In Times Like These…

My guess is that the phrase Nigerians google most frequently now is “How to survive a recession” or “Businesses that prosper during a recession”. I have googled it too.  Everyone seeks a recession-proof business. There are millions of references on the net, and you have to cut through the clutter to find any meaningful advice.

The one idea I believe to be spot on is what they call “sin businesses”. In recessionary times, they assert, people patronise businesses that are ordinarily considered sinful: brothels, beer parlours, hemp and cigar joints, and piracy. Others who are not really sinners but do well are casket makers, mortuary attendants/ morticians, farmers and psychiatric doctors.

From my personal research, I’ve discovered some more “sin businesses”: propagandists, liars and fraudsters. In the case of Nigeria, only government employs the first two. The third (fraudsters) operate mainly in the private sector – including places of worship – and are notoriously labelled “419ers” (those who steal by trick).

I need not mention the businesses that have been hard-hit by economic recession in Nigeria. From airlines through banks and stock markets to hospitals and open markets, businesses in the country are going bankrupt. The first casualty is perhaps the industry I belong to: publishing. Newspapers are broke; radio and TV stations are on life support.

Government can’t employ everybody. Even many in government employment are groaning because the loopholes through which they used to siphon amazing wealth are being closed. I’ve just read that a former first lady has claimed ownership of $31.4million (N13billion) frozen by the EFCC in Skye Bank  I’ve also read that the N500billion “social security scheme” through which jobs would be given to university graduates has been “scaled down”. Meaning: the schoolchildren expecting to be fed once a day, the one million-plus “N-Power” candidates, including 500, 000 would-be teachers and agric extension workers, have to wait indefinitely. I knew it would come to this – and I said so.

What businesses should the unemployed, the underemployed, the retrenched workers and owners of failed businesses do now? I’ve got no business with “sin businesses”. The best advice I would give other compatriots is this: guard against losing the money you already have; beware of 419 fraudsters. In the interest of those who may be inexperienced or not clever enough to understand when they are being duped, in times like these, I wish to serve a few reminders. After all, I’ve sworn to offer solutions and not merely lament the hard times.

In times like these, it’s dangerous for one to be greedy, ignorant or over-anxious. All victims of 419 have one or more of such weaknesses. You know how hard it is to make money now, and yet you agree to converse with a stranger (on phone or in person) offering to show you how to reap millions effortlessly. If he knew the route to instant riches, would he invite his relations, much less you who are a stranger?

In times like these, 419 comes in different forms.  The one that illiterates and educated ignoramuses often fall victim to is played by cultists. A man is told to commit incest or bring human body parts for a “money-making” ritual. In some places, juju priests direct young cultists to rape grandmothers or lunatics!

Such dangerous criminals are different from those forced by extreme poverty to sell their children for as little as N100, 000. It is evil to sell one’s child, however. A friend who attempted to defend the culprits recently told me it’s a form of child adoption. When a parent has six children starving to death, it is proper to sell one and use the proceeds to save the rest, he said. I disagree.

I attribute this explosion of evil not just to Nigeria’s economic depression but to the 419 fraudsters that have refused to die out. For 419 is not a recent phenomenon. In every generation, from time immemorial, there have been fraudsters that hide behind cults or religion to steal, rape and kill.

Juju priests are the original 419ers – people who make money off the fears of the ignorant. Some of them were the founders of several religious sects that dot our neighbourhoods today.  They constitute the membership of all secret societies – the fly-by-night bats, the witches and wizards, the great pythons that turn human beings during the day to decide the fate of nations.

The 419ers will not abandon their trade because it is very profitable. I once lived in the same neighbourhood with a family whose business was crashing. Suddenly, they converted their shop to a “prayer house” and, within a few months, the family was swimming in money. Among their clients were AIDS and cancer patients. She could “reveal” the sources of all ailments: a mother-in-law who poisoned food, a brother who left a charm on the farm, or a child witch ruining its parents’ future.

Like hard drugs, such 419ers are the catalysts for many crimes that bedevil Nigeria today. Jobless and frustrated young men go into crime usually because they are emboldened by drugs and charms. Otherwise, few could waste human blood and still retain their sanity. Armed robbers and political thugs constantly seek the 419ers to get “bulletproof” into their blood or skin. They assume that, with the “bulletproof” or odeshi, bought for as much as N20, 000, they would become immune to bullets. Several corpses of robbers have been found with odeshi marks.

Who would dare to attack these Nigerian crimes at their roots? Our security operatives are always chasing shadows, leaving the substance untouched. There is hardly any Nigerian community or street where hemp is not consumed. And the sellers are known; even some security agents patronise them. NDLEA has offices nationwide, yet its men don’t see hemp farms everywhere or those destroying kids with the drug in almost every hamlet. Similarly, secret cults are everywhere, not just on university campuses. Though the Nigerian constitution outlaws all secret societies, we have seldom witnessed a raid on any. Many towns have “powerful” shrines that harbour human skulls. Are the security agents not aware of this? Are they also afraid?

The continued existence of these fetishes, after more than 150 years since the coming of western education and civilisation, is an indication of the black man’s stupidity. Could it be responsible for our lagging in science and technology? The white man engages in “wizardry” in order to make aircraft, television, computer and electricity that make life comfortable; the black man’s witchcraft enables him to kill and destroy.

The tragedy is that Nigeria’s education system has been destroyed. The new generation has been taught that hard work and honesty don’t pay. What we are seeing today is the outcome. Yet, we’ve not seen the worst. The politicians are coming.


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