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Ru is Paying Black Tax Even Though It is Draining & Difficult

Basically, my current financial/economic status is ‘a sack letter away from absolute poverty,’ because without this steady salary, I don’t know how I would be able to cope.

BellaNaija.com

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If you’re only just joining our Paying Black Tax series, we welcome you with open arms. {Read previous entries HERE} You see, 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. 

Today, we’re sharing Ru‘s story. Ru is one pay cheque from poverty, but he always finds something to send home from his salary. He isn’t idealistic about having to pay black tax; he finds it difficult and draining. Ru’s honesty and forthright attitude during this conversation is one of the reasons why we started this series and we hope that you guys find comfort in knowing that it’s not all peaches & cream for people paying black tax.

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Tell us about how things were while growing up

I grew up middle class—when Nigeria actually had one—so things were really good. We were really okay. We lived in a very serene environment; you know how expensive GRAs can be. Dad was an accountant, and money wasn’t really that much of a problem (money is always a problem, to be honest). We weren’t flying to London for holidays and all, but we were very comfortable, and Dad got most of the things we needed.

And now?

I am a creative—Graphic Designer—so I make money trying to make things that are not just pretty, but also useful to the people who need them. Basically, my current financial/economic status is ‘a sack letter away from absolute poverty,’ because without this steady salary, I don’t know how I would be able to cope. Maybe side gigs, but money from side projects can be as erratic as the availability of the project itself.

So when and why did you decide to support them at home?

Decided? LOL!

I did not get to decide, it just happened. There are three of them—my dad, my mom, and my sister. I knew we weren’t that buoyant anymore, thanks to a combination of Savannah Bank going under, and Dad losing his job and having to start a new business all over. But we were still comfortable, and like I said, Dad could still get us things. I think I was in my final year when I began to see real signs as to how bad things were. So when I started working fully, it was only right to send something home.

And do you send a fixed figure, or it’s anywhere belle face?

It used to be anywhere belle face, but I was paying off two loans one time and also trying to keep up with sending funds home, so I was so miserable. I told myself, never again. Now I send a fixed amount every month, even though I sometimes have to squeeze in something before the next monthly round.

*Sigh*

I think my sister knows how much I make sha, although I have not spoken to my parents about it. My sister only knows because she is the one I am closest to. I don’t mind telling them, but I also don’t think it’s their business or if I want to. And as my finances increase, I have to top up their money too—it’s in the black tax constitution.

I sometimes wonder what will happen if I decide not to send anything home, like nothing, just use my money myself. Maybe I will try it for my next rent and see what happens.

What’s it like for you, sending home every month?

I don’t think it’s why I quickly became independent. No, I don’t think so. I am a big believer in being independent, so it was a natural path for me. I knew I had to start making money. I am my father’s only son, duh. But I think it, combined with other factors, have set me back from achieving big s*** that maybe had done at this my big age. Because times are harder now. 100k isn’t worth so much now, compared to when my dad was a young man, for example.  Plus, cost of living: rent, foodstuff, cost of transportation, etc., have all drastically increased. Also, the recession did make things worse. What are we even saying? These people were alive during the oil boom—need I say more?

But, it’s difficult, I won’t lie.

I think it has stretched me in every way possible. I can’t take certain decisions without thinking of my people (like quitting my job, for example). I have to give up a portion of my salary, saving money is harder than before, I sometimes even get anxious whenever I see a call from home. There was a period I had to stop taking calls because of anxiety. Imagine paying back a loan and also sending money home—crazy. Sometimes I have to calculate and plan even the tiniest things. Life provides answers to this question on a daily basis, so let’s just say I am still being stretched and affected.

What’s one time you had to send money home but were in a difficult situation yourself?

