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10 personal lessons 5 years of marriage have taught me (8)

The eighth lesson I learned from 5 years of marriage is one that dwells on one of the commonest reasons for divorce worldwide- Money! 

So without further ado here it is;

8. Your finances require an ongoing balance for there to be peace and contentment. The saver versus spender principle!

To manage your finances properly you need to be Ying and Yang- not two Yings or two Yangs. You are allowed to swap roles as the occasion arises but always opposites. 

When I got married, hubby and I had the after-wedding financial discussion which was a follow up of the before marriage talk on the same subject. 

As a woman, I had two options. I could choose to make my money entirely mine and then his money would be ‘ours’ or I could choose to contribute towards the upkeep of the house as I saw fit (without forced compulsion or emotional blackmail). 

I chose the latter. Why wouldn’t I? I grew up in a house where both parents didn’t hold back financially where meeting family needs were concerned and hubby grew up in similar settings. The next hurdle we had to cross however, was who would be the spender versus who would be the saver. It may sound like a no-brainer but it’s actually important. This ying yang theory like I like to call it, came about because I had heard stories of couples who spent everything they had from paycheck to paycheck and were always stranded during emergencies. I had also heard of couples who invested every thing they had in the name of being prudent and were still stranded during emergencies. So we needed to create a balance, not a rigid one- but one that could be modified as the need arose

So I chose to be the saver. I’d always loved saving anyway and hubby believed more in investing than just keeping your money wallowing in the bank for meager profit. He would cover the running costs (spender) and I would save up so we had some money kept aside for projects and emergencies. It wasn’t absolute because neither of us was expected to put in our all into the saver versus spender agreement since it was only logical that we would also have individual personal needs, entertainment included. 

There have been times when hubby was the saver and I was the spender but hardly a time when we were both on the same side of the divide. This has worked for us till date but this can only work when you understand and trust your partner and no one feels like they are being taken advantage of. It’s not a perfect arrangement but as long as you are willing to sit and talk things over when a hurdle arises, you and your monies will be just fine!

The way couples handle their finances vary from family to family and are a product of personal character and upbringing. 

If you grew up in a home where your father did absolutely everything then you are more likely to lean towards that design however it is only fair that your husband knows that’s the deal before he signs up. One of my friends argues that men don’t want to be helped that it makes them lazy and bruises their egos so she is against giving unsolicited help. She has a point because we have seen women who gave their financial ‘all’ to their men and the men rather than appreciating it gave their extra to sidechicks and spent the rest on expensive clothing, toys and trips while the women couldn’t even afford a decent outfit and were worse for wear. There have also been women who by helping their men ended up spoiling them, so a once ambitious man after losing his source of income relegated his position as bread winner to his wife in favor of watching TV and playing video games. Every marriage is unique, you need to know the kind of man you married and therefore deduce the sort of help he would require. If giving your man your money will not make him a man you would respect in the long run then keep your money but save it towards something worthwhile and unselfish that you both would look at and smile. 

You also need to make sure that as a working woman you have some money kept aside for your personal upkeep apart from the one you pool into the family expenses. Clothes, shoes, hair, entertainment, vacations etc. These are important to us women and women who have given their all and left nothing for themselves begun to feel drained, unappreciated and cheated in the long run #truestory. You even end up putting undue pressure on your man because you can’t buy the stuff you want even though women who earn less than you can easily afford them, because you are giving your all to your home and so you expect your hubby to fill in the gap and buy you those things but he figures that since you had the money to buy them and didn’t, you probably don’t need or want them and there you are secretly sighing with dissatisfaction. Abeg who send you message? He can’t read your mind. Communication is key! Make sacrifices but also be vocal about the things you want and need. You are a working woman and entitled to them. You may not get them immediately because of other pressing needs but the fact that you have mentioned them makes getting them a reality in the foreseeable future. 

People always ask me about joint accounts and whether I believe in them. What I’ll say is do whatever works for you both. Hubby and I do not have a joint account but we are very open with our finances so it makes no difference. If a joint account will make it easier to save, by all means do so and if it isn’t an official joint account just one person’s account being used by both of you, let the person who doesn’t keep the ATM card be the one who gets the alerts on his/her phone so there’s accountability. I have heard stories of people emptying their joint accounts secretly to buy something frivolous only for the partner to find out a long time afterwards smack in the middle of a financial emergency. 

Finally if you have doubts, concerns or issues about the way money is being handled in the family don’t stomach them. If you are not working and hence do not feel like you have a legitimate voice, find a tactful and gentle way to be heard or a clever way to save up if the issue has to do with spending habits (usually the most common issue). Finances often wreak havoc in a home but trust and openness are the only way to get money to work for you. 

– Spend

– Save

– Invest

These three are key!

