The Universe conspired to buy my first car

When you set goals, make sure it is a stretch and not something you can reach within your place of comfort.

I had worked at my first job since leaving the university for about 11 months when it dawned on me that the frivolities of after-work, the night crawling and the allure and bliss of freedom (from my folks and school) had distracted me far from many of my yearly resolutions – one of which was to buy my first car!

The year was 2006 and I was a young post-graduate who was yet to come to terms with the realities and vagaries of life. Life was certainly not wrapped in silk and feathers and my job as an assistant project engineer at a local consulting firm in Abeokuta was fraught with jejune routine.

Sometimes there was a lot to learn and at other times, I was bored to sobs. It took roughly twelve minutes to walk briskly from my uncle’s flat in Onikolobo – a predominantly student suburb, to Ibara housing estate, smack in the centre of the city, where sprawling mansions adorned the narrow streets only dotted by majestic trees and streetlights. Tucked within the estate was half of the opulence that reminded anyone who cared to notice, that Abeokuta thrived on “old money”.

I lived alone in a flat that my uncle graciously permitted me to stay in. Aside the room I stayed, it had two other rooms, a modest living area and a kitchen. I barely occupied a third of the floor space during my 2-year stay. I almost had no need for the kitchen since cooking was not (and still is not) an activity I enjoyed. In my world, the kitchen was for dumping empty take-away packs, after I was done devouring its luscious content and for cleaning cutleries in a hurry.

My lifestyle was therefore simple. I had a desktop computer where I sometimes pretended to bring work home just to keep busy but mostly played music from two mid-sized table speakers that blared like a parrot with a cracked voice. It was just enough to keep me sane in an empty apartment.

Compared to Lagos, food was relatively cheaper in Abeokuta. You would only have to quickly learn to haggle in the open market with “respect”, lest the ego-centric traders leave you bewildered when they ignore you right in the middle of a bargain.

After a few mishaps left me with my own ego bruised, I left the arduous task for my female acquaintances to handle. In return I learned to live with a sumptuous pot of soup every other month. All I was required to do was to keep it as fresh as possible by boiling it every evening. Even that, was a tough task.

Between work and house, I had a “retinue” of friends who lavished cash on drinks, food and fun! That completed my famed 26year old world.

One morning something about that routine changed!

I was on my way to work, taking the usual brisk morning walk when one of my university friends drove past in a sleek Honda Accord. He stopped when I waved at him, but he was unsure if I was the same dude that he studied together in the dingy lecture theaters of OAU in the dead of the night.

We chatted briefly and exchanged pleasantries. He had just paid for the car, and he was in town to celebrate with his friends. In local parlance – “to wash it”.

Pleasant coincidence I thought.

It was sure good to see him again and I liked that he got himself a “ride” with alloy rims gleaming in the morning sun- somewhat befitting for his status as a young graduate.

There were loads of respect in our conversation that morning and it was devoid of pride or ego. He simply looked cool, and for a moment I wondered if I needed a car myself.

That morning at the office, I was informed of my transfer back to the Lagos head office to work on a recently commissioned project and suddenly the need for a car of my own was no longer a luxury or a wishful thought.

The travel distance everyday to the Oshodi office in Lagos from my folk’s modest bungalow in satellite town was approximately an hour! There was no brisk walking about it! It was a trip of three commercial busses (Danfo) and a brisk walk! 

I started running into a lot more of my university buddies who drove one exotic looking car or the other while I waited patiently for the next danfo to my next bus stop.

If I got lucky, I would get offered a lift by one of them. But there was no luck whenever I got caught up in an unforgiving morning drizzle while waiting at the bus stop on other days.

 I knew I had to get a car! The need was well and truly justified, but how could I afford one with the mere thirty-five thousand naira I earned at the turn of the month.

You see, in 2006, an imported used vehicle from the United States could set you back close to four hundred thousand naira if you bought it from the Cotonou port just after the border into Benin Republic.

When I thought about it, Even if I saved all the thirty-five thousand naira I earned monthly without spending a kobo, it would take a whole year to save enough to buy a four-door sedan that I desperately longed to own.

I had settled for a Nissan Primera after I carefully weighed my options. I thought it had the “sleek” design and a chic dashboard. Now, a decade and some years later, the “sleek” design was just plain old sentimental bosh.

During my ride to and from work every day, all the cars on the road were Nissan Primera in different colors and condition. All my eyes could discern on my trip back and from home was that car model. It suddenly looked like it was in use everywhere in Lagos.

