A yahoo boy’s dilemma

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By Lanre Babajide

“Our politicians are corrupt. There is massive unemployment. The level of poverty in the country is alarming. Nigeria is in trouble. The next election is going to be a joke. Our politicians will just rig it as usual”.

Tade listened as his friend rambled on about Nigeria’s socio-political problems. It was not the first time and, sadly, it was not going to be the last time. He had heard something like that before. In fact, he had been hearing similar things since he was a kid and it now sounded like a broken record in his ears.

He was in a club house with his friends and they were all having a nice time. It was early in the evening, around 7:00 pm, and there was music everywhere. He sipped from his glass of beer as he conversed with his friends. When it was around 8:30 pm, he went back to his room in the Agbowo area of Ibadan. He was a 300 level student of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Ibadan and he was in his first semester.

He shared the room with three of his friends. When he got to his apartment, his roommates were around, watching movies. However, he was not interested and so, he just slept off. When he woke up in the middle of the night, he was surprised to hear one of his friends, Henry, talking in a feminine voice with someone on his mobile phone. His voice sounded so feminine that anyone that did not see him will believe it was a woman that was talking. “My dear, I’m really lonely here and I wish I could be with you now. I love you so much and I think about you every time”, he said in a sweet feminine voice.

As he listened to the telephone conversation, he deduced that the person on the other line had promised to send him some money and this made him inquisitive. “Henry, what are you doing on the phone”, he asked when he finished his phone call. “That was a mugu. He will soon send some money”, he replied with a smile on his face. “What do you mean by that?”  “Well, you should have known by now. He thinks I am a woman and he wants to date me. That is what most boys are doing. I thought you’d known about all this by now”, he replied.

At this juncture, Tade asked him more questions about what he was doing but Henry was rather elusive and did not answer him very coherently. A few days later, he actually accompanied him to the bank where they collected the money through Western Union money transfer. It was a huge sum of money, 25,000 US dollars, and he could not believe his eyes when he saw it. As Henry gave him part of the money, he was stunned and did not even know what to say.

Tade was from a poor family and he often had to do odd jobs in order to be able to pay for his education. His family was based in Lagos and his older brother and sister who were University graduates were unemployed. The third had a job but the pay was meagre, not even enough for his transport fare to and fro his workplace.

From childhood, he hated poverty and he vowed to get out of it, no matter what. He was a hustler by nature and in his spare time when he was not attending lectures, he sold recharge-cards to passersby at the school gate. Also, he occasionally rode commercial motorcycles, popularly called okada, during  weekends in order to make ends meet. Due to his persistent poverty that never seemed to go away, he finally persuaded his friend, Henry, to teach him the intricacies of internet fraud.

He wanted the good things of life and so he eagerly learnt it with all his heart. His first victim or “mugu” was a man called Stones who lived in Massachusetts in the United States of America. He simply lied to him he was a lady and sent him nude pictures of a woman that he had downloaded from the internet. It took him 3 months to get money from him but it was worth the wait. It was only 800 US dollars, but that was a handsome sum of money in Nigerian currency.

He screamed in ecstasy the day he received the money through Western Union money transfer at the bank. He left the bank, ran down the streets and then went to eat in a fast food joint. He had not handled such an amount of money before and he could scarcely believe his eyes. As every young man would do, he decided to enjoy himself with the money. So, he organized a big party in a night club in Dugbe on the outskirts of Ibadan.

It was a big party and a lot of scantily dressed ladies were all over the place. He brought the most expensive wine and he and his friends drank themselves to stupor. In fact, in his drunken state and ecstasy, he poured some of the wine on the floor in order to display how rich he had become. Afterwards, he went on a spending spree and, like the Biblical prodigal son, he finished the money in a short while and then, he needed more money.

