The #NairaLife Of A Project Manager Whose Investment Choice Is Artworks.

October 26, 2020

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.


Let’s start with the old memory of you that has money in it. 

That will be my pocket money. I’m sure I was in JSS 1. My mum would give me ₦50 to school and tell me to bring back ₦30 change. Then whenever my dad was around, my dad would give me ₦100 and say, go and enjoy yourself. 

This sounds familiar. 

The problem with the ₦50 is that in my school, I could either buy a snack or a drink, never both. I also had to worry about boarding students who’d come ask me for money — I was a day student at the time. 

There was one bully who even took my ₦30 change one time. When I got home, I got a serious beating. 

Eishhh. Sorry. What was money like growing up though? 

Hmm, money was a bit hard. My dad worked with the government — the security side of things — so he was hardly around. Funny thing is, I always thought there was money, haha. There was a time he travelled and didn’t come back for a really long time. 

Woah. 

My mum’s a doctor. She had to sell her stuff, starting with her car, and then she started a bunch of businesses to support the family. My mum had a salon, a tailoring shop and a business centre. She did her best to make us comfortable, but there were six children , and there’s only so much you can do. 

When I got to uni — a private university — paying things like school fees was still a struggle. 

When did you get into uni? 

2003. I knew how to draw, so I started making art for money.

Like, actual art? 

Yep. I was making portraits and all. Itwasn’t much, but at least I didn’t have to ask for pocket money. 

How would you say people were receiving your work, generally? 

Ah well, there was some sort of showcase in school then. I showed up with everything I had, and I sold up to ₦100k worth of stuff that day. Big money at the time, hahaha. 

What a wow. 

Around that time, I was just learning everything I could. I learnt graphic design, basic web development and calligraphy. Any skill I had to make money. I even wrote letters for people with the calligraphy I learned. Then I started organising events to make more money. I think this whole experience shaped me because I’ve been independent for as long as I can remember. It also pushed my siblings too as they grew older. 

It looks like heavy sacrifices were made. 

I had things I really cared about doing but couldn’t because I have siblings, and I’m the oldest. By the time I left uni and started working, I was either saving for my events or saving for school fees. It pissed me off back then, but it had to be done. 

I’m really curious about your dad, and the long absence. 

At first, I thought it was just work, but he was absent for a long long while. He disappeared in 2012, and by 2014, I had to go look for him. When I eventually found him, he’d met a woman and gotten married. At some point in all of this, he had dementia. 

Woah. 

So, I have a step sister somewhere. Anyway, back to me. My first job was in 2009. It was at an events management company. I think my salary was 80k, and I remember this because there was one time I had to drop my entire salary to pay for a sibling’s school fees. I remember saying to myself that I didn’t want to have six children. The struggle to take care of them. Ah. 

How did you survive? 

Lucky me, I had a good boyfriend at the time. So for all the times I dropped my salary, he was always there to support me. He kept me going. Now, about my dad…

About your dad.

Thing is, he’d always been my hero. The strange thing is that my dad wanted us to get the best education, except he wasn’t there to pay for the good schools. I mean, he paid the first school fees for my education at a private university. But it was my mum that paid for the rest. There was one time I’d reached out to him for money, and he’d say, “Oh, I’ve sent it.” We didn’t have ATMs in school then, so you had to go through so much trouble to get to a bank. 

I’d get to the bank and meet an empty account. Then I’d sit on the stairs of the bank and just cry. It happened so many times that I stopped going to the bank altogether. 

Walk me through your job history over the past decade. 

In one breath: I started at an events management company in 2009, earning ₦80k. One year later, I was earning ₦100k. Then I moved to an energy company in 2011 that paid ₦120k. The following year, I was at another company for ₦150k. 

In all that time, I was doing corporate stationary for companies, and the average package was giving me up to 250k. I was helping people plan events and getting paid for that too. 

