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Video: Why l switched to food hawking – journalist

By Joan Odafe [NAN]

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Twenty-six-year-old Miss Ugonma Johnson had always wanted to write.

She loved writing so much as a child that she began to dream of becoming a journalist.

The Ebute Meta, Lagos, resident recalled telling her mother she would take care of her with earnings from writing.

The young woman, however, gave up hope of becoming a journalist and her passion for writing after she lost her father as a child and lost  her mother to pelvic cancer  as a teenager, as  she dropped out in JS1) and had to cater for herself and her siblings.

She told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos on Saturday that she resorted to hawking different fruits including bananas, groundnuts and garden eggs, to make ends meet.

“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.

“I was promoting myself at home, and somewhere along the line, some people came together and helped me 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 5.00a.m., go to Mile 12 Market, anything I found, I bought and sold,” she said.

Johnson further recalled that at some point in her life, she was not happy anymore and began to feel like she was missing something.

She said she began having 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.

“I transcribed interviews. I would write down anything that happened in church and during youth week, I 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 scholarship award to go back to school,” she narrated.

She said 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 longer duration.

According to the journalist-turned food vendor, she was unable get a job after the programme, apparently because she did not have a degree.

This compelled her to approach 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.”

Johnson said there was progress when she got a job at a radio station, as the head of content.

She noted, however, that she still found it difficult to pay bills and have time to oversee a project she started.

” I learnt a lot on the job but I couldn’t keep borrowing,

“I couldn’t keep eating on credit, and then I knew I had to go back to my 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.”

Johnson said that becoming a journalist was not easy to accomplish, therefore, 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. In fact, 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 had got the time and finances she 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 said 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.

“Consider the workplace or environment. Is it adding to your development?

“I didn’t leave because I wanted to be my own boss. I left because I had a vision that was suffering.”

According to Johnson, choosing to serve humanity is not easy because there are sacrifices to be made.

She said that her projects, targeted at teenagers in her community, Ebute Meta West, had made her go hungry many times.

“I’m seeing the results because teenage pregnancy has reduced drastically.

“I have seen some go back to school, some learning skills and others taking their lives more seriously,” she, however, said.

She cautioned youths against vices and cutting corners.

“Everything is a process. You cannot jump the process. If you do, someday, somehow or somewhere, nature will bring you back to those stages you skipped.

“If you are working for somebody, handle it as your own; there is a saying that how you do one thing is how you do everything,” she said.

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 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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