Ugonma Johnson is a 26-year-old Nigerian from Ebute Meta, Lagos. She used to work for a radio station but later quit after she realized that she didn’t make much money from the job and needed more money to pay her bill.
At a young age, Ugonma Johnson lost her parents and was left to take care of her siblings after her parents past away to pelvic cancer. She dropped out of school when she was in JSS1 to be able to do business and cater to her siblings. This sad reality that befalls her did not stop her from learning and pursuing her dream.
“Even though I did not have an opportunity to go back to secondary school, I kept reading at home. I homeschooled myself. I would borrow books from friends and read.’’ She told Daily Trust News.
She promoted herself at home, and somewhere along the line, some people came together and helped her to pay for the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination.
“After that, there was nothing to do, so I gave up on my dreams and continued hawking. I would wake up at 5.00 a.m., go to Mile 12 Market, anything I found, I bought and sold,” she said.
She began having a passion for writing again and rekindled hope to achieve her dream of becoming a journalist when she joined the magazine department at her church, Assemblies of God’s Church.
She transcribed interviews. she would write down anything that happened in church and during youth week and would compile and broadcast them as news.
“Before I knew it, people started calling me a newscaster. Then, the women department of my church gave me a scholarship award to go back to school,” she again told Daily Trust News
She applied for journalism at the National Broadcasting Academy, Ikeja, because she did not want to risk losing the scholarship with a programme that would take a longer duration.
According to the journalist-turned food vendor, she was unable to get a job after the programme because she did not have a degree.
She approached someone from her church, who worked with a daily newspaper so she could improve her skills.
“It was not easy because that kind of writing was not what I was used to. I was used to normal writing. Writing news articles was hard for me but I kept at it.” She Said
Johnson later got a job at the radio station as the head of content.
She still found it difficult to pay bills and have time to oversee a project she started.
She learnt a lot on the job but couldn’t keep borrowing, she couldn’t keep eating on credit, then she knew she had to go back to her business of hawking.
“Some people felt I was stupid, they did not understand why I should leave a job that gave me prestige to hawk food, but it is not about the title but the result.” She said
Becoming a journalist was not easy for Johnson to accomplish, and so deciding to quit was difficult.
“It was not easy at first going back to something I felt I had left. While going into journalism, I felt had left hawking behind.
“Leaving my job did not mean I left writing. I just stopped working as a journalist. I still write till date. I have written a couple of works for people and authored my own books,” she told NAN.
She said her decision to leave journalism had significantly impacted her life because she has got the time and finances needed for some youth projects in her community.
“When I left in October 2018, I used part of the salary I was paid to resume my business; from October to December that year, I generated a lot of money.
“In fact, that was when I organised the biggest event in my community. In May 2019, I released my first book, published with proceeds from the food business.
“There are so many other things I have done; a lot of teenagers depend on me for feeding, I give out sanitary pads in my community and I helped some people with school fees throughout last year.”
Johnson made more money from hawking to Journalism she wouldn’t have been able to accomplish all these with her salary of N30,000 as a journalist.
She said her food business was profitable, as she made an average profit of N10,000 daily.
She, however, cautioned those contemplating to change jobs not to be in a hurry but to take certain things into consideration.
Johnson thanked donors, those who mentored the teenagers, and other social workers who partnered with her to organise seminars, trainings and provide basic necessities for the teenagers, including food and toiletries.
She appealed to the governments to identify people, who had proven accountable within the society, to serve as proper channels to reach the indigent in communities. (NAN)