Be the ying to his yang…

Have a lovely afternoon chutzpah fam,

Xoxo

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2017 in Inspirational

 

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It’s all for the money $$$- A tale of one Lagos big girl….New beginnings: Part 2 Episode 6

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I opened my mouth and closed it again and then opened it again. I must have looked like a fish gulping large volumes of air in quick succession. I was frantic. Words failed me. I looked around for the nearest exit. The room was too quiet. A show down was definitely about to go down! I could feel the sweat on my brow.
‘OK snap out of it Modinat; there’s nothing Toke can’t handle!’
The quiet encouragement by the diva in my head helped me switch persona remarkably fast given the fact that I was about to wet my pants.

“Mamus I think we should have this talk in private.”

My response was short, calm but confident. I had definitely regained control. Acting so cool would surely make Mamus have a rethink. Mamus seemed to blush, she was obviously not expecting that. Geez, polite society was so different from the back streets where I’d grown up.

“Y..you are right dear! Forgive my ill-manners, love does make us do some foolish things. Hahaha…Let’s talk outside. Excuse us ladies”

Her nervous laughter and forced cheerfulness didn’t have me fooled for one second. Something serious was about to go down. The others were quiet but looked both curious and disappointed. I guess every one loved a cat fight. I flashed them a wry smile as I followed behind Mamus. Nothing prepared me for what happened next.

“I am really sorry Toke but I am going out of my mind. Azeez has asked me to marry him but I think he is still in love with an ex. I have tried to do my research and find out more about her but she was in his life a very long time ago. He refuses to talk about her and asks me not to worry but I can’t help worrying. I have been single for so long and to now allow a man into my life, I have to be sure he won’t mess up. All I know about the woman is that her name is Modinat!”

She paused for air and I looked at her incredulously. Was she toying with me?

“How do you know her name?”

“He called me her name by accident one day while we were laughing hard about something. I asked him who Modinat was and he denied saying the name. I let it go but I am convinced that’s her name. I don’t wanna live a lie but in all fairness we are great together and I know he cares deeply for me. I am just scared that if this woman ever comes back into his life, I may not win if he has to make a choice. That’s why I need your help. Please don’t deny it but I think you know more about Azeez than you are letting on. Please help a friend here.”

I couldn’t believe I was about to tell a big, fat lie…

“Honestly Mamus, I don’t know Azeez. After I saw him at your house, I went snooping on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I know I shouldn’t have but you are my friend and I have to watch out for you and you are obviously smitten by him. That’s how I got the extra info I have. I could show you my ipad so you could check my browser history for the stuff I looked at after I left your house that night. I was a real Inspector Gadget. Sorry babe, didn’t mean to pry but really I don’t know much, at least not more than you.”

Mamus laughed half-heartedly.

“Ok I won’t lie, I am a little relieved because it took me a while to work up the courage to ask you cos I was so afraid of what I would hear but I am also a little disappointed because the mystery still remains unsolved. Do you think I should ask Amaka to use her father’s connections to investigate him?”

“Nooooo!!! That’s a very bad idea. What if he finds out? He would never forgive you for not trusting him. Besides I have seen you guys together and I think what you have is for real but remember that marriage is a big deal. I wouldn’t want you going into it with doubts so you need to sort this out in your head before taking the big step. How are things with you guys at the moment?”

“Fine actually. Azeez is such a romantic and I feel thoroughly cared for. I guess you are right. I won’t mention it to Amaka. Please let’s keep this between us. I guess I am just being paranoid. You know I am not as young and sexy as I used to be hahaha”

I felt like crap. Mamus was my friend. This wasn’t supposed to be happening. Now I knew how Judas felt. I hoped I wouldn’t end up hanging myself.

“Toke I am so blessed to have a friend like you. Thanks for always having my back. Love you babe”

Mamus hugged me and tears stung my eyes. I was a good person and I was going to prove it. I hugged her back with a new resolve. Azeez was history.

“One more thing babe. I know the others are gonna kill me but would you do me the honor of being my maid of honor?”

I froze. Kai karma’s a b*tch. This was gonna be harder than I anticipated.

“I would love to dear.”

She hugged me again and I could have sworn I heard laughter from heaven. Even the angels were laughing at me. I was in big trouble!

…….to be continued…..

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2014 in It's all for the money!, Series

 

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It’s all for the money $$$- A tale of one Lagos big girl….New beginnings: Part 2 Episode 2

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It couldn’t be Azeez. I blinked, was I dreaming?
“Hey beautiful, are you gonna let me in?”
I pulled myself together and forced a smile. Please come in.
“Azeez darling, I wasn’t expecting you so soon, was just rounding up my evening with the girls”
As Mamus gave her visitor a warm hug, I caught Siki’s eye, that was our cue to leave. I knew Siki would have loved to stay, she generally loved aproko but I couldn’t stand being there a second longer than necessary. Thankfully Zainab and Amaka agreed with me and despite Mamus’s half-hearted protests that we stay a little while longer, we were gone in less than five minutes.

“Didn’t he recognize me?”

