The #NairaLife of the 27-Year-Old Driver Trying to Get Into Tech

August 29, 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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After working at his mum’s bukka and motel for free almost all his life, and having to fend for a child at 22, the 27-year-old on this #NairaLife wants to make more money by going into tech…right after he’s done being a driver.

Let’s start with your earliest memory of money

I turned eight in primary 3 and as young as I was, I knew we were poor because I’d been sent out of school because of fees. At some point, my dad took me out of private school and put me in public school because he couldn’t keep up with the fees. 

For secondary school in 2006, my mum put me in a private school that collected about ₦20k per term, and my dad had a problem with it. He thought they could’ve been using the money for something else. This was one of the many fights that eventually led to their divorce in 2006. 

Ouch. What did your parents do for a living? 

My dad was a carpenter, and my mum owned a bukka close to my school. Because of my mum’s bukka, we always had food. 

After the divorce, my mum moved close to her bukka, and my older sister, younger brother and I moved with her. One of my older sisters stayed with my dad, while the first born stayed with my aunt, where she’d been for years. 

Why was she there?

To be honest, I don’t know. She was there from primary school till she finished university.

By the time I got to JSS 3, my mum withdrew me from private school and put me in public school. 

Why?

Money. I relate so much to the Naira Life subject whose dad was obsessed with building. My mum was making good money from the bukka, but you’d think we were poor. She  always wanted to build. We only got new clothes at the end of the year and ate food from the bukka. All our free time after school and during holidays was spent working at the bukka because she was trying to cut costs on hiring employees. Sometimes, we even slept there.  

But she had enough money to build houses for rent, and eventually, a motel in 2014.

When did you finish secondary school?

2011. I didn’t make all my WAEC papers, so I spent the next year doing a computer training program. I also worked at the bukka, running errands, making coleslaw, and sometimes, standing and serving for hours. In the course of that year, I heard someone talking about a part-time National Diploma (ND) program, and I was interested, so I registered for it. My mum gave me the money because she liked that it was part-time. It meant I could work at the bukka when I wasn’t in school.

Did you get paid for the work? 

Never. My mum always said she assumed we were taking money from her business somehow, so there was no need for her to pay us. 

Were you?

If I could bargain well at the market, I kept the change. From that, I could make up to ₦5k on a good month. Other than that, I wasn’t taking any money. 

And that’s all the money you were making? 

Well, I sold recharge cards for like one month in 2012. I used the ₦5k I had gathered that month as capital. But at some point, I had to go to school, so I left the recharge cards with one of my mum’s employees. When I came back, she’d made a loss and didn’t know how. 

I also made some money designing. In my computer training school, I’d learnt how to use Corel Draw and some Photoshop. I started going to cyber cafes a lot to use the internet for news and entertainment. In 2013, I met a man there who was into fraud. When he learnt I knew how to design, he contracted me to help him edit the figures on cheques for ₦2k each. This went on inconsistently for about a year. 

After some time, I decided I wanted to do my own fraud, so I asked him to teach me. He refused, but because I’d watched him enough, I tried on my own. I sha got one woman to send me $150 via Western Union. That was like ₦20k, but if you see the guilt that held me after? I gave my girlfriend ₦5k and used ₦15k to buy a bicycle. After that, no more internet fraud for me. It was just school, bukka and my mum’s motel. 

What did you do at the motel?

When it opened in 2014, nothing. She hired someone to be in charge of drinks and lodgings, but he ran away with the money. By 2015, I was done with my ND, so she assigned me to work there. My job was to sell drinks at the bar and lodge customers. On nights when she wasn’t around, I kept the money to myself. 

I’m curious if you still had a relationship with your dad

Yes. My mum allowed me visit him but was always bitter and moody whenever I got back. 

What was your plan for after ND?

I wanted to move out and be on my own because I was tired of working for my mum. If I could’ve got like ₦150k, I’d have moved into a cheap apartment and maybe found cyber cafe work. At least, I had an ND in computer science. But plans scattered when my girlfriend got pregnant. 

Omo

Her parents didn’t want people in the area to know she was pregnant, so she had to come and live with my family. Of course, my own mum scolded me, but that was it. She accepted her living with us. 

A baby was on the way. How did it change things for you?

January 2016, I created a CV and went to a school behind the motel near where we lived, and applied to be a teacher. I got the job as the primary 4 class teacher. The pay was ₦11k monthly. After some time, they made me the primary 3 class teacher too and added ₦5k to the salary. I also taught the entire school computer appreciation for an extra ₦1k monthly. In my last month, I became a school bus driver, but I didn’t get paid because I got the bus stuck in mud.

By the time I was leaving in July 2016, my salary was ₦17k.

Why did you leave after just six months? 

