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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A few fun facts about today’s subject on Naira Life: His dad was an Ifa priest, and he’s a pastor. He’s also an actor, a model and a licensed therapist. He juggles all his jobs, and he’s satisfied with life. Oh… he’s also in his mid-50s.
Tell me about your earliest memory of money.
In the 60s, my father was a traditional high chief. Naturally, our house was always full of people who came to consult the oracle, seek his favour, and people who came to greet him — kings and dignitaries. When these people came, they gave the children money. I can’t remember how much we’d typically get but we would save those coins in our little kolos.
One day when I was 7, a visitor came around and one of my younger half-brothers was waiting for them to leave so he could collect money. When the visitor was leaving, they gave me the money instead. When my younger brother asked for his cut, I didn’t give him anything, so it turned into a big brawl. Because of the commotion we caused, children were banned from collecting money from visitors.
LMAO. What were things like at home?
My mum was the sixth out of ten wives. My dad had at least 40 children. “At least”, because after he died in 1992, people kept coming to say they were his children, and we couldn’t deny it because they looked like him. He was wealthy. He had property all around Nigeria, the UK and South Africa. But he was not a good father. The only thing he did for us was send us to school. Every other expense was handled by each child’s mother.
Every day, before school, we had to line up in front of his room door to collect allowance money for that day. If he wasn’t awake, we stayed in the line waiting. Imagine being the 40th child on that line.
I watched my mum struggle to take care of my four siblings and me. From a young age, I was determined to grow up, make money and take care of her.
What did she do for a living?
Unlike my dad, she was literate, so she juggled being a banker, a cook and a trader. When we weren’t in school, we helped her sell soft drinks in the market. As I got older, I started buying my own drinks and selling them alongside hers without her knowledge. I wasn’t cheating her. I just didn’t want her to know I was making money so I could surprise her if she ever needed money. I was able to successfully bail her out when she needed money a few times.
For how long did you help her sell stuff?
I finished secondary school at 18 and decided I didn’t want to sell drinks anymore because I wanted to go to university. At first, my mum protested, but she eventually agreed. I didn’t get admission into university the year I finished secondary school, so my mum helped me get a job as assistant manager at a filling station. The pay was ₦100. My job was to make sure money wasn’t mismanaged by the fuel attendants. This was in the late 80s, so the money was pretty good. I stayed at the job for a year until I got admitted to study psychology at university.
In this same period, my mum had become a Christian, and my dad thought it was a rebellion against his beliefs. It was hard for me to accept her new religion because I grew up singing songs about Christianity being for white people and Islam being for Arabs. After some time though, my mum was able to convince her children to accept Jesus.
Did Christianity change anything about you?
It made me desire a much better family than my dad’s. More specifically, it made me want a monogamous marriage. With monogamy, no child or wife would suffer the way my dad’s many children and wives did.
What was university like?
Difficult. By the time I was in university, my dad had sent my mum packing because her Christianity had gotten disruptive. She was now openly practising it in the house by praying loud everywhere she went. She also had some family living with her in her new apartment, and still had my siblings to take care of. What this meant was that I had to take care of both me and her.
How did you do that?
Art. I was great at drawing and I turned it into a moneymaker. I started by drawing and framing hyper-realistic portraits of my friends. When they took it home, their parents were interested in getting copies for themselves. Like that, I had clients. And these clients referred me. If I knew a friend’s relative was getting married, I got pictures of them, made a drawing, and took it to their wedding. The trick was to set the drawing up at a place where people would see and be marvelled. When they asked who made the drawing, I came out. Just like that, I got more clients. And the drawing went as a gift to the couple.
What I charged varied based on how I sized the client up, but I made enough money to see myself through school, fend for my mum and occasionally send to my younger siblings.
Mad. Did you continue after university?
I did. But what I majorly focused on was getting my license in therapy. After that, I had a two-year stint doing personal therapy until 1993 when God called me.
To be a pastor?
Yep. I told my church, and they sent me to Benin Republic to be a missionary in a remote village. They gave me a ₦5k monthly stipend for the three years I stayed there. I sent some of the money to my mum through someone who visited every month. The rest, I converted to francs and had a comfortable life. I was able to feed and clothe myself, get electronic devices like a home theatre, and help people who needed financial help in the community.
When I came back in 1997, it was to be the part-time pastor of a church in Lagos.
It was a small branch, so there wasn’t a lot to do. They didn’t expect me to be there all the time too. I was just there for Sunday services. The pay was ₦20k a month.
On the side, I taught fine arts to junior secondary students. I started because I found out they didn’t teach arts to junior secondary students in the school I went to. I didn’t like that, so I volunteered to teach for free. It was an instant hit. The students loved the way I taught practically. We drew, made tie-dye, batik, painted, it was great. A neighbour school heard about what I was doing and reached out for me to teach their students art too. I accepted. And then another school. And I accepted. And then another school. But I rejected that third one. I didn’t want to die.