I silently pondered about this on the short drive home. Thankfully Barry was working late so I had the house to myself. I poured myself a stiff drink. Barry had banned me from drinking since we were trying for a baby but I needed it. Where had Azeez been all these years? Was it a good thing that he couldn’t remember me? Why did seeing him still have such an effect on me? Was he the beau Mamus had been talking about finally getting serious with? Why would he want an older woman? I hated having so many unanswered questions. I had a brilliant idea and grabbed my iPad. These days, most people had their lives on full display on one social network or the other. I checked Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter and four hours and a full bottle of wine later I had answers to quite a few of my questions.

Azeez was a successful designer with a fashion brand called Azure. He had relocated to Lagos from L.A some months back and he was divorced (already) with a child from his previous marriage. His ex-wife and kid still lived in L.A. He had no pictures of Mamus on his Facebook or Instagram but had some interesting tweets about his new lady love. I scrolled through his older tweets and one dated on the 12th of August 2010 caught my eye.

“I wish I could have this night forever,  I wish time and circumstances would give us a chance…”

I had felt that exact same way that night. I remembered that night so vividly. I had hustled my way into a society owambe hoping to catch myself a generous toaster but had realised it wasn’t your regular party when all around me there were sounds of excited conversations heavily impregnated with deep British and American accents. This was forming on a new level and I had gotten weary of hearing people boast about how much money they had or where they spent their last holiday and had quietly retreated to the balcony. I couldn’t imagine opening my mouth in this kinda gathering and with the number of correct babes in designer clothing at the party, my chances of catching any correct bobo were slim. I stood there hoping Taiwo would hurry up with her work so we could leave, most guests had eaten anyway so I figured her job was almost done. That was when I heard his rich baritone. I have always been a sucker for a sexy voice. The balcony was dark so he hadn’t caught a glimpse of my face but his handsome features would be forever etched in my memory. He had come to the balcony to make a phone call and hadn’t noticed me which gave me ample time to study him.

“Remi this party is dulling oh, all the babes are forming like they never spoke Yoruba in their lives. Abeg come and pick me, I dont know why my mum refuses to let me drive in naija…”

I giggled at what I had eavesdropped and he noticed me for the first time.

“Guy I dey wait oh, let me call you back” “Hello were you laughing at me?”
“Yep, I couldn’t help it, the forming at this party na die”
“As in, omo I no fit shout, Hi my name is Azeez and you are?”

Modinat was what he knew me as and we had gisted for one hour switching from pidgin to Yoruba back to pidgin in obvious defiance of the party behind the glass door. We had tons in common, our ideas about life, favorite songs, childhood games. I had never been so real with anyone in my life. I was really feeling him and I knew it was mutual. When he let on that he had just finished his masters at a university in America and had come home to visit his mum, I felt the insecurity for the first time. Our lives were too different, I was a poor orphan, hustling for a living. He would never want to be with me if he knew who I really was. We bonded unimaginably and I tried to be as truthful with him as possible which meant evading any questions I felt were too personal. He told me that he had never felt this way about anyone in such a short time and that he wanted to be with me and see how far things would go even though he admitted that he had a girl abroad. I knew we could never be together and I told him I was engaged and in love with my fiance. His friend called at that very moment telling him he was parked badly and that Azeez had better hurry down. A tear pricked my eye as he asked for my phone number and I refused, how would I explain to him that I didn’t own a mobile phone? He took it as further rejection and had turned to leave and on a whim, he had grabbed me and kissed me and I swear down, no one had ever kissed me with such passion.

I hadn’t seen him again till tonight at Mamus’s house and he obviously hadn’t recognized me. I reached for my glass of wine and found it and the bottle empty. I groaned. What was wrong with me? I was supposed to be happily married and here I was agonizing about the one that got away. As if on cue, I heard Barry’s key in the door.

“Hi honey, I figured you’d be too tired to cook after hanging with the girls so I stopped by at Mandy’s and got us some dinner. Have you been drinking woah!?!”

Barry rushed to my side and instead of reprimanding me, he fussed over me caressing my hair and cooing into my ears. He had learnt early in the marriage that I didn’t like being questioned and as he silently reassured me of his love and carried me to bed, thoughts of Azeez began to dim in my head. When Barry served me dinner in bed I smiled gratefully at him. I would never know what could have been between Azeez and I but I was grateful about what I had in the present with Barry. Just as I finished dinner the doorbell rang, I wondered who could possibly be at my door at past 9. Barry got up from where he was propped beside me to check who was at the door. He came back in looking grim.

“Honey I think you had better dress up and come with me”

My heart skipped a beat!

