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.
Tell me about your earliest memory of money
I’ve always been surrounded by money. But the memory that strikes me the most is from when I was around eight or nine years old. I’d followed my dad to his office that day, and when I went to use the toilet, I noticed several ghana-must-go bags there. I was a curious child, so I peeked inside. You can guess what I found.
Loads of it. Later that day, some of his staff came to carry the bags out of the office, and I never saw them again. I asked my dad what the bags were for, and he said they were for work.
Now I want to know what the work was
My father is a politician. He and some of his siblings have been in politics for as long as I can remember. At the time of the money bag incident, he was a House of Reps member. I didn’t know then, but I can assume now that the money was probably to share with certain people or groups as part of the party’s campaign efforts.
What was growing up in a political family like?
The early years were good. My dad wasn’t always around, so I spent more time with my mum — the first of my father’s two wives.
The second wife was the “public wife”, and she always went with him for his political engagements. On the other hand, my mum was busy with us and her business. Both wives lived in separate houses, and I only met my half-siblings during parties and holidays.
We didn’t lack anything, though. I was even supposed to go to secondary school in the UK. My dad suggested it, but my mum refused. She thought I was too young to stay with extended family over there, and she wasn’t ready to relocate.
I was upset about this, so what did I do? I took ₦30k cash to school on my first day of JSS 1 and blew it all during recess. I can’t even remember what I spent the money on because the school provided lunch for students.
But where did you get the money from?
My dad put me and my siblings on a ₦20k monthly allowance when we started secondary school, and we usually got gifts from people anytime we visited him. I had a piggy bank where I saved all my money, and I wasn’t supposed to spend from it without informing my mum.
I was grounded for a week when she found out, but I was like, “What’s the use of all this money if I can’t spend it?” I thought she was being unnecessarily frugal, but I soon figured out her reason.
What was it?
My father has this “grace” system. You’re in his good graces whenever you please him, and you automatically become his favourite person for the week, month, or however long your grace period lasts. During this time, he goes out of his way to ensure you have everything you want. But when you annoy him, he almost forgets you exist.
I experienced this for the first time on my 14th birthday in 2014. Birthdays are a big deal in my family, and even when my dad wasn’t around, he’d send money. He did none of that, and it was later I realised it was because I missed his calls multiple times the day before and forgot to call back.
My mum is quite familiar with his system, so she uses it to her advantage and to secure her children’s future. Since we turned 18, my siblings and I have had investments in our name, and they remit monthly payments. We also have trust funds that’ll mature when we’re 25. I don’t think I’ll ever come to a point where I absolutely need to work for money.
Does that mean you’ve never had a job?
Does charging for rent count? When I moved to the UK in 2017 for university, I was supposed to live in one of my dad’s apartments. But I wanted to enjoy uni life with other students and attend parties, so I rented another apartment with a couple of friends and gave out my dad’s apartment to some random people for £1,500 per month. In addition, I got roughly £2k/month allowance from my parents— which wasn’t set in stone because I could always call them if I needed more money.
I only rented for about a year. My mum found out and put a stop to it before my dad found out.
What were you typically spending money on?
My school expenses were on my parents, so my allowance was for me. But my ₦30k debacle should already tell you I’m a very anyhow spender. I spent most of my money on clothes and my friends.
My love language is gift-giving, so I love going all out for my friends to show them I care.
Beyond that, my recurring expenses were my car, other basic needs and random destination trips. In 2018, I sponsored eight friends to Jamaica to attend my half-brother’s birthday party because I didn’t want to travel alone.
Did your friends question your spending?
Most of the African students in my uni were the children of Nigerian public servants, and they spent lavishly too. So even though most of my friends were white, they knew most of the African students were from privileged backgrounds.
My time in school was a spending blur until I graduated in 2020.
What happened after uni?
I planned to return to Nigeria for NYSC, but COVID happened. So I stayed back in the UK till 2021 and did NYSC the following year.
I like to say I served on paper because I only visited the orientation camp once. My PPA was with one of my dad’s colleagues, so I didn’t need to show up. The only reason I didn’t return to the UK was because my mum wanted me to be around my dad.
Let me guess, to be in his good graces?
Exactly. He was going to contest for re-election in the 2023 general elections, and she wanted him to see I was valuable. Perhaps he’d reward me with a position in government or help me get better acquainted with his colleagues.
But do you want to be a public servant?
No, I don’t even like being in the public eye. I prefer not to be known as my father’s daughter in public. My stepmother is the political wife, so her children are a bit more well-known in our state compared to me and my siblings. And I like it that way because I don’t have the strength for trolls. I’ve never had personal experience with insults from random people on the internet, and I’d like to keep it that way.
I just helped with the campaign to put my marketing degree to use and please my mother.
Did you make any money from the campaigns?
I didn’t have official duties, so I was just lowkey participating in party campaigns. I got a few monetary gifts here and there, though — about ₦950k in total. My primary income was from the monthly remittance I mentioned earlier, and I’ve been getting it since I was 18.
I was coming back to that. How does it work?
I’m unfamiliar with the details, but I have different assets in my name, and they bring in an average of ₦800k monthly. They technically belong to my dad, but it’s illegal for public servants to have other companies or business deals which could pose a conflict of interest. But hardly any public servant in Nigeria adheres to that. So, they front other people as the owners and even award contracts to these “companies”. It’s like standard practice.
So… money laundering?
Something like that. But to most of my knowledge, my assets aren’t from diverted government contracts. They are just not publicly linked to my family because they were obtained when my dad was in public office.
He lost the re-elections. But knowing him, he’ll find a way back.
What are you doing these days?
I want to return to school for a postgraduate degree in fashion marketing in 2025. I have a knack for fashion; if I ever have to work, I might as well do something I love. That said, I’m taking two gap years to clear my head. I intend to travel the world, but I’m starting with Nigeria because how am I a Nigerian and have visited only four states?
I visited a resort in the South West a few weeks ago with my friends, and I was surprised the West had something that beautiful. We spent three days there and spent roughly ₦300k on accommodation and refreshments. I hope to do one such local visit every month till I get my trust fund.
How much is in your trust fund?
About $250k. I’ll get it in 2025, and I already have plans for it: tour six countries in four months, enrol in school for my postgraduate degree and keep the rest in a savings account. It’s my safety net because I know if I run to my dad for financial help, he’d ask, “What about your trust fund?” Plus having to pander to be in his “good graces” is exhausting, and I don’t want to do that for the rest of my life.
Do you have other savings or investments?
No, I don’t. I tend to apply an “I can’t kill myself” approach to money, but I know it’ll need to change if I want to be less dependent on my parents. I think I’ll be in a better position to explore investment options when my trust fund comes in.
What do your recurring monthly expenses look like?
Is there something you want but can’t afford?
A Birkin bag — the one I’m eyeing costs about $10k. Apart from the fact that I can’t afford it yet, I know I might end up giving it out to a friend when I get bored of it, so I try to get it off my mind.
How would you rate your financial happiness?
6. I’m not broke, but I’m the most financially-indisciplined person I know. I just spend knowing that money will always be there. It now feels like there will be a ticking clock on my finances the moment I get my trust fund, and I need to figure shit out soon.
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.