In uncertain Nigeria, many have learnt to pursue multiple interests, just in case one or two of them could click and produce value. What people enjoy in better organised environments is there near predictability of income depending on one’s preparedness to work. Salaries and wages are paid as expected and outcome s of investment decisions could be predicted.
Here, you have to be an expert in chaos mathematics to compute, with any level of accuracy, what to expect from incomes and bills; every month and year. This confusion has driven many to pursue many distractions which are more of a spread of risks than any real desire to succeed at other streams and many have rolled on for so long without much moss and I would share some real life cases I have come across; though I may not call the real names of the persons involved.
I would start with my parents. Father came home one day with documents from a twin duplex he wanted to buy. Some customers at the bank where he worked had come with the allocation papers from the government and he thought it would be a good opportunity to grow into real estate investments.
My late father, Samuel Okengwu was a banker who immensely enjoyed his job which earned him goodwill from many of the bank customers at Barclays Bank, now Union Bank. He never got tired of telling us stories about how he met one of the principals of the colonial bank in the early sixties, during his first year at Barclays, a member of the Barclays family at a company dinner. He was just a clerk then.
He was enthralled that the big boss interacted briefly with him. A piece of advice the man gave him was to never stop investing; he must ensure that he bought shares from every promising business that came up; as a banker, the offers usually came to their counters. So, Papa had shares in practically (if not all) the blue chip companies in those days , as much as he could afford from his rung. Those were the days when capital market investments were powered by a performing economy.
My mum new how much the need to invest in shares sometimes deprived them of some basics they should have been able to afford and so was not impressed by the real estate pursuit. I was still in form one (secondary school) or thereabout but I can still, clearly, remember her response. She said, “We are both working, we are investing in shares and training our children, we don’t have to be everything for the future.
We can afford to live averagely comfortable and we will get our gratuities and pensions when we retire. Why not let the businessmen build the houses. We only need the home we’d retire into and we could take a loan from your bank to build our country home and pay over a period that will not stress us.”
My mum was a teacher at the time and I knew some of her colleagues who engaged in other businesses to augment their income; at least some did so because they badly needed the extra cash. A professional who started out her career in the sixties as a missionary teacher, she spoke a lot about contentment and the need to do one thing at a time and to do it properly. The only time she did something close to showing an interest in business was when they both worked at Umuahia, our hometown where she had a farmland she took the household to on Saturdays.
At harvest time, we had enough maize with which to produce pap, we made garri from the cassava, we got yams and of course vegetables which we harvested weekly. Her late father, Aguziendu Ehumadu had left a farm estate before he died and her family got their palm oil from there. Sometimes she sold some of the farm proceeds and also gave to the poor from there. These people were not rich in cash but could eat, laugh and share with their neighbours.
My mum felt that anyone with this much (which may not be much for those who crave much more), should be content and spend enough time in the home taking care of the family because she felt that since her husband was hardly at home, she had to be solidly there for us. Besides, as a teacher, she also had lesson notes to write, pupils’ homework and exam scripts to set and score, and report sheets to write.
I have gone into this much detail to show that teachers have a lot of work to do even after school hours. A teacher or other professionals who have to mind additional businesses may not give their best to the profession, and the family may suffer too.
Her determination to focus on one thing made it possible for us to enjoy quality family time each time schools were on holiday. She could spend that time to look into our school work better, especially after we got into boarding schools and to bond with us, take us to the village to visit our grandparents… To be continued