By 2013, I worked for an international NGO as a project manager, and that paid me 400k. Then in 2015, pregnancy. That was tough. 

How did you cope?  

I wasn’t really active or going anywhere. My only support system was my mum and siblings. I couldn’t use my usual hospital because I couldn’t afford it at the time. It was crazy. My child’s dad asked me to choose between being with him or having a baby.

Ehn? 

If someone has to tell you to choose, there’s no point. So I chose the baby. Now, he comes and goes as he pleases, mostly for christmas and on birthdays. Anyway, I had two million in savings. When I moved back home to be with my family, I burned through all of it. We had bank issues at the time: my dad was defaulting on a loan and the house was collateral. We didn’t lose the house, but lawyers cost money. Maintaining the house cost money. Antenatal cost money. When I had my baby, I had to switch to baby food because I wasn’t producing enough milk — I was depressed. I didn’t get a job until seven months after I had my baby in 2016. 

Getting a job post pregnancy helped a lot with stability. I work at a Media and Production company, and I’m still a Project Manager. Outside my 9-5, I’m juggling a few things, consulting for events and some talent management, and also selling gift items. I try to keep multiple streams of income. 

I wonder how these experiences have shaped your overall perspective on money. 

They say money doesn’t guarantee happiness. Omo, it’s a very good start. It brings a much needed kind of peace and when my people are happy, I am happy.

Owning it is not a measurement of success for me, so I give as much as I can. 

I’ve noticed that we can’t all make money the same way, so I focused on what I loved and spread it. 

I don’t necessarily see millions in my account every month because the money I make goes out almost immediately. I don’t count my savings. In my head, it’s already paying for something lol. I just make sure I can take care of the things that matter and live each day.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

When I’m in a bad mood or having an emotional rollercoaster, I go restaurant hopping or buy myself a dress to feel better even if it means using up all the money I’ve just made. 

This life na one. Let’s look into the rest of your expenses. 

What’s something you wish you were better at?

Documenting my finances and knowing what to invest in. 

Do you have any investments currently? 

I invest in art. You find established artists that have work spanning 20 years or works that have been to auction houses. If you buy from auctions, you then throw them back into auction houses in a few years. It would have increased in value. 

There are some works now that, sadly, — when the artist passes away, the value increases. It’s safer to have art in your house than to have jewelry. You could literally have a painting on a wall, valued at a million dollars, and no one would know. 

So, I just collect and keep. My oldest piece I collected was from seven years ago. My current private collection can’t be worth less than ₦5 million. 

Some people just love art, not because of the value, but because of how it makes them feel. I’m keeping my own collection for my child. 

Fascinating. Away from art, what’s a small purchase you made recently that significantly increased the quality of your life? 

A microwave. I’m a workaholic and the microwave solves a lot of my problems. It warms my food, pops my corn, heats up drinks. 

It pretty much makes my life warmer. 

I felt that. 

Haha! I can’t function without food or coffee, and it warms both. It can even make noodles. It’s very functional.

When was the last time you felt really broke? 

Broke-broke? Last year. We had a family incident that made us technically empty our bank accounts. I had to put a halt to my routine, hitch rides with my neighbour to work, cook from home and more. Then I had to work twice as hard to recoup and pay off loans for a few months.

I think the moment for me was seeing my account balance at the final ₦4k, and knowing I had no money elsewhere. That used to be my Uber budget for a day, but I had to stretch it for a week. 

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

I’d say 6 sha. I remember when I used to sit and cry because I needed ₦500 to eat. Concoction rice with palm oil and Iru. I told myself I’d never ever put myself in a situation where I’d have to beg or cry. I’ve come a long way since then, but you’ll always want more regardless of what you have, especially if there are important things you need to do for yourself. 

Random question. What’s that your ₦30 bully up to these days? 

Oh, in 2019, she reached out randomly and invited me to her wedding. 

Ah, how was it? 

I didn’t go. 


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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.

Fu'ad Lawal

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