Back in the Seventeenth century, Oya was the ‘capital emplacement’ of a group of west African tribes that had a common language – Yoruba. We can’t really call Oya the capital city, because that would imply that it was the residence of just one ruler – and the Yoruba speaking people had many dynastic families.
Oya became strategically important because it was a mere 250 km from the coast – and some in Oya had heard rumours that there were riches to be had from the white man now arriving in boats on the coast to buy kola nuts and salt.
So it was that the tribal kings of Oya managed to agree on one thing: it was a good idea to march thousands of their healthiest young men and women 250 km on foot through the jungle and persuade the white man that they merely wanted a job in a nice sugar plantation in America. Later, the Yoruba speaking people persuaded the white man that the guilt was all his to shoulder for ever more – he had ‘enslaved’ their people who had chosen this route march of their own free will.
Oya collapsed as a city and was abandoned after Jihad waged by the Muslim cleric Usman dan Fodio over ran the area. Half a million displaced Yoruba residents, known as ‘refugees’ in any other circumstances, magically became ‘slaves’ and went to Brazil, a quarter of a million to the French colony of St Domingue – and 75,000 to the British colony of Jamaica.
In 1807, the British arrived and attempted to stem the ‘slave trade’ – after this most of the slaves were sent to Sierra Leone. The remaining Yoruba made a living out of palm oil for a hundred years or more after that, until the British discovered petroleum. Then many began work for the colonial government, sending and receiving mysterious ‘faxes’ for a product that they had never seen, and would never see.
You used the English you had learned at the mission schools, and wrote out letters telling ‘x’ that he needed to transfer millions of pounds to your boss’ bank account – and he did, and yeah! your boss rushed out and bought himself a brand new Range Rover, and his wife had so many new fridge freezers that she gave some away to her cousins – all from a few words written on a piece of paper. Magic that outshone anything brujería had ever thought of.
When General Babangida stepped down, albeit reluctantly, from power in 1993, it was the end of a period of huge corruption in Nigerian society, massive riches magically going to people named in those early petroleum contract faxes, no sign of a ‘product’ changing hands as it would in the local market – and a seemingly never ending supply of rich white folk who would send money in return for a request that mentioned unimaginable sums and quoted various government departments.
Nigeria was full of young men with a modicum of education, and a knowledge of how to word those faxes – and the world had kindly invented the Internet for them…
The famous ‘419’ scam e-mail had been invented – and it does pay off. A google search for ‘419 fraud mastermind jailed’ produces over a million results….as in a million results for ‘masterminds’ being jailed, not for the fraud being carried out!
The ‘Yoruba’, for want of a better descriptive term for this disparate group, have been turning reality on its head ever since in order to part the white man from his cash. That the e-mail targets are known as ‘maghas’, from the Yorubian word for a fool, is indicative of their long involvement in parting the white man from his cash and making him believe that everything that happens is his own fault….
Today, yet another ‘mastermind’ has been jailed – there seem to be as many ‘masterminds’ as there are scammers. Frank Onyeachonam was jailed in London for eight years, for having parted some 400 ‘vulnerable’ pensioners from ‘millions of pounds’ by enticing them to believe that they could steal millions of pounds from their rightful owners by sending Frank the money to pay the customs dues, or the probate fees, or the bank charges, or whatever excuse he had deemed suitable that day. Of course he won’t be deported when he has served his sentence – he is married to an English woman and has a baby with her..
Just on the off-chance, I looked up his name on a fascinating web site of Yoruba names – it means ‘don’t look for me’.
The frauds are successful simply because of Nigeria’s reputation as a corrupt oil rich country – that doesn’t put people off, it actually has the opposite effect of making the scam more believable. Ironically, those of us who merely delete these e-mails on the grounds that we are ‘savvy’ enough to know it is probably ‘Nigerian fraud’ make the scammers task that much easier – instead of wading through hundreds of replies, we have ‘self-selected’ ourselves out of their mailing list, leaving them able to concentrate on building a relationship with the more gullible…(Unintended Consequences Number 274).
It can’t be long now before the British Prime Minister is apologising for the ‘appalling actions’ of a few British pensioners in having lured Nigerians into a life of crime resulting in them suffering terribly in a British jail. It’s bound to be our fault.
I might just dream up a new scam.
Subject: Dear Respected Comedian, GREETINGS,
Permit me to inform you of my desire of going into business relationship with you. I got your contact from the International directory of elderly Comedians. I prayed over it and selected your name among other names due to it’s esteeming nature and the recommendations given to me as a reputable and trust worthy person I can do business with and by the recommendations I must not hesitate to confide in you for this simple and sincere business.
I am Wumi Abdul; the only Daughter of late Mr and Mrs George Abdul. My father was a very wealthy cocoa merchant in Abidjan, the economic capital of Ivory Coast before he was poisoned to death by his business associates on one of their outing to discus on a business deal on the day after I was born.
Sir, we are honourably seeking your assistance in the following ways.1) To provide a Bank account where this money would be transferred to.
Moreover Sir, we are willing to offer you 15% of the sum as compensation for effort input after the successful transfer of the valuable BBC funds to your designate account overseas. please feel free to contact ,me via this email address
Anticipating to hear from you soon.
Thanks and God Bless.
Miss Wumi Abdul
PLEASE FOR PRIVATE AND SECURITY REASONS, REPLY ME VIA EMAIL: