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.


Nairalife #277 bio

Tell me your earliest memory of money

I stole ₦10 from my mum’s purse when I was 10 years old. I was annoyed that she always made me homemade food when my mates got money to buy food at school. I thought she was purposely trying to make me “uncool”, so I took matters into my own hands. This was around 1998, and ₦10 wasn’t small money.

What could ₦10 get you?

I could buy snacks and those telephone drinks for a whole week.

I used part of the money to buy tampico and puff-puff on the first day. But my teacher noticed I bought snacks instead of eating the usual rice at my desk and gave amebo to my mum when she came to pick me up. I had to confess where I got the money. My mum made sure a teacher flogged me every day on the assembly ground for a whole week. 

She also made me wear a cardboard placard that read, “I am a thief” on my uniform. She wanted me to wear it for a week, but my teacher begged on my behalf, and I only wore it for one day. 

But that one day ehn? I was so embarrassed. My classmates called me “I am a thief” for the whole term. That was the first and last time I stole anything — not even meat from the pot.

I guess it’s safe to assume your mum was strict

Both parents were very strict, and their disciplinary methods sometimes bordered on abuse. There was a lot of flogging and creative punishments whenever my siblings and I misbehaved. 

My parents were pastors and held their three children to high standards. I’m also the firstborn, so the expectation was times a hundred. 

For example, I couldn’t collect monetary gifts from people in church even though we really needed the money. My parents thought it’d trigger the love of money in me — which, according to the Bible, is the root of all evil.

Were things hard at home?

Very. My mum wasn’t a full-time pastor like my dad; she had a provision store, and we lived on the sales from the store.

My dad got a salary from the church, but it mustn’t have been much because he occasionally borrowed money from my mum’s business. 

I was once sent out of school in primary five because we hadn’t paid school fees. I later found out it wasn’t the first time my school fee had been delayed, but the teachers didn’t punish me out of respect for my dad. 

I really hated not having enough money, though. I saw how important money was, and it didn’t make sense that admitting a need for money equalled sinning against God. So, I decided to find ways to make money as soon as I was old enough.

When was “old enough”?

As soon as I got into the university and no longer lived under my parent’s roof. I got into uni in 2007 and immediately started hustling. 

The first thing I did to make money was serve as the class rep for my level.

They pay class reps now?

Haha, no. But it gave me an opportunity to make money. Lecturers were always selling handouts, and I’d sometimes add small money to the price. That didn’t work all the time, though. Most times, the lecturers announced the price of handouts in class.

I also made money from photocopying the handouts. This only worked for an elderly lecturer. For instance, I’d tell her that only 100 students paid when 105 did. Then, I’d make five extra copies for the other students. Photocopies could cost about ₦500, and each handout could be about ₦1500. I’m not proud of it, but I made some money.

What were you doing when you weren’t selling handouts?

Everything.  When I was in 200 level, I started playing instruments for two different churches on Sundays — learning how to play instruments was one benefit of growing up as a pastor’s kid. I was paid in transport fare and made between ₦3k – ₦4k weekly. I also had stints assisting the cyber cafe and photographer guys on campus for money. My parents sent me ₦10k/month, and I just used to jama jama everything together to survive.

I didn’t really do much for money in my last two years in uni because I unexpectedly became more involved at church. The pastor also put me on a ₦20k/month allowance to support me, so that helped.

Why do you say “unexpectedly”?

I didn’t really like the idea of church growing up. I didn’t like how seriously my parents took it and the fact that we didn’t have money. So, I thought becoming independent would allow me to be as far away from the church as I wanted. 

Ironically, I gave my life to Christ and became closer to the church. In fact, I was an executive of the corpers’ fellowship during NYSC in 2013. 

I also helped start a fellowship at the secondary school where I worked during my service year. The school paid me a ₦5k stipend in addition to NYSC’s ₦19800 allowance, and I used my income to support indigent students. I was posted to the north-central, and there were a lot of students like that.

But what were you living on?

I don’t know. I just know I didn’t starve. Many of my students’ parents were farmers and they sent me foodstuff. I also lived in a hostel the school provided. There was accommodation and food. What else did I need?

After NYSC in 2014, God led me to volunteer with a student fellowship in the state where I served. Apart from spreading the gospel to students in secondary and tertiary institutions, the fellowship also organised training programs to help the students become well-rounded individuals and career professionals. I resonated with the vision, so I joined.

Did it come with a salary?

More like a stipend. ₦20k/month. I lived in the fellowship’s office, so once again, accommodation was sorted. Those were simple days — I was doing what I loved and didn’t have to worry about money.

I had very minimal expenses, so I saved most of what I made — except when I had to support students or anyone in need. 

Were you saving towards a goal?

