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Nigeria: From A Radio Worker To Food Hawker, How Ugonma Johnson Left Her Journalism Work And Now Making More Money

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.

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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)


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Sallu Kamuskay

Sallu Kamuskay is a Sierra Leonean activist, storyteller, and blogger. He was born in Sierra Leone but later relocated to Guinea as a refugee because of the war in his country. Sallu Kamuskay uses his phone to engage on social media, under the name ‘’Salone Messenger’. He Co-Founded the Salone Messenger platform after his experience of the war, Ebola, and injustices. According to him, silence was the root cause of war, and of many social injustices, we continue to face as a nation. In 2013, during the Ebola crisis, Sallu Kamuskay took the risk and volunteered to fight Ebola. He spent some months in both safe and unsafe places; helping the victims and telling their sad stories. The election in 2018, left a divided country with communities fighting on tribal lines. This inspired Sallu Kamuskay to serve as the coordinator of the United Sierra Leone peace concert, which was organized in 4 major parts of the country, targeting violent communities and troubled youth. Sallu Kamuskay led a group of entertainers, activists, and organizations across the country on a peace tour, a program supported by the European Union, United Sierra Leone, Africa Union, ECOWAS, and the Messeh Leone Trust. Sallu Kamuakay has also served as a staff writer for the Hidden Voices Magazine. Over the years, Sallu Kamuskay has been using his Techno phone to be able to tell stories, the phone he used to tell the story of Gbessay during Ebola who was admitted at one of the Ebola treatment centers after rumors that she had Ebola when the actual sickness was ulcer, she was almost abandoned at the treatment canter with no medication provided to her. She could have died. Sallu told the story via social media and was able to secure funding from the United Sierra Leone to buy her medication and advocated for her. She was later discharged and taken home, He did the same to a patient that died and was abandoned in the street, Sallu Kamuskay used his phone and shared the message across, the corps was later taken and buried. It could have been more disaster without his voice. The story of late America Stress 3-year-old daughter. The hero’s daughter was abandon after his father's death. He shared her sad story and was able to get a sister who has taken the child as her own and is currently providing her with educational support. The article of America Stress can be read on the link below http://ayvnewspaper.com/index.php/k2-categories/item/7350-america-stress-a-hero-to-recognize. Sallu Kamuskay feels the stories of Gbessay, America stress and that of many others need to be told. The media house we have cannot better tell these stories, they are better reporters than telling human interest stories. He created the Salone Messenger platform and brought together passionate storytellers to be able to tell these compelling stories.

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