The #NairaLife of a PR Babe Who’s Proud of Black Tax

May 23, 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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This #NairaLife is a grass to grace story. The 29-year-old subject went from hawking pure water to staying in university hostels for the less privileged to being owed ₦5k salaries. Now she’s the main breadwinner of her family. How did she do it? 


What’s your earliest memory of money?

Things went south when my mum lost her job as a banker. I was five. I wouldn’t say we were rich rich before then, but we were comfortable. After that, things became so bad, we had to move to an underdeveloped area. Once I turned six, I started hawking pure water after school. This continued until almost a year later when I almost got raped. 

Oh my God.

To sell fast, I would go to the sawmill because the men who worked there wanted water all the time. My mum had told me not to go there without my brother, but one day, he didn’t want to go with me, so I went alone. In a lonely alley, a man cornered me, but thankfully, someone showed up and saved me. 

The older I got, the more I realised how broke we were. My school had children from rich homes who brought coconut rice to school for lunch, and on their birthdays, they brought party packs to share. On my birthday, I could only afford to bring Cabin biscuits. 

There’s even a funny story of how I kept trying to get hit by a vehicle for two years so I could get beverages. 

Ehn?

A vehicle hit my brother, and when he was in the hospital, the people who hit him brought all sorts of beverages like Milo, milk, etc. We never had anything like that before. After he got out, I started looking for expensive cars on the roads and walking in front of them so they could hit me. Nobody hit me. 

After primary school, my parents separated. First, my dad sent me to stay with a woman who treated me like a housemaid. Omo, I suffered in her house. At some point, I even thought my dad collected money from her in exchange for my maid services. She barely fed me. Thankfully, I fell really sick, so I had to leave her house and go to live with my mum. 

What was that like?

Terrible. We didn’t have light for like three years. I had to go to my dad’s place every week to collect money for transportation to school and eat from friends’ houses. 

After JSS 3, I needed money to buy stuff for senior secondary school — new bag, new shoes, socks — because I’d been using the same things since I was in JSS 1, so my dad connected me with a woman who owned a restaurant. I washed plates for weeks and was paid ₦6k. I was so happy. The money was enough to buy everything I wanted. 

During my holidays in senior secondary school, I worked as a secretary for my dad at his struggling real estate company. During the holiday between SS 3 and university, I worked as a secretary for one of my dad’s friends. He paid me ₦2,500 for each of the three months I worked there. I was staying with my older brother who was married, and every time I got paid, his wife would collect the money to keep for me to give me back in bulk when I was going to uni. Time for uni came, and instead of money, she gave me her old pots. 

You’re killing me. 

I went to uni with only transportation money from my dad, and some small savings I had. An old friend from secondary school housed me for my first three days, and then a random babe I met on the queue for departmental registration housed me for the next two months. I stayed in the hostel for the less privileged for the rest of my first year. In my second year, I stayed in the regular school hostel. Third year, I stayed with a friend. And my final year, I stayed in the school hostel again.  

How did you survive university?

The grace of God, LMAO! My dad sent me ₦3k monthly, and the rest was me surviving on my friends. They’d buy food for me and give me foodstuff from their house. 

It was in my third year that I started writing and posting my work online, just for myself. No jobs came from it, but at least, I was doing it. 

I finished university in June 2014. And because I needed money for convocation in October, I got a job as an assistant to a man who had a startup for vocational training. The pay was ₦5k. He paid me for July, but not for August and September, and I needed the money to buy a gown and shoes for convocation. 

What did you do?

In August, I went for a church programme where I met a man who liked me and collected my number. Sometime in September, after we’d been talking, he told me to come and see him in Abuja. Just like that. Obviously, I didn’t have the money to travel to Abuja, so I told him I couldn’t come, but he insisted he wanted to see me, so he sent me transport money. 

₦6k. 

LMAO!

He said I should enter the 12-hour bus from Lagos, and then call him when I get to the park in Abuja. I obviously wasn’t going to do that, so I told him. Next thing, this man asked me to send his money back. Money that I needed for a convocation gown? Long story short, I didn’t send it, and he cursed my life, but I used the money to buy material to sew a gown, and used shoes, for my convocation. 

The month between convocation and NYSC was the worst month of my life. I had to eat eba with water. I didn’t have a kobo to my name. I couldn’t even leave my house to go and stay with a friend because I didn’t have money for transportation.

