UNTIL their arrest and extradition last week by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the United States, Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, also known as Ray Hushpuppi and his accomplice in cyber-heist, Olalekan Jacob Ponle, known as ‘Woodberry,’ played second fiddle only to Emmanuel Nwude, former Director of the defunct Union Bank of Nigeria, known to have swung the third-largest jibiti in world banking history. Nwude himself was only bested by Nick Leeson and Qusay Hussein. Between 1995 and 1998, Nwude pulled a fraud that shook the entire globe and eminently placed him in any variant of the Guinness Book of Records, this time, of world fraudsters. He had defrauded Nelson Sakaguchi, a Director at Brazil’s Banco Noroeste, Sao Paulo, of the sum of $242 million.
Fraud is not strange to traditional African native lexicon. While the Yoruba derisively label it jibiti, Igbo label for it is aghugho or mpo and Hausa finds comfort in labelling it zamba. The three ethnic structures had so many mores, folklore and fables they formulated to demonise it as a road that leads to perdition and frantically pulled their children from its ruinous path. In Yoruba jibiti etymology, you scarcely could divorce the people’s deployment of anecdotes to the rescue. Tortoise was the anecdotal image constructed to impersonate jibiti by the people. This animal, to which cunning was second nature, approximated the fraud, smartness and the negatively deployed intelligence of the Hushpuppis, Woodberrys and Nwudes of this world.
At the end of those folklores, an eternally apt lesson was always drawn: that the jibiti kingpin would have money, build houses, sire children, live a life that refreshingly entices like a whooshing fiery vapour and literally build an enticing image in the moon but their end is always fatal and lamentable.
Just like the life of Hushpuppi, Woodberry, Nwude and their precursors who travelled on this accursed road. In his very early 30s, he was said to have hawked bread and second-hand clothing on Lagos streets. Some persons, like Hushpuppi, can’t seem to forgive the system that impoverished their background and thus take it out on it by inflicting scars on the system. Hushpuppi was the toast of A-list celebrities with whom he reportedly had photo-ops, like semi-atheist Daddy Fresh, Dino Melaye and even American singer-songwriter, Erykah Badu.
Depicting the spirit of flamboyance that is known to be the Siamese of sudden wealth, Hushpuppi began to live a sumptuous lifestyle and flaunted it in a Nigerian society where sources of wealth abhor enquiry of the people and are a taboo to be investigated by the police. Hushpuppi could not hush jetting out in private jets, rolling in Rolls Royce and roving in expensive Range Rover cars whose prices ranged from about $330,000. He was notorious on the social media by the frequency of his designer clothes, expensive wristwatches and postures with luxury cars and chartered jets.
This year 2020 would pass as the most unfavourable to Nigeria in the global blast its nationals involved in cyberheist schemes made while being burst abroad. Earlier in the year, Obinwanne Okeke of the Invictus Group CEO, popularly known as Invictus Obi, was arrested at the Dulles International Airport, on his way out of the United States. Between April 11, to 19, 2018, Okeke was said to have, through hacking into the email account of the Chief Financial Officer of Unatrac Holding Limited, which sells heavy industrial and farm equipment, fraudulently transferring funds from it and stealing an amount totalling $11 million.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) are managing a benumbing number of home-based Hushpuppis and Invictus Obis whose statistics is almost becoming a pandemic. It is gruelling explaining to the upcoming youths who are said to be the leaders of tomorrow that a life of crime doesn’t pay. This is because, at a conservative estimate, if you gather ten youths at a spot today, those who do not have the Hushpuppi DNA among them will rarely be up to three or four. What is wrong and what is to be done?
First thing is that it is the time of harvest of past slovenly leaderships. In the Nigerian leadership which, against the run of play, promoted corruption as an art of governance, celebrating kickbacks, survival-of-the-fittest-and-elimination- of- the-weakest race for government patronage, this is the time to harvest those cruel seeds.
What the leaderships above succeeded in doing was to kill craft, kill hard-work, but promoting mediocrity, reign of ackcorner efforts and shunting as national policy. Today, we have arrived at a lamentable intersection where money sits atop our conscience as the Nigerian national ethos. Everyone you meet in Nigeria is in a race to be wealthy and in the process, subverting the ethos that we used to know as constituting the rudiments of national wealth. If the national wealth of a nation is indeed constituted by her human resources, ours are being tainted daily with an obsession for material acquisitions.
The above conflagration is further stoked by the huge unemployed youths that Nigeria churns out day in day out. Nigeria and her unemployed youths are like the case of the North and its almajiri offspring. While the region gives birth to children it cannot fend for, Nigeria graduates out of her educational institutions graduate it does not have space for. Endeavour to have a one-on-one with them and you will have an idea of how seemingly hopeless the situation is.
Hushpuppi, Invictus Obi and the rest who make quick money are their role models. Good news is, I do not think that the situation is a totally hopeless one. The bad news is that there exists a hopeless tinge to it. This is that we may never have a leadership that is as concerned about this gross and derelict mindset of Nigerians as to declare a state of emergency on the current remiss orientation of Nigerians.
Nigeria needs to urgently invest and massively too, in the reorientation of minds. Right now, of abiding presence in the minds of Nigerians is a rentier, Naira and Kobo orientation. In families, offices, public places, interface with artisans and all that, you will confront Nigerians who derive all or a substantial portion of their survival or revenues from the rent paid by another person, individuals, concerns, politicians or government persons. We must return the minds of our growing youths to the reset mode of sacrifices, morality and the eternal worth of being there for the next person next door.
Anyone heading the government, armed with this fire-on the- mountain situation, should aim at rebuilding Nigerian homes. This can only be done by massively rewarding righteousness, punishing unkindness to the other person and fortifying the walls that hold families together with dosages of personal morality. Products of such homes cannot be as heartless as Hushpuppi, Woodberry, Invictus Obi and the likes who inflict pains on people for wealth. If we allow this society to go ahead like this, not only are we going to continue to harvest mechanistic beings who possess no atom of humanity, we will soon get to a juncture where we will offer our individual blood and flesh for sale on the open market.
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