve worked with has tried to sleep with you.
Yep. The women just focus on owing me my salary. People work so they can get paid, so it sucks when you work and not get paid.
Now, I just work freelance managing people’s pages, buying and selling stuff, promoting stuff on my social media pages, and just trying to get by. So I go from up to 400k on a good month to making nothing on a bad month.
Let’s talk about your best money month this year.
My biggest problem is that I don’t track all my expenses and incoming. My life is scattered. But there was this month I worked for someone running supplies. I stopped calculating after 300k, out of excitement, but it might have been up to 600k.
Let’s try to put the excitement in one corner, and track what your month looks like in expenses.
I only buy ice cream when I’m sad.
How frequently do you eat ice cream?
A lot. I don’t eat a lot, but I can’t do without my ice cream. When I’m super hungry, I drink garri.
What’s something you really want but can’t afford?
Let’s paint a picture of what life would look like in 5 years.
Please, don’t ask me that question, it’s too serious. I dunno.
Okay. What’s something you honestly wish you were better at?
That would be reducing my ice cream. But then I work, and I deserve ice cream. It keeps me sane.
How do you even think about this money thing, generally?
Money is a visitor. It’s the same thing our parents said – it comes and goes. But there’s this documentary that I watched – it’s the Billionaires episode on Netflix’s Explained. Changed my perspective on money. I have a lot of rethinking to do.
Financial happiness, 1-10.
Omo, it’s 2 o. I’m just getting by. I can’t even afford to be creative with disposable income. Invest-what?
I bet you didn’t see this coming.
No, I didn’t. Inside Life.
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