On Being A Maid in Lagos

September 5, 2019

My mother brought me to Lagos in 2006. I had just turned 10. It was my first time in Lagos, so I was very happy. We were going to visit some family members for a while; that’s what my mother told me. We packed a lot of clothes and left for Lagos on a Friday morning. My younger brother and my dad stayed back in Benin. On my first day in Lagos, we went to Lagos Market, past through the busy markets and the crowded bus stations. I couldn’t stop looking around; at the tall buildings, the old ugly buildings — it was all so different. I developed neck pain that day, but I was insatiable; I wanted to see everything.

We used to go to the Island very often. I didn’t know it was because my mother was a maid for the woman she called our “Aunty”. I knew something was funny because we didn’t chat like we usually did with family at home. She often called my mother or me out of the blue or at odd hours to help with something and that was the end. After about two months, we returned to Benin.

I didn’t think about being an adult when I was younger. I don’t think children can understand what it means to be an adult; how do you want to explain all the things that adults go through to them? All I did as a child was go to school, do housework and play. That trip to Lagos was the first time I was in a place where I had to gauge everything carefully. It was my first adult experience. The next time I went to Lagos after I finished JSS 3, I went to start work. My parents had been talking about getting work; they felt that I had to start earning my keep.

The truth is, I’m not from a wealthy family. My father drives a bus and my mother does anything she can find as long as it brings money.

I initially thought they would ask me to learn a skill like sewing or hairdressing. But when they started talking about going to Lagos, I asked, “What’s happening here?” In response, my mother advised to be a good child. She said I had to face my work and be honest with other people. I thought it was good-natured mother-to-child advice until she told me that I was going to live with one of our big aunties as a househelp.

I didn’t have to think twice before I ran away from home two days. I ran to our pastor’s house and asked him to beg them. With time, I calmed down. They convinced me that we needed the money, so I came to Lagos a second time. The only plan I had was to do exactly what my mother did back then. I thought that if I made enough money, I could just leave after a few months.

I’m still with the same family that I moved in with. I think the day that I collected my first salary of 20,000 naira was the first day I saw myself as an adult. I didn’t spend the money; I gave it to my madam and she helped me send it home to my mother. The other thing that made me mature was loneliness. My madam used to come back from work at around 9 pm. Her children were outside the country for school, so it was just us helpers in the house. In my first year working there, I was almost raped. It was the boy they brought to man the compound gate. It was on one of those nights when my madam and her husband went to church for vigils. I was afraid to tell anybody. And if I had told my mother, she would ask me to come back. I didn’t want to. About two years ago, I got the courage to tell my madam and oga about the almost-rape incident. They had already sent the boy away before this time. In fact, he was sent away not long after he forced himself on me. They were very angry that I did not tell them when it happened. I thought, “Something wey don happen since.” But I understand sha.

The family has been so nice to me from day one. Most people don’t know I work for them, even in the estate. They have two boys and a girl. They’re all older than me. People often assume I’m their niece.

Many things have changed, and I’m not as close to my family. We always talk on the phone, and I travel home twice a year for one week. Benin has become a different place for me. It’s almost a different life. I don’t know how to explain it. Somewhere along the line, I started to make the most of what I had in Lagos.

Since I moved to Lagos, I’ve learned to make hair and fashion design. I’ve also gone to good schools. Currently, I’m getting ready for exams in UNILAG. After this, na final year. Them no dey tell person. My people are okay at home. Things are better and the money from here still helps. I don’t get a salary for housework. My madam has a shop along Ogudu Road. I manage the place. We sell drinks in wholesale, so she pays me from there.

My oga is late now. He passed last year – you know these sicknesses that old people always have. So it’s just me and my madam now. She’s very old, but she’s still stubborn, and I’m the only one that can take care of her. It doesn’t affect school that much, except during exams. She always wants to talk about something. Her children are all abroad; she used to travel there before but not anymore.

Just take every day as it comes.

That’s my big lesson from growing up. See that time I was crying about coming to Lagos? What plan did I have for myself? I just wanted to stay with my family. I’ve been lucky sha. Some girls have come to this same Lagos and the story has been something else entirely. When I tell people who are close to me that I never cooked for the house, they don’t believe. But that’s life. I’m just taking it as it comes. I’m not thinking about what will happen when my madam dies. When we get there, we’ll see what happens.

Segun Akande

Join The Conversation

Bring a friend.