……to be continued………

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2014 in It's all for the money!, Series

 

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It’s all for the money $$$- A tale of one Lagos big girl….New beginnings: Part 2 Episode 1

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Hi Chutzpah Fam, due to popular demand, it’s all for the money has been continued…thanks for the feedback readers ♥

People say that when one chapter of your life closes, another begins. I sighed dreamily at the words ‘The End’ that signalled the concluding scene of our wedding video. The guys who did the video were incurable romantics and the priceless scenes captured on film along with the 80s love songs had me squeezing Barry’s hand in a way that clearly showed my emotions were on overdrive. They really don’t sing love songs like they used to…I really wished that was the end it would have been a most perfect ending but unlike real life, the end wouldn’t come till I was 6 feet under and right now I had way too much to live for. I couldn’t believe 6 months had rolled by so quickly. Marriage was beautiful. I had friends who would say otherwise but really life had a way of throwing you lemons and peaches and if I was eating peaches at this stage of my life it didn’t mean I hadn’t sucked my lemons dry.

Most of the women who had become my close friends had lived with a silver spoon all their lives. Amaka’s dad was an ex-governor and she had never worked a day in her life. The husband and the spa which were her two most prized possessions had been handed to her by daddy. She was your cliche fairytale princess. She reminded me of Bree in Desperate housewives, Barry had loads of DVDs and I’d spent a good part of my days catching up on the series I missed in my hustle days. I laughed because watching Friends or 24 now when people had moved on from them reminded me of the fact that even though late, I had definitely arrived. I couldn’t imagine any of the girls I had hustled with sitting down to watch Desperate housewives. The English would have been an issue and as for our mindsets, we would have never been able to identify personally with what we watched. Thank God for Bukky Wright and Yoruba movies jare. Anyway back to my friends. Amaka had a life everyone outside envied, she was regularly featured in magazines and was a style icon. Her yellow skin was pampered and spotless and she had a body that would make you jealous. Her husband was tall, dark and handsome and was the oga in charge of one of her father’s most successful businesses but things weren’t what they seemed. Amaka didn’t talk much but it was obvious to me that something was amiss. They had no kids and Amaka said they weren’t ready which was kinda odd to me cos they had been married for 5 years and then there was the little issue of Amaka’s love for coffee. She drank about 30 cups a day, I kid you not and while I used a teaspoon of decaf coffee downed in milk to make mine, she took hers strong, black and very bitter judging by the way she heaped the coffee grains into her cup like it was sugar sometimes I could swear she was high on caffeine. I had asked her once about it and she laughed in that way she always laughed, a laugh that sounded toosh and gentle like it had been practiced and perfected and told me that she needed the bitterness in her cup to remind her of the realities of life. Well like I said before she was perfect.    

 Then there was Siki, I had bumped into her at a supermarket one day and she had shouted ‘Modinat’ which had me quite embarrassed since I didn’t go by that name again. I had wanted to get rid of her fast and did all I could to form busy but this childhood friend of mine was not going anywhere. Ever the slut, she had used her bottom power to get herself out of the ghettoes and was dating a famous Ondo state politician whom she proudly pointed out was just one of her options. This girl knew me from way back and trust me when you’ve struggled to get a new identity the last thing you need is someone from your past wanting to be chummy. Anyway fate has a way of stirring things up. She’s the biggest drama queen in the universe and true to type, she brought Siki into my life a few months later. She moved into my estate, newly married to Tosin, Barry’s Nigerian boss. She had failed to mention that he was one of the people held spell bound by her powerful toto. I wondered why the yeye thing hadn’t slacked since. Her hubby had opened her a big supermarket around the corner and I had been forced to embrace her or make an enemy of her and trust me nobody wants a loud-mouthed Yoruba girl as an enemy. As a Yoruba girl I should know. Anyway I had to welcome her into the group to keep Barry happy since she was his boss’s wife and Amaka wasn’t too pleased. She was all for pedigree and pedigree was the one thing Siki and her expensive perfumes, bleached body and Brazilian hair did not reek of.   

      Mamus hadnt minded the new addition. We called her the mummy of our little group. She had lost her husband some years ago to cancer and her son lived abroad with his wife. She travelled a lot but when she was around she made us her business. She was nice and very accommodating and people said she was the first person to move into our estate and that she owned some of the other houses in the estate. Mamus knew everybody and everything. People tended to open up to her when left alone with her for a few minutes. She was the one who had warned Zainab that her hubby might be taking a second wife soon and also advised her on what to do and a few weeks later Zainab’s hubby had realized he couldn’t love two women equally and had called off the Nikkah. We loved Mamus and she loved us back. After Zainab’s incident we hid nothing from her and the more she knew the happier she was. She always teased me that I held back, I guessed she must have spoken to Barry at some point and realised he also had parts of my life he had no information about. I always wondered why Mamus needed to know so much, maybe her older age made her feel like it was her right but that secret was my secret and it was bad enough that Siki was in the picture, I wasn’t ready to let on anymore about me than was necessary.   