As a result of this, he fully immersed himself in internet fraud and spent a lot of time in front of his newly acquired laptop looking for one victim or the other. In fact, he stopped attending lectures regularly as he somewhat lost interest in his studies. He was into ladies by now and one of his favourite lovers was an Igbo girl called Beatrice Uchendu. Beatrice was a tall, fair skinned and voluptuous lady who was often scantily dressed and was very carefree. He made a lot of money anyway and after a few months, he rented an apartment for himself in Agbowo and his girlfriend, Beatrice, often visited him there.

The Department of Engineering, University of Ibadan lectures had been long and boring and he was glad when they were finally over. His best friends in class, Chukwuma and Dayo, were sitting beside him and they were surprised he bothered to come to class today as he had become known as a truant. After the class, the three friends went to his newly rented apartment inside Agbowo. When they got inside, his two friends engaged themselves in a quarrel that seemed very interesting to him.

Chukwuma was a very intellectual friend of his who often voiced out his opinion on various issues. “Look, going to see a Babalowo to do charms is backward and superstitious. These charms don’t work. I mean, the other day, I heard that people were now using ladies’ pants as charms in order to make money. This is pure superstition. What you call Juju is nonsense and a product of primitive African thinking”, he said.

“Mr. Professor, all this philosophy you have learnt is affecting you. Look, African juju is real. I pray it does not affect you one day. There is a girl in Port-Harcourt who was used for rituals by one of these rich politicians. She was a runs girl that always slept with rich men for money. Unfortunately, she fell into the hands of a ritualist and she went missing. When she was found, she had run mad and her parents had to take her to a pastor for prayers”, Dayo replied.

“That is rubbish and superstitious. The problem with us in this country is that our world view is not scientific. This stuff of yours cannot be proven scientifically. The world is scientific. Stop all this balder dash”. At this juncture, they descended into an argument. Tade did not say anything as he had not really thought about it before and he really had no opinion on the issue.

In Agbowo, Ibadan, it was a cold morning and Tade rolled on his bed. He had spent the night with one of his numerous girlfriends and he really enjoyed himself. A few minutes later, his phone rang and he knew who was on the line. It was his best friend, Henry, and they had an important appointment. He sent his lover away and went over to Henry’s place immediately.

Soon, the two of them were going out of Ibadan to Ijebu Ode. He had told him what they were going to do and after thinking about it for some time, he had decided to consent to it. When he got to Ijebu-Ode, they went to a house located in a small town called Itulupe. When they entered, they saw an elderly man sitting in the middle of various fetish items and occultic paraphernalia. There were various carved idols in front of him and generally, everything about him looked sinister. “Ah my son you have come today”, he said. “Yes, Baba you know I will always come to you”, he replied as he and Henry prostrated before him. At this juncture, the two young men sat down on a stool that was on each side of the witch doctor.

“So my children, what do you want again? Henry, who is this young man you have brought here? I am glad you are here anyway”.

“It is nothing Baba. He is just my friend. We are into yahoo business together and you know it is not easy to find mugus”.

“Yes my son”, replied the witch doctor while shaking his head.

“Well, Baba what I want is a charm that I will put in my mouth so that whenever I ask those white oyibo people for anything, they will give it to me. Generally, I want those people I meet on the internet to do whatever I tell them to do”, he replied as he demonstrated what he meant with his hands.

“Well my son, that is very easy. I will give you these charms”, he said. At this juncture, he brought out some charms from the bag in front of him. They all looked strange and sinister and he was shocked when he saw it. He took one of the charms in his hands and said “Look, this is ‘afose’. Put it in your mouth when you are talking to white people. They will always do what you say. He also gave him a bowl and told him to put his legs in it when he was talking to one of his mugus on the internet. After this, Tade and Henry brought out the pictures of the white people they were trying to swindle. The man took the pictures to a table located at the corner of the room and then started chanting incantations on them.

He chanted incantations for around 15 minutes and then he smiled and said: “These people will hear your voice as long as they live where the sun shines”. After this, he gave them further instructions on how they should use their charms and they left.

