By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo
A couple of weeks ago, I boarded a taxi to the airport in Owerri. One of those airport taxi guys you use once and want to use again. I had met him two years ago and saved his name as ‘the funny taxi man’.
A couple of weeks ago, as he hurried to the airport, I brought up the menace of yahoo-yahoo. Recently, I had watched youths discuss yahoo-yahoo and long for careers in that criminality.
I asked my funny taxi driver if Owerri was actually so filled with yahoo-yahoo boys that the EFCC now perpetually circled the town. He nodded. Then I asked him if he believed yahoo-yahoo or cybercrime was evil. He shook his head.
I let him concentrate on the road. A particular car drove past; he told me the boy driving the car was one of them. He said the boy would have been an armed robber if the enterprise of yahoo-yahoo weren’t thriving, weren’t an option. I shook my head.
When the traffic eased, permitted, I asked him if he knew the activities that dominated the yahoo-yahoo enterprise in Owerri. He said it was dating scam. “Oh !” I exclaimed. “There is money in it,” he said.
I knew I had to stop being judgmental; I wanted him to open up. Boys as he called them rented whole mansions and lived there for their work. But since the EFCC had learnt to shoot without aiming—chasing the boys from house to house; the boys have learnt to fly without perching—relocated to hotels. Many of the hotels have become work stations.
I showed sympathy for the youths who had been denied jobs by lousy leadership. He praised me for my understanding and opened up more. All the boys did, he said, was mingle in the social media, find love prospects, woo them and trap them in a love net.
He said patience was necessary because women had learnt to be suspicious. The prime preys of the Owerri yahoo-yahoo boys are older women and widows seeking youthful love. He said the younger girls were brash and aloof.
The plot was simple. Once the women fell into the love trap, then the yahoo-yahoo boys would present a business venture which could fetch the lady huge sums of money if she made a little initial investment.
Because she would be drenched in love, sentiment rather than reason would lead her on. Sometimes, if the woman were love-sick enough, the yahoo-yahoo boy would present himself as a lover in trouble.
He concluded yahoo-yahoo was like hunting. I didn’t shake my head. I wanted him to talk more. He detoured into politics.
In the past, we had political conversations. During the last Christmas, he had told me that Ihedioha had filled Owerri and the government with his Mbaise kin. I laughed. He said if he had known Ihedioha was so clannish, he wouldn’t have voted for him.
In February, after Ihedioha was thrown out, he asked me if Hope Uzodimma could be left alone to run a state all by himself. Funny guy. I told him to give Hope a chance because Hope should be aware of his ugly reputation on the streets of the state.
This time, in September, he mentioned Hope and chuckled. Just then the car bounced off a pothole. He eyed me and said I should help him tell Hope Uzodimma that he must be the only governor who would go from January to October without patching any pothole in his state capital.
I chuckled. I lured him back to yahoo-yahoo by asking him if he had ever tried hunting, perhaps when the airports were shut during the lockdown season. He nodded. He began without any trace of remorse.
He had gone into Facebook and met a Brazillian woman. He posed as someone else with an excellent physique. A week later, the woman fell in love with him. Three months into COVID lockdown he had wooed down the woman and promised her marriage.
He didn’t want to present her any funny business proposal because he was attached to her and didn’t want to dupe her as others would have. The pictures he used were not his. He got the man’s images from a certain app that could fetch many photos of an individual from social media.
He said technology had boosted the business. He had more than 500 photos of the man whom he became. He had a variety of the bloke’s pictures : in bathroom robes, in boxers, at airports, in the kitchen, in a car etc. He said photographs were essential tools used to trap love targets.
He wasn’t lucky, he said. Because much as the Brazillian blonde loved him, she didn’t have the money to solve his problems. So he dropped her. I shook my head. He said he wasted his data; his net caught a beautiful weed. I shook my head.
He sucked his teeth and asked me if he was any worse than our politicians who stole, without breaking a sweat, from the poor. He said he was a hardworking boy who only sought to augment his earnings by hunting in the bush. He asked if he wasn’t better than all the ‘419’ people whom he knew well who had metamorphosed into prominent politicians.
He reminded me of a particular politician who marched straight from the advance-fee fraud industry into the Hallowed chamber of the House of Representatives during the Obasanjo era. He listed many other prominent names in the immediate past and current governments whom he said had long distinguished careers in the yahoo-yahoo business. He said Hush Puppi and Invictus were unlucky.
We got to the airport on time, and he helped me with my bag to the gate of departure. With smiles, he waved me goodbye. Funny guy. I told him we would talk more, but he had to desist. He nodded and smiled. For him, yahoo-yahoo was a harmless hobby.
That is where we are. Yahoo-yahoo is no longer repugnant. It is fast becoming a respected business. Our youths are going astray!
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