We asked a diverse group of individuals to tell us how they began their career in programming. Over the next few days, TechCabal will be featuring stories shared by these various software developers in Nigeria, on how they got started coding. 


Opeyemi Obembe

After secondary school, I was enroled in a computer school to kill “awaiting-admission” time. Here, we would play lots of computer games and at lunch break, go to the cyber cafe to make friends on Yahoo Messenger, send emails, hunt sweepstakes and download more DOS games.

Everything about the experience was amazing. And I was curious to know more. Soon I got to know that the underlying language is a simple text format called HTML. This changed my lunch break routine. I would download tutorials to floppy disks and take back to the school to read. I talked to an uncle who was into computers about my web adventure. He showed me more things and got me better resources.

Learning in those days was not as easy as it is now. There weren’t many tools and frameworks to make the experience easier. There were few developer communities. And I didn’t have access to a computer at home. I would stay late at school to read and code. In the evenings and weekends, I would code on paper then close my eyes to try and imagine how it would turn out. For long, all my tools were notepad, my floopy disks, paper and pen. Any available computer I see anywhere – be at a friend’s place, my computer school, my Uncle’s laptop when he comes visiting, becomes my next development machine for that moment.

From HTML, CSS came naturally. And then the almighty Javascript. But that wasn’t enough. It didn’t answer questions about forms and data management. So I entered server side development and database administration. I started with ASP, JSP and Perl. But I always had to jump ship either because of the complex syntax, database connection problems or hosting. Those days, we relied on free hosts. And you rarely get one with ASP, JSP or Perl.

Then I found PHP. It was perfect. The documentation was great, communities were growing round it, connection to database was a breeze and hosting was a piece of cake. So I dropped everything else and shifted focus to PHP.


I started a directory of Nigerian sites to experiment with things I learnt. (Later a community of mobile phone enthusiasts branched out from it). I met Namzo when I entered University and found out our shared interest. That made learning easier and more fun.

In 200 level, I was introduced to a company handling HR and biometrics for all civil servants in the state. That was when I got my first computer – a laptop. Things got better from there. Together with the core developer and few other part-time developers, we delivered the project few months later and it was a hit. (It was used throughout the State for salary calculation and payment, promotion, leave, training, loans and more till a change of administration).

I had to leave the company to focus more on academics about a year after. I also dropped my side projects.

Coding is now a big part of me. It’s the sole thing I do now professionally. Even when I am not coding “as business”, I am checking out new tools/frameworks or experimenting on something. To me, it’s an art. It gives you the same joy when from a blank canvas, brush and paint, you create something so full of life. If tomorrow I decide to do something totally different, I will still code – just for the joy of it.


Opeyemi Obembe is the co-founder and lead developer at Fonebase Labs, a technology company that specializes in building telephony products and tools to simplify the lives of developers and small businesses. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Do you have stories of how your love for coding began? Please share in the comments below!

Chioma Nkemdilim Author

Get the best African tech newsletters in your inbox