Tade sat down in the 411 night club in Bodija, Ibadan, with his friends and they were having a nice time together. Henry in particular had made some money from his criminal activities and he attributed his success to the efficacy of his charms. There was a large bottle of beer in front of him and he drank from it with music blaring around him. Tade was lively and he went from one topic to another. After sometime, the topic switched to the fact that internet crime, popularly called Yahoo-Yahoo, was not really good.

Tade did not really have anything to say about it but Henry on the other hand was very outspoken on the issue. “Look, I don’t see anything wrong with yahoo business. The white man has always exploited Africans right from the days of the slave trade when they carried our forefathers away. We are paying them back in their own coin. The white man is even still exploiting us and America and Europe are part of the reasons Nigeria and Africa are poor. Also, I don’t see anything wrong with using charms against them. Our charms or as they call it fetish practices are working. Let us use what we have. If we don’t have technology at least, we have African charms and magic. That is what is called African technology. Let yahoo carry on jare; after all, the government does not provide jobs for anybody and internet crime in itself can be seen as a form of poverty alleviation”, he said while sipping from his bottle of beer intermittently.

Most people agreed with his line of reasoning except for one middle-aged man who sat on a corner of the night club. He expressed the opinion that internet crime was not good but most people did not agree with him.

New Life Church, Jericho, Ibadan was rather big and expansive with many people, the youths in particular, inside it. Tade followed his friend, Henry, to Church as he enjoyed the convivial atmosphere. He saw one of his numerous girl friends in the choir and he waved to her, but she did not see him. Henry was also in the choir and he was dressed in a black suit as he sang with the choir.

The preacher was a dashing, handsome fast-talking elderly man. He sounded intelligent and articulate. Towards the end of the service, he paused and said: “You should learn to give to the Lord. Giving is the secret of receiving. If you give to the Lord, you will become a millionaire. The Lord has laid it in my heart that there are 10 people here who can give N200,000 to the Church project”. At this juncture, about 15 people came out to make their pledges and to his surprise, his friend, Henry, also came out to make his pledge. In his heart, he wondered if the pastor knew that Henry was into internet fraud and in fact, money rituals.

After the service, he went to see his girlfriend, Beatrice who was in the choir and she ended up in his place for the night. She was one of his best lovers and he really had a nice time with her. She was a funny and vivacious lady and she always had something to say. When he told her that he was surprised that a “yahoo boy” like Henry was an active member of the Church and in fact, he was donating money to the church, Beatrice chided him for his ignorance. She told him that a lot of young men who were attending the Church were into internet fraud and in fact, it was an open secret. Tade liked what he heard anyway and from that day on, he started attending Church regularly.

Tade and Henry went to the witch doctor’s shrine again in order to reinforce their charms. Tade did not really like using charms and fetish objects but whatever the witch doctor was doing seemed to be working and they were making a lot of money and so he set his reservations aside. Henry on the other hand took to it like fish to water. He was greedy and he wanted more money as what he realized from his internet crime was now too meagre for the kind of expensive lifestyle he had developed over time. The man as usual said all sorts of incantations and gave them even more fetish objects but what he requested for at the end of the day shocked him to his bone marrow. Henry on his part was unperturbed anyway and in fact, he was eager to do anything that would fetch him more money.

At Mokolain, Ibadan, a Hummer Jeep with tainted glasses  drove past the front of the Tantalizer fast-food joint. The car was a thing of beauty as it strolled along like a beauty queen to everybody’s admiration. It parked in the parking lot and a beautiful lady alighted from it and then, the jeep drove off again. Immediately the car drove off, she started tearing her dress and she became naked. She also started dancing to non-existent music supplied by her imagination and then, she started shouting and running around. In a nutshell, she had run mad. She was now in her pant and bra and after running around for some time, she sat naked on the floor and kept on shouting.

