At the beginning of 2019, the BellaNaija Features team resolved to pay closer attention to the younger demographic of its readers. With stories and feature series that focus on young Nigerians between the ages of 25 – 35, we hope to provide a platform for young people to tell the stories that affect them – within a society that handed certain norms to them. Paying Black Tax is one of those norms. Young people across the country, and even beyond the borders of Nigeria have to send money back home. The reasons for this concept varies, but the recipients are constant – parents, siblings, cousins and sometimes, even friends.
We started a conversation about this in this essay here, and it was a subject that resonated with a lot of our readers. We invited you to share your Paying Black Tax stories with us, and you ever so kindly indulged is. For this, we are eternally grateful.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we will share a series of stories with you. People with different economic backgrounds and status describe their situations. We hope that you are inspired by the stories, and maybe realize that you’re not alone. In addition, we hope that this series helps you find a way out of any sticky financial situations you may be in.
Today, you get to read D’s story. D is the first son and feels a responsibility to support his family, even though he is not under any obligation to do so. For him, it is a joy, knowing that he can provide for his family. We love the positivism in his story and we hope you do too.
How were things growing up?
It varied at different points in time. Like it tilted from one side to the other. My dad was a bit secretive, so I don’t know the full extent of his wealth. (LMAO: “wealth.”) We never really lacked. We ate well, got clothes for Christmas and new year.
Then in 2008, I think, he was dismissed from work [he was a clearing agent]. He became broke, had his first stroke attack, survived and kept hustling. He kinda bounced back, lost it again, had another stroke attack in 2012, and things spiraled down since 2011 or so. It got really bad. It became increasingly harder to feed. My mom and her shop were basically our source of income. Dad was in Akure with his sister, unable to move, by the way.
There was this one time that my dad was—I think he was still home then, he was still looking for a job then. That was in 2011 or so, or maybe early 2012. You know this dried pepper they grind, ata gbigbe. We ate that with spaghetti for like three straight days. We’d grind the dried pepper, fry it with palm oil. That with spaghetti, no egg, nothing else. So after my dad was moved to Akure to get better from the stroke, it got quite hard. Feeding was … something.
My sister had to go learn some job, although my mum didn’t want her working. My mum is kinda overprotective, so she tried and did her best. There was this time, I think it was December 2013, that she even bought us Christmas clothes. I got admission and she hustled and paid my fees. But, trust me, I suffered those first two years, during my ND.
And now? How’s the pocket – for the family and for yourself?
I don’t live with them at home anymore, but I know the bad calls don’t come. There are no calls of, “We’ve not eaten,” or, “We want to buy something and there’s no money.” The shop is going fine and supporting them. My sister is done with uni, and is back home and everything is going well, although I still sent her some money for food a few days back. She said they’ve been out of food for a while, and me myself I’m broke. I just got some change and sent some bit home, that they should buy things. It’s not the best, but, at least, it’s okay. I know they won’t want to call me all the time, so I don’t know how bad things are. But, at least, we no go beg outside. We no go beg outside.
Personally, I’m very unstable. Let’s just say that. I still can’t afford the s**t that I like, but my plans and way of thinking aren’t the same anymore. Money comes and goes. I don’t have savings right now, but soon, hopefully. Plus, my guy and I stay together, so things are slightly tolerable.
The way I see it is: big money hasn’t come. I’ve gotten some good money, sure. And maybe some of the money I paid on black tax, I could have put on something else. Maybe if I were living alone I could have put some of that money into buying some things. But I feel the money that can change someone’s life has not arrived yet. So what I see now is me just sharing it with as many people as I can share it with, people I can help in any way. It’s not only my family, but my friends too. I don’t think there’s any money that’s ever come into my account that I spent alone, besides black tax sef. Once in a while I’ll give to friends. So yeah, sometimes, when money comes I have to think, “A certain percentage is going to so so people somewhere.” It takes its toll. But I don’t think I’m at that stage where I can say I’ve not blown because of my family. The money I’m seeing is just for upkeep. There’s no big money yet.
How many people do you support? Do they know how much you earn?
It’s not like I support support anybody. But when they need something, they ask, and I do what I can when I can. But if you’re asking about how many people are in my family, the answer is four – mom and three siblings. Besides me giving them what I have when I have, there are some requests from time to time.
And no, I’m not open to them about how much I earn. None of them have ever asked, to be honest, and I don’t see why I should say. But, lowkey, I would not want them to know. I don’t think I ever want to be in a situation where one of them says: but you earn so so so amount, you should be able to do so so so thing. Because we’re all human. Feelings can seep out and you say things you’re not supposed to say. So I don’t want to put myself in that position where someone is looking at my income and thinking: yo, you should be able to do these things. I have my own plans, I have my own priorities, too. So I think I’d like to keep that secret from anyone.
There was this one time I had to lie to my mum. She saw my laptop and asked how much I got it, and I had to tell her 90k. Though it was like UK used, I bought it for over 100k. 115, I think. Knowing my mum, I knew she thought it was too expensive. I believe that if I told her how much it really cost, she’d think, Oh, this boy has money that he can buy unnecessarily expensive things. Stuff I can’t give them. She never said that, and I don’t think she ever can, but that’s what I was thinking at that moment.
What I send depends on what comes in and all the plans I have for it. But they always get something. And I send whenever cash comes in, which it has been doing every month since the beginning of the year. Special cases are when they need something at home. They don’t ask very often, and when they do it could range from data subscription to 10 or 15k, I think.
