“In 2013, almost a year after I graduated from Engineering school in the UK, I went home for NYSC. One of my childhood friends came to visit me. She didn’t tell me well ahead that she was coming, she just came into town, and was passing through the front of my family home. And then she remembered that I posted on Facebook that I was in Nigeria, so she just came in.
She saw me in my work wear. Not a fancy dressing. And she was a bit disappointed. I could see it in her face. She couldn’t keep it to herself, so she said something like “NK, you’ve not changed o. Even all the years in the UK did not “ajebuterize” you. How can you being doing this? A whole British trained Mechanical Engineer”. I didn’t know how to begin to lecture her, so I just told her “abeg forget that thing. Ajebutter fire”.
But let me tell you what was going through my mind…
My parents are teachers. My father retired in the teaching profession under the state Ministry of Education, and my mum is still in service in same profession.
Until 1999, teachers were about the poorest civil servants in the country. It was during in the period of the tenures of Obasanjo as president and James Ibori as Delta State Governor that there was a more than 7times salary raise for teachers. And it continued rising all through their 8-year tenure; 1999-2007.
With two parents who were in the teaching profession, it was this oil business that kept my family well above the poverty line. It was this oil business that made my parents to be able to afford to send my siblings and I to some of the best secondary schools within our region. It was proceeds from this oil business that my parents used in sponsoring my siblings and I through Universities in the UK at international student tuition rate. For me, it is still from this oil business that my parents used in sponsoring me even to masters level.
My mother told me that her father and grandfather were palm oil dealers. In my village, these two men were among the three richest men of their generations, and they (My maternal grandfather and great-grandfather) made their money partly or mainly through palm oil.
My mum started it as a teenager. She introduced my Dad into it after they got married.
My parents introduced us to it. When I saved my first one million Naira, I invested it into palm oil. I will invest my first N50million into palm oil.
When I have my children, I will introduce them to palm oil business.
Palm oil business has existed in my family for at least four generations.
Therefore, I don’t care whether it is done in the most “unposh” environment. This “dirty” PALM OIL business made it possible for me to enjoy all the privileges I had and still have. I can never outgrow palm oil business. There’s good money to be made in palm oil business.
Even at 50, if I still go home, I will still put on my work wear, jump into the factory, and do this oil business that has put food on my table.
If I come to Nigeria tomorrow and you come to my house to visit me, there’s a 50:50 chance that you will catch me in my shorts, boot and with my head covered, getting busy with palm oil work.
My aunty is a millionaire. She made her money by selling tomatoes in the local market. She drives a Jeep and lives in a duplex with her husband. She still sells tomatoes in the local market.
The day her daughter, one of my closest cousins hid in the market because one of our classmates who came shopping with her mum in the market was about to see her helping her mum to sell tomatoes, I busted her bubbles.
We had just finished WAEC and were both waiting for results and University Admissions. I used to go to the market to her mum’s shop to gist with her for hours, and I did that almost every day.
So, when she went to hide, I waited for our friend to get closer, then I shouted: “****** come out here, stop hiding, big fool”. We were very close. I told her never in her life should she be ashamed of what puts food on her table. My aunty, her mum thanked me for talking common sense into her. I went home feeling like the good girl and left her to feel like the bad girl.
Well, what am I saying?
There’s dignity in labour.
ANY LEGITIMATE job or work that earns you a living is NOT something you should be ashamed of. And never let anyone make you feel any less human because of a legitimate line of career or job.
The only people who should be ashamed are people who engage in criminal activities to earn a living. Those are the people who should be ashamed and hide their faces in shame. Definitely not anyone who earns legitimately/legally.
– Written by Nkechi Bianze