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, today’s subject on #NairaLife left his job as a social media manager to sell spare parts in Gabon. Now he can afford almost anything he wants and he has no regard for money.
Let’s start with your earliest memory of money.
For a long time in my life, I felt a strong sense of inadequacy whenever money was concerned. It started when I was a kid. My parents had money, but my mates at school just seemed to have it better than me. They went on holidays to London and the US, but the only holidays I had were to Gabon, Angola and Cote D’Ivoire.
Why those countries?
My dad is the typical Igbo businessman that sells spare parts. He also has land, apartments and halls for rent. His business is spread across Nigeria and those other countries. It was only when I went on holiday to these countries and got a CFA 100k shopping allowance that I had money to spend on clothes, shoes and phones.
It didn’t bother me too much that I didn’t have money though. As long as I bought all the essentials during my holiday, I was satisfied.
The first time I ever tried to make money by myself was in 2006 when I was 18. I’d just finished secondary school and I saw that unlike the kids on Lagos Island, the kids in my area didn’t have a party to celebrate the end of secondary school. A friend and I organised a party and I made about ₦50k from tickets.
The feeling of inadequacy returned again in university when I was getting a ₦20k monthly allowance when my friends were getting ₦50k and above. But I tried not to focus on it too much. I could actually survive on ₦20k, so there was no need to be dissatisfied.
After university, I went to Bayelsa for service in January 2012. My parents gave me ₦270k to survive the year, NYSC paid ₦19k monthly and my PPA paid ₦5k. By May, my ₦270k had finished. I had to survive on ₦24k, feeding myself.
Wait, what job was paying you ₦5k?
I worked at a real estate company. Throughout the year, we didn’t have one client. For some months, they didn’t even pay me. My major tasks there were to clean my boss’ shoes, fetch water and wash plates in the office.
Sometime in the middle of NYSC, The Avengers came out. There was no cinema in Bayelsa, so my friends and I took a road trip to Port Harcourt to see the movie. Because the trip was fun, the girl I was talking to and I planned to take another interstate trip. This time, to Abuja. She wanted to attend a law conference in October.
At that time, flights to Abuja cost about ₦15k, so if I was going to pay for the both of us, pay for hotels and small enjoyment, I would need about ₦60k. Where would I find ₦60k in the next few months?
The CDS I was in was called the Editorial Board. We spoke on the radio once a month, and because I talk a lot, one of the women at the radio station started putting me on her own show. I knew I was good at stuff like that. So I wrote a proposal with two shows — one music show and one game show — and took it to the station. My plan was to make some money from sponsors or ads or whatever. They accepted the music show, and I did it for three months. Guess how much I made?
₦0. The babe went to Abuja on her own. You win some, you lose some.
I returned to Lagos in December 2012 and just went to chill in Ivory Coast and Angola. By March, I got back and started looking for a job. Although I studied economics, working in media just seemed like the natural thing for me. I found a job at an entertainment company doing social media and digital PR. It paid ₦40k monthly. Again, I started feeling inadequate. My mates and friends were earning ₦150k.
I couldn’t do anything with ₦40k. If I tried to spend that money on fuelling my Benz alone, it wouldn’t be enough.
You had a Benz?
My mum gave me her Benz when I finished university. Imagine driving a Benz and earning ₦40k while your bosses are driving Corollas. On the days when I didn’t have any money, I jumped buses sha.
After about a year and a half, my salary increased to ₦100k, and that’s what it was until 2015 when I left the company.
Why did you leave?
I decided to freelance. The company started owing salaries, and my bosses made it a point of note that we needed to bring business to the company for us to be profitable. I found a big restaurant in Lagos, made a cold call to them and pitched for us to become their social media and PR managers. They accepted, and I was the one handling their pages. A few months later, I left the company and they left with me. That’s how I started freelancing.
How much did freelancing pay?
With just the restaurant, I was making ₦300k monthly. From time to time, I got other side gigs as well. After freelancing for about a year, I applied for and got a social media job with a media production company. It paid ₦250k. It was in 2016 when I started making money from two jobs that the feeling of inadequacy left for the first time. My monthly income was over ₦500k. This continued until 2017 when I left freelancing because I was tired from overworking, and it was showing in the quality of my work.
By then, I had enough money to buy my own car for ₦1.7m and to rent an apartment on the island for ₦600k. I’d technically become a Lagos big boy. I could buy clothes, shoes and spend money on women. By 2018, my salary increased to ₦350k
It was also during this period I discovered the joy of giving people money.
Tell me about it.
When I was a child, my uncle visited one time and gave me ₦3k. I couldn’t contain my excitement. When I started making money, I just always found someone in need to give money to. If I can better the experience of someone I meet, I do it. When I hear or see people need help in my immediate environment or on Twitter, I help in any way I can. Sometimes, it’s waiters that I give ₦5k tips for no reason or CFA 10k if I’m in Gabon.
Are you still at your production company job?
Nope, I live in Gabon now. My dad has been looking for someone to take over the family business as he and my uncle get older. They tried to do the regular Igbo apprenticeship thing, but the people they hired just saw it as an opportunity to come, enrich themselves and leave. They didn’t want to stay in the long run.
In 2017, my dad told me that he needed me to take over the family business. At first, I resisted, because I have my entire life ahead of me. But as time went on, I became more open to the idea.
From August to December 2018, I came to stay in Gabon for three months to sort a few things out. I didn’t leave the job though. I worked remotely. In January 2019, I did three weeks in Angola. And then in June, I spent some time in Gabon again.
June 2019 was the first time I had a problem with my boss because my absence made me unable to deliver on some tasks. That was when I knew I had to leave and focus on the family business. In January 2020, I left the company and moved to Gabon.
How’s that been?
Not bad. I don’t have a salary, but I take home about ₦1m monthly for myself. In 2020, I did some freelance work that paid me about ₦2m for a few months. I bought a PlayStation 4 and sent the rest to people who needed it in Nigeria. COVID was outside and people in Nigeria needed money more than I did.
Nowadays, whenever somebody gives me money in naira, I give the money out. It doesn’t make sense to keep naira in my Nigerian bank accounts, and there’s always someone who needs money.
What does this mean for your finances?
When I convert my CFA savings to naira, it’s about ₦4m. I know I should be saving more, but I don’t know how to. I can afford almost anything I want. My spending habits also probably come from the fact that I know where my next paycheck is coming from. People are always going to need spare parts and real estate.
I’m now at a point in my life where I have no regard or value for money. Money is placed on too high a pedestal in society, and it’s the cause of a lot of man’s problems. So, I don’t acknowledge it too much or try to hold on to it.
Let’s break down your monthly expenses.
Is there something you want, but can’t afford right now?
Trips. If I had to travel, I’d have to budget for a few months. For example, I want to come to Lagos for four weeks this year. I’d need about ₦3m for hotels, gifts for people, drinks, etc.
What’s your financial happiness on a scale of 1-10?
7. I’m pretty satisfied. The three points I took off the score are just because I know I should be handling money better. Maybe I’ll go on a philanthropy break soon, who knows?
If you’re interested in talking about your Naira Life story, this is a good place to start.
Find all the past Naira Life stories here.