I had to run away from the area because of oil bunkering in the area. Apparently, the boys who did the oil bunkering also kidnapped people, and they were regular customers of my mum’s motel. We didn’t know. One night, SARS came to the motel to arrest them and, in the resulting wahala, shot and killed one of them. They also arrested my mum. The next day, more of the boys came to vandalise and rob the motel because they thought it was my mum who snitched on them. When that happened, people advised me and my siblings to leave the area because it wasn’t safe. 

Where did you go?

My girlfriend and son had to go back home for about three months while I looked for a place to stay. I eventually got a self-con for free. It was owned by my dad’s family. 

My dad was super helpful in the period when I had a child and needed stability. He gave me money before and even after I got another job, and occasionally brought food.

When did you get another job?

Late 2016. First, I got a tomato paste processing factory job that paid ₦800 daily. Then I was a security guard at a restaurant. ₦15k. But I had to stand for eight hours a day. It was two days on, two days off. So whenever I wasn’t at the restaurant, I was working at the tomato paste processing factory. And when I wasn’t at the tomato paste place, I sold peanuts on the road. This brought me a total monthly income of about ₦20k. 

That’s how we survived until March 2017. 

What happened in March 2017?

I found a job opening for a driver of a fintech exec. on Nairaland and got the job. ₦40k monthly. That was a huge raise for me. I could now afford a bit more to take care of my girlfriend and son. I also did odd jobs like washing cars and buying food for people at the office. In October 2017, my boss’ wife was going abroad to have a baby so he didn’t need two drivers anymore. Then he asked that we changed the payment model to a pay-per-days worked model since he wouldn’t be needing me every day anymore. I didn’t want that, so I just left. 

I went back to Nairaland to look for jobs, and saw that people were looking to rent out their cars for ride-hailing services. It took me two months, but I eventually found someone who gave me their car for ₦35k a week. I did the fuelling, he did the fixing. 

How much were you making?

Like ₦70k a week. ₦35k to the guy and ₦18k for fuel. The money coming to me in a month was sha between ₦60k and ₦70k. Better than my previous job. But because I’ve always been the only one working, all my money goes to the family. 

I started discovering how to make more money by staying in certain areas and moving at rush hour. My monthly income eventually increased to about ₦120k. My son was already going to school, so that was extra money for fees and snacks. 

In 2019, I decided to get my own car. It cost ₦3m, and I had to pay ₦40k every week while I started using the car. I was on track until lockdown in 2020 when I couldn’t pay for three weeks straight. I’d paid ₦1.3m, but they collected the car because it was agreed in our contract if I defaulted payment for that long, they would. To get the car back, I reached an agreement with them to pay ₦1m to buy the car off for a total of ₦2.3m.

Where did you get ₦1m?

My dad. 

Daddy funds

He remarried into a wealthy family and has been living pretty well since. He doesn’t even work anymore.

God, when?

He loaned me ₦1.2m from his wife. ₦1m to buy the car, ₦200k to fix it up to premium conditions. I repaid ₦100k per month. 

Since I  stopped repaying loans in 2021, I now make about ₦250k monthly.

What’s being a driver like?

Driving is generally stressful, but customers make it even harder. 

In 2020, I built an android app that helps drivers make more money. 

Explain

You basically put the amount you want to make from a trip on my app and it looks exactly like the interface the ride-hailing app uses to show charges. It’ll even show the passenger’s name. 

So basically, fraud

Something like that, yes. 

Why?

Sometimes, you do long trips in traffic for hours, and the app charges the exact thing it showed in the fare estimates. And they’ll still take their charges. No now, that’s not fair. 

But because I easily feel guilty, I only use it when I know the app is about to move mad. Also, I don’t add too much to the price so they don’t suspect. 

How did you learn how to build an app?

During 2020 lockdown. I found this android app that teaches you how to build apps. It doesn’t require coding. 

Is this app out there for drivers to use?

It’s not on the app store, no. I shared the installation file with drivers I know. Sometimes, I see people on social media complain that a driver scammed them by showing them a fake price. That’s probably one of the drivers I gave the app. 

How long do you think you’ll be a driver for? 

I should be done before the end of this year [2022]. I’m looking to sign up for a mobile development course. It costs ₦540k. Then I’ll buy a new laptop for ₦300k. I would’ve signed up by now, but I had to spend all my savings — ₦500k — on an engine problem recently. I’ll keep the driving job while I do the course, but once I get my first job in mobile development, I’m done. 

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

I want to emigrate to the US with my babe and son. I think we’d see good career opportunities there. 

Can you break down your monthly expenses? 

How happy are you? The scale is 1-10

No matter how much people make, they’ll never be content. Right now, me, I’m content. I’d say a 5. 


Bamboo is the easiest way to access smarter investment options and earn real returns. Invest in the biggest companies on the US Stock Market or earn up to 8% with Fixed Returns. Download and start investing today.



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