I have always wanted to make money per diem, and had always jumped on the opportunity each time it presented since my teenage years. Some of the businesses I explored failed (even now, I have a business that ain’t seeing the best of times, but funded from eggs in my other baskets), a few of them succeeded at least to the extent to which it provided an extra to pocket money from my parents, while in the university. With a few other classmates like Juve, Bishop, Chux and others, we even ran a cartel while in school, providing essential services, that benefited the school, it’s clients and us (financially). I saved a bit of that, while much of it went into affording turkey kebab every afternoon after class, behind the hostel, and some change for girlfriends. Even while serving as a youth corper, and as an intern before that I took advantage of my environment to run a business on the side, though only a few people were in on what I was doing. It therefore wasn’t surprising that once I got a job, I had to always think to add to my monthly income, as I’d always wanted a situation where something accrued to me daily. That surely was more fun than having to wait till the end of the month for some salary.
I did do an MBA because I desired to shift professions, but by the time I was done, the only thing I could be bothered about was starting my own business, and that has been my path and the inspiration behind my entrepreneurship series, which seeks to make entrepreneurs of us while we yet hold on to our day jobs. I wouldn’t say it hasn’t been challenging (I even lost a huge sum investing in agribusiness), but I cannot deny the fact that I could’ve been worse off financially without doing the things I do now (or knowing the things I know now), much of which I have written in the series before now, while still keeping at my nine-to-five (or six).
Nigeria is in dire straits now economically, with the mainstay of the economy threatened by low prices abroad, and at home by militants sabotaging oil and gas infrastructure in reaction to the governments’ body language, of ignoring a region that lays the nation’s golden eggs, because it’s people opted to vote for their own son perceived as “corrupt”, over the “saint” from another region which eventually won the presidential election. Interestingly, a govt that mouthed diversification as the escape route from Nigeria’s economic woes, once in power “shuuked” everything it had still into petroleum as the only way forward, with the president occupying the ministerial position for petroleum, when other critical areas requiring development, like agriculture, solid minerals and mining, even human capital development laid there for the taking, if indeed the president was interested in diversifying the economy, he came to power to meet largely buoyant and growing yet after eighteen months is edging towards a recession. Yet though Nigeria’s economy is diversified, the government has continued to be lazy looking to oil, rather than diversifying it’s revenue generation base, widening it to accommodate all the sectors many of which remain untaxed or under-taxed.
Today, Nigerians are witnessing scarcities even in commodities like tomatoes that it was self subsistent in, with marauding Fulani herdsmen ensuring that food baskets of the nation in the middle belt, or north central mainly (and now to areas in the south) are bereft of farmers who have lost their lives (and livelihoods) or escaped by the whiskers from the activities of these men who are operating on the premise that they could do as they like, as long as they have the backing of their man in power. The airwaves have become awash with techniques employed by some parents to put food on the table for their children, from a woman leaving her child as surety in the market, to quickly return home to bring money for the “garri” she has just bought, only for her not to return but found eating what she got with the other children, amongst some other more chilling accounts. Irresponsible state governors, many of whom plunged their states into debt by converting state funds into campaign funds, means that many workers have now gone for months without salaries, yet these workers survive daily, appearing at their desks daily, and while at that banning street trading (which while campaigning these same governors appeared to patronize, while posing in pictures with poor traders) because of the nuisance such portend when they look out of their posh automobiles now that they are in power, and someone thinks he can fight corruption and criminality in our society?
For the first time in years, workers in the oil and gas sector were sacked en masse, and some oil companies now even owe their staff. Banks as it is cyclical with them, followed suit, sacking majority such that the government had to intervene by issuing a threat that in the true sense is like ranting against a Lion. Even Nigeria’s booming telecommunications sector, and a conglomerate as big as Coca Cola isn’t left out (forget about the many small and medium scale enterprises that have kissed the dust, even before this economic downturn took a turn for the utter worst), and many of those we still envy at their jobs today, are making do with pay cuts and loss of several allowances they once enjoyed. A few banker friends of mine who were sacked were left with nothing, as their debts turned out to be more than their severance package. Another, spent much of the time as a banker applying for American visa, against advice to at least set up his wife in some business should things not eventually work out, he finally managed to go to the UK, returned with a masters degree and now there’s no job, and his family? Well!
