When A Breadwinner Loses Their Job, A #NairaLife Like This Happens


February 17, 2020

Being the breadwinner is more pressure than perks, but what does it mean for a family when their breadwinner can no longer provide? Most of the time, it means the rest of the family will step up to plug the gap. This week’s story is about that.

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.

My favourite first question is, what’s your oldest memory of money?

I mistakenly saw my father’s annual payslip in 2004 or so. More than half a million Naira. I didn’t know if it was too much or enough. I was too young to understand anything.

How old were you? 

11. Two years later, he got laid off, and that was the beginning of everything. 

Woah.

After 28 years of service. Just like that. 

He was an engineer working at the Nigerian Ports Authority and got retrenched during the Obasanjo’s tenure. My kid sis was 2 back then. My mother had to pick things up from there – this woman hustled, and still hustles sef. I guess that’s where I got my relentless spirit from. 

What was she doing before this happened, and what changed after?

She worked as a Community Health Officer at the Local Government level. At that point, she became the primary source of income for the family.

For instance, she’d trek from her office to the bus park, treat the drivers there and anyone who needed treatment. Then trek to the market to buy foodstuff from whatever money she made then take a bus or trek from there.

Work to Park: 1.7km

Park to Market: 3.3km

Wow. What were things like for your dad? 

My dad got his gratuity at some point. It was in the millions of naira back then but he lost it all to fraudsters two years later. He’s yet to fully recover from this – he’s hypertensive. 

And that in itself is a monster of expenses.

You get it. Thank God my mum was a healthcare worker. Things are much better now, at least he’s collecting his monthly pension, but it’s never enough. I don’t know how much o, but it’s never enough. 

I’m just grateful I’m no longer a dependant – to an extent at least. They can focus on my baby sister now – she’s going to uni with the 20/21 session. I have an older brother too, basically the scapegoat of the house. And somehow, all the pressure’s on me.

I don’t know how to explain it.

Try maybe? 

First daughter pressure. Must be perfectly moulded for a husband we’re yet to meet. Near perfect in every other aspect. It also doesn’t help that I’m the only one that inherited my mother’s drive out of all her children.

My siblings are so laid back, they can’t come and kill themselves.

Stress. I imagine this pushed you to want to make money on time?

I’d say it made me more driven, but work for money? Not really. The first time I got paid for anything though, I supervised a team for some immunisation exercise. About 10 years ago. It paid ₦4k. I was 16 at the time. 

I got into uni and school work didn’t give me the luxury of trying to do anything. Also, I had leadership responsibilities in my department that made it even more difficult. I did a couple of small jobs here and there though. One time as a data collator for a week; that paid ₦10k. Industrial Training at an FMCG paid ₦10k a month and ₦400 for weekend shifts. 

I graduated in 2014 on paper, but in reality, 2015. 

What does that even mean? 

Strikes. 

After graduating, I came home to do the usual; job hunting. Job hunting is how I Ianded in the hands of job scammers. I don’t know where they got my number from, but they told me to come for an interview.

I got there and I met people from different age groups applying for the same job – first red flag – but I wasn’t thinking again at this point. They gave us an aptitude test which I passed, I was so happy, hahaha. 

Then they started the aspire to perspire yarns for those of us that passed and failed – another red flag. It’s like they used jazz on us.

Then they said we should all bring about ₦11k to start. I didn’t even have it but I was ready to go back home to bring it. When I stepped out of the premises, it’s like my senses came back. 

The next day, my mum told me to go look for a fashion school – I’ve always been interested in that. 

Mad oh!

I found one near my house. Buying sewing materials and tools alone cost me 80k, but not at once. It was what it summed up to from collecting money every day. I was tired of asking for money daily, but I had no choice. 

One Friday night, I showed up at home and you know what was waiting for me? 

What? 

A brand new sewing machine. God bless that woman for me. Anyway, I learned how to make both male and female clothing. In that time, I also got a job. 

Nice!

I was fired that weekend. 

Small play.

I took the job because I was just tired of being dependent. It was a fashion house – I was a huge fan! The job title said Stock Manager, but a few days later I found myself sweeping the living room of my boss – they worked from home. 

Wollop. 

One Man Business in Naij 101. My contract said, 10 am – 4 pm for four days in a week, so I figured it was flexible for fashion school not to suffer. We had an event on Sunday. That whole week was very stressful and we agreed I’d take the next Monday off.

She didn’t stop shouting at me at the event. At this point, I was already feeling sick from the stressful week I’d had so it even made more sense to take the Monday off. I also didn’t know I needed to give another notice to my employer. 

Oops. 

I was using a night time data plan at the time. So Monday at 9pm, I got a message from the brand manager telling me I was no longer needed and I should send my account details: I got ₦10k for the week.

There were other things about it I didn’t like. My boss’ husband, for example, was sending me on errands. 

A mess. 

Anyway, NYSC was calling, and I had to cut short fashion from my one year plan to 8 months. I got posted to the Southeast, to a school in the middle of nowhere. 

