Every week, we ask anonymous people to give us a window into their relationship with the Naira. This time, it’s a little different, because we have our first not-entirely-naira Naira Life story.
The guy in this story started out bored and looking for action in University. Somehow, that action he found in programming flung him across the world.
This is a story about a guy who went from bored to Abroad.
Gross Income: €5000/month
Tell me everything that led to building your first app.
Imagine this. It’s the end of 2014 in Uni and I haven’t done any school reading the entire semester. Still, I’m really gingered to try something new. A friend of mine is already building apps at this time, and I go to him like “this guy, let me help you with something na,”
Next thing you know, I’m taking a course on Udacity, and that’s when I started making apps–stupid apps.
Fast forward to 2015. I see a tweet; someone’s looking for someone who can do just about anything–mostly tech stuff. So I apply.
Bear in mind that I have no job experience at this point. I get hired anyway, as an intern. And you know what my first project was? To build an app for the company.
Thing is, that app was never released, that set me up for my entire career.
Yes, it was. The internship salary at the time was ₦60k, and it was the first time anyone paid me to build anything. Big deal. Super big deal.
Add to that, I go for NYSC the same year, and I’m pocketing an extra ₦19,800.
The best part? I served in a ridiculously low-cost-of-living town in the Southwest. So inexpensive that I paid only ₦20k per year for this massive mini-flat.
Majority of the Youth Corpers were hailing me like ‘Ah boss’, ‘chairman’ with my ₦80k. It’s crazy when I think about it now because many of them were still sending money home from their NYSC salary.
Mid 2016, I left that startup and went to another place. This one was more company-ish and less startup-y.
I remember negotiating that salary and they initially offered me ₦120k, because that’s what most of the other people were earning. But I was like, I want ₦150k.
Their reaction was like that Soulja Boy meme.
Say no more.
Anyway, they gave me that money. ₦150k. But I wasn’t ready for what came after I got that job.
I went from spending ₦300 every day on transport to ₦1200. My life didn’t get any better. I went from walking to work at 12pm, to having to wake up super early to get into traffic early and get to work at 9am. It was more stress, more pressure, more office bureaucracy, and less freedom.
Also, I was in for a shock at the end of the month. Instead of receiving ₦150k, only ₦140k landed in my account. That moment was when I learned the difference between net income and gross income.
It hurt so bad, and this was when I realised I done played myself. HR didn’t tell me shit, and their job is to educate. Most of what you learn in other companies, you learn by asking other employees. The higi-haganess is just crazy.
You really have to live in a better environment to see how much suffering it is really. Lagos is a terrible place man. You have all of this struggle for next to nothing. Your employers are still going to treat you like shit. Agbero will insult you. Someone on the bus will still insult you. It’s just a struggle, and people are living that life. I dunno man.
Imagine that on ₦140k, you’re still living a basic life. Back when we were in school, if someone said they were going to pay ₦150k, you’d have jumped. Even at that, the majority of the people who knew how much I was earning were like, ‘man you dey ball’.
Anyway, by the end of 2016, I quit.
You know what’s insane? Most of the people I served with hadn’t gotten a job at this time. The ones that had were getting ₦30k jobs.
And then you start to ask, what exactly is the Nigerian dream?
I know I had privileges more than the average Nigerian, but it was still hard. Am I going off topic?
No, you’re not. You’re right on track.
This is random but, Andela was the most important company in the space. To me, they offered something bigger than Nigeria. Being in Nigeria is limiting, but Andela gives exposure. Also, they seemed to give a shit about their employees.
It’s why I applied to work there. I never got in though.
There were so many things I normalised working for Nigerian companies, that just working for foreign companies showed me yo, this shit is not normal.
Anyway, in January 2017, I joined another company. It was the best experience I’d had up until that moment. Interesting work, interesting people, and most importantly, a general sense of ownership of the work.
Let’s not forget that I joined because they offered me more money too. I asked for ₦300k. Net. Can’t be fooled twice.
And this is when adulting started to happen. All this time, I’d been living with my sister. And now it was time to move out. It was impossible to get a decent place at a decent price. Also, I was considering that my younger sisters were going to want to come and stay over. So I was looking for a 2-bed. Good thing was that my friend was also trying to get a place.
The Lagos Hack: Live with someone. Lagos is bloody expensive, rent-wise. So you need to share that responsibility with someone.
Still, I struggled. So I had to reach out to my privilege. My parents helped me raise part of my rent money. And it had me wondering what it’d look like for people who didn’t have that privilege.
Rent was supposed to be 800k. I thought that was all. We ended up paying ₦1.1 million. We were supposed to get our caution fee back. Oh shit, I just remembered that the landlord never gave us.
Imagine starting out adulting and the first thing you have to pay is ₦1.1 million. Even though I was splitting it, I don’t imagine a lot of people would have been able to afford that. How can a currency so disappointing be so out of reach?
