• Thu. Jun 30th, 2022

The #NairaLife of the creative who takes over his family’s spare parts business

ByRandall B. Phelps

Apr 18, 2022

Every week, Zikoko seeks to understand how people move Naira in and out of their lives. Some stories will be difficult, others will be candles. All the time, it will be revealing.

In 2020, the topic of the day on #NairaLife left his job as a social media manager to sell spare parts in Gabon. Now he can afford almost anything he wants and he has no respect for money.

Let’s start with your first money memory.

For a long time in my life, I felt a strong sense of inadequacy when it came to money. It started when I was a kid. My parents had money, but my school friends seemed to have more than me. They went on vacation to London and the United States, but the only vacations I had were in Gabon, Angola and Ivory Coast.

Why these countries?

My father is the typical Igbo businessman who sells spare parts. It also has land, apartments and halls for rent. His business is spread across Nigeria and these other countries. It was not until I went on vacation to these countries and received an allowance of 100,000 CFA francs that I had money to spend on clothes, shoes and telephones.

It didn’t bother me too much that I didn’t have any money. As long as I bought everything necessary during my vacation, I was satisfied.

The first time I tried to make money on my own was in 2006 when I was 18. I had just finished secondary school and saw that unlike the children in Lagos Island, the children in my area did not have a party to celebrate the end of secondary school. A friend and I threw a party and I won around ₦50,000 from the tickets.

A businessman.

The feeling of inadequacy returned to college when I received a monthly stipend of ₦20k while my friends received ₦50k and more. But I tried not to focus too much on it. I could actually survive on ₦20k, so there was no need to be dissatisfied.

After college I went to Bayelsa for service in January 2012. My parents gave me ₦270,000 to survive the year, NYSC paid ₦19,000 per month and my PPA paid ₦5,000. In May, my ₦270k was over. I had to survive on ₦24k, on food.

Wait, what job paid you ₦5k?

I worked in a real estate company. Throughout the year, we haven’t had a single customer. For a few months they didn’t even pay me. My main tasks there were cleaning my boss’ shoes, fetching water, and washing dishes in the office.

In the middle of NYSC, The Avengers came out. There was no cinema in Bayelsa, so my friends and I took a road trip to Port Harcourt to see the film. Because the trip was fun, the girl I was talking to and I were planning on doing another interstate trip. This time in Abuja. She wanted to attend a law conference in October.

At that time, flights to Abuja cost around ₦15,000, so if I had to pay for the two of us, hotels and indulgences, I would need around ₦60,000. Where could I find ₦60k in the next few months?

Yes or?

The CDS I was on was called the Editorial Board. We talked on the radio once a month, and since I talk a lot, one of the women at the radio station started putting me on her own show. I knew I was good at this stuff. So I wrote a proposal with two shows – a music show and a game show – and took it to the station. My plan was to make money with sponsors or advertisements or whatever. They accepted the musical program and I did it for three months. Guess how much I won?


₦0. The girl went alone to Abuja. You gain some, you lose some.

I returned to Lagos in December 2012 and just went to relax in Ivory Coast and Angola. In March I came back and started looking for a job. Even though I studied economics, working in the media came naturally to me. I got a job at an entertainment company specializing in social media and digital PR. He paid ₦40k per month. Again, I started to feel inadequate. My mates and friends were earning ₦150k.

I couldn’t do anything with ₦40k. If I tried to spend that money to fill up my Benz alone, it wouldn’t be enough.

You had a Benz?

My mom gave me her Benz when I finished college. Imagine driving a Benz and earning ₦40,000 while your bosses drive Corollas. On days when I had no money, I jumped on sha buses.

After about a year and a half, my salary increased to ₦100,000, and that’s what it was until 2015 when I left the company.

Why did you leave?

I decided to become independent. The company started to owe wages, and my bosses emphasized that we needed to bring business to the company for us to be profitable. I found a great restaurant in Lagos, gave them a cold call and offered to become their social media and PR manager. They accepted, and I managed their pages. A few months later I left the company and they left with me. That’s how I started freelancing.

How much did the freelancer earn?

With just the restaurant, I was earning ₦300,000 per month. From time to time, I also had other parallel concerts. After freelancing for about a year, I applied and got a social media job with a media production company. He paid ₦250k. It was in 2016, when I started making money from two jobs, that the feeling of inadequacy first went away. My monthly income was over ₦500k. This continued until 2017 when I quit freelancing because I was tired of overwork and it showed in the quality of my work.

At that time, I had enough money to buy my own car for ₦1.7 million and to rent an apartment on the island for ₦600,000. I would have technically become a Lagos big boy. I could buy clothes, shoes and spend money on women. In 2018 my salary increased to ₦350k

It was also during this period that I discovered the joy of giving money to people.

Tell me about that.

When I was a child, my uncle visited me once and gave me ₦3k. I couldn’t contain my excitement. When I started earning money, I always found someone in need to give money to. If I can improve the experience of someone I meet, I do. When I hear or see people in my immediate environment or on Twitter in need of help, I help in any way I can. Sometimes it’s waiters that I tip ₦5k for no reason or 10k CFA if I’m in Gabon.

Are you still at work from your production company?

No, I live in Gabon now. My dad was looking for someone to take over the family business as he and my uncle got older. They tried to do the regular Igbo apprenticeship, but the people they hired only saw it as an opportunity to come in, get rich and go. They didn’t want to stay long term.

In 2017, my father told me he needed me to take over the family business. At first, I resisted, because I have my whole life ahead of me. But over time, I became more open to the idea.

From August to December 2018, I came to stay in Gabon for three months to settle some business. I haven’t quit work though. I worked remotely. In January 2019, I did three weeks in Angola. And then in June, I spent time in Gabon again.

June 2019 was the first time I had a problem with my boss because my absence made me unable to deliver certain tasks. That’s when I knew I had to leave and focus on the family business. In January 2020, I left the company and moved to Gabon.

How did that happen ?

Not bad. I don’t have a salary, but I earn about £1m a month for myself. In 2020, I did a freelance job that paid me around 2 million euros for a few months. I bought a PlayStation 4 and sent the rest to people who needed them in Nigeria. COVID was out and Nigerians needed the money more than me.

These days, whenever someone gives me money in naira, I give the money. It makes no sense to keep Naira in my Nigerian bank accounts, and there is always someone who needs the money.

What does this mean for your finances?

When I convert my CFA savings to naira it’s around £4m. I know I should save more, but I don’t know how. I can afford almost anything I want. My spending habits also probably come from knowing where my next paycheck is coming from. People will always need spare parts and real estate.

I am now at a time in my life where I have no respect or value for money. Money is placed on too high a pedestal in society, and it is the cause of many human problems. So I don’t recognize it too much or try to hold on to it.

Let’s break down your monthly expenses.

Is there something you want, but can’t afford right now?

Travels. If I had to travel, I would have to budget for a few months. For example, I want to come to Lagos for four weeks this year. I would need around ₦3m for hotels, gifts for people, drinks etc.

What is your financial happiness on a scale of 1 to 10?

7. I am quite satisfied. The three points I took off the score are simply because I know I should manage the money better. Maybe I’ll take a philanthropy break soon, who knows?