The two extra schools I was teaching paid a combined total of ₦30k, so my monthly income was about ₦50k. As usual, the money was for taking care of myself, my mother and my siblings, widows in the church, and savings.
What were you saving for?
I wanted to have landed property so I could leave something behind for my children. When my dad died, my mum and her children were cut off from the will because of our Christianity. We watched half-siblings get land, millions and houses while we got nothing. Even now, there are family disputes over the will because there’s still stuff being shared. But my mum and her children can’t get anything.
How long did you teach and pastor?
I stopped teaching about three years after I started because the church had grown bigger and I needed to be in charge full-time. I needed to be around for midweek services and to take care of issues. My salary went up to ₦60k, but my monthly income was between ₦80k and ₦120k.
I was now getting invited to churches and radio shows to minister and to speak about counselling related topics.
By 2007 — about six years later — I decided I was going to teach again. This time, it wasn’t fine arts. It was performing arts — acting and modelling. I set up an acting school.
Where did acting and modelling come from?
The older I got, the more it became obvious to me that I was an artist, and art is diverse. I grew up in a household that worshipped Ifa. There were quarterly events where people gathered and danced and acted, and I loved it. It just seemed right for me to go deeper into the arts.
My acting school started slow because nobody knew me, so I decided to go into acting and modelling myself. I was a natural. I walked into auditions and killed them immediately. As I got more popular, people referred me. I got one small role here, one small role there, and got my face on small ads. Things were moving.
I was still a pastor, but because I was the lead pastor, I could delegate. If I had to be somewhere modelling on a Tuesday, and it clashed with midweek service time, I simply told the assistant pastor to stand in for me.
Between 2007 and 2010, my monthly income grew to over ₦200k. I was earning from small commercials and small acting roles. From 2010 to now, things have gotten better and better.
Tell me about it.
I started getting acting roles on bigger projects and TV ads. I was recently on a movie set that paid ₦2m for 11 days on set. Some ads pay ₦500k for just one weekend of shooting.
Some of the TV roles were series that got renewed, and some of the ads got renewed too.
I also got kept modelling for ads. Those paid well too. Because I was fairly popular, people started reaching out to me to train them on acting and modelling. That’s another source of income.
And then there’s counselling. Through referrals, I’ve met a few wealthy people whose children needed therapy. Over the years, I’ve charged ₦500k for 13 sessions for these kinds of arrangements. With counselling as well, I have a long-running retainer with a secondary school where I go there to talk to their students and teachers. That has also been a good source of income for me.
Can you break this down on a monthly basis?
On average, I make between ₦500k and ₦1m in a month. Sometimes, it’s higher. This month is an example. But breaking it down, the church pays me ₦50k monthly. I returned to part-time in 2018 because I realised I couldn’t keep up anymore. Then acting and modelling fetch me about ₦300k to ₦500k. My acting and modelling school is majorly an online mentorship program now, and it fetches me ₦200k to ₦400k on a good month. As a pastor, I get invited to churches to minister from time to time. That brings about ₦100k. The counselling jobs are not regular, so when they come, they come.
How has all this money helped you achieve your goals?
My mum has her own house now. I got it for her in 2018. And all my siblings are in a good place because I’ve assisted them. I’ve also been able to help many children go through primary school, secondary school, and university. I’m passionate about education, so I use my money to help people who can’t afford it.
In 2018 too, I moved my wife and three children to Canada permanently. I think they have an opportunity for a better life there.
Can I get a breakdown of your monthly expenses?
Do you also have property, like you wanted?
The subject of landed property is difficult for me to speak about because, over the years, I’ve been heavily scammed. I have just two pieces of land I can say are mine. But I also have documents for no less than nine properties that have been scams.
Over the years, people came to me at different times and said they had land to sell to me, and because I trusted them, I just sent them money and collected documents. Some of these people were my church members o. I’ve lost over ₦10 million in fake landed property. Property I have documents for, but can’t claim because five other people probably have the same document. In retrospect, I don’t think it was wise to pay for plots of land without going to inspect them first.
But I try not to think about these things and instead focus on what God’s done for me. I used to be a stammerer when I was a child. I stammered so bad, it made me develop an anger problem because I thought everyone was laughing at me. I beat up classmates, and even a teacher once, because I suspected they were making fun of my speech. Now, I’m acting, counselling people, speaking in public, and preaching. To me, it’s a miracle.
Love it. What’s something you want but can’t afford right now?
A house on Banana Island! I’m considering moving to be with my family in Canada, but everybody wants a Banana Island house.
LMAO! And your financial happiness on a scale of 1-10?
11. I’m happy. There’s no stress. I’m not in debt. My family is safe and doing good. Everything’s good.
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