Did I forget to add that we had to buy a generator? And a lot of other stuff too.
Okay, so back to work.
I spent all of 2017 at this company. All was good and amazing, till investors pulled out. And to stay alive, the company had to lay-off two-thirds of the company. So imagine about 400 people suddenly becoming unemployed. I was one of them. But one of the advantages of working with this company–one of the best in Nigeria at the time–you get a severance package. I got ₦800k.
But ₦800k is not a lot of money when you’re unemployed. If I was smart enough at the time, I would have left Lagos and gone to live in Ekiti to be eating Pounded Yam straight out of the mortar.
I told myself, ‘oh, I’m just going to stay at home and this money will last 6 months.’ But being unemployed is so terrible, that I dunno how that money finished in 3 months. Guy, e no even reach 3 months.
To be honest, I think my lifestyle at the time is to blame. I was confident I was going to get a job, except, I didn’t.
I had to leave Lagos.
I really can’t wait till people move out of Lagos to places where the air is cleaner and everything is cheaper.
By this time, a lot of my friends were hunting and finding jobs abroad.
I tried and tried, but it was hard. So I just started looking for a Nigerian job, you know, something to sustain me while I look for my dream job abroad.
But there’s no way I would have survived that period without the safety net of my parents and friends. Nigeria will touch you–and maybe I was having the occasional rough two weeks–but I wasn’t suffering.
So just when that ₦800k was about to finish, I got an email. Foreign gig. Someone finally offered me a job. And so 5 months after I got laid off, I left the country and headed for Europe.
I even applied to Andela, but by the time they responded to my application, I was already gone.
I haven’t had much to do with the naira since then.
Do you send money home though?
In the time I was sending money home, the fluctuation has been around plus or minus ₦30. When I moved it was ₦420 to the Euro. Then it moved to 3-something. Now it’s at 4-something. And all of this was in months.
For like 4-5 months last year, I was sending about ₦200k home.
Gimme the figures.
I earn 5000 Euros. My net income is 3000 Euros. The cost of living is higher than Lagos, but you still earn more than you’d earn on the average in Lagos. Also, quality of life is better.
850 euros gives me a two-room. In Nigeria, you’d call this a mini-flat–room and parlour–but here, two-rooms is two-room. And this one is expensive because it comes with some extra comfort, like a washing machine, oven, dishwasher, refrigerator, etc. It’s actually possible to pay 600-650 euros for a cheaper place.
Where do you think you’ll retire?
I’m retiring in Europe, even though I don’t share the same sentiment with a lot of my peers. When you retire, there are some things that will become important, like mental wellbeing and health. You currently can’t get the best of any of that in Nigeria. Healthcare is part of my tax right now, so it’s basically free. It feels free because the money never reaches me in the first place.
Will you be investing in Nigeria though?
Yes. Yes. Believe it or not, Nigeria still has immense potential. But not being on the ground makes it harder to track investments. I’ve considered investing in real estate, not real estate to enrich per se. It should be common knowledge by now, but highrise buildings are how to fix the problem of not having enough horizontal space. Lagos is crowded because everyone is trying to build their own small house.
It’s going to need a lot of capital, but I’m interested in affordable housing. A cheaper 1004.
I’m thinking about your Nigerian Dream question, and now I’m curious.
I’d really like to say that I know exactly what the Nigerian dream is. Or that the Nigerian dream is something worth aspiring to. Help me out here man…
The Nigerian dream is being able to survive with minimum casualties. At my second job, I had to deal with dust on my morning commute, and it was miserable just dealing with the smoke coming out of exhausts.
It will eat away at your sanity. At your funds. At your life.
The Nigerian dream is minimising losses because there’s no win.
If you can actually survive Nigeria, I can say you’ve lived the Nigerian dream. Of course, the easiest way to survive all of that is to have a lot of money.
But then the alternative is to just leave Nigeria.
That escalated quickly. Tell me something else.
I sound like someone who’d never set foot in Nigeria, but that’s not the case. First of all, food. Nigerian food is better than anything else in this world. There’s also the weather.
Then–this is weird–there are Nigerians. I dunno where we get our happiness from, but Nigerians will always be the happiest people you’ll ever meet.
You’ll enjoy being with happy Nigerians more than any other kind of happy people.
That means a lot.
Random question, how much will great Jollof rice cost you in your Abroad?
20 Euros with dodo and meat. That’s ₦8k. What the actual fuck? This good is just good enough to eat. I’ll take White House Jollof Rice over this any day. You can’t eat Nigerian dishes out, you’ll run down. Best thing is to buy African foodstuff, which is way more expensive than it should be.
What of Pounded Yam?
Just buy poundo. First, yam is even expensive. poundo yam is the closest and it’s expensive. And I dunno where they get it.
First thing I’m doing when I come back is to just eat. Boli and Fish. Amala Skye.
If you ask me what I miss the most about Nigeria, it’s the food. Period.
A little throwback before you go:
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