Not really. But in 2016, I used my entire savings — about ₦250k — to purchase land and other necessary materials to farm yam and rear chickens. It made sense because everyone else had a farm. Besides, I wanted something to do with all the extra time I had.

I wouldn’t say I made money from the farm because I hardly sold any produce. I either ate my harvest or used it to support other people.

This happened until 2021 when I left the fellowship.

Why did you leave?

I clashed with management over their decision-making. It felt like some people sat in an office and decided what the volunteers would do without leaving room for feedback. It took the joy out of the work, and I thought it was dangerous to approach God’s work feeling cheated. 

I wanted to stay back in the north-central, but the Fulani herdsmen issue was getting worse, and I was about to get married. My fiancée lived in the west and wasn’t thrilled about moving there, so I joined her instead. I sold my farm for ₦300k, most of which went into our wedding expenses.

Did you have a plan to make money?

I planned to get a job, which turned out to be much harder than I imagined. I didn’t have formal work experience, so I got rejections left and right. For the first six months, my wife and I relied on her ₦150k operations manager salary. Then, I finally got a teaching job that paid ₦80k/month in 2022. 

The salary wasn’t great, but my wife and I pooled resources together and made it work. We’d been living in her room and parlour apartment since we got married, but we moved to a ₦180k/year two-bedroom apartment towards the end of 2022.

Things were looking up

Yeah. But I felt like something was missing — like I wasn’t really where God wanted me to be. I prayed a bit and discussed it with my wife, and realised God still wanted me in ministry.

Around the same time, the pastor at the church my wife and I attended approached me and said he felt led to ask me to join the pastorate as a youth minister. We’d only been part of the church workforce for less than a year, and it seemed strange I’d become a minister so quickly. But I knew it was God directing me, so I accepted the role.

What does being a youth minister entail?

It’s like being a junior pastor. I don’t get paid because I’m not a full-time pastor, but I do everything a pastor does. I’m at church twice weekly and on Sunday for services.

My schedule worked pretty well while I was a teacher, but I got another job towards the end of 2023. Now, it’s harder to juggle both 9-5 and my work at the church.

What’s the job role?

I work in marketing for a drinks company; one of my wife’s relatives helped me get the job. My role requires me to travel for market activation, so I’m not always available for weekly church services.

I love the marketing part of the job, and it feels like I should’ve been on this career path much earlier. The salary is also good — ₦250k/month. It’s just that my conscience often pricks me about doing this job.

Why?

The company also produces alcoholic drinks, and I sometimes feel like I’m directly responsible for marketing something that has led so many lives astray. I don’t primarily cover the alcoholic drink category, but I occasionally have to work with the product.

My senior pastor and wife think I’m overthinking it, but I’m not sure I am. If not for the fact that I have a child now and my responsibilities have doubled, I’d have resigned. Even that reasoning increases my guilt. I’m working at a company I feel ashamed to talk about, and to make it worse, it’s taking over my time and reducing my availability for God. Is the need for money now overcoming my desire to be right with my God? Maybe my parents were right after all.

Hmmm

I’m praying to find something else soon because I don’t know how to explain to my wife that I want to quit without another job lined up. She’s an understanding woman, but I’m trying to be fair to her. She deserves to relax without constantly thinking about how to manage money. It’s not like the ₦250k even does much in this economy, but it’s better than ₦80k.

Fingers crossed you find something soon. But have you considered what you’ll do if you don’t?

I’ve thought about saving to start a poultry business I can fall back on while I figure out what to do with my career. But it almost doesn’t make sense to start a business in this economy. 

Just last week, someone complained about how the price of chicken feed had almost doubled within a few weeks. What if I think I need ₦200k to start, then finish saving and realise I now need ₦400k? Planning is almost impossible in this country. 

For now, I’ll just focus on trusting God to lead me. I’ve gone from being willing to do anything to make money to relying totally on Him for my finances. I’m currently at a point where it feels like I’m relying on money to live, and I need to leave this point and go back to relying on Him. I just need to retrace my steps. 

Hopefully, you find that soon. Can you share a breakdown of your monthly expenses?

Nairalife #277 monthly expenses

I have about ₦80k in my savings, but it’s more of an emergency fund. In Nigeria, one sickness or accident can carry all your money away. My dad is late, but my mum is elderly, and I constantly worry she’ll suddenly need medical care at any point. So, I like to prepare for any eventuality. 

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

An inverter. It’s interesting that I spend more on fueling my generator than I do on electricity bills. And with all the different news we’re hearing about whether or not the fuel subsidy has truly been removed, the cost of fuel will only get higher. But I don’t have ₦2m to spend on an inverter right now.

How would you rate your financial happiness on a scale of 1-10?

3. I’m earning more than I ever have, but I don’t feel fulfilled. I was happier when I was earning ₦20k and doing what I loved.


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.

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