“A Week In The Life” is a weekly Zikoko series that explores the working-class struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week.
The subject of today’s A Week In The Life is Tope. She’s a bouncer and she talks about the stereotypes she faces at work, advances from men, and how difficult it is to be a bouncer during COVID.
I woke up today thinking about the situation in Nigeria and I’m not happy. How is it possible that a graduate like me is still struggling?
I used to work as a secretary, but the money was not enough, so I got a security job. But Corona came, events got cancelled, and I was back to square one, back to struggling to make ends meet. The only good thing that came out of this mess is that I lost weight.
When Corona started and there were no security jobs, I decided to lose some weight. I shed weight [through anaerobic exercises like jumping] to avoid health issues and because I was starting to look older than my peers. I’d be going on the road with my friends and people would be asking if I was their aunty. Who’s your aunty, please?
At first, some people were worried that slimming down would affect my job. Me, I wasn’t. Although many bouncers have big bodies, the job requires intelligence — How can I assess a situation for threats? How can I prevent a situation from escalating? Things like that.
I was also banking on the fact that the name I had made in the industry would cover me. At least, some people knew me based on my past services. If all failed, my back up plan was to get hired as an ambassador for weight loss and I’d quit security. However, that hasn’t happened. Yet.
That’s why I’m here on a Monday morning thinking about my life. I need to shake off these thoughts so that my day can fully start.
What do you remember about your first day at your current job?
I remember being very passionate. My first boss was not harsh, so that made things easy for me. As a first-timer, I was put in charge of vendors at a wedding. My job was to prevent guests from going to the vendor’s side especially when they wanted to use the restroom. However, I had this one guest who gave me a tough time. After politely explaining why she could not pass, she threatened to slap me. She got so angry that I had to call my boss to save me. I was just quiet throughout her shouting because we are not allowed to talk back.
After the party, my boss commended me on how well I handled the incident. That’s how my confidence grew. I also got a mentor that gave me orientation for this job — he told me what to do, how to handle different types of guests and just general advice. One time, people were jealous because I used to get a lot of jobs, so he advised me to stop posting on social media and drawing attention to myself. He told me that as long as the right people knew me, I was fine. It’s been two years since I last posted about my job.
Another time, when people were spreading rumours about me sleeping with men for jobs, his belief in me was what kept me going. Every time I wanted to quit, he’d encourage me to stay. It is because of my mentor that I’m still on track in this job.
I’m remembering all this because I’m frustrated today. A job I was supposed to go for got cancelled. Corona is really spoiling things.
Let me go and talk to my mentor, maybe I’ll feel better.
When people hear bouncers, they think we’re fighters or troublemakers. That’s not true. A lot of our job involves brain and not brawn. Because we’re meant to keep the peace at events, we try not to employ violence that can scatter everything. You’ll never see a bouncer shocking [with a taser] someone at an event because that will scare everybody. Instead, we’re always calculating the best way to resolve issues without making a scene.
Another misconception people have is that we’re uneducated, and that’s why people look down on us. Or talk to us anyhow. In reality, a lot of us are educated. It’s just condition. At least, the job is far better than sitting at home doing nothing. I’ve come to accept that there’s no job without its own challenges.
I know that this job is not permanent for me. It’s until I find something better or further my studies. I finished from Yabatech and I still want to go to university, but it’s not easy combining this work with looking for admission. I’m just praying that it’ll come through.
Today, I won’t even kill myself thinking about these things because this life is one. I plan to spend the rest of my day relaxing.
One thing about this job is that I get a lot of advances. At work, I hear things like: “Wow, female bouncer. I’ve never seen a female bouncer before, and I like the way you’re kitted. I like your stature and all that.” Most times, it’s from men who are trying to take advantage of me. In their head, they see bouncers as poor people. They believe that if they promise me little things, I’ll fall for them. They want to use you while not doing anything for you.
The ones that don’t want to take advantage of me want me to quit my job. I’ve heard men say: “Ah, you’re doing a security job? No oh, you must quit.” The problem is that their head is not correct. Why would they tell me to quit? Did they provide an alternative for me?
In this life, nobody can feed you. Only if the person is your husband or your relative. Even still, it’s only after you have become somebody that people will appreciate you. I know that I can’t leave this job because of anyone. Unless I personally decide that I want to leave it. Because I’m not doing it for anyone.
You don’t like my job; can you provide me with a better one? If you can’t do that, bye-bye.
Today, I’m thinking about how tough the Corona period has been for me. For the first time, I can count how many jobs I have in a week. This is rare. Around this time [October] last year, I was fully booked until January of the next year. By now, I’d even be referring people for work. I’m just putting my faith in God that these last few months will be better. It’s looking like this year is for us to just thank God for life.
Corona is even favourable to people doing office work because, at the end of the month, something [salary] will still come in. For us, no work, no money. If you’re sick for one year, you’ll not get any money. The hustle is hard. One time, I had bad cramps and still had to show up at work. My boss was kind enough to put me on toilet duty where I wouldn’t be stressed. I was just standing and stretching throughout that event. There are no days off here.
During this Corona period, I started selling coconut oil and that’s what has been sustaining me. On the side, I also sell kits and equipment to bouncers as an extra source of income.
I’m just looking for the opportunity to leave Nigeria. Even if it’s just for one day. If I hustle the way I’m hustling here abroad, I’ll see changes. We don’t value our security in Nigeria. People look at you like, who are you?
I’m also looking forward to getting married to a very good person while I have a very good job. Someone that will support all my dreams. At the end of the day, I’m just looking for a better life. I can do any work. As far as money will come out.