Aina called me sometime last week, she sounded distraught, not her usual happy and chirpy self. “Aina, what’s wrong?” I ask? “Haj” she says, “I am sitting in my car, I’m the car park of the University where my Dad teaches and I am crying. This is the first time I have visited him in school and the distance is amazing, I kept driving and driving and I was sure I had lost my way because even for me who lives close to the University, it took me an hour and half to get to him. By the time I get to the university, I am exasperated and in shock!” she says. “I got to school, asked after him and when I saw him I asked ‘Daddy, you come from home in Igando to this place in Ibeju Lekki everyday?’ He says “Yes”, “How long does it take you?” “3 hours in the morning, 6 hours at night”! He has a nine-hour commute! Haj! 9 hours! Who lives like that? How come I am just realising?” she wails! “It’s all I can do not to crumble on the floor in the hallway of the university!” she continues “how on earth does that make sense??? He is in his 60’s! The toll on his health, his joints, his ability to be effective! He is a professor, he writes, when does he find the time if he’s on the road 7 to 9 hours everyday, in traffic where he is worrying about safety?”
I feel her pain and because I am a cry baby, at this point, I am crying along side Aina, we cry, we talk and we formulate a plan around how we can change his living arrangements. I am crying but I am also livid! Livid at making money, not wealth, which is what we seem to do. We make good money and spend it as though it’s burning a hole in our pockets, from designer items to hair, to things that loose value over time… I am livid. Livid at myself as a person, at us as Nigerians and at the entire continent of Africa! I know I am a tad dramatic but this is not drama! It’s anger at that conditioning that does not allow us build transgenerational wealth. The one that makes it okay to spend all you have, the conditioning where you don’t save for a rainy day and where when one person is doing well financially, the person supports all the others in the family (which is not a bad thing in itself) but the support must be strategically planned and done in such a way that they have extra to save and invest so they, as individuals, can actually be removed from the cycle of poverty and living from pay cheque to pay cheque into creating wealth.
There is a good-natured greeting in Nigeria that my mind rebels against, where when you give an older person money or a gift, they respond by saying “your child too will do it for you”, it’s good-natured and made in good faith but something in me rebels against it! I want to have a lot of my own money and wealth in my old age! I want to be sailing around the world with my husband in our apartment on the “World of Residensea” in our 70’s and 80’s, but more importantly, I want to have lived in such a way that my child has choices. So that caring for me is not a financial burden that limits her choices and so that she can invest and grow her earnings, having been taught how to. I want her to give me out of her excess and to be giving me into my own excess. I want to have conversations on how we use our excess and influence to enrich the world, not about my needs.
And that’s why you should make money and make loads of it. This is the time to slay that mentality of “too much money is bad”, if you think there’s such a thing as too much money, it’s because you are still thinking small. Look at Bill Gates “too much”, it’s rolling out solutions to problems all over the world. Look at Warren Buffet’s too much, if you are African and Nigerian, you need to make “too much”. And I am not talking about a dirty “too much”, or a stolen one, I am talking about excess that is borne out of hard work, honest labour and using commerce and trade to meet needs in the society that people are willing to pay for. Our society is begging for people who have enough to make “impact investments” and bring societal change in a sustainable manner, and that’s one of the things having more-than-enough allows you do.
You need to make money from your ideas, from your gifts and talents! If you work an 8 to 6, and that’s all you do, you are not doing enough. Start something on the side and grow it little by little over time but grow it in such a way that you are giving your employer your best while at work. When it’s grown a little more, get a partner who oversees it, before you know it, you are employing labour. Creating jobs. You don’t leave the paid employment till the entrepreneurial endeavour can pay you to live well, this is for 2 reasons; one so you don’t put pressure on your dreams to pay your bills (and thus kill them), two, so that you are putting a percentage from your salary into it as your seed capital and are actually testing its ability to grow and earn wealth.
If you think you are not entrepreneurial, luckily, the people who know they are, have built empires you can invest in by way of buying shares. Instead of buying asoebi (same outfit that members of a family buy for weddings and events) of N25,000, spending N25,000 to sew it, spending N5,000 on the day of the wedding to tie your gele (head-gear worn by African women) and do your make up, then buying shoes to match it at N15,000. That’s N70,000 on a wedding that’s not yours, instead, put N50,000 away, buy shares with it, ask them for their wedding colours and buy a lovely £80 dress from House of Fraser, so you still look good and unique, but you have change in your wallet and shares to cushion your future.
You need to use your money, no matter how little to make more money- buy landed assets, stay in it for the long haul but be intelligent about it, where are the new towns developing? Where is government building the new EPZ? Where is that big oil company planning to build its new estate? That area will definitely develop, buy the cheap land on the other side of it! It will eventually become worth your while.
You should make money and don’t “eat” the money in seed form. When it’s too little to move you from poverty or subsistence to wealth, then it’s seed. It means you save out of the little, yes, don’t touch 10%, keep adding to it, when it becomes substantial, fix it in a bank account where you can earn compound interest. While that is growing as your cash back up, start another savings which will grow and you’ll use for investments. Any extras from your growing entrepreneurial endeavour keeps going back into the business so that it grows and becomes self-sustaining.
Anyhow, that said, Aina and I stopped crying. We met up for lunch that day and went house hunting. Found something suitable for her dad. We discussed our determination to build wealth and build the attitudes and lifestyle that ensures that the wealth passes from generation to generation. I am holding her to it and she is holding me to it. We have dreamt it, seen the need for it, we believe it is possible and we will now take the steps to make it happen! One of the ways I intend to do that is to go and vote this morning in Nigeria, we need government that puts in the right infrastructure for entrepreneurship and merit to thrive. We will break the back of poverty in our lives and in Nigeria as a whole. So help us God!