This has happened a couple of times, but there was this one time I was going back home from the office, Island to Mainland commute, at about 9 PM or thereabouts. I was wondering how I would get through the remainder of the month because I had just 10k with me—savings, investment, everything, just 10k. Then I got a call from Pops that he was broke and needed cash urgently, and I promised to send something that night. That was the first time he had personally called to ask for money. It broke me. My eyes were swollen, and I didn’t even realise that I had been crying. One minute you are thinking about your life and the next minute, you are doing all you can to come through for someone else.

I guess you could say it’s love, but it’s also like a job/work: that you love your work doesn’t mean it won’t get annoying and draining sometimes, because at the end of the day, it’s still work. So no matter how much I say I send money home out of love, it still gets annoying/tiring/depressing, and sometimes I would rather use the money to pamper myself, but I can’t so I don’t know. I don’t think anyone would want their folks to suffer or be stranded. So it’s love—like the time I sent my mum something for her birthday (I still had to send something when the month ended)—with a dash of obligation because I have to, or because they will still call me to help out anyway. And I don’t really demand a responsibility. It’s too stressful, I don’t have that kinda relationship with my folks where I can tell them what to do with money. I just send it and like my Warri people say ‘lockup.’ I don’t even want to find out what will happen if I don’t send. Dad sometimes needs to get meds, Mum needs upkeep, etc.

See, I don’t think being a major provider with my kind of income is something to be celebrated. I understand people do this thing with less, but that doesn’t make it any better, if we are being honest. Sure, I am grateful that I am able to come through for my folks, but I hate the fact that I have to be in this position at a time when I should be 100% trying to build my own life. There are certain decisions I can’t take because I have to consider them. Like what if I don’t want to work anymore? What if I am tired and I need a break from work and everything?

How have you been able to cope with being an adult, making a life for yourself, following your dreams, and paying black tax

I don’t know if I am coping. I don’t know. I am just trying, but it is hard, I won’t even lie. Maybe if we weren’t so underpaid in Nigeria, or if we had a working credit system with mortgage, loans with favourable interest rates, banks that actually do more than send you debit alerts for card maintenance (that’s if they let you do basic transactions without one error or another), or a government that actually knows what it’s doing—the list is endless—maybe then things would be easier for young people.

As for my dreams, they are the only things keeping me alive. I have this strong conviction that I will get to where I need to be, no matter how long it takes, so that’s comforting sometimes.

There are days when everything looks really bleak, and I almost always end up mildly depressed (I was diagnosed, no jokes), because it looks like there isn’t a way out. Which is sad. Because it appears I am not doing so bad by Nigerian standards (which is also a problem, because Nigerian standards are good for nothing).

Most times, when I think about it, I feel like I have failed my folks. I don’t know why or maybe because I feel like I shouldn’t be where I am right now, I should be way more, earning way more, etc. It’s a constant battle in my head, honestly.

I wonder what’s the point of all these struggles? What’s the point of life? Why do I even need to bring children into this world? Who is going to take care of them? Me? Have I finished taking of myself? I am trying to support three people that aren’t even my children, but somehow it is expected of me to start a family and raise children?

I am just winging this thing, hoping life is kind to me with every new day I get to see. It’s not a sweet position to be in as a young person, but it isn’t all that bad either. If you happen to be in this position, just keep your head up; you are not alone. There is a James Baldwin quotes that reads, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.”

Finally, this is me being annoying, but if you are lucky (or unlucky) enough to get married, please think very well before you decide to have kids. Remember that God doesn’t come down to take care of children. Don’t let any pastor or alfa tell you otherwise, and don’t be carried away by videos of cute babies on Instagram.

I hope life is kind to you.

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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.

If you enjoyed reading Ru’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].

1 Comment

  1. Oma

    November 11, 2019 at 2:29 pm

    Hmm..this really resonates with me. I pay black tax and it has not been funny. I am just a year into my job and this has been thrown at me when I am still trying to find my feet. All the same, I pay black tax out of love. Yesterday, I decided to set up a business for my younger sister to at least free myself from that end. My parents are not that demanding cos my dad runs his business. So, my black tax is paid towards my siblings. I can’t wait for things to sort out and go as we have been planning.

    1

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