In what ways has black tax stretched you?
Before I answer I want you to know that none of them asked me to do anything for money. [My mom still spoke to me about stopping recently, that she would never demand anything from me because we won’t starve.]
Okay. Sometimes, I might need money for something, and you know it’s normal when you finish spending money that you think back to the last time you had the money and how you spent it. And, sometimes, let’s say I need 20k for something, I think, “Assuming I didn’t send 20k that time, I might still have had it for this.” Truth is, I might have spent it on something else, but that’s how my mind works.
Also, the mental stress of saying yes. Omo, if I’ve not given them money in a while, I think, “Ah I’ve not given these people money.” I bring that one upon myself, but it is what it is. So dat one sef dey. I’m always thinking about it. Or sometimes, let’s say I don’t have enough, I think: how will I send this thing to these people knowing it’s not enough. So that mental stress has always been there. But, knowing that, I’ve not gone through desperate measures because of that. But it’s still always present there. It adds to complications in this my small life. It doesn’t help. And I have things I’m dealing with on my own, so the thought of that on its own, it doesn’t help. It adds unnecessary pressure on a person. So those are really the ways, to be honest. So not really financially, just the fact that I always want to give them. Make I just get make I just give them. The stress of that one is what is killing me small small. But na lie. We move still.
When did you decide to start helping out?
I decided to start helping in December 2017, but I couldn’t actually help until mid-2018. For like a month and a half. Then regularly since late-2018. I do it because I’ve always loved my family and always wanted to protect/provide for them. It’s how I’ve always felt. I’ve always been one to worry unnecessary.
So no particular thing pushed you?
Oh, I had been feeling that way with the constant lack of money. I was hella broke and in a dark, dark place, avoiding home because I knew they were hella broke. My sister in school was hella broke. It was a particular call one evening that finally convinced me that it was time.
Do you want to share what was said?
I can’t remember the actual words spoken, or the exact details, but it involved they not having any money and barely taking care of themselves and another unnecessary bill came up. In that period, we didn’t even have a house. Our stuff was locked up somewhere in storage. They only just got a place early this year, and you have no idea how fulfilled I felt being a part of that.
Has paying black tax force you into independence?
I’ve always wanted to be independent, but I think it hastened the whole process. I had been taking care of them in a way since 2012, when I was running mom’s shop while she and dad were away, for 3 months. Actually … yes, it did! I love my family a lot, a whole f***king lot, and I got tired of being helpless whenever a small need arose.
Do you think it has set you back from your parents’ achievements at your age?
I don’t know anything about my parents at this age, but black tax has taken some money from me which could have been put into other things, definitely. But it hasn’t gotten as far as “I could have set up a thriving business if I wasn’t paying black tax.” I’m not keeping tabs on the amount I have paid, but I feel it hasn’t gotten that far yet. Maybe I think this way because I only send what I have, when I have.
Your mates’ achievements nko?
Ah. Why did you bring me here? Well, I’m still learning not to be hard on myself, so I appreciate all the little things I can do for friends and family. The one person I’m always around tries to remind me of my little wins. I know sey I go reach where me sef dey go.
Has there been a time they call for some money, and you didn’t send any?
Not yet. Whenever they ask, it’s not as if I’m always boxed up, but it’s the joy of giving that gingers me. So maybe it’s 15k, or as high as 30k, or sometimes 10k. It’s something I want to do. It’s what I’ve chosen to do. And they don’t ask often, even. I’m not as rich as I’d like. It’s not like I have the kind of money I want yet. So whenever I have to, I just sacrifice.
There was this time that the house they got, water was leaking somewhere or something. It’s not like I was boxed up then, but they needed to buy cement for some places, and it was very necessary at that time, so I had no choice but to send them most of what I had then.
I trust Mumsy, so I don’t even ask anything about the money. I just send home. And it’s my idea of duty as a first child. See, I have this protector-complex [messiah-complex sounds too narcissistic], and coming from a background where there’s barely any money, it’s only natural that I think money is the most important thing and all I can offer. And maybe hopefully it would help take away the feeling of my absence. It’s like a constant reminder as well. That’s the protector-complex part. I think I’ll readily sacrifice myself for them if something like that ever came up. That’s what I think, how I feel.
How have you been able to cope with being an adult, making a life for yourself, following your dreams and paying black tax?
I’m probably doing a terrible job. I’m laughing at “following your dreams.” I’m just finally accepting that I have anxiety and it’s getting bad, so how do you think that’s working out? One of my biggest fears is not making a good life for myself so I guess I have no choice but to move. I don’t see paying black tax as something I have to cope with. I loveet! Besides, them no dey pressure me for house.
What’s the best thing about supporting your fam?
The respect that it brings is just another level. I think that’s the best thing. Their joy is another thing that does it for me. I mean, they’re also appreciative of every little thing.
If I’m going to advice anyone paying black tax, I’ll say: If they get too used to getting everything they ask for, then it might most likely end badly: increased stress level, you not wanting to turn them down and all. For instance, I sent money last week, but this week I was about to send small change again then I thought it through. If I send this, I’ll be very broke very soon, and I have a few things to run right now. I would have felt bad before, but recently we had a guest that paid black tax at a level higher than mine. He has an higher income than mine too. He told me the importance of not giving all of you. Let’s say I’m still getting to accepting his points.
If you enjoyed reading D’s story and you’d like to share your story on Paying Black Tax, please reach out to us by sending an email to [email protected].