Once again, a high-profile Nigerian fraudster has been identified and arrested in Dubai.
This is not the first time nor will it be the last.
Last year in the USA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) indicted 77 Nigerians in what was described at the time as the largest case of on-line fraud in US history.
Also arrested was Obinwanne Okeke of Nigeria’s Invictus Group who in 2016 was named by Forbes Magazine as one of the top 30 African entrepreneurs aged under 30.
He is accused of becoming wealthy by stealing $11 million in one on-line scam alone!
In Dubai, Ramoni Igbalode known as “hushpuppi” was arrested for defrauding around two million people of approximately half a billion dollars.
People who earn the trust of others and then betray it are known as scammers.
They are the lowest of the low.
Human beings are supposed to trust one another, and people who decide to trust others are not necessarily stupid or greedy.
Although the nature of Nigerian scams ranges from fraudulent bank transfers to romantic lover e-mails, dead people’s money and fake contracts, they all have one thing in common, earning people’s trust then betraying it.
In Nigeria, scammers are held in high esteem among the youths.
In an egocentric attempt to justify defrauding others, Hushpuppi claimed he was the only one in his family who managed to escape poverty and, therefore, should be left alone to enjoy his ill-gotten wealth!
He quite irresponsibly lived extravagantly, patronised the most lavish hotels and restaurants, rode the most expensive cars, and wore the most expensive brands while his family remained poor.
He claimed to pay his driver N700,000 per month which he boasted is more than a local government chairman.
Obviously carried away by his successful criminality, he quite reprehensibly said that those criticising him should instead beg for their fathers to become his driver.
It is trite that even if adorned in the most expensive clothes, a dressed-up goat is still a goat.
Hushpuppi’s father is reputed to be a taxi driver and his mother a bread seller.
Perhaps they are principled people who knew that their son’s wealth was ill-gotten and decided not to collect a penny from him.
However, it’s also true that children who aren’t properly home trained to be honest and hardworking will eventually bring disgrace to themselves and their family.
Nigerian fraudsters flash their lavish lifestyles to the admiration of others especially politicians and musical artistes who rush to attend their ostentatious weddings or parties and love being pictured in their company.
Nigerian youths admire these scammers because lack of employment or career opportunities means that if they want to be wealthy, they themselves have less choice than to engage in criminal activities.
To them, fraud is more lucrative and attractive than robbery.
Fraudsters can “settle” police who are renowned for extra-judicial murder of armed robbers.
So many fraudsters have established legitimate businesses from their ill-gotten funds and become respected philanthropists or politicians in senior positions that there is little to discourage young Nigerians from following in their footsteps.
Indeed, most Nigerian youths consider internet scamming as a career path and valid source of income.
Nigeria is a nation in which the majority of the population live below the international poverty line.
Its youths are paying the price for the criminality of a relatively small group of “professional” politicians who have appropriated the national wealth to themselves and live sumptuous lifestyles with little or no regard to the sufferings of their people.
They have no meaningful strategy to get the nation out of economic backwardness, and appear simply to react to events in a haphazard manner rather than be proactive.
It’s no surprise the youths have lost hope in government and indeed the nation.
Perhaps what is most disheartening about today’s young Nigerian scammers is what they use money for.
Unlike Robin Hood who stole from the rich to give to the poor, they simply try to copy the lifestyle of politicians and squander money in their obsession with materialism.
Genuine billionaires like Sir Richard Branson of Virgin, Bill Gates of Microsoft, and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook who made their money honestly are known for their simple lifestyles.
Nigerian political office holders and internet scammers on the other hand are obsessed with expensive trinkets such as luxury watches, sunglasses (to be worn at night!) cars, designer clothes and personal mansions bigger than hotels.
In Nigeria, despite the majority of people being poverty stricken, there is a booming luxury goods industry whose main patrons are musical artistes, political office holders and Pentecostal pastors.
Their ill-considered display of opulence has prompted Nigerian youths to abandon career opportunities and the idea of becoming comfortable over a lifetime, in favour of the “get rich quick or die trying” mentality.
The Nigeria government must accept some responsibility for this spread of criminality among the youths. In the old days, young men were admonished to “be like your father”.
When youths of today see that as a reward for being honest all their lives, their aged parents live wretchedly without even receiving their miserable pension regularly, how can they be reasonably expected to aspire to live a life of honesty?
Tragically, most parents of today cannot control their children who have seen with their own eyes that honesty gets you nowhere in Nigeria.
Those who scam their way into political office for a few years will have a lifetime of luxury while those who work honestly for a lifetime will remain poor.
It’s important for leaders to always bear in mind that the youths are the real assets of any nation.
They need to be inspired with the right values in life, and the truth is there are very few good examples of how honesty and integrity pay in Nigeria.
Unless the youths are inspired to improve society politically, educationally, socially, economically, technologically and morally, even the best laid national development plans will amount to nothing.
As for the youths themselves, the lesson from Hushpuppi and Obinwanne Okeke is that when you ascribe to get-rich-quick or die trying, you should be ready to die!