Thursday, 15 January 2015


“He always walked amongst them, watching quietly, unseen, unnoticed,” Amara said, trying to describe Nonso’s sudden uncanny behaviour the last time she saw him. Her body quivered, her voice unsteady and she occasionally used gestures to imprint her words in mind.

The old television was on when she stormed into my room unapologetic, uninvited. Kunfu Panda was playing and I laughed at Pow’s wanton silliness and exaggerated screams, ‘Awesome!’ in the face of danger. Nonso is my brother but it felt like Amara knew him better. Before he travelled to Portharcourt, for greener pasture, he spent most of his time with her. They sometimes cuddled on his bed, whisper to their ears and laugh at their silly jokes. I would excuse myself to the parlour and pout at the HD television hanging on the wall. “I dont like this television, it’s too clear and colourful,” I said when dad bought it to replace the old television. He planned to discard the old television but I protested we keep it in our room. I hardly believe anything I saw on the HD television. I preferred the old television, that gave a sharp contrast between a movie and NTA; when movies played on the VCD, the colours were bright but the moment NTA is flipped, the images blurs, and sometimes tiny black dots fill the screen. From tender age I learned to associate poor images to live broadcasts.

Our shared one-room was all Nonso and I had in common; beds placed side-by-side with the old television in-between. Nonso would lie down and face his wall and I would lie down and face mine. The only time we enjoyed flamboyant gist was when Super Eagles played; Nonso would lament how Enyeama punched a ball he was supposed to catch, how Mikel passed the ball to a defender instead of a striker, how Musa sometimes outrun the ball like a lorry without brakes. And when the images on the television blur, “Oh Lord! What is wrong with this stupid television?” he would scream and smack the television by the side, several times and unsuccessful, most times.
“Let me try.” I would say and tap the television gently by the side. This worked mostly. I concluded it was the television’s subtle way of saying ‘am old, please cuddle me’. Nonso would muse when I did get it right.

I went to the kitchen to get a glass of orange juice for Amara. As I passed the television in the parlour, a female newscaster was serious reading something. The image was spotless. I assumed a Nigerian movie was showing cut-scene news to drive home a point and didn’t bother to pay attention, because of my vendetta for Nollywood’s amateur movies. Amara screamed. I abandoned everything I held, dashed to see what was wrong. The expression on her face depicted horror. “Picture of Nonso and four others is showing on the screen,” she said. I turn to take a look, the television goes off.

