• Monday, July 22, 2024
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419 gone local


This morning, I woke up to my husband pacing up and down in our living room and looking fairly distressed.

I walked up close and he put his forefinger to his lips urging me to be quiet. He was on the phone apparently and looked a little disturbed. The phone was on speaker and there was a robust conversation going on.

MAN:  Did you cancel my number from your phone? My name is Mr Unekwu. Remember me?

MR ABU:  Oh, Hello. Mr Unekwu, Good morning

MAN:  I would like you to represent my interest in a business deal.

MR ABU:  Really?

MAN:  Yes, about 35 million naira. How far is Abuja from Ajaokuta?

MR ABU:  Three hours

MAN:  Mmm… I think if you start now, you may be able to reach Ajaokuta at about noon. The meeting starts at noon.

MR ABU: Sorry Mr Unekwu, I have no intention of going to Ajaokuta for you or anyone else.

I burst into a loud laughter when the phone clicked indicating the man hanging up. This man was having this conversation with my husband  in Igala. He did not speak English, just Igala. This is in the belief that when someone speaks in your language, he is automatically your brother and will do whatever you want. I am not a sucker for ethnic jingoism and I am disinterested if you use your ethnic nationality to get me to do things for you.

419 has indeed gone beyond digital in Nigeria and people are now working on ethnic cleavages. Time was when they would call you and tell you that they have an NNPC deal and they want you to be part of it. They then pretend to have your interest at heart and offer you a lot of money.

I have zero tolerance for frauds and scumbags and I don’t give them a chance when they start. I just tell them to get off my line, I do not do 419.

My husband on the other hand is a prankster and leaves them to burn their credit leading them on, until exhausted, they give up. But now what we see are people using new methods to scam their brothers. You speak my language so what? You think you can play on my emotions or those things that are connected to my root. But guess what? If you are Igala and you are a fraud or a thief, I do not want to have anything to do with you. if you are that way from  any other tribe, I still will not want to have anything to do with you.

I am a sister to anyone who is kind, works hard, believes in charity and is interested in humanity. Where you come from becomes immediately irrelevant.

Those who are making fraudulent claims and lying through their teeth to make money are not related to me, no matter their ethnic nationality.

I have preached this for as long as I can remember on this column. Hard work always pays. Never try to cheat another, never try to lie or put someone down in order to get ahead. There is too much to do in a nation that needs cleansing, new work ethics, new mind-sets, new thoughts and a lot of creative endeavours.

We are too talented to let 419 be our brand. What happened to the hard work of our forebears?  What happened to the dignity of labour?

There must be a way in which we can get our young ones away from making money from fraudulent means and thinking that is the way to go. These women who sell oranges in the market, N200 a basket, a raffia hat on their heads are working hard to make a living and I admire them. They are my heroes. Why should people who have never lifted a finger get rich and live large? They drive Lamborghinis and tempt other young people in evil ways.

Please tell me, Is it not enough that we are considered a fraudulent nation with everything bad attached to us? Should anyone step up 419 in the local languages to make me really angry now?

I am this mad because Nigeria is a land of opportunities. We may have our challenges and Yes, they are many, but I would not exchange this country for any other.

Ask those who left our shores, who are now washing corpses in mortuaries, who are cleaning streets abroad, who wanted a better life. At least I can listen to Wizkid, watch P-square, listen to Tu-face and eat Iya Eba at a local joint. It will get better.

Let no 419 in the local language get on my case.

It is well!

Eugenia Abu