By Bunmi Sofola
SOME nine years ago, Ajoke had the world virtually at her feet. She owned two impressive cars, designer clothes, expensive watches that included a gold Rolex and a house of her own, all paid for. She said she woke up every morning pinching herself if it was really her that was rolling on the lap of such luxury. Only in her late 30s, she’d grown up in a family of six. “I went to government schools, but thanks to my brilliance, I got scholarships for most of my education up to the university level”, she said.
“I was in the university when I got pregnant and had to get married. By the time I got a degree, my daughter was one and living with my mum. Unfortunately, I was not really in love with my husband—he was content to mark time at the ministry while I wanted more. It was at the engineering firm that I worked with that I met my second husband, Mark. I was a second wife but he bought me a house when I had our son and encouraged me to go into supplies—the most lucrative being supplying luxury buses to banks.
“That, was my eureka moment! I told Mark of my dreams to start my own business and he encouraged it. My office was in my house but when the house next door became vacant, I rented it for five years. My aim was to start a high-brow nursery school and thanks to my impressive business account with my bank, I got a loan easily using the house and the cars as collateral. Because I was in an area that needed such a school, the school was fully booked within years.
I was raking in a lot of money from my supplies business and thousands of money from the school. The success was very intoxicating.“Mark was by now getting irritated by my obsession with success. If only he understood where I was coming from. Poverty was one thing I never wanted to experience again.
In the end, he left me alone and found someone who had more time for him. He still took care of our son and I was able to have holidays abroad with my kids. Talks about possible recession and global melt-down bounced off me. I had very good investment.
And because my account was buoyant, my bank offered to advance me some millions so I could invest in more blue-chip shares. I jumped at it. Then almost overnight, the capital market crashed. Small businesses were closing down and big ones were streamlining their staff. Some of the parents in my school were affected and they pulled their children out of the school to cheaper ones.
“Before long, my profits were dwindling and the banks, which’d been very polite to me in the past started getting jittery and calling in their loans. I was annoyed; I instructed them to sell all the shares they bought on my behalf but when they told me how much the shares were now worth, I was shocked.
Since the banks were the bulk of my customers, luxury buses were the first to go. It was a nightmare. Thanks to all these fancy tokunbo cars, the offers I got for my state-of-the-art cars weren’t very impressive. At least that was the story I got from the bank which re-possessed them. The house too had to go. I had a year lease left on the school and the landlord happily paid me off as he could get better offer when I moved. Even the fancy chairs and gadgets in the school went for a song.
“Mark too was affected by the crunch, but not in the way I was. He got us a two-bedroom flat which couldn’t contain half of my things. I sold off some, gave some away whilst I too, looked for cheaper schools for my kids. The shame I felt was heart-breaking. I cut off old friends, embarrassed to let them see how low I have sunk. I still owed the banks money—including the millions they loaned me to buy rubbish shares. Shouldn’t there be a law protecting customers in such under handed deals? I’ve refused to pay anything more—let them take me to court if they dare!
“I’m at a cross roads now deciding on paid employment or hanging in there in the business world. Mark told me to find a job so I could get regular income before testing the business waters again. Life can be really cruel at times. Why give me all that luxury then snatch everything away? This is a nightmare from which I hope to wake up one day… .”