My Father Was Rich But We Weren’t — Man Like Babajide Duroshola

October 10, 2021

What does it mean to be a man? Surely, it’s not one thing. It’s a series of little moments that add up. Man Like is a weekly Zikoko series documenting these moments to see how it adds up. It’s a series for men by men, talking about men’s issues. We try to understand what it means to “be a man” from the perspective of the subject of the week.


Today’s Man Like is Babajide Duroshola, the general manager of M-Kopa. He talks about growing up without support from his rich father, surviving university by being a club promoter and his approach to handling black tax.

What was growing up like?

I was born with a silver spoon but at some point, the spoon turned into pako. My family was wealthy until my rich father decided he was more interested in his other families  — he had other wives and kids. We were the first family and typically, the first family suffered. My dad was rich: he had a hospital and was a government appointee. But we didn’t get anything from him. My mother took care of my siblings and me until we finished university.

What do you mean didn’t get anything?

We didn’t see him for eight years. When I was 17, he returned and put me in charge of running his hospital. That was my first stint with management. And then I went to uni to study computer engineering.

I assume he became responsible for you in uni?

Nope. My three siblings and I happened to enter Bells University, a private university, at the same time, so my mum had to cope with paying all our fees. What I got monthly was ₦3000. Most people received monthly allowances of ₦50,000 – ₦100,000.

What? Like ₦3k?

Yup. That meant eating one meal a day for no more than ₦150 per meal.

How did you make it work?

I’ve always had a knack for spotting business opportunities and making money. After some time, I picked up a job as a club promoter. I grew up in the Opebi/Allen areas of Lagos and there were many clubs that I used to go to. This prepared me to become the go-to guy for anything related to parties and clubbing in the University. I started by connecting people with great clubs where they could throw their parties. Someone who had just opened a club on Allen partnered with me to bring people to his club in return for a steady percentage of the earnings. From there, clubs started paying me to influence people to come to their clubs. I was making good money. By the time I was graduating from uni in 2010, I had ₦700k in my account.

Wow. That was good money.

It was great money. I was able to pay for my sister’s schooling needs and give my mum some money for her business.

What happened after?

I thought I had arrived so I moved in with my friend, thinking the money flow would never end. He was a rich kid and we lived like kings for a while. Turns out that club promotion gigs would dry up after I finished school. Because I was no longer a student, club owners weren’t keen on paying for my services. Meanwhile, we were still partying and bringing babes over and pretty much having the times of our lives. Before long, I ran out of money. 

Like the prodigal son, I went back home after finishing the money and decided to start looking for a job. I went to NYSC and during this time, my father had come out of the blues to take an interest in me. He used to give me a lot of money during this period like he was trying to buy my affection, so I was eating good. After camp, I got into management consulting and started my professional career.

From studying engineering to becoming a consultant though…

I know. I was pretty much following the money. After my stint in consulting, I took up a job at a bank that paid three times what I was earning as a consultant. Those 30 months I spent at the bank were the worst years of my life.

Why?

It was depressing because the work environment was constantly hostile. It wasn’t a place where my creativity could thrive. I used to get depressed every Sunday afternoon for those 30 months, just dreading what the next Monday would bring. I felt like I was wasting away. That hasn’t happened since I left the bank six years ago.

Ah, phew. What was your next professional move?

I joined Andela in 2016, which was a total career shift. I became a community manager where I managed talent. It felt exciting to work there because Andela was a new company with a mission, intent on changing the world and the way tech was being perceived in Africa. It was one of the best years of my life and everything has been uphill since then.

After, I joined SafeBoda, a mobility company, who was trying to expand its operations into West Africa. We launched and successfully grew the business in Ibadan before I moved to M-Kopa which is where I am now.

What a journey. I imagine your finances changed a lot over the years. How has your relationship with money been?

Although I took a pay cut to join Andela, by the end of the year, I was earning the same as my bank job. Today, I’m a general manager, so yeah, money has changed a lot for me since then. I didn’t grow up with much so I know that money can disappear as fast as I make it, so I try not to be too attached to it. 

I had uncles who were wealthy but went broke in a short period because of poor money management. This has taught me that money doesn’t define a person, regardless of how much of it you have. Today it could be yours, tomorrow it might not be. What you do with your money matters. Are you using it to oppress or better people’s lives?

Speaking about making lives better, how do you deal with black tax?

With black tax, it’s important to have boundaries. If you’re in a plane in an emergency, you have to first ensure that you’re fine before helping others out, even your own child. The same applies to personal finance. You need to be able to stand on your feet before you help others up. If you don’t, they’ll pull you down and you won’t be able to help anybody. Meanwhile, the people who rely on you would survive regardless. There were times where I put my foot down and refused to do certain things.

It is important to build your wealth first before trying to help others. This could be investing your money or investing in yourself, such as getting access to better opportunities. People with so much potential get weighed down with so much family baggage that they aren’t able to achieve things. People with less baggage are able to compete better, improve themselves and earn more to the point where they can help others.

Right now, my family is doing great. My youngest sibling just graduated so I can say everyone is fairly independent now. It’s beautiful to see.

Let’s change tack a little. How did you start your family?

I met my wife in UBA Marina, at my first job during NYSC in 2011. We didn’t date until three years after we met and we married three years after that.

What’s the most important lesson marriage has taught you?

The first thing about marriage is that it’s a thing of service. Both parties are to serve each other. Learning to be that way defines your mindset, a massive shift in how you think. My decisions began to have more weight. I started having to think properly before changing jobs, for example. I once received a job offer that paid over 66% of what my job at the time paid. After discussing it with my wife, she didn’t think it was the right opportunity for me, even though it seemed crazy to turn it down. Turns out she was right. I would have remained stagnant in that role.

I also learned to be more empathetic to others. I learned that everyone has baggage and people often react negatively to issues due to underlying issues in their pasts that haven’t been dealt with.

That’s certainly interesting. Before we go, what’s a relaxing weekend like for you?

When I’m not chilling with a glass of whisky and listening to South African music, I’m hanging out with my guys. Problem no dey finish.

Check back every Sunday by 12 pm for new stories in the Man Like series. If you’d like to be featured or you know anyone that would be perfect for this, kindly send an email.

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