A large crowd gathered and people felt sorry for her. People said different things. Some people said she had been used for rituals. In fact, there was an attempt to get the car that dropped her but the car had sped off and nobody could catch up with it. A few days later, Tade accompanied Henry to the bank as he deposited a huge amount of money at the bank. When they got home to their residence in Agbowo, Henry took him aside and said: “Look, you may not believe me but using that girl for charms worked. Ever since we made that girl run mad, money has been flowing into our arms anyhow. Chukwuma was wrong. The charms are working and I’m getting richer”.

“But, you made that girl to run mad, that was very wicked of you. I mean, I don’t even know what to think. That girl has a family and you are very wicked”. “Look, I don’t care, life itself is not fair. I rubbed the charms on her private part after making love to her and now, all her destiny has been transferred to me”, he replied.

“Look, I used to think all of this was superstition but now, I don’t even know what to believe anymore. If Chukwuma was around, he would possibly say the girl was suffering from some psychotic or psychiatric disorder but may be your charms did the damage on her. Anyway, we are making money, but we have to be careful as you, Henry,  are getting too sinister for my liking ”, Tade replied.

Back to Ring Road, Ibadan, the music was loud, soothing and enchanting. His best friend, Henry, was now a millionaire. He built a new house, to every body’s surprise, and as a result, he organized a big party to celebrate his latest achievement. There was alcohol everywhere and Henry on his part drank to stupor. His girlfriend, Stacy Mbachu, was by his side and he kissed her as he drank from the bottle. As Stacy was on his laps, she tapped him by the shoulder and said: “Look at the door”. As he looked towards where she was pointing, he could not believe his eyes. Some police men with guns were standing at the door. The whole place was now silent like a grave yard as everybody was petrified.

Before he had the time to say anything, they handcuffed him alongside some of the young men at the party, including Tade. Nemesis had caught up with him at last. The witch doctor or Babalowo had assured him that he would not be caught but time had proved him wrong.

The police investigated their case and what they discovered even took him, Tade, by surprise. They found out that Henry was actually into money rituals. In other words, he was killing people in order to make money. Tade was also linked to the crime. However, after further investigation, he was exonerated from it. But he was found guilty of internet fraud, impersonation, obtaining money under false pretences and other crimes. Their judgement was swift.

The evidence was too obvious. “You are hereby sentenced to eighteen months in jail without an option of fine, ” the judge said with an air of finality in his voice.

On this particular day, Tade broke down in tears and he did not even know what to say or think. Henry’s punishment was harsher. He was sentenced to 7 years in prison. And then, police men led him to jail. He felt so ashamed of himself.

At Agodi prison, Ibadan where the police had taken him, Tade walked out of the gate of the prison with a sigh of relief. His mother and brother were waiting for him. The prison warder escorted him to the gate and he hugged his mother and brother with tears in his eyes. His mother could not totally condemn him because the money he made from his illegal business was used to pay for the rent of the house they were staying in Isolo, Lagos and in general, to take care of the family. When he was back in Lagos, he visited some of his friends and they tried to persuade him to go back into internet crime. They told him that if only he had been smart enough, he could escape the long arm of the law.

In fact, some of his friends were still very rich and they had not been caught for their crimes. He incidentally was now back to square one and the temptation of going back into crime was very strong. A few months later, one of his friends took him to a beer parlour in Isolo, Lagos and as usual, most people were discussing football and politics. A young man called Dele was leading the discussion. “Look the country is still in shambles. According to the United Nations report, Nigeria is now the poverty capital of the world. Around 75% of Nigerians now live below the poverty line. The former governor of Lagos state stole 9 billion naira from the local government funds. This country has no future”.

Tade had heard something like this ever since he was a kid. He thought of his own future and how he and his family could get out of poverty. His eldest brother was earning peanuts in his new found job and his older brother and sister were still unemployed. At this juncture, he wondered if he should go back into his life of internet crime. After all, some of his friends had not been caught and they promised him they would teach him how to outsmart the police. As he sat in the beer parlour, he realized he was in a dilemma and wondered what was next.

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