Operation Stop the Yahoo Boys!:
Make no mistake about it, we are at war with a new kind of virus known as “scam.” The air is filled with it. It started as a topic for small talk but now it is roaring like wildfire, consuming everything on its path. The epidemic has a vector, we call them “Yahoo boys,” but the problem is that it has mutated into a new variant known as “Yahoo plus.” Alas, if we do not urgently do something about it, it has the destructive power to end our society as we know it.
The problem with Nigeria is multifaceted but the fundamental bugaboo is our political class. They are the root of all our maladies, including this “scam virus.” The country’s politics is so confusing that we are no longer sure whether our leaders are smart pretending to be dumb or dumb pretending to be smart. Most of our problems could have been nipped in the bud if the right things were done early in the day. For instance, today we cry of the depreciating value of the naira but, once upon a time, when we had enormous cash, a Nigerian president said our problem was not knowing what to do with money and he did absolutely nothing to grow our wealth.
A second example is the insurgency fueled by religious extremism. A couple of decades ago, the streets of the North were lined by Islamic scholars doling out weird revelations to adherents who gathered in the evenings to listen to sermons. The government did not see the hate-laced vituperations as a red flag; it allowed the monster to metamorphose, just like an ugly pupa morphing into a beautiful butterfly. Actually, some politicians used these extreme teachings to amass partisan goodwill and eventually secure electoral victories. But later, the monster they fed, began to pick them up for lunch.
Believe it or not, another hydra-headed beast is about to rise from Nigeria, and our leaders are yet quiet. In fact, their silence is deafening. But the journey did not start yesterday. When scam and decadence began to manifest among our young boys and girls, many years ago, we came up with the euphemism: Yahoo Yahoo. We welcomed them with open hands. We accepted their loot. We celebrated their ill-gotten wealth. We gave them high seats in the village square and at the village church. We sang their praises. We urged them to rule over us. We ushered them into Government Houses. Con-artists became statesmen. Now, the difference between the good and the bad is so blurred that we may die with the demon we want to exorcise!
The truth is that “Yahoo plus” is a metaphor for its victory over our society. Now, people are dropping dead, right, left and centre. Body parts are going missing. Citizens are getting kidnapped. Young people are going mad. Parents are killing their children and children are killing their parents. All in a bid to get rich quick. Nigeria is a horror movie, happening live before our very eyes.
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The other day, a boy of 17 cut off the head of his girlfriend for money rituals. He said he learnt how to do it on Facebook. Money ritual lectures are now as accessible as motivational speeches and comedy skits online. That is how low we have sunk. Worsened by insurgency in the Northern part of the country, our sensibilities have been inured to shock and gore. And, the worst part of the national noir is that our moral compass is jammed. The priests are like the politicians. As a matter of fact, some armchair philosophers preach that Yahoo business is justified because “our children are taking back what the Whiteman took from our ancestors.”
Now the chicken has come home to roost. Our economy is in shambles, and our politicians and Yahoo boys have yet to supply the deficit. Nigeria has borrowed beyond her limit. We are sinking fast. Yesterday, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, said China is no longer lending to us so we are now looking towards Europe for loans. So, who will pay these debts? The Yahoo boys? They are more clueless than their fathers. Our past leaders partied and squandered; our Yahoo boys party and squander. We did not save yesterday; we are not saving today.
Ostensibly, we have come full circle, back to slavery. The “oyibo maga” we ridicule and lampoon were more transparent and creative with their “blood money” during their Yahoo days. They sat around a table and built their nation. But over here, the Yahoo boys sit down to wreck our country. They revel and rig elections and they borrow from the oyibo in order to cover their cluelessness. Just like Russian Roulette, Nigeria is about to pull the trigger which fires the armed chamber. We had been lucky for far too long, now there are no more safety options.
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Nevertheless, there is still a narrow window of escape. Firstly, the government must see the Yahoo epidemic as a national emergency, the same way it finally visualised religious extremism and banditry. Secondly, it must rally all the broken pieces of the country’s moral machine, and restart the engine. Thankfully, the clergy is now speaking out. Last week, a prominent Pentecostal preacher, David Ibiyeomie, publicly cursed the Yahoo business, describing the wealth that accrues from it as “blood money.” That courageous action should be commended. In Nigeria, religious leaders are so worshipped that their words outweigh those of God himself.
Thirdly, the government must reinvent its fight against corruption. From all indications, the present strategy is not yielding any fruit. The fight against corruption should be holistic, procedural, psychological and spiritual. It must be planned in such a way that it touches on all aspects of our national life. Most importantly, it must be built on the underlying foundation of trust. This is a difficult task though because the people no longer trust their leaders. But we must start somewhere to repair the dike, if not, we are sunk.
Let us borrow a leaf from Japan, a country that celebrated suicides until the evil threatened to sink the wealthy Asian nation. That was when they woke up from their slumber and declared a national emergency for it. They planned diligently and executed a well-orchestrated campaign against suicide. Note, this is a nation whose ancestors prided themselves for suicide. Someone once said that suicide was Japan’s national pastime—citizens designed innovative ways of taking their own lives.
Historically, cultural attitudes towards suicide in Japan have been described as “tolerant,” with certain types of suicide being considered honourable, especially during military service. For example, “seppuku,” a form of ritual suicide by self-disembowelment, was practised mainly by Samurai to avoid dishonour after a defeat in battle or after bringing shame upon oneself. During World War II, the Empire of Japan regularly employed “kamikaze” and “banzai charge” suicide attacks and encouraged suicide as a preferable alternative to capture. According to Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney, the famous Japanese anthropologist, suicide has been elevated to the level of aesthetic experience through cultural and social experiences common to many Japanese.
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However, in response to the realities of modern times, the country adjusted its national mentality. Just last year, the Japanese government appointed a “Minister of Loneliness” in an attempt to reduce loneliness and social isolation among its residents as the country deals with rising suicide rates. Likewise, it is high time the Nigerian government appointed a “Minister of Yahoo-Plus,” in response to the demands of this present societal emergency. This is because, “if we don’t kill scam and Yahoo, scam and Yahoo will kill us.”