“A Week In The Life” is a weekly Zikoko series that explores the working-class struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week.
The subject for today’s “A Week In The Life” is *Tola. He collects money at the bus park, and he’s what Nigerians refer to as Agbero. He talks about wanting to quit his job, his faith in God and why he shows up every day.
I’m on the road as early as 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. on most days. I have to beat traffic and get to work early because the earlier I do, the faster I can begin to make money for the day. Most people don’t know that agbero work is just like being a marketer — we have daily deliverable targets per day. I don’t earn a salary, so I depend on whatever extra money I make per day. Depending on your location and performance, your daily target can be somewhere between ₦30,000 – ₦45,000, and a failure to meet this target means you pay out of pocket. On the bright side, if you surpass your target, you get to keep the extra amount. Therefore, every single minute counts in this job.
This pressure is why some people do anything to collect money from buses; they’ll threaten to break their windscreen, remove the fuel tank cover or wipers. The union [NURTW] believes that there’s no way you’ll go out and not meet your target, so they don’t listen to excuses. Everyone has a daily target, and that’s why you’ll see agberos collecting booking fee from one bus stop to the next. We give numbers and sell tickets to show who has paid and who hasn’t. The funniest part is that the tickets are provided and printed by the state government, so a portion of our daily target also goes to them. We hand over whatever money we make to the park chairman [each park has a chairman] who then hands it over to the union’s executives. At this point, the money is shared amongst them and the state government who provides the tickets.
It is what it is.
It rained today so there were not a lot of buses on the road. I made my daily target with barely enough money for food and transportation for tomorrow. I’m praying for God’s favour because I’m tired of this job.
Things weren’t always like this for me. I wasn’t always an agbero working for a union. I learnt printing press work, but there was no money to buy a machine neither was there anyone to help me. So I set up a baba Ijebu kiosk to raise money to buy machines. Things were going well until I fell in love with one lady like this. After we started dating, nothing was coming in again. Getting money to eat even became difficult for me.
Then she fell pregnant.
Things became three times more difficult for me after that. I kept on struggling until my son was born. One year plus after his birth, she left me. Her reason was that she re-assessed her fortunes and saw that there was no future with me. After all, when she met me, I had a lotto kiosk and I was making money. Now that things were no longer the same, she went to consult her stars and they told her to remarry.
Today, I’m thinking about the fact that it’s been almost six years now, and I still don’t have money. I left the printing press to Baba Ijebu to agbero work and still, nothing tangible till now. I’m still using agidi to get money to eat. If I get a better job today, I’m gone. It’s not like I signed a life contract with these people. Even if I did, this is not the kind of job that someone should do forever.
Under the sun and in the rain, we’re always hustling, we’re always collecting money. It’s only God that will pity us. There’s no protection, no place to rest, nothing. If you want to urinate, you’ll find somewhere by the side to do it. When you want to toilet, you’ll look for a public toilet and pay ₦50 to use it. If you’re sick, you’ll beg someone to stand in for you so you can make your deliverables and if you’re lucky, they will make some money to give you so you can hold body.
Coronavirus time was so bad because no movement meant no work. During that time, I’d just go and do twale on the street for someone that will dash me money. Other times, we’ll group ourselves like four or five and go to a construction site and do labour assistant. Sometimes, when we see people digging borehole, we go and meet them for at all at all money. I wasn’t happy doing that, but I had to eat. To worsen matters, people will just talk to you anyhow and you’ll be tired of life. You’ll be asking yourself: what kind of person is this? Why am I here? Why is this person talking to me like this?
I had an incident like that today. I was calling passengers for a bus driver and a passenger insulted me. After calling price for this woman, she refused to pay when I asked her for money. Instead, she started blasting and rubbishing me. I wanted to reply but people around said I shouldn’t talk. So I kept on looking.
It has been almost three hours since this happened but I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m looking forward to going home at 8 p.m. With the way my day is going, I’ll make enough money to meet my daily target and still have some change. My plan is to go home and drink a chilled bottle of malt because I can’t kill myself.
Today, I’m thinking about my son. He’s just six years old and unaware. He lives with grandma, but sometimes, he comes to stay with me. We’re doing one week on and off at work, so he comes during my week off. When he’s not around, I help someone manage their lotto kiosk, and they give me money to hold body.
My son doesn’t know what I do for now because union work is not something I’m proud of. I don’t even wear the uniform. I wear the cap once in a while. When he’s around, we watch cartoon and sports as father and son because these are the memories I want him to have of me. It’s tough raising a male child and being a good role model that the child can follow. It’s lonely because I have no woman and I’m not remarried — the only thing that gives me joy is my boy.
I’ve spoken to my friends that if they have a better job they should let me know. I have my SSCE degree, so I can do factory work or office assistant. Anything that will benefit me, I’ll do it. If God is kind to me, I know the type of education I want to give my son. Part of my prayer every night is that God should spare his life because I don’t know what I’ll do if I suddenly no longer can’t hear his infectious laughter. The one he makes especially when we’re watching sports and I’m gesticulating to him.
My prayer is simple: “God, another year is about to end and I’m getting older. When it’s my time, answer my prayers. It hasn’t been easy because I haven’t gotten a better job. I need something better because I just want to start living.”
Help Zikoko keep making the content you love
More than ever, people are turning to Zikoko for stories that matter and content they love. But still, we, like many media organisations, are feeling the financial heat of these times. If you find us valuable, please make a contribution to help keep Zikoko zikoko-ing.
Thank you for your support.
We are also cool with Crypto.