Working Lives

Working Lives: The Mai Shai Who Saves N5,000 Every Week

Working Lives: The Mai Shais of Agege

You never know where a WL series takes you. This hot Mai Shai series is supposed to be about tea, noodles, bread etc. but it has turned out to be about migration, poverty, education etc. within Nigeria. And about extraordinary luck and human kindness. It will make you realise how extremely privileged you are. You may also be surprised to witness the spirit of enterprise amongst very poor Nigerians and how hard work moves them up the economic ladder.

Working Lives: The Mai Shai Who Saves N5,000 Every Week

ABDULAZEEZ ISSA

I sat my dad down and told him I wanted to come to Lagos. I wasn’t doing anything in Kano. And it was very clear nothing was going to happen. I was already 17 years old.  Every kid in the neighbourhood was coming to Lagos. It was like the next natural thing to do. Everyone had to come to Lagos at a point to hustle for money. So, I came to Lagos in 2013.

Where are you from?

I am from Kano State.

What school did you attend and when did you leave school? 

I did not attend any school. The only form of instruction I ever received was Quranic classes. My father enrolled me into one of those back home in Kano. I did that for about 2 years while growing up. I really cannot remember what age but I know it was during Obasanjo’s re-election.

Tell me about your family?

My dad is a farmer. He plants tomatoes and peppers. My mom works with him on the farm. They sell the harvest in the market in Kano. My parents are not big farmers who bring their product to markets in Lagos. They have no money to expand the farm. I am the second child, we are three. None of us went to school. We just attended Quranic classes. This is not unusual where I come from. We are rather very poor but God provides. We manage the little we have.

Also Read: Working Lives: The Mai Shai Who Left Lokoja to Sleep Under Lagos Bridge

When did you get to Lagos?

I sat my dad down and told him I wanted to come to Lagos. I wasn’t doing anything in Kano. And it was very clear nothing was going to happen. I was already 17 years old.  Every kid in the neighbourhood was coming to Lagos. It was like the next natural thing to do. Everyone had to come to Lagos at a point to hustle for money. So, I came to Lagos in 2013.

Where did you live when you got to Lagos?

I was just really hanging around Agege. I knew about the place before I left Kano.  Some of my friends also told me they would be there. We were all what Yoruba people call alabaru; we help people carry things when they come to the market with our wheelbarrows. So, we did that for about a year before we could afford to rent an apartment in Agege. It is a room and we pay N4,000:00 every month. Four of us live together.

How did you start the Mai Chai business?

After about two years of doing the alabaru job, I started thinking of making the next big move. Becoming a Mai Shai is the only thing I thought of. I started saving towards this goal. I had to be very disciplined. It took a year and about 7 months to save N60,000:00. There isn’t much money in doing alabaru at markets. You usually get paid N100. No one’s going to pay you a fortune just because you helped in carrying their groceries. I sometimes got N200 from generous customers. Someone once paid me N1,000:00. That is the highest I ever got. The customer was a good woman who just decided to dash me big money.

How much did it cost you to set up as a Mai Shai?

I paid a carpenter N10:000:00 to construct a table and a bench. I bought a gas cylinder, 3 pots, 1 frying pan and spoons and other utensils. All that costs me about N15,000. Then I got few packs of noodles to start off. That’s how I set up. But I also had to pay rent for the space. The rent goes to the thugs around here. It’s N200 daily.

For how long have you been in the business?

I got to Lagos in 2013 and I started the Mai Shai business in 2016. So that is about 4 years now.

How much do you make in a day?

I open twice in a day on most days, especially weekdays. I open early in the morning for those going to work and might want to grab something to eat. I also open in the evening. So, on days when I open both in the morning and evening, I make at least N10,000:00.

What is your best day like?

Those days when God brings a lot of customers my way. Days when I quickly must rush down to buy more noodles. Such days are usually weekends, especially Fridays. It is like everyone in Agege just come out to chill and want to eat some noodles. Many of the guys at the bus parks come in on days like this. I make N20,000:00 on such days.

Also Read: Working Lives: The Mai Shai Who Was Set up By a Lekki Madam 

How many hours do you work in a day? 

You know I told you earlier that I open both in the morning and evening on some days. In the morning, I open from about 6:30 a.m. and close at around 10 a.m. I open again at 5 p.m. and close around 10 p.m. But I can’t work so late again because of the curfew that coronavirus has brought.

How much do you spend in a day? 

If you are asking about how much I spend on myself in a day, I spend about N500 or less. I use that to cook at home or buy some toiletries that I might need. Then I also spend N100 on transport fare to my spot. I stay close but I use a bike to convey my noodles to and from home daily.

Have you ever opened a bank account?

Yes, I opened a bank account when I got to Lagos. When I was carrying things for people in the market, I saw that my saving was pilling up. I had to open a bank account 2014 to deposit the money in.

Do you have savings and how much do you save in a month? 

Yes. I always try and save N5,000 every week from the profit I realize from the business.

Are you married or looking forward to getting married?

Yes, I am married. I went back home in 2016 to get married. My wife and 2 kids are back home in Kano. I always go home during the festive period to spend some time with them. Even before the whole coronavirus thing got worse in April I travelled home. I just came back recently when the lockdown was eased.

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One Comment

  1. Hmmm, there are many disciplined, diligent and determined Nigerians out there who just had sense without reading motivational / inspirational books or listening to motivational / inspirational speakers…
    They are the real MVPs…
    God will help my own generation and give us small sense…

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