Segun Awonusi is a professor of English Studies and doubles as the Vice-Chancellor, Tai Solarin University of Education, Ijebu Ode, Ogun State. He spoke to Okechukwu Nnodim
In your own words, what is money to you?
Money is simply an economic means that has value in exchange during inter-relationships, whether it is inter-personal or corporate to corporate or person to government.
So it is a means of value. In other words, it is that value that gives you access to the economy. With it you can buy and negotiate for things.
Is it always true that money influences a greater percentage of people negatively?
Yes it does and it is even more rampant in capitalist societies like Nigeria. And it is worse in even highly dependent economies like Nigeria. In fact in Nigeria, money is almost becoming a god of some people. For some others, it is a semi-god. This is because they think that access to money is power; they think that access to money is influence and that access to money gives you the control of your environment, which also includes men and materials.
So many people therefore, allow money to influence them. Ordinarily money is good, for it enhances comfort but it controls many people in Nigeria. This is not ideal and I believe that the negative influence of money is high.
For instance, in simple family settings, you will find that people who have money almost control their parents or their elder brothers and they boast with money. Some of them say there is nothing which money cannot buy and no interest that money cannot control. At the community level people respect those who have money and nobody takes time to question the source of the money.
People are crazy about money and they tell you that it’s the end that justifies the means. They say you just do what you have to do to get it and it doesn’t really matter how you get your money, but that is not true!
If you were to advise people, based on this issue, what will you tell them?
Our emphasis should be first on proven hard work. Whatever then comes out of it, we will then know that it is the equivalent of hard work that produces the money. Let us appreciate the value of hard work as a nation and money will come.
What are your three key investment principles?
The first thing I ask myself is that will it give me the value that I deserve? In other words, if I have the opportunity to look at the stock market and the bank, I should be able to check which one will guarantee stability. And if the stability is not there, then let me settle for what will give me less but at least the system is stable and I know that when I need it I can get it.
Secondly, does it fall within the province of affordability? In other words, do I have to strain myself to be able to do the investment? If I have to it doesn’t make sense to me for ordinarily investment should mean using the little that I have to guarantee that I get a little more. But if have to force myself to do it, it means that I will also deny myself of basic things that I have to do as a father in the house. Affordability also uses the timeline perspective – is it now or can it wait? So, the timeline perspective of investment is also key.
What was your first salary?
Will I even remember that? That is a long time. In fact you are asking me of something that happened around 1970. I will have to do some research to see if I can get that figure.
Was it enough for you at the time?
You will be surprised or you won’t believe that I saved then. I had my first savings in what they called a post office and I was a young bachelor who had enough to save. A number of people who went to England later those years, they were able to save from the little they had and with this little they were able to advance themselves educationally.
So it was enough. It wasn’t like in this age where you now have take home pays that cannot even take you to the bus stop.
What are some of your greatest money mistakes?
Sometimes as a young man, you are also tempted to do like other young men and before you know it you have lost a lot of money which ordinarily you would have saved. And then you now tell yourself that if you were a little more prudent, you would have achieved this or that. Although, this happens naturally to many growing young men, but the ability to control it and not allow pressure make you do what you will regret is needed.
What will be your advice to young people?
Things are more difficult now, so young people, especially the men, should be more prudent in the way they spend. Yes, get what you need, but not necessarily all that you want. They should cultivate investment culture right from their early ages.
They should try and see if they can do something different from what usually is their primary economic pre-occupation. In other words, if you are working for government, fine no problem, but what do you do with your free hours? Diversify to get additional income and make sure you are not distracted from your main focus.
Do you believe in the saying, mostly used by foreigners, that one can make money easily in Nigeria?
For those who want to make money by illegal means, it is quite easy. But for those who want to do investments and who are really in Nigeria to invest and they follow all the rules and regulations, they will know that it is not quite easy.
Even when government gives them certain concessions, they still know that it is not quite easy. But those who are just coming to collaborate with some Nigerian businessmen and use them to siphon money, for them it might be quite easy. So those who say it is quite easy, really I believe most of them don’t follow the real ethical procedures involved in business and do it as clean as possible.
Who is your money mentor?
Do you know I’ve never though about this? But when I talk within my immediate community here, I admire somebody like Otunba Subomi Balogun. That is the Chairman of First City Monument Bank, who is from Ijebu Ode. I have seen him use money in such a way that it empowers people in Ijebu Land.
And when you talk of money mentoring in Nigeria, you will find out that it is scary. And that is because you may believe in somebody today and then tomorrow he just turns around and comes up with another picture, so it is scary and that is why I have not given any thought to it not until you asked.
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