Sunday, 4 January 2015


The day 2014 closed its curtain, as usual, I sat to ponder on my successes, failures, growth, degeneration, stagnations and so on. One thought that kept resurfacing was how I was swindled from a singularly unexpected source – a ‘family man’ with a wife and son, a man I once worked with for close to a year. Inasmuch as I have forgiven him, the experience continued to traumatize me, so I thought of what best to do with the memory and an idea came to my mind; turn it into a lesson so that others can learn from it.
There is a popular notion that swindlers use juju (black magic) hence you must fall for them each time. This is not always true, at least 80 – 90% of the times, juju is not involved but psychology, they preoccupy your mind with illusions that you lose objective thinking, and think only what they want you to think.
Using my experience, I will lead you through some of the steps to identify a swindler. These steps are easy to understand and are the same in almost all the cases notwithstanding the direction they take.            
“Hello, Tony” came the voice
“Hello sir.”
“Tony! I just finished speaking with the dean about that thing you told me and he is working on fixing your name into the shortlist. Send me your name, course of study and state of origin fast.”
“Ok sir!” I said and did as I was told as soon as I dropped the call.
My declaration of interest that sunny afternoon catalysed a cascade of a dozen other calls every now and then, for me to do this or that. Though I asked him to assist me secure a job in his establishment, that was a long time ago, more than a year even and we haven’t talked since that discussion. I had no reason to suspect anything at first because I knew him and I asked him the favour in the first place.
The scenario is virtually the same with all the cases of swindle I have heard of – the caller comes from the blue claiming to be a long lost friend, distant uncle or aunt or cousin or relative. After the initial introduction and sudden overflow of concern, what follows is them proposing to help you or seeking your help. Swindlers are not ghosts, they are people who know you or people who have spent a little time to study simple details about you with the fore knowledge that knowing someone’s name alone makes them lower their shield towards you.                                                     
Later that night, he called again to update me on the situation of things,
“Tony! Thank God o… Do you know what?”
Brief pause
“What?” I asked
“The dean forwarded your name and the list has been approved”
“WoW!” I screamed, “Thank you sir, may God reward you.” I told him with a sincerity erupting from the bottom of my heart. I mean this.
“Don’t worry, it is God, I will only struggle to make sure everything works. The only thing is that you did not buy the form and some people who bought the form were removed to accommodate the names from the dean and now the registrar is requesting for your file.”
“Ok” I chipped in.
“First thing tomorrow morning, send me the money so that I will help you get the form. The form is one thousand and also the dean is requesting for some appreciation, SMALL SOMETHING.”
“Ok sir, just send me your account number let me see what I can do.”
I thanked him again and again and ended the call.
He sent me his account number and I sent him a SMALL SOMETHING.
Though in my case cash got involved in a form of appreciation which was an indirect and smart way of putting it, in other situations – some of which I know people who have experienced – cash comes first. Some of the mundane techniques swindlers use to defraud their prey includes
a)      Showing you a bag full of money, sealed with juju and telling you they need money to pay a medicine man to remove the charm so that all of you will share the money claiming that if anyone touches the money without removing the charm, the person will die instantly. They promise you a fair share depending on the percentage you put in [If you come across this set, tell them to take the money to the medicine man and after he must have removed the charm they can pay him from the cash and share the rest].
b)      Another popular one is that you have won so so and so but have to pay some money for the processing [tell them to sell your winning, deduct their money and send you the balance].
The list is endless but this sort of defence works in all the cases. It only takes your consciousness to remember to use them. If I knew this earlier, I probably won’t be writing this post but such is life, some have to learn the hard way. 
“Tony, the appointment letters have been released o…”
I screamed. Only a Nigerian youth yet to be battered by the trauma of unemployment won’t understand this feeling, what this meant.
“Thank you sir. God bless you sir. I promise you will never regret this,” rolled out uncontrollably from my lips.
“Tony thank God o. my own is just to make sure everything is successful. I will collect it for you later.”
This was happening a day after I sent him SMALL SOMETHING for forms and files. About an hour later, he called again to tell me the situation of things,
“Tony, I went to collect the letter but learnt you have to pay five thousand for the letter to be released to you.”
“Ok sir, let me see if I can send it tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow? Tony people are collecting their own o. and the registrar has ordered that anyone that fails to collect should be replaced. You know it is through the dean you got this, I don’t want to make him feel that we are not serious.”
“Ok sir, let me see if I can get the money.”
“Please Tony, try your best.”
“Ok sir” I said and dropped the call.
Before banks closed for the day, I transferred him another SMALL SOMETHING.
The next day he called to tell me the local government chairman hijacked the letters and that he was demanding 5K to release it. After the last SMALL SOMETHING, I added up and found out I have spent BIG SOMETHING. There and then I convinced myself that I won’t send a dime again to his account. He told me he would help me secure courses while I ran around for the money.
As promised, late in the afternoon, I finished working and checked my phone, six missed calls stared back at me. I returned the call and he was shouting, furious at me,
“Tony! I have been calling you since and you refused to pick my call.”
“Sorry sir, I was busy,” I said.
“Send me recharge card let me text you your courses, I don’t have credit.”
I obeyed and sent him another SMALL SOMETHING for his phone.
That evening while I was in church, eagerly waiting for his text, I asked God for guidance and courage to say NO without flinching. Till I got home, nothing, so I decided to call him.
“Good evening sir,” I said, “I didn’t see your text again.”
He sounded like I was a pester when he said, “I am eating, I will text you when am done.”
“Ok sir.” I said and dropped the call.
Few minutes after the eagerly anticipated text came in, he called,
“Tony, the courses are remaining two” – because he sent four – “the person that will give the remaining two is requesting for SMALL SOMETHING.
“Sir, to be sincere with you, my account is red. You know I am not working and don’t have money.”
“I know but Tony, na money them dey use pursue money o. Let me tell you, I am in the system and assuring you there is no amount you put in that will be too much. You will have three hundred to three-fifty students and hand-out is one thousand and is compulsory. Some students will fail and come to meet you. In one semester you are sure of half a million, that is outside your salary o…”
He finished his sugary explanations and I ended the call. I am sure if I had played along, more demons would have been manufactured by him to truncate my hustle.                                          
Where he pulled the first wrong string was shouting at me to send him recharge card. I am a very sensitive person and inasmuch as I respect people, I hate someone shouting at me no matter the reason talk more of shouting at me because you think you are doing me a favour.
Having the guts to tell me about a rosy future while my ass burned red hot as I mourn the BIG SOMETHING I have thrown away was a huge setback for him and that was where my interest died. What swindlers do is to draw out your greed. The greedier you are, the better for them. This is because greed is a bad driver, and robs its passenger the power of rational thinking.
Imagine if I had allowed my mind swirl on the borders of the good life he postulated, I would have kept spending till a point will come when the greed will fade and I will spend this time to protect what I have already spent.

Along the line when he started laying down unforeseen problems, I begged him that I should come around and see things for myself and sort out what I can but he claimed that I would spend more if I should come around but since he was in the system, they wouldn’t like to inflate prices where there was any.
Most times, they keep a flat, toneless voice. Same tone they use to announce your little ‘success’ will be the tone they will use to tell you about a sprouting problem.
You may have begun to wonder how I broke free or did I just end the communication? No! You are wrong if you think the latter. He kept on pressurising me, stating clearly the time frame but each time I would tell him that I will run around and later in the evening when he calls back to know how far I have gone, I will tell him I didn’t succeed. One day he called again and I told him plainly,
“Sir, I don’t have money, please use your money and I promise to pay you when I start the job.”
Guess what he said,
“We have not been paid.”
Hilarious right?
Well, in your dealings with anybody, always keep the consciousness that the person may be a swindler close.