It was in 2005 that the Veteran Actor, Osuofia, also known as Nkem Owoh, released the song, I Go Chop Your Dollar(I Will Steal Your Dollars in Queens English). It was an instant hit. The song celebrated the lives and actions of fraudsters in different fields of the game: the 419ners, who deceive, pickpocket and hypnotise to cheat one of his money or material possession and the Yahoo Boys, also known as Yahoo-Yahoo boys, who punch on their laptops, PCs and phones all day, working online trying to cheat, usually, white people and other foreigners of their hard earned money. This song glorified their profession and called it smartness. Its argument was: ‘you only fall because you are dumb’. This man was a respected veteran in Nollywood and did the track as theme song for the movie ‘The Master’. It weren’t ghosts who danced to that sound. It wasn’t made a hit by some strange entities but us.
This past week, there have been arguments in favour and against Falz The Badt Guy’s call for some responsibility in content amongst Nigerian music artists. The rapper was speaking against the glorification and promotion of the fraudster life in their lyrics and video content, taking mild shots at the latest track, ‘Living Things’, by Nigerian musician, 9ice. While 9ice has come out to explain and clear himself, adding that those he mentioned in his song should be arrested if they are into illegalities, we must reexamine ourselves and the artists and know why such music sells. Osuofia, Kelly Handsome, Olu Maintain, Olamide, Reminisce, Small Doctor, Dbanj and co have glorified fraudsters in their songs because our average music listener doesn’t go beyond the sound. He’s not interested in the lyrics but what the song sounds like. He dances away his present sorrows by planting future sorrows today. It won’t be a surprise to find that the most vocal critics of internet fraud today were the most inspired by songs promoting fraud yesterday.
Omawumi was alone when she sang, “music, heals your body, heals your soul, makes you whole…” Same as Asa when she did the song ‘Jailer’. To make a hit song here, what you need is a good beat irrespective of your content. That is why it was possible for the Nigerian artiste, D-Prince, to repeat just the phrase “say banana till you go yo” for over fifty times in a song and still sell. What is the meaning of “say banana till you go yo?” And this track sold and put the dude on the spotlight. Our addiction to songs with fine beats lacking in substance has not done us any good. These contents build up in our subconscious over time and reduce the intensity of our dislike for negative messages. This was were Osuofia was tapping from when he did the track “I Go Chop Your Dollar”. He was channeling our ‘gbedu’ spirit to work and it worked.
In ‘I Go Chop Your Dollars’ by Osuofia, the lyrics read:
“I know suffer no be small
Upon say I get sense
Poverty no good at all, no
Na im make I join this business
419 no be thief, it’s just a game
Everybody dey play em
if anybody fall mugu,
ha! my brother I go chop em
National Airport na me get em
National Stadium na me build em
President na my sister brother
You be the mugu, I be the master
Oyinbo man I go chop your dollar,
I go take your money and disappear
419 is just a game, you are the loser I am the business
The refinery na me get em,
The contract, na you I go give em
But you go pay me small money make I bring em
you be the mugu, I be the master…
na me be the master ooo!!!!
When Oyinbo play wayo,
dey go say na new style
When country man do him own,
them go dey shout: bring em, kill em, die!
That Oyinbo people greedy, I say them greedy
I don’t see them tire
That’s why when they fall into my trap o!
I dey show them fire “
Most Nigerians claim to detest fraud and fraudsters but this song, even with the evident poor lyrics, was celebrated. These were not deep words that could take one a lot of thinking and skill to decipher but a simple song glorifying fraud. We get angry when foreigners call us a nation of scammers. We get angry when anyone apart from Nigerians point out our disease. We attack their pages and unleash our arsenal. We are so engrossed in momentary enjoyment and merriment that we fail to see the long term effect of promoting songs like this. Today, the number of Yahoo boys on our streets have increased. Some say the unemployment level increased but when you look at other countries with high and higher levels of unemployment, you see it is a matter of erosion of morals. A thief will still steal even in the presence of plenty. A well groomed population will never take to cyber crime because of hunger. Hunger can inspire many things, even good governance.
Two years after Nkem Owoh dropped the track, I Go Chop Your Dollar, another Nigerian musician, Olu Maintain, released a song called ‘Yahooze’. This song too was an instant hit. Our sense of right and wrong was stretched again by our need for enjoyment to accommodate the demeaning lyrics. It was sonically sound and like a Greek Gift it further massacred our ailing sense of right and wrong. We never bothered. Our little ones, who had zero knowledge of the meaning of the words he used, were encouraged to master and dance to the tune. This song hid nothing. It obviously encouraged the Yahoo Boy life by making it seem fashionable and a turf of the big boys in the society. Together we made the artiste big.
That unthinking part of us was channeled again. Here was a man openly bragging about what he will do with the proceeds of fraud. An act that breaks another human being and human beings did not only applaud him, they also killed their souls to get him to the top. The victims of these internet scams are usually heartbroken, depressed and some could be suicidal. It is very difficult to have a good opinion of the one who duped us and our place in the comity of nations withered. With Yahooze, Olu Maintain was mocking the wounded victims of internet scams and the entire country supported him. We gave his song our vocal supports(when we sang his song), our moral support(when we allowed our morals to be eroded), our physical support(when we attended his shows) and our intellectual support(when we bought his songs).
