Talk About Income

Why is personal income such a taboo topic to Nigerians? Is it due to classism or feelings of inadequacy? Or have we been conditioned to think talking about money is boastful or tacky?

We asked seven Nigerians why they don’t talk about money, and here’s what they said:

Precious, 27

Shame, dear. How do you tell your friends and classmates who expect big things from you that you’re earning ₦30k a month? Thankfully sha, Jesus died and took my shame away. Now, I can freely talk about it while searching for a better job.

Victor*, 28

People suddenly turn to personal accountants, calculating your salary and how much you should be able to give them. One time I was talking with a classmate about needing to get to sabo that evening and change money. He asked, “You get paid in dollars?” I said yes. He asked, “How much?” and without thinking, I mentioned it. After five minutes of whyning me, we switched topics, and I thought that was the end of it. 

He later called to ask if I could help him with ₦30k. I explained why I couldn’t give him. I had been robbed and was trying to replace my gadgets and pay outstanding bills. Then the dude went, “If you give me 30k, you will have so and so left. You can buy a laptop for this amount, use this to do this and that and still have so and so left. I just hung up.

Oluchi*, 24

Once people realise how much they earn, it affects how we relate. On the one hand, I feel entitled to their wealth if I know they earn a lot. I have tech bro friends who I occasionally try to bill because they make a lot of money — sometimes I have to check myself from going overboard. On the other hand, for people who don’t earn much, I find myself excusing them from responsibility or overcompensating by being overly pitiful. In my experience, no decent person likes to be pitied as it makes them feel small. 

Arit*, 35

Many people believe in jazz. I don’t know that I do, but I’m nervous about discussing my salary because you never know who is who. Just to be on the same side, I don’t talk about my salary. Village people are active o and me I don’t want to jinx anything. It’s also a similar reason why people don’t talk about their japa plans until they have settled in the abroad.

Muyiwa*, 20

I’m a software engineer employed at an abroad company, and I’m yet to graduate from university. Initially, I didn’t have problems disclosing my salary. However, I noticed that relatives thought it was too much money for a “small boy”. According to them — especially the boomers — I had no responsibilities. Someone even wanted my mother to be keeping money for me as if I’m ten years old. At some point, I stopped spending my own money because I didn’t want to hurt other people’s feelings. Funny enough, I don’t think it’s a lot, and I hope to 3X my salary this year.

Femi, 23

While I’m not particularly secretive about my earnings, I don’t go into the details. Instead of disclosing figures, I keep my income vague because people do usually ment. I’d hate to wake up to texts from people precisely breaking down my earnings and trying to show me how my giving them a part of it won’t bother my life. 

Farida*, 32

I don’t want people to rate my lifestyle based on how they think I spend. Somebody can start judging you for things you buy or don’t buy because they think you’re living above your means. Also, sometimes it’s to keep families from inviting unnecessary wahala. So I’d rather remain silent.

But many people get underpaid because they don’t discuss how much they earn. It’s crazy.



Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.