You'll like this

September 19, 2019

The 22-year-old man we spoke to this week is an accomplished sales manger. Getting there wasn’t easy. Still, with his history of low self-esteem and agoraphobia, characterised by bouts of anxiety and panic attacks when speaking to people or speaking in public, he’s somehow managing to breakthrough and record milestones I grew up in a […]

September 12, 2019

The young woman we spoke to this week feels like she turned out okay, but she knows she could have been in a better place if she mentally prepared for some of the things that happened as she became an adult. My life as a child revolved around the church. My parents were ministers in […]

Watch

Now on Zikoko

June 18, 2021

People love us for various reasons. Take this quiz and we’ll tell you what your friends love most about you. Relationships can be hard, and sometimes you just need someone to give you a bit of advice. Ask Ozzy is our new advice column where you send Zikoko the relationship questions that have been bugging […]

June 17, 2021

While smart investing is a sure way to build and retain wealth, it can be a daunting prospect for beginners. In the same vein, it is a lot easier when you understand the various options in which you can invest and ultimately grow your wealth. Here are some options you can consider when taking the […]

June 17, 2021

The BBNaija Lockdown Reunion (2020’s edition of Big Brother Naija) show will air on the 17th of June 2021. Keeping with the tradition of the show, the reunion will be hosted by Ebuka Obi Uchendu and will feature some of the BBN: Lockdown housemates talking about memorable moments from their season while also hashing out […]

June 17, 2021

Union Bank has announced a nationwide campaign to give away 55 Million Naira to new and existing customers in its ‘Save & Win Palli’ promo. This is another way the Bank is offering Nigerians some relief (a.k.a. ‘palliative’) from the economic hardship brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues. During the promo period […]

Recommended Quizzes

December 11, 2019

In the past month, we’ve made quizzes that guessed the last time you had sex, how many people you’ve slept with, and just how good you are in bed. For our latest attempt, we will use your taste in Nigerian music from the 2010s to ascertain what you’re like in bed. Take to find out:

November 22, 2019

It can be very stressful when you’re trying to find the love of your life, but you only keep meeting people that are exactly like your yeye ex. To help you be more aware of that problem, we’ve created a quiz that lets you know the kind of people you are attracting. Take it to […]

June 14, 2020

Have you ever been with someone so horrible that you swore to never date again? Yes? Well, do you know that one or more of your exes probably feels the same way about you? You never thought about that, huh? Thankfully, this quiz is here to let you know just how much of a hassle […]

November 20, 2019

Last month, we thoughtfully made a quiz telling you guys exactly when you’ll marry, but some of you claimed that your spouse was nowhere to be found. Well, now we’ve created one that’ll tell you exactly who you’ll be dragging down that aisle. Take and start planning that wedding: 11 Quizzes For Nigerians Who Are […]

More from Adulting

February 7, 2020

“Congratulations, you got the job.” comes with its own brand of anxiety. That’s when imposter syndrome from your village people comes out to visit, asking questions like: “can you perform? how long before they discover that you are a fraud?” There are also other problems more work-related with a new 9-5, especially in Nigeria. So, […]

September 19, 2019

The 22-year-old man we spoke to this week is an accomplished sales manger. Getting there wasn’t easy. Still, with his history of low self-esteem and agoraphobia, characterised by bouts of anxiety and panic attacks when speaking to people or speaking in public, he’s somehow managing to breakthrough and record milestones I grew up in a […]

September 12, 2019

The young woman we spoke to this week feels like she turned out okay, but she knows she could have been in a better place if she mentally prepared for some of the things that happened as she became an adult. My life as a child revolved around the church. My parents were ministers in […]

August 22, 2019

I’m one of those few people who can say, not so proudly, that in 2000, the year I was born, my parents didn’t exactly want me. The circumstances of my birth, as I’ve heard a few times, were weird. My parents were entering their forties at the turn of the Millennium. They had ticked all […]

Watch

Trending Videos

Zikoko Originals

December 14, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
November 2, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
October 26, 2020
A collection of videos documenting some of the events of the EndSARS protests.
June 22, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
June 22, 2020
Hacked is an interesting new series by Zikoko made up of fictional but hilarious chat conversations.
June 4, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
June 2, 2020
Quickie is a video series where everyone featured gets only one minute to rant, review or do absolutely anything.
May 14, 2020
Isolation Diary is a Zikoko series that showcases what isolation is like for one young Nigerian working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
March 12, 2020
Life is already hard. Deciding where to eat and get the best lifestyle experiences, isn't something you should stress about. Let VRSUS do that for you.

Z! Stacks

Here's a rabbit hole of stories to lose yourself in:

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