The lyrics of the song reads:
“Ewo awon boys yi.
Kamikaze on a Ketto level.
E jami si jo
Yahoo oh oh
Yahoo oh oh
If I hammer,
1st thing na hummer,
1 million dollars,
Elo lo ma je ti n ba se si Naira.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Boys dey hustle
Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Gbogbo aye
Champagne, Hennessy, Moet
Ewo awon omoge, dem dey shake their body;
Everybody, enough effizy
Take am easy
It’s all about the Benjamins baby
La la la la la la la
London la mule si, America la ti pawo
Awon oshomo gbomo tiawn
Awon oshomo gbomo gbin
To ba wunmi mo le gba Tokyo lo
To ba wunmi ma lo Jamaica o
O le tun wunmi ki n ni mo fe lo Germany o
Ki n ni mo fe lo ojo meji pere
Owo lo n soro o
If I hammer…
Owo n be lapo mi o
Dide ko ba mi jo
Owo n be lapo mi o
Dide ko ba mi jo
Mama Charley n be lapo mi o
Dide ko ba mi ra
Dollar n be
Naira n be
Kuruje n be
Paper n be
Everything is there.
Awon kan, Awon kan, Awon kan…
Awon kan waye wa sise
Awon kan waye wa jaye
Awon kan waye wa gbowo
Awon kan waye wa saye
Awon kan waye wa sayo oh
Owo n lapo mi o…
[and Chorus till fade]
What he did here was symbolism, or better put, synecdoche. He paints a vivid picture of how he will enjoy his ill-gotten wealth. His chorus gave him away. Other lines in Yoruba language are just mere distraction to the substance he was feeding his listeners. His song is the unofficial Yahoo Boy anthem. A summary of the reason he dupes and makes money. Hidden in his lyrics are admirations for the extravagant life of the Yahoo Boy. In 2007, the song was the number one on our radios and homes. With watery lyrics that water down young and old minds, this song made the artiste rich. No one of note considered it a problem. Nigerians made him rich. After that song, he went underground, only to be heard of few years ago with a similar styled song. This time, the sound was unpalatable and it didn’t sell.
There is also the musician, Kelly Handsome. This guy came into the scene, a year after Olu Maintain had dropped Yahooze. It took his song, ‘Maga Don Pay’, another sound promoting fraud and fraudsters, to displace Yahooze which was the reigning champion at the time. Imagine that! It took a song glorifying cheating to replace another song glorifying cheating on our airwaves. Falz alone can’t win this war. While some Nigerians claim to hate evil and work against it, the artistes with the most trashy lyrics, the artistes with the most educationally dwarfing and antihuman lyrics are making money. Who are those buying their songs? Who invites them for shows? Who oils their wheels? Nigerians of course. “Maga Don Pay, Shout Hallelujah”, was the favorite line of Kelly Handsome’s contribution. A ‘Maga’ is like a cash cow, a name for anybody used and deceived into sending money online or through other means. It is not surprising to see some Nigerian girls save the number of their numerous boyfriends as Maga 1, Maga 2, etc., 1 being the most responsive and ‘real contributor’.
Kelly Handsome was openly bragging about having one cash cow. While it could be similar to rappers in America promoting violence and presenting a tough persona some don’t practice, the danger it posses to the society is not diminished. It killed our youths and today the Yahoo Boys teams have grown beyond measure. When Kelly said:’…Shout Hallelujah’, he was simply doing what some Nigerians will do when they pick money that is not theirs. I’ve heard people call a good man who returned lost valuables to the owner a fool. These group unashamedly and genuinely believe it was divine intervention and his action was antagonistic to the will of the most high God they proudly serve. Imagine that!
And to the potential internet scam victims I have this to say: Make investigations before you send money to anybody over the internet. This past week, I had to dissuade a lady who claims she’s in love with a guy over here from sending him 2000$ for visa. The dude claims he’s too broke—some days he doesn’t eat and have no job, and I wondered why the priority of a man who hardly eats should be leaving the country. How he got internet data to make video calls also worried me. There are charity homes everywhere if you must help. Don’t help a fraudster. Secondly, shun greed. Don’t ever think you can outsmart the experienced fraudster asking you to send money to begin the oil exploration. Don’t think he’s dumb and you are smart. Remember, it is his field.
We must support Falz in this battle against these Yahoo Boys. Against these promoters of fraudsters. Against these men who have reduced us in the eyes of the world. We must purge this African Prince(as most claim when trying to dupe foreigners) in our midst. I propose that the NBC, Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, besides banning these sort of songs on our airwaves, work with other Nigerian ministries and commissions to revoke the endorsement deals struck with these artistes, cut ALL their songs and videos from Radio and Television and ban them from performing in Nigeria for a certain period of time. We must also stop being hypocrites. You can’t believe in a heaven and hell and a God who punishes evil men and their supporters and still listen and dance to such tune. You oil the wheels of these boys when you do that. We often concentrate on visible threats to national security but leave those threats that work on the mental level. What about punishing people for posing threats to national intelligence and morality?