     Zainab was the last girl in our circle. She was also the only one with a 9-5 job. She left her twins at home with a nanny and drove to her job at Zenith bank every day. She refused to get a driver the same way she had refused to allow her widowed mother-in-law come take care of the kids. She hadn’t forgiven the woman for trying to get a second wife for her husband. When she had tackled her, the woman had said she wanted a wife who knew her place was at home taking care of her husband and kids. Zainab had been so outraged and would have acted rashly if not for Mamus’s timely advice. Now she had her husband eating out of her hand and was polite to her mother-in-law which only made the woman more afraid of her. She even sent the old hag a card and a basket of fruit every two weeks and nobody would have ever suspected that she detested her mother-in-law save for the woman. Zainab was ambitious. She was a goal-getter and a workaholic. Her husband was a business man but with the money she brought in from the other businesses she did outside her 9-5, her hubby was content lounging about and rarely brought home any money. She didn’t mind though, contrary to her mother-in-law’s opinion she was very much dedicated to her man and kids she just didn’t agree that a woman had to take the backseat in life just because she was a wife and mother. I agreed with her jare.     

     I looked around at the four women sitting at Mamus’s dining table drinking cranberry juice and vodka and gisting nonstop and I smiled contentedly. This was my new life. I was a responsible married woman and had friends who loved me. Even Siki had grown on me and sometimes I was actually grateful that there was another ex-hustler in the group. Mamus considered herself single and on nights like this she would regale us with tales of the men she dated. She was quite discreet especially since she had a penchant for younger guys but she always saved all the juicy details for us. Thursday nights were our nights and we took turns hosting the girls. That night as we sat drinking, the door bell rang and since I was sitting closest to it, I got up to open the door.

“Who is it?” I called out laughingly as I unlocked the door
“Mamus darling-”
Our eyes collided and time seemed to stop…

….to be continued…..

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2013 in It's all for the money!, Series

 

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It’s all for the money $$$- “A tale of one Lagos big girl” Episode 2

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The Alhaji speaks

I hated being called Sammy. As far as I was concerned, making my name more Americana was one of the other things wrong with Nigeria and I intended to fix things one at a time. I glanced at the now unconscious Modinat and seethed. She was another problem that needed fixing. Why she chose to make things so difficult baffled me. This wasn’t the plan. She must have known I hadn’t been joking when I swore that I would be president one day and Modinat would be my first lady. I couldn’t help smiling as I remembered the first time she served me eba and efo at her mother’s mama put. She wasn’t like the others. Her air of superiority went beyond the fact that her mother owned the joint. Afterall the joint wasn’t much to speak of. There was a wooden bench and one table that creaked constantly. They had been made by Baba Risikat and they constituted the entire furnishings of the open, road-side canteen her mother operated. Her mum or Alhaja as she was fondly called, had never been to Mecca but swore to be the most devout Muslim in Mushin and to prove this, she often interrupted her cooking to pray by the side of the road and often times choked her customers with the acrid smoke emitting from her kerosene stove as she insisted on cooking on the only table in the canteen in plain sight so that no one would accuse her of using ‘shan-idi’, a form of ritual performed by women who owned food joints whereby they attracted customers by washing their privates into the pot of soup along with some incantations. Her customers- ten or so, who constituted the local mechanics, agberos and traders swore by her delicious meals and ignored the cracks in customer service and the lung cancer prone atmosphere.

I was one of those customers and Modinat’s shakara was one of the things I loved the most about her. She wasn’t the prettiest girl in the neighborhood, Sikirat was but since every man had had his feel of Siki’s secret places, there wasnt any thrill to be sought pursuing the worldly wise beauty. Modinat on the other hand was protected by her mother and it was rumored that no one had seen her pant or even felt her ripe melons. That thought made me wild with desire but she hadn’t given me the time of day. She had laughed at me, scorned me, thrown dirty water at me, called me her mumu, even spent my money indiscriminately but I had loved her even more. When I approached Alhaja for her permission, she had told me without mincing words that her Alfa had seen in a vision that Modi would be married to a rich and influential Alhaji. Well not all of the vision was wrong, the dude must have seen Modi in a man’s bed and interpreted it as a legal union. Thank God her mother wasn’t alive to see her only child become not just an Alhaji’s favourite plaything but a Christian too. I felt a bitter taste in my throat as I said the word Christian out loud. She wasn’t a real Christian jare, she just had a penchant for the more fashionable paths in life. I couldn’t help sighing. I had sold my father’s house after his death much to the chagrin of my younger siblings and ageing mother but I had always been headstrong and I needed to become an Alhaji. I had solemnly promised them to buy them a bigger, better house when I returned from Mecca only leaving them with enough money to sustain them till my return. My trip to Mecca was bittersweet. I had spent my family’s inheritance but was certain that it was a small price to pay to have Modi at my side. Together we would be untouchable. I learnt 3 hard facts in Mecca. 1) The streets of Mecca were not paved with gold and becoming an Alhaji was not the end of poverty. 2) Allah expected me to be a man of honour and honour could be defined in different ways. I learnt more about honor when a nice Muslim brother also on pilgrimage introduced me to the Al Waheel. A secret group of politically-inclined zealots. I bought into their beliefs and was offered many rewards if I prepared a band of devout Muslims and kept them on standby for the day of Allah. 3) Life continues after the pilgrimage.   I returned to Mushin as a more pensive man. Working in Baba Sikirat’s shed was no longer enough. Modi was still unattainable and even more distant. Worst of all, I hated the stench of poverty and the constant look of disappointment my family had in their eyes. They tried hard to mask it but it was there in the barely audible midnight sobs coming from mama’s room. I saw it every time my little sister and brother took their bowls out to beg. As good Muslims we were entitled to alms but I wanted so much more. I grew bitter as the young boys who hailed me with admiration when I first returned from pilgrimage began to have a mocking tone in their voices when they called me Alhaji. I grew so bitter. God seemed so far away. Biting poverty was my reality and when finally Modinat started giving her attention to a big man who had moved to our area despite the rumors that he was a Christian and married with kids, I finally lost hope.