So, picture this: the only Muslim Yoruba woman in one Local Government in the Southeast in IPOB’s active days in 2016. 

What was that like? 

It was very very exhausting. I encountered a lot of unpleasant experiences both from fellow corp members to indigenes. One Corps member was discriminated against, simply because she’d lived in “Yoruba Man’s Land”. I ranted about it and got in serious trouble for it. I literally had to leave where I was when it started to backfire. People said I was a target. It was less than three months until I was done with NYSC, so I counted the days. 

My escape was that some of the students I taught were very pleasant. Then there was this tailor I’d go stay with after school. He gave me space to sew sometimes. Then I’d go to Onitsha and Awka Markets to buy fabrics to sew. Made some outfits for a few of my mates. I really wanted to go to Aba but I felt it was too dangerous to travel alone.

Then I was tutoring some kids for jamb and WAEC, but I had to stop because it was interfering with school time table and because they didn’t even know the basics few weeks to their exams. ₦1k per lesson. 

Anyway, my NYSC salary was the usual; ₦19,800. Then the state paid ₦10k. 

I’m sorry you had to go through that. After NYSC? 

I came back home and was ready for the labour market. I was tired of being broke. Although I still had some stashed away from service – I’m quite prudent. Then my mum and I had a back and forth: 

Mum: Go for your Master’s.

Me: No. I want to make money. It’s a trap. You’re going to pay my school fees and I won’t be able to fend for myself. 

Mum: …

Me: …

Mum:…

Me: Okay, fine. I’ll go. 

And so, I ended up applying for a Pharmacology Masters. 

Just as I was waiting, my dad put me through to someone at an FMCG, and they asked me to come interview. 

Progress!

Yeah, except the job, as I later found out, was not in fact related to my course. It was for a marketing canvasser. Because of the circumstances around the opportunity, I couldn’t say no. Also, I needed the money. 

What was the job like? 

I was required to go out and market the company’s products to customers for ₦40k a month, plus transport and airtime allowance. There were commissions too. 

It was a 6-month contract, but I hated that job. Also, it was a tough 6 months, because I had to do the job, prepare for exams, and sew on the side. 

When I finished the marketing gig, they didn’t want to pay us our honorarium and commission, so we sharply brought out our employment letter to show them the terms again.

How did that go? 

I got an alert of about 160k in January 2018, at the end of it. By the end of January, all the money I had was ₦200k. 

A few days later, I gained admission. I needed all these small wins at that point. 

Any specific reasons?

My useless boyfriend had started dating someone else. Menarescum.

I –

I slipped into a depression and migraine crisis for six months. My parents covered my tuition and all. But I had to fend for myself via tailoring to get my allowances. 

I finished a little over a year later, in 2019, then I started applying for jobs again. Some health challenges again made me realise that I needed a job to propel my dreams, and tailoring wasn’t going to do it at this time. So I started applying more aggressively. 

Did anything click? 

By the middle of the year, yes. One of the places I’d applied to wanted to have me. They were especially pleased with my volunteering experience in the past. Best part? I didn’t live far away from the office. 

One month later, I started as a Scientific Data Analyst at a Pharmacy. 8 am to 5 pm, Mondays to Saturday, ₦100k net. The beggar in me didn’t have a choice at this point, so I took it. 

Sigh.

To be honest, my role feels more like an Assistant Operations Manager. I handle chronic disease management, with emphasis on hypertension and diabetes management. Data collation and analysis. I also head the counselling department. I do business development and strategy. Programs, health promotion and advocacy. Social media management. 

That’s a lot. 

Six months in and I’m already tired. For instance, I was supposed to start a data course today, but I had to postpone because I’m actually drained. 

You see, right now, I’m done with the Nigerian labour market. I’m planning to japa very soon. I’m gathering all the experience I’d need for a PhD in Diabetes and Depression management. 

How much do you think the work you do should pay you? 

₦250k net. It just feels like a decent amount for the work I do. 

Fair enough. How about we break down your current monthly expenses? 

I’m low maintenance. I may make an extra 35k per month from sewing, I don’t document that a lot. 

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

My own space abeg. I’m tired of living with my parents. Also, I’d like to hire a tailor that actually knows how to sew well. I deserve a vacation too. 

Look, I just want to be a Glucose Baby. I’m tired of this hustle. 

Hahaha. Do you have an emergency fund for if anything goes south?

Your question is making me dizzy. Maybe I should get myself a Glucose Guardian? Jokes. 

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your financial happiness?

5. It’s like, I need money for a lot of things, but I’m also grateful to earn money. Whenever I think about my dad’s condition, I just go to my machine.

I get home and I go straight to the machine. I don’t want my skills to die because I have a day job. My mum too goes to her shop when she leaves the office, before heading home. Mastering tailoring myself means I have the luxury to stop working any time I like in the future.

You feel me?

I do. I do. Thank you for taking the time.


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