From one perspective, its preponderance on the road was an attestment to its reliability and popularity. From another perspective, it was just a common vehicle that could be quite cheap and commercially pliable for use as a taxi.

I stuck with the first thought, I wanted a ride that was reliable and sound! Shikena!

Starting the next month (January 2007), I committed to saving all my thirty-five-thousand-naira monthly salary for the next six months. I had set a target of June 2007 to purchase the car. I had no clue how I was going to pull it off.

I set the target of six months to buy one!

In my modest estimation, by June, I would have saved two-hundred-and-ten-thousand-naira. But it was nowhere near the cost of the car I desired, and I still hadn’t figured out how to live without my salary during the period.

Lets pause a bit here to take stock;

Lessons learnt

  • When you set goals, make sure it is a stretch and not something you can reach within your place of comfort.
  • You do not have to wait until you have all the cash to embark on any acquisition.
  • When you create personal constraints (such as time frames, cash limit etc) in your plans, you will become more creative in finding unique solutions to any deterrent.

I desperately needed to raise funds and I started to think about how to get some money to sustain myself while I saved all the money I earned monthly.

I looked inwards!

I realized that the skill set I could sell was the same one I was putting to use at work everyday– my Autocad drafting skill!

As a young engineer, Autocad was (and still is) an invaluable drafting tool. A good many of my colleagues had acquired the drafting skills in school and it put them at a vantage position in their job search later on.

I learnt mine on the job and got a lot of support from the expatriates I worked with at the time. Since I used the software everyday I got really good at it after many months.

I was therefore confident that I could replicate the learnings with just about any young student.

I quickly designed a one-paged flier and made several dozen print-out on A4 paper using the office printer, mostly after office hours. On my way home, I made unsolicited visits to cyber cafes (internet lived in those enclaves) where I left copies of the flier with the café manager or attendant.

Each flier had my telephone number and name emblazoned on it with promises that I could teach anyone who cared to learn Autocad in only 1 Month for a token. I embellished my success story on the flier and promised that the discounted fee of ten thousand naira “only” was a great one especially because I would also install the software for free.

At first there was no response. No calls, text or enquiries in the first few weeks. Then I printed some more copies and reached out to other cyber cafes desperately. At other times, I simply redesigned the flier to make it more attractive. I even got bolder and made the prints in brilliant colors using the office printer still.

Soon enough I got a few enquiries and a decent number of sign-ups.

Boom! I was in business.

After work hours and during my weekends, I was either shuttling between visits to teach my new “clients” in their homes or at my place using my humongous desktop computer.

Soon enough, I was earning enough to nearly match my meagre salary, but with a lot of hard work.

Still, it didn’t do much to add to my savings sadly. But it kept me afloat on a strict and painful budget.

After six months and other menial jobs I managed to etch out, I saved a little over two hundred and fifty thousand naira.

There was still a deficit and knowing that my dream of buying a car was going to ruins, I approached my mum for a soft loan.

Of course, she didn’t have any spare cash to dole out.

“Where am I supposed to get that sort of money” were the words she uttered in alarm after I was done elucidating my re-payment plan.

But she hurriedly sourced for one-hundred thousand naira from her corporative at the office and handed over the cash to me at the end of June.

This I am grateful for!

I now had three-hundred and fifty thousand naira and a little extra enough to start the car hunt. With this, I made the trip to the port in Cotonou (My first international trip by the way..lol) in search of Nissan Primera.

After three grueling hours of waddling through the rain-flooded car parks at the port, I soon discovered that the Nissan Primera was in high demand and was now more expensive then we had anticipated. The laws of demand and supply had taken its toll.

I didn’t need anyone to convince me that the car of choice was now well and truly beyond my means. I would need another hundred thousand naira to keep my dream alive.

Inflation and economics had played a huge joke on me.

I wasn’t having it, because right there and then, I opted for another car model that could fit into my budget- a Mitsubishi Gallant. It was not much of a popular model at the time, but it had just the same appeal, trappings and regal presence as the Nissan Primera that was now well and truly out of my reach.

Although it cost a little more than the amount I had for the car, it was much less than the cost for the Nissan.

I had to borrow money again! This time, I made a call to my colleague at work who spared me a fifty thousand to bridge the differential. Without interest- need I say.

The Mitsubishi Gallant arrived in Lagos a week later. Properly cleared and documented. No hanky-panky.