During this time Modinat’s mother passed away after a brief illness and I rushed to give her succor but my plenty words, loud sobs and fifty naira contribution paled in comparison  to the efforts of her love interest who bore all the burial expenses. Even though no bride price had been paid, Modinat moved into his house and a few months after they moved to an undisclosed part of town. That was the last I saw of her for the next 5 years. I contemplated suicide many times. My family saw my grief and tried to be strong for me. My mother even tried to get me a wife but bride-prices were too steep. I didn’t have eyes for any woman anyway. What little money I had, I spent on paraga and ciga and it was on one of those days spent drowning myself in alcohol in a bid to embrace the calming sea of forgetfulness that I met Chukwudi. Everybody knows a Chukwudi, one of those men who never seem to be in a hurry to go anywhere, have no visible means of income but yet too much money to throw around. He was good looking and he was ready to listen and after buying me another bottle, I was ready to talk. Hours later, I had made my first true friend. Chukwudi or Chuks said 3 very important things to me that day. 1)Forget Modinat 2)It is your responsibility to provide for you and your family no matter what it takes 3) No one will think any good about you till you start thinking good things about yourself. I loved Chuks. That day he changed my life and saved me from the path of destruction. He also got me a job in a barber’s shop. The pay was far more than I had ever made and strangely enough my duties were to count money and divide it into 6 parts equally and oh boy, I counted more money in a day at that barber’s shop in Mushin than a bank tellar counts in a week. It took a while for me to realise it didn’t add up. We had 2-3 customers a day and each paid 100 naira for a hair cut but everyday at 5pm I’d be asked to count wads of money and divide them under Ganiyu’s piercing gaze and as I finished, I’d be asked to go home. I usually met Chuks right outside the shop, we would exchange pleasantries and then he and 4 others would enter the shop as I exited. Ganiyu seemed to be the boss at least I knew he owned the barber’s shop and paid my wages. I just assumed he had other businesses. I led a simple life, had attended school at the mosque and learnt to read the Koran and count earlier in life and hence I was an asset to them. I had also learned to barb hair though Ganiyu had never asked me to assist. He wasn’t very friendly but I was content with my solitude.

My life changed the day police men raided Ganiyu’s shop. I had walked a distance from the shop when they drove past me in a frenzy. One of them jumped off the van and arrested me. I was so shocked and even more shocked when in a few minutes they had rounded up everybody and were calling us armed robbery suspects. I tried to explain to them that I was a decent, honest man and could vouch for my friends too but the others were strangely silent. I resigned myself to fate as I chanted prayer after prayer under my breath. Two hours later, we were released and asked to enter 2 jeeps and driven to a house somewhere in Ikeja. That was the day I met Sergeant Deefak. That wasn’t his real name of course but it was what we would be calling him. He said he had heard about the incidence and hated to see the police waste the lives of 6 young men and so he had bailed us out. He offered us expensive wine and I refused but when two men came in with steaming hot pounded yam and egusi soup with the pieces of meat forming stiff peaks in the soup, my stomach growled and I gave in. We were recruited to the Save Nigeria group that day. Our monthly pay was more than I had ever heard someone pronounce as salary and the fact that we would be trained for free and have flexible working hours and sometimes travel out of the country made me burst into song in praise of Allah. We were given 50 thousand naira each and told that we would be summoned in a week’s time. On our way back to Mushin, Chuks and I chatted nonstop. We were so excited. Chuks admitted to me that they really had been armed robbers before, though not by choice. They had done it only to survive and it seemed like God had decided to be merciful towards us. Even Ganiyu seemed more relaxed. My family couldn’t understand my sudden good fortune but were too relieved to ask too many questions. Training started in earnest a week after. We were separated and tutored based on our natural strengths. I was made to study the Koran and the Bible in-depth and taught Arabic and Proper English. I was given advanced classes in mathematics and then taught the ancient arts of war. After 8 months of vigorous training, I was given the code name the Alhaji and could conceal a dagger anywhere on my person without detection, I could also end a man’s life in a second and could turn any sharp object even a simple pen into the most deadly weapon. I had been trained by 3 Syrians, a Filipino and 2 masked men whose accents were decidedly middle Eastern. On the day of my freedom as it was called, I met up with my other brothers and 14 other people. We were 20 in all, 8 females were part of the group. We were made to take a pledge and as we stood at attention, I made a mental note to follow the pledge to the letter afterall this group had saved my life.  