In that same period, I have been fortunate to meet a banker who continues to rise through the ranks, but from onset had her exit strategy in her palm. Today she’s into real estate business, wholesaling and empowering many others in some form of hire purchase business or the other while still at her banking job. I imagine what would’ve become of me if I had gained employment in many of the states I applied to back then, after my National Youth Service Corp, NYSC program and now have to live without pay for months on end, or getting fired at my job, not because of an indiscretion on my part, but because a state like Imo with a megalomaniac as a governor is restructuring it’s civil service, just because I wanted a pensionable job, of which the greatest defaulters today are state governments (like in Ogun State) who fail to remit their own part of the bargain, while promptly withdrawing from the workers’ accounts the employee contribution.
Another friend of mine spent amounts running into millions trying to secure a federal job in Abuja, before finally giving up, realizing she was been scammed. All of that amount lost while she was yet unemployed. Amounts of which much less have been used to found growing and going concerns. She eventually landed a job at an oil servicing company, and over the years built so much to live the kind of life anyone could wish for in today’s Nigeria, while continuing to lose major sums in “philanthropy” to family and friends (like me) because of her large heart, which is not bad, but I reminded her of what my people say, “anaghi eji apata etufuo, abu ogalanya”, literally “no one becomes rich by being a spendthrift”. Many schemes and scams yet more after to which she yet lost lots of money, she recently intimated me of a networking business, and that was when I wielded the big stick. Though she considered the idea because of my insistence that she ploughed her money into something worthwhile, she agreed with me not to pursue it, not because she was inclined so to do, but because I gave her instances of my own experiences in the past with such companies, right from my university days, even till after my youth service to which I lost money that would’ve added to make my life better today. Gaining only in motivational speeches at big halls by people at the top of the “pyramid” who became rich off our sweat, by feeding us stories of “being around the world” that satiated only our greed but still left the majority of us in the audience poor, while trying to sell a product to an already saturated market directly, that the only way out would’ve been to employ lies and schemes to move ahead. These companies because of their bad reputation have now modified their schemes, even hiding behind employment sites to lure the unemployed to job seminars, only to end up wrecking the lives of the unsuspecting applicants.
However, at the time she was telling me about the networking business, she’d planned to go to the United States. Though I expressed my displeasure, I couldn’t but wish her well in pursuing a visa. She was distraught when her application was denied at the embassy, and in consoling her we agreed it was time we explored other means to spend her money, especially in ways that returns yield to her. Within just days, she bought into the hire purchase business reaping quietly weekly, and just late last week, while Petroleum And Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN declared a strike and she couldn’t go to work and of course the extended Eid El Fitri holidays, she managed to buy someone out of her provision store, including goods, power generator, deep freezer and showcase, with sights set on more hire purchase business and Uber Taxis, amongst several others.
The fact that things are hard these days isn’t lost on me. I understand that not many people have disposable income to throw away like in the above situation, but many unemployed people are spending far more just staying alive, when such monies could be funneled to profitable ventures. The sad thing is that not many people want to start small, so when they approach people for credit, they just hit creditors with ridiculously humongous amounts, which the creditor may be skeptical to part with, even when s/he can afford to, especially when the one has little or no experience in the venture s/he intends to invest in, or not known to have handled that kind of money ever.
Others who may have handled such while working, and failed to invest such also find it difficult to raise funds because the question is soon asked about what the person did with such when s/he had access to such amounts. You then find that many who have lived extravagant lives while working forget that no condition is permanent, and besides not imbibing a savings culture, fail to invest part of their income. After losing their jobs, they are also not humbled like “Brother Bobby” I knew as a kid, who lost his banking job in the eighties, humbled himself to learn vulcanizing, and managed to continue fending for his family, enough to raise funds, start a small business, and move out of the one room apartment he used to live even as a banker to a more spacious apartment in a better part of town.
What I’m asking you to do today, is not to put your eggs in one basket. The way the country is set today makes it unwise for couples to both be at salaried jobs. At least, either or both should earn daily income, for obvious reasons. I have a friend who though loves teaching, found that he couldn’t follow his passion and still make money as it were, and got him a commercial minibus which he drives very early in the morning, and late in the evening, spending the day doing what he loves best. If you are out of job today, do know that that situation isn’t the end, the solution isn’t in drowning your sorrows over missed opportunities in alcohol, nor gambling despite momentary “hammering”, or getting involved in get-rich-quick schemes. It is in holistically reviewing the situation in a bid to fostering a more long term plan to financial emancipation, of which starting small is key.