I remember vividly the night it arrived. I was informed to pick the car at the agent’s house somewhere in Idimu. The call came quite late in the evening, and I had the option of waiting till the morning to drive the car home. But I was eager to bring the car home the same day. I hadn’t slept much the whole week it took to clear the car. as the days dragged on slowly and the nights were longer.

I wasn’t going to wait any further since the car was already in Lagos.

My closest buddie Wale, joined me in the quest to drive the car home that same night.

The agent was kind to warn us, that the battery in the car was deficient and should be replaced as soon as I could afford one.

I knew I couldn’t even afford to pay for new foot mats let alone a new battery, but I was undeterred. What he failed to mention was that the battery in the unregistered car would not even get us home that night!

Thirty minutes after we drove the car out of the agent’s house in Idimu, the car purred to a halt somewhere around Ejigbo. We knew it was the battery as we wheeled the car into the side road- Wale and I puffing and grunting.

What did we get ourselves into?

The dashboard lights flickered like a dying bulb before it all went dark. Just a faint flicker and click sound was all we heard for every turn of the key in the ignition.

It was pitch dark and we didn’t even have enough cash to commute back home because we had already paid for fuel into the car as we started the trip.

But we were undeterred.

We combed the environs for anyone/someone/anything. We had to leave that spot as it was notorious for mugging and robbery.

Out of nowhere, a middle-aged man offers to lend us a battery. For FREE. Goodness me!

All he asked was that the battery be returned that same night and all he got in return was the enthusiastically convincing words of two twenty-seven-year-old gentlemen.

We swapped the battery and pronto, the car revved back to life. The journey to satellite town continued in earnest.

We arrived at 9pm!

The moment we arrived, Wale returned the dead battery and set out to fulfil our words to the complete stranger. He started the journey back to Ejigbo that same night to return the borrowed battery. To do this, he heaved the battery on his laps between commercial busses, tossed it from bus to bus and made good our word that night.

With the benefit of hindsight, we could have turned our back on our words and probably gotten away with it.

In the end, there I was with a car, barely any cash and more loans to repay!

The universe indeed conspired to buy my first car when the next month I changed jobs.

From a meagre thirty-five-thousand-naira monthly stipend to two hundred thousand naira oil stained money as I cut my teeth in the oil and gas industry.

My soft loans you ask?

I covered them in the first two months in my new beat.

To make matters even more interesting, I barely used the car for two months at the new job when i was allocated an official car!

More lessons.

  • If you don’t start, you would never know if you can achieve it.
  • Never give up on your dreams. The issues and distractions would happen, but you must remain steadfast, focused, and determined.
  • Always keep to your words, it adds credibility to your personality.
  • Be humble in all your endeavors. Sometimes your goal may not be achieved to the letter, look at the big picture and be decisive with your plan B.

I used the car for about two years before I sold it to a young couple in almost pristine condition. Not once did the car breakdown or disappoint me during its service.

2 days after I sold the car, it broke down so bad that the new owner had to consult with me on what to do.

I simply shrugged his complaints off and wished him well!

 

Any more lessons from this story?

 

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14 thoughts on “The Universe conspired to buy my first Car”

  1. This was a good read! I laughed so hard and also learnt a lot! You were so determined. Just the right energy I need to end this year with. Thank you Duke

    1. Honestly, i had a good read. What i found most interesting is your attachments of the morales of each event. This is a beautiful piece Sir. I got value. Thank you

    2. Adedamola Ilori

      Thanks omo Akin, very encouraging story and that part of not thinking brisk walking from satellite to oshodi got me laughing hard.. Great lessons too

  2. I am beginning to think of starting to write. too That you could make a story out of something most people could pass as a normal happening in our life, is quite interestingly amazing. Well done, good story and many lessons learned.

  3. Hahahahaha!

    The lessons were well learnt. Sincerely, you and your life’s journey have been inspiring at every turn. We met at that point when you brought that “jalopy” of a car to Abuja, as you resumed in our office in your new job. Smile.

    I know for a fact how you have gone ahead to acquire and drive sleeker, more luxurious “machines” (cars), both personally and in official capacity in your career trajectory.

    Thank you for sharing this story. Both old and young would learn from this.

    God bless your wisdom.

    Compliment of the season.

  4. Olugade Happiness Ayomide

    This is really motivating and mind opening on how to achieve my dreams without given up. I have really learn a lot from it. And is really funny too.
    Thank you Duke

  5. Hahaha, Akiiin,
    Am really lmao.. this is a deep draw out of a real-life start-up.. a very interesting experience with lessons for us all. am proud always to be part of the stories.. which one is next? 🙂

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