“I, Samsudeen Taiwo today becomes one of the life forces of the Save Nigeria Group.
I solemnly swear to use my skill and the opportunities given to me to rid Nigeria of all that is polluted and corrupt and dirty in the land.
I promise to eradicate without mercy any one who stands in the way of progress and protect with my life those who are the future of this great nation.
I will live as a warrior of the SNG and die as a hero of my beloved country.
I will serve, obey, protect and annihilate.
So help me God”  

We were discharged and given a package. Each package contained a cheque book with already signed cheques that we were to cash in at intervals. New passports and an I.D card that showed we worked for the Lagos state government. We were also given brand new cars and instructed that unmarked cars would be provided for any operation we would undertake. With the money, I relocated my family to Surulere, put my younger ones in school and got my ailing mother some much needed medical attention. I practised every day and every night in the privacy of my room. I could throw a dagger across the room and kill a cockroach with it. I waited and waited for my first assignment. One afternoon, a beggar walked up to my door and began to beg for alms with the usual song as he held out his bowl. I was about to shut the door after giving him ten naira when he started a soft stream of Arabic. I listened and my eyes grew wide like saucers. It was my mission. I listened intently, nodding intermittently. Then he pointed at his bowl and I noticed for the first time that there was an object in the bowl. I picked it up and identified it as a car key and then the beggar was gone. Ten minutes later Chuks was at my place. We had been paired up for this mission. The car for our use was parked across my house as expected and in it was a brown envelope that had names and pictures. One picture in particular gave me mixed feelings. I couldn’t believe I was looking at Modinat. She had grown really beautiful but she looked older than her age and had a very sophisticated look about her. She was listed as my target’s mistress. I hoped my target was the wretched man that had stolen her from me years ago but alas it was another. A man who looked to be in his sixties. He looked vaguely familiar and I remembered I had seen him briefly on television before changing the channel. The man had been talking about corruption in the society but from what I could see in the brown envelope this man was the embodiment of corruption. I felt a deep hatred for this man. One of his many heinous crimes was misappropriating funds the government had set aside to help empower the masses. This fool fed himself fat on the suffering of Nigeria and the Alhaji was going to fix this but first of all I had to fix her. I brought out my daggers and laid them out on the table from the longest to the shortest. I had asked Chuks to give me a minute. I would need even less. As I picked up a short dagger with a beautifully carved handle, I heard a soft cry and the last thing I saw were the cracked grey walls swimming before my eyes…

…………..To be continued………………

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in It's all for the money!, Series

 

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It’s all for the money $$$ -“A tale of one Lagos big girl”

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I wasn’t always a big girl… I smile as I dab at my lips with the napkin, acquired skills come with an acquired taste. I really would have preferred Mama Tolu’s ewa agoyin with some agege bread but that’s a meal too razz for my person. Modinat or Modi-boo as I prefer to be addressed is a bacon-eating, sausage munching toosh babe. The waiter interrupts my thoughts and I barely spare him a glance as I pay my bill idly tossing in a five thousand Naira tip which causes the awed waiter to fall over himself with profuse gratitude. As I step out of the 5 star restaurant where I have become a regular, I glance at my reflection in the glass door and unconsciously suck in my belle. There she is, the perfect big girl, no dulling. The valet hands me the keys to my red escalade and I drive off.

They say money doesn’t buy class, whoever said it was a broke ass, self-absorbed punk! Look at me now. My image goes beyond my European hair or my Hermes bag or Vera Wang Limited Edition dress (red to match my red escalade) I always love to colour code my outfits with my cars. Yes I have several. When you are large, you are large. Now back to class. It’s so easy to acquire class. Three months after I hammered big time, I bought my first Dstv decoder and after a week of watching African magic back to back (I couldn’t believe I could watch so many movies without renting them, back in the days it was 50 Naira per movie and woe betide you if the movie was sweet and had part 1, 2, 3 and 4), I realised that I wasn’t fulfilled. People still didn’t take me seriously. A stupid bouncer at a club didn’t let me enter VIP when Lynxxx was there and he was allowing other girls. I even tried tipping him and he laughed in my face and hissed and then spoke Yoruba to me, asking me to go and join my kind. It was my first time out alone and as I drove home in my Camry, I cried angry tears. Why had I been rejected? My clothes were more expensive than most of the girls there and I was a hot chick. What was wrong? I sat on my couch, the light from the television illuminating my mascara streaked face as I brooded and pondered about the disgrace I had received. I had just begun to entertain thoughts about the possibility of the bouncer living in my former area when I heard Dolapo Oni on 53 extra. I was broken out of my reverie and at that moment the pieces of the puzzle began to make sense. This was what I lacked! Her demeanor, mannerisms, conversation style and accent were very Americana. She was cultured and toosh. I was filled with envy as I watched her. I began to take notes. I was going to transform.

