By Josfyn Uba
Mary Amuche Obiora is a skitmaker who has mastered her craft so well.
But beyond the social media glitz and the glamour of skitmaking, she is a student of the hard-knocks life, having hustled variously as Uber driver, popcorn seller and operator of daily contributions, in addition to a plethora of menial jobs.
In this interview with Daily Sun, she recounts the vicissitudes of life, drawing from episodes that paint a story of a woman’s resilience against the odds of life.
There are many female skitmakers these days. Drawing from your experience, why are more young women attracted to this type of content creation?
Many young women are attracted to skitmaking because we want to educate the public. If you go through our videos, you will definitely learn one or two things or more. This is us creating awareness for people, most especially, young ladies who have gone through a lot in life. We are doing this to create awareness and educate people. We fight for the poor and people who can’t speak for themselves. My skit focuses on family reunions, broken marriages and contentment. I teach people how to be content with what they have and to stop expecting too much. My skit is also focused on exposing social ills.
How has skitmaking empowered the female gender?
Most of us female skitmakers get a lot of adverts. Through YouTube monetization, we get paid for the videos we post. In that wise, skitmaking has helped a lot of us. I am a living witness. Becoming a skitmaker is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I believe every other female skitmaker will say the same thing because there is nobody trying to sleep with you or force you to do something you don’t want to do. Instead, you are your own CEO; you bring your ideas to life, put them out there and get paid for them.
How do you think female content creators can use this medium to enhance gender equality in society?
By creating more valuable and educative content relating to the sharing of household chores and childcare equally. In some homes, only the girls are allowed to do certain chores. We can correct that by doing educational content that deals with domestic chores and childcare equally. Also, female content creators can produce educational content on domestic violence. Other educational content should include supporting mothers and parents and helping women gain economic power.
What are the risks of skitmaking and how do you avoid the pitfalls?
Female content creators go through a lot, especially if they go into content creation without a sponsor or without editing skills. If you want to be a skitmaker, learn to edit. Another thing: have a backup plan. When I started content creation, I was already an Uber driver. I spent three days of the week Uber-driving; the remaining four days were spent shooting content because I had no helper or sponsor. I had a backup plan because I had bills to pay and siblings to take care of. Content creation doesn’t start paying you immediately; that’s why you should always have a backup plan.
Many people still have a jaundiced view of skitmaking as a serious vocation.
We are in Nigeria where there will always be people who have other views of whatever you do in life. The important thing is to keep pushing; just keep working. All they need to see is the result. We will always have bitter people out there. Keep silent and work harder.
What are the most gratifying moments of your career as a skitmaker?
The most gratifying thing about skitmaking is that you get to do what you want to do at any time and you don’t have to wake up by 5 am and be in traffic going to work for someone. I do my content creation from any part of whatever estate or apartment I am using; I don’t have to go far or be in traffic for hours. There’s nobody to query you or question you about the way you shoot your skit. You are your own CEO.
What was it like to be a female Uber driver?
I worked as Uber driver for six months. And I had some not-too-good experiences. There was once someone I picked up from Chevron to Mega Chicken on the Island, we got to Mega Chicken, and he tried making a transfer that didn’t go through. Out of trust, I told him he could go and make the transfer later because I had to go and pick up another client who already made a request on Uber. Till today, I haven’t received the money.
Another customer also made a transfer I didn’t get. I thought it was due to a network issue, so I told him to go, thinking the alert would come in later. To my greatest surprise, the alert never came. And after I called the client a few times, he blocked me.
It’s not an easy job being Uber driver. I worked through the night and slept during the day before resuming work in the evening and repeating the cycle till the next morning. It is a dangerous job too. One night I picked up four guys from the club and as I was taking them back home, they kept asking unnecessary questions, such as “Why are you an Uber driver?” “Are you not scared?” To the second question, I told them I had a dagger with me, which wasn’t true. I didn’t know if they had evil plans but they abruptly asked me to drop them halfway. Being a female Uber driver is not easy. We face pressure from clients who’d be pestering you to sleep with them.
How was growing up?
My growing up was as tough as anyone can imagine. I came from a family of 13 children; two died and there are 11 of us. I am the ninth child. I started making money at the age of 15 from menial jobs like carrying cement at construction sites, which was the first job I ever did. I was paid N1,500, I remember. I was still in primary school then. I also fetched water for people and got paid N1,000 for three drums. Thereafter, I worked as a salesgirl on two different occasions, but the people I worked for wanted sexual relationships with me so I stopped working. I also worked in microfinance banks, collecting daily contributions from people and documenting their cards. At the time, I was done with secondary school. I handed my salary to my father at the end of every month for the family’s upkeep. The company folded up and all other the staff were arrested but I wasn’t arrested.
After that, I paid N10,000 to learn how to make popcorn and then set up my own business. Some people bought my popcorn with fake money, and I wasn’t the wiser because I didn’t even know what fake money looked like.
How did you get educated?
I was doing the popcorn business when I got admission to study Office Technology and Management at the Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, Owerri, Imo State. That was my fifth admission. And again, my parents asked me to forfeit it because there was no money. But I refused. I used the money from my popcorn business to pay for acceptance fees. Then I solicited help from some honourable people in my village who were my dad’s friends. Two of them supported me by paying my school fees and rent. They also helped with other needful things. To see myself through, I had to continue to do menial jobs. It was only once that I had carryover. To God be the glory, I am the first graduate in my family.
How did you then pick up your life after graduation?
I was so frustrated that I travelled to Lagos by night bus. I had no idea where to go when I was dropped off at the park. I had to ask someone how I could get to my cousin’s place. I stayed at her house for a few weeks in Festac. During that time, I went to Alaba International Market daily with her, where I started to learn makeup artistry. At one point, someone told me about the availability of a boy’s quarter on the Island for N100,000. That was how I came to live on the Island. While living in the boy’s quarter, I found a small space where I could put a kiosk. I bought a container shop and started my makeup business. From that container, I started doing skits.
How did you venture into Uber driving?
I made a monthly contribution and got the money for the container. I told my friends I wanted to buy a car for Uber but they laughed at me. I resorted to contributions to raise fund to buy a car for Uber. However, I got the car in a miraculous way. In January 2021, on the birthday of Tunde Ednut, he decided to give out cars. At the time, I already saved a million naira and was working for an extra two million naira to complete the payment for a used Corolla car. On that day, I scrolled through Instagram in the morning and saw a post: “One of first 50 people to get to the venue will get a car.” Before then, I already told my friend about a dream in which I won a car I used for Uber. She laughed it off. We went to the event and met lots of skitmakers. We exchanged numbers and did a few videos.
I was making a video, someone walked up to me and asked if I had written my name for the raffle draw. I said no and told him why: It was probably a scam and they had already chosen the winner of the car. The lady encouraged me to write my name. I and my friend wrote our names. We were numbers 42 and 43. I was about to leave the venue at 1 am, when I heard my name announced as the winner of the car. So, I got my first car from Tunde Ednut and started my Uber business.
Was that the business that turned your life around eventually?
From the Uber business, I saved 1million naira and rented a room and parlour, which was where I started my skitmaking. The car helped me a lot. But by November 2022, my skits had become popular. I was able to leave the boys’ quarters for a decent three-bedroom flat and also built a seven-bedroom bungalow for my parents.