“I am a Nigerian and I will remain a Nigerian until I die” These are the highly admirable words of the most decorated Nigerian footballer to ever live. The name Kanu Nwankwo draws a lot of admiration from many Nigerians and football lovers all over the world. Our memories of this great man often go back to the days of Atlanta 96 when the Dream Team grabbed the Olympic Gold Medal. However, this article is not about football or the high points of that golden era, but about the shame some Nigerians have brought upon our beautiful country. Life and conditions of living for many Nigerians especially those who witnessed the “good years” in the 1980s when life and livings standards were very high has all but changed. The stories of those good old days are still told by those who experienced it albeit with a feeling of nostalgia. But as they say all good things must come to an end; so sadly the cornucopia was replaced with the doom and gloom which we now find our economy. It is true that Nigerians have become poorer than in the 1980s, but does that justify the widespread corruption, scams and downright moral decay that has become a norm in the country.
It not just sad but this has become a source of embarrassment for many Nigerians both at home and abroad. This is the premise upon which I have decided to pen down this “cry from my heart”. The article is in fact about the now termed “Nigerian Scams” known in Nigeria as 419. The media around the world is awash with stories of scams in which Nigerians have ripped foreigners of their monies. So why has this become so prevalent? What can be done to curb this wave of criminal insanity and ridicule of the good name of our country? Because of this most people now associate Nigeria and Nigerians with dishonesty and crime of all kinds and manner. I am prompted to ask if all Nigerians are indeed honest. But I quickly rebuke myself with the fact that of course not all Nigerians are corrupt. Yet I am shamed of the reports I read in the media especially now that I am miles away from home. Some weeks ago I was confronted with this issue while embarking on a group project for my university newspaper, TU DELTA. During one of the meetings, the group comprising half International students and half Dutch students, we asked to give a short speech about happenings in their home countries. Half way during the discussing Nigeria became the focal point, and the first thing a Dutch student mentioned was the corruption in Nigeria and the “scam emails”. I was thoroughly embarrassed and was forced to patriotically defend my country, at least the remaining honest Nigerians. But truth is I knew it was true. I personally have received these emails. What is strange is how people fall for these scams? Because in my opinion they are froth with mistakes, grammatical errors and goofs that only persons blinded by greedy could be reeled in. This was my argument in the project meeting that evening; my response was that people in the West were greedy and blinded by the prospect of easy money; and this explains why they fall easy prey to the fraudsters. Why don’t other Nigerians fall for them? But there was no answer from them.
Over the last weeks I have been receiving emails from a group, camouflaging as staff of InterSwitch Nigeria Limited. However, one of the many faults of these scammers is their inconsistency. This group has the following; one, they have so many email addresses that even the most careless person will discern it’s a scam. Two, the customer services arm of every a big firm always email its customers with an email address you can reply to, these emails cannot be replied to. If this is not the case, it will be stated in the email, at the bottom of the message. Many other scams exist, for instance where people are fooled into believing they have won the United States Visa Lottery and then are asked to send monies via Western Union to persons half way across the globe. Common! That is not the half of it, these unsuspecting people are then asked to call phone numbers with country codes in South East Asia or email their details to email accounts with domains in South America or some strange places. Common!
The list of these scams is endless. However, what is important in my opinion is the lessons we can all draw from this now national problem. In my opinion, the list is as long as the types of scams and its perpetrators. But most importantly we as a nation must search within ourselves and find lasting solutions by addressing the root causes of problem, poverty and joblessness of our youths and university graduates. The government and well meaning individuals must all join hands to help solve these problems. More importantly, the youths and graduates must be nurtured to be self reliant and look to work for multinational companies, telecoms and banks as is the dream of most a Nigerian graduate these days; only then can we begin to solve some of these problems. So that maybe one day we can all be like Kanu Nwankwo, and begin to believe in our country and ourselves. May God help Nigeria and Nigerians; Arise o’ compatriots.