Three months post disgrace, I was a changed person. I spoke softly. I spoke with an accent. I kept watching “Jennifa” and “53 extra” reruns because to me they were my past vs my future. I watched Jennifa because as a sharp babe I knew there were some pronunciations that were synonymous with razz Yoruba babes and I knew I was guilty of them so everytime Jennifa said something familiar, I’d make a mental note to hear how Dolapo pronounced it. It was all I did for 3 months. I didn’t have to work per se. Alhaji’s political campaign kept him very preoccupied. Hadn’t seen him in a long while and I hoped to impress him the next time we met. On Friday the 15th day of June, I knew I was ready. I dressed slowly that night. My Malaysian weave looked great and as I adjusted my cleavage, I unconsciously dared the bouncer to misbehave. I had butterflies in my tummy. It was the anticipation, the excitement, the fear of rejection. I felt like a debutante. I decided not to take the Camry. It was pure water. Alhaji had parked his jaguar in my house when EFCC was snooping around and tonight it was my ride. I left the house with the overpowering scent of Marc Jacob’s Lola pervading the air around me. I felt powerful!

They say money stinks on you. The club security let me park inside. Lynxxx was there again and we happen to arrive at the same time. He parked just beside me and flashed me one of those his killer smiles. I wasn’t there for him tonight, I was there to prove a point. I deliberately sat in the regular part of the club and ordered a bottle of their most expensive champagne. I paid cash even before the waiter had taken my order to erase any doubts from his mind. I must have caused quite a stir or maybe it was the 250k bottle of champagne that did it, the next thing I knew the manager was coming to very sweetly and politely upgrade me himself not to VIP but to VVIP. As I walked past the bouncer, my heart began to pound. He had his back turned to me and as he turned I flashed him my most confident smile. Alas it wasn’t my guy… The new bouncer ushered me in very respecfully and I was crestfallen the rest of the night. I was determined not to leave. Maybe the dude would show up later. I was nursing my champagne alone in the corner feeling like victory had been denied me deliberately when a voice caused me to look up.

“Hi pretty, you’re a sight for sore eyes, did someone break your heart? Why so sad?”

It was Alhaji’s son. What a coincidence! And the brat didn’t recognize me. He had almost knocked me over with his car some years ago and when a policeman had intervened, he had arrogantly announced that he was Alhaji Mamzer’s son and the policeman had cowered in fear and apologized. The boy hadn’t even apologized to me or checked to see if I was ok. He had just hissed and warned that I had better look where I was going next time before driving off and splashing dirty water on the policeman and I. Well I was his father’s special aristo chick and could get more money from the old man after a good roll in the sack than his bloodline could ever fetch him.

“Nah…just bored. The DJ isn’t really on point tonight”

And he had used that as an opportunity to make himself comfortable beside me. After listening to him prattle on for an hour, I was more than ready to leave. He insisted on getting my phone number and I obliged. We exchanged phone numbers and I left before he could insist on walking me to my car. I couldn’t risk him recognizing the plate number on his father’s ride. I sang loudly all through the drive home. Mission accomplished, I could definitely kiss my old life goodbye.

A year later I was a confirmed Lagos big girl. Alhaji’s unlimited funds had made sure of that. As I was about to pull into my lavish Lekki phase 1 compound, a car caught my eye. I realised the car was the same one that had been driving behind me since I left the restaurant. As a smart babe, I drove past my compound ignoring my pounding heart. I didn’t know who they were but I wasn’t taking chances. I drove around town for 15 minutes and the men followed. It was ridiculous. I was weighing the odds and seriously contemplating driving into the nearby police station though there was no way of knowing what side of the law these men were on. I saw traffic up ahead, it was usual for Lekki cos of the new toll gate and fear clutched at my heart as scenes of driveby shootings flashed before my eyes. On a whim, I took the first turning off the road and alas the horrid black baby boy followed me. I looked at the dead end in front of me and screamed. How could I have failed to notice I was driving into a close. They were rare in Lekki as most streets were interconnected. I made sure my doors were locked and feared the worst. I watched the men alight from the car and walk towards my car. I said a silent prayer and saw one of the men fiddling with his phone. My phone began to ring and as I glanced at the unknown number I knew it was him.

“Hello”

“Modinatu Salami why you dey fear like this? Na me Samuseedin”

I dropped the phone as I heaved a big sigh of relief and unlocked the doors.

“Sammy you scared me jare, I-” my voice trailed off as I saw the gun pointed at me.

“Revenge is sweet, kneel down there!” He barked.

As I got on my knees, the other guy rushed at me and the last thing I saw before it all went black was a white handkerchief.

………………..To be continued…………………………….

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2013 in It's all for the money!, Series

 

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