By November, I was posted to Zamfara for NYSC. Transportation cost ₦11k, and my dad gave me ₦15k. I called my aunt to ask her for extra money. She gave me ₦5k. That’s all the money I went to camp with. Just like in university, the rest was me surviving on friends I made. 

After camp, I redeployed to Ibadan where I got my first writing gigs that paid ₦500 – ₦1k per article. Immediately NYSC started paying me the monthly ₦19,800, my parents started asking for money. Towards the end of my service year, I got another ₦5k-a-month writing job with a guy who turned out to be a creep. I had to quit because he was pestering me to come to his house. 

Whoa. 

Thankfully, I’d started applying for jobs three months before NYSC ended because I didn’t want to go back home broke and idle. One month before I finished NYSC, I got an internship at a PR company in Lagos. The pay was ₦40k. 

Finally.

The job was far from where my family lives, so all the money was going into transportation. After my first month, my dad connected me with a woman who lived just behind my workplace so I could stay with her. Best two weeks ever. I was walking to work, eating her food, there was light, everything was perfect. 

Why just two weeks?

She wasn’t married, but she had a man she was seeing. After I’d stayed with her for two weeks, he returned from a trip abroad. On the day he came, I greeted him, and we went our separate ways. The next day, she told me I had to leave her house because she didn’t think I’d be comfortable staying in the house with a man. I didn’t have a problem with it, but she insisted. In retrospect, she was probably the one who wasn’t comfortable with the arrangement. To help me, she found an apartment for me, not so far from work, and paid the ₦120k rent. 

That’s nice of her. 

After six months working at the ₦40k job, a company reached out to hire me as a content and community manager. This was 2016. Apparently, a Twitter mutual who I’d never even spoken with recommended me and wholeheartedly vouched for me because they saw my articles and tweets on the TL. When they asked me how much I wanted, I told them ₦80k. They offered me ₦110k exclusive of pension and HMO. I wanted to faint. I didn’t even think twice about taking the job. My boss at the ₦40k job was already stressing me by making false promises to increase my salary, so it was a no-brainer to leave. 

From the ₦110k, I tried to save every month, but black tax was holding my neck. By the end of 2017, I started asking for a raise. It dragged on and on until July 2018 when I quit. 

Did you get another job?

Nope. But I couldn’t continue because I was extremely stressed. I’d started my part-time master’s, so I was spending a lot of money on transportation, fees and assignments. In addition, my sister had just gotten into university, and I was single-handedly taking care of her. It didn’t make any sense to still work for ₦110k when I was spending that much money and experiencing that kind of stress. 

I’d done a writing side gig that paid ₦15k per article earlier in the year, so I just decided to focus on writing five articles a week.

By September, I started another job at an advertising agency. The pay was ₦170k. All this time, I was trying to save, but black tax, school and rent were taking all my money. I just kept searching for new jobs. By January 2019, I saw an opening for a PR role at a tech company. I applied and got the job. ₦210k. 

Love it. 

By the end of the year, it increased to ₦280k. And by 2020, it increased to ₦311k. 

What was the situation at home like?

My company makes POSes so I set my mum up with one in 2019. Since then, she’s been making good money from it so my main responsibilities are to my dad and my sister. Sometimes, I have to contribute money to my brothers’ upkeep too.

By 2021, they increased my salary to ₦350k. I was so angry. 

Why?

I’d become a team lead at a tech company, so it felt like an insult to be earning ₦350k. When I confronted my boss about it, he apologised and told me they’d increase it the next year — 2022. The reason for the small raise was that the company was trying to adjust the salaries of the team leads. 

This year, I got a raise to ₦480k. 

Mad!

I also now have a PR side gig that pays ₦250k every month alongside my other more inconsistent side gigs.

How has your journey with money shaped how you view it?

I used to tell myself I don’t want to be super wealthy, that I just want to be comfortable. Omo, I want to have money. The more money you have, the more you can do for yourself and your family. 

I was speaking with my dad sometime ago, and he called me the leader of the family. At first, I was confused, but he explained that leadership is not by age, but by ability. My older siblings aren’t making as much money yet, so they haven’t been able to provide for the family as much as I have. I appreciate being able to provide for them. 

What do you spend your money on every month?

Is there something you want but can’t afford?

A better apartment. I’ve changed apartments multiple times over the years because my comfort is essential. The ones I’m looking at are way above my pocket right now. I also want japa money, and just travel and vacation money. For those ones, I’m a hot babe looking for someone to sponsor me.

LMAO, please. What’s your financial happiness on a scale of 1-10?

6. I don’t feel rich. I’m just okay. 


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