Sometime ago, as I sat, cross-legged, in my neighbours living room, I overheard their 13-year-old son telling his friend on phone “school does not fit you, you better drop out and do yahoo.” I was stunned; he was just too young for that. One day, while doing amebo with me, my neighbour’s daughter told me how a mutual friend of hers was doing yahoo. “He’s now forming big boy, he even left his parent’s house.” This “big boy” in question is a 15-year-old teenager.
I know my neighbour’s son said it carelessly; he surely does not know the gravity of his words and I doubt he knows the extent to which internet fraud cuts into our society, and there’s no way to confirm that the 15-year-old boy is an internet fraudster – he probably was just trying to gain bragging rights, who knows? But I cannot, like many people, shake off the popularity of ‘yahoo yahoo’, how it is being spoken of so casually, and how fast it is being embraced by our young ones.
Now, it seems people are now talking about internet fraud in softer tones – like everyone accepts it is bad but still believes it is not ‘that bad.’ Every week, the conversation about yahoo yahoo rears its head on Twitter and starts trending with some ridiculous takes like “they are helping our country grow,” “If not for yahoo, the crime rate will be high,” “No job, boys are hustling.”
This week is no different: yahoo is trending again, but for a different reason. A more ridiculous reason.
This time around, people are insinuating that one way to curb the skyrocketing rate of yahoo yahoo “recruitment” is by introducing yahoo boys to tech. As in, dangle tech before criminals and say “hey, this is a better option, choose this.” Nah fam. It doesn’t work that way.
The first thing we must note is that there is absolutely no nexus between yahoo yahoo and tech, and drawing comparisons is an insult to tech people who toil day and night to make a honest living.
There’s a huge disparity in the conversations we have on social media and how the real world actually works. We saw how it played out during the #EndSARS protests. As conversations on Twitter were swirling around renovating police barracks and buying foodstuff for policemen, policemen on the streets were brutally harassing protesters. It is naive to think that when you are good to certain people, they will automatically be good to you, or that buying policemen food will stop them from being trigger-happy.
We also see how it’s playing out with the Nigerian government integrating “repented” Boko-Haram members into the society. In 2020, a repentant Boko Haram member, who had been integrated into his community, killed his father, stole his wealth and disappeared. In November 2020, Senator Ali Ndume of Borno State also claimed that a ‘repentant’ Boko Haram member was responsible for the murder of an Army Colonel, D.C Bako. According to the senator, this Boko Haram member had given out information to the terrorists regarding the movement of the colonel. You do not change a terrorist’s uniform, give him sardines and a gun, and expect him to fight for you. If you changed his uniform, did you change his ideologies or mindset?
It is the same way you do not expect a yahoo boy to suddenly change his ways because you have introduced him to tech. Trying to incorporate yahoo boys into tech is akin to inviting a thief to a buffet in your home with the hope that the delicious food will discourage the thief from robbing you. Give a yahoo boy the tech skills and watch him use his new found tools to rob more people. He is a thief and with these new resources, you’ll be making a bigger thief of him.
Internet fraudsters always want to take the easiest path and if it takes stripping people of all they have worked for in their lives, so be it. Yahoo boys are callous criminals who do not give a hoot about the aftermath of their actions on the people they dupe. Showing them another way – that is legit, is more stressful and does not bring in quick money – is depriving people who actually want to work of opportunities. When we incorporate yahoo boys into tech, let’s not act surprised when international clients do not want to employ tech people anymore from Nigeria because they can’t differentiate between the legit ones and the fraudsters.
People like to pretend that the popularity of yahoo yahoo is due to the unemployment rate in the country. But what would you say is the cause of the rise of yahoo yahoo among teenagers? Are they also ‘pushed to the wall’ by unemployment?
We must wean ourselves from the belief that certain demography of people are criminals, not by choice, but because of certain circumstances, and that if we give them a better platform/environment, they will stop being criminals. If that were the case, people like Invictus Obi and Hushpuppi would have stopped being criminals long ago and invested their stolen money into legal businesses. Our politicians would have also stopped stealing immediately they garnered enough wealth. Criminality, corruption, fraud is a mindset thing and there’s no amount of ‘goodness’ that will turn thieves into saints. This is not Nollywood.
We are in a certain mess today because we fail to see things, situations, and people for exactly what and who they are. So we keep giving excuses and searching for reasons to make things look less abysmal.
Internet fraud is highly embraced because the fraudsters make so much money that other people are willing to dabble into it. These fraudsters also go scot free, and hardly do they face any consequences. In a country where criminals are not made to face the law fully, crime thrives.
One of the best ways to curb crime is by having anti-crime agencies and agents that are more interested in nabbing criminals than breaking into people’s homes at 3am, or harassing people wearing dreadlocks and using iPhone. Make internet fraud look less enticing by making fraudsters rot in jail and watch young ones recoil from it. But the worst idea is to dangle carrots before criminals with the hope that they’ll drop their own sticks.
Featured image: Dreamstime