by Afolayan Adebiyi

In a World and age, where setting a landmark record in a field of endeavor as heavily documented by the Guinness Book of Records, takes an x-intelligence factor, were setting the pace, more often than not, sapped and drained energy and brain functions, astoundingly, there is still a little hole for the easy route to grab a mention in that very revered Book of Records. Not all records are set or broken at the Olympic Games every Leap Year, nor through academic pursuits, or via extra-ordinary expertise and a masterpiece in an artwork. Some others snaked in fortuitously and etched itself among the records of the greats.

There are lots of institutions worldwide that bestow different awards and prizes on deserving individuals. Aside from the Nobel Prizes, bestowed in several categories annually by the Swedish and Norwegian Institutions. These Prizes are in recognition of outstanding contributions to humanity in peace, literature, chemistry, medicine, academic, cultural, or scientific advances.

Some other outstanding Prizes, however, are won sweating either in an Olympics Games’ events field or at a World Cup football field. Even both the footballing world, Ballon Dior, and FIFA Best awards are major, tied to an individual or teams’ performances in major football tournaments. These Prizes and awards are individuals. Even when they participate in team or group efforts. John Hopkins’s University, Prof. Ben Carson’s Nobel Prize in Medicine, (1987) and the annual Ballon Dior for the most outstanding footballer are two clear examples.

Nonetheless, of all the Prizes available on offer, at any stage, none have generated fierce debates than who’s the best as in Soccer World. The ongoing raging polemical debate, intensely, but obtusely, as it may be, to rationale mind clearly stands logic on the head. Obtusely, the debate was dragged to cover all time. Thus stretching it back to the late 50s. The GOAT’S question, always draws hysterically sentimental responses from respondents, depending on which side of the footballing divide he belongs to. Anyway, GOAT in football world’s controversy simply means Greatest of All Time! Is it Leonel Messi, the near wizardry grandson of the Italian-Spanish immigrant, whose father finally settle in the Rosario, Argentina, in South America, or Cristiano Ronaldo, another crazily talented footballer with cloudy Brazilian roots, but claims Portugal, in Central Europe? The debate is far from being fair. Neither any of the two football maestro is anything closer to Arante Dos Nascimento popularly known as Pele or Diego Amando Maradonna. But perhaps, the current debate is influenced by statistics and what we see season in-season out now, not video footage and history.

But the GOAT debate is not only central to football here now and even, not any longer. Perhaps, the next field of human endeavor to go into a GOAT polemical debate may be in the Rich List. The American influential financial magazine, Forbes International, may have unwittingly failed to capture some potential record breakers in their lists of who’s rich. Several young, not so young and even not too old would have made the fantabulous lists. Particularly, in our very own Nigeria of Hushpuppi, of Mompha, of Invictus Obi and the rest.

These guys would easily make the lists, not because of any business drudgery or savvy. Their names would appear on the list based on the volume of unexplainable wealth they command. The sheer volume of raw cash, in all manners of currencies, dinars, dollars, pounds, euro, or naira will make a Bill Gate or Mark Zukenburg flushed with envy, and send a Dangote or Otedola scampering into one corner.

Cyber fraud is a tranquil route to a life of fantasy; simply put the life of opulence and grandeur; an African Nollywood life, without stress. But, one must give it to the Kingpins, they are fabulously intelligent, albeit in the wrong direction or profession. They are always on top of their games. Commanding both the goal area, with the defense line. Moving the ball seamlessly from the defense line to the midfield, to the final third of the attack, until an attacker collects the ball, find a striker to score a hat-trick. These are traits that separate a Messi and a Ronaldo from the pack of the other footballers. They know the easiest route to the goal. And they have both score many breath-taking goals that have ended up deciding big games. They are simply put, extraordinarily intelligent. The same goes for Cyber scammers.

Without being disproportionately hyperbolic, Cyber scamming is an area of human endeavor where so much intelligence is needed to operate. The uninventive ‘lazy youths’ among them resort to ‘Yahoo Plus’ to operate. ‘Yahoo Plus’ is ritualistic ways of scamming people. These superheroes sure know their briefs.  Hence whoever emerges a megastar deserves to be appropriately recognized, no matter his weakness in the ‘big games’.

Most of us born after Nigeria attained Independence grew up hearing fantabulous tales of the escapades of the dubious ‘money doubler’ or ’s’ogun d’ogoji’ fraudsters. (literally meaning, multiply your money. Last week I fell into a semantic error in failing to give the English interpretations of my dialect Yoruba usage. Today, I want to avoid falling into the same pitfalls). Then it was crude. It was a brash unintelligent obtaining money from victims under false presences. Apparently, I presume the practice had been with us for quite some time, long enough to capture the Section 419 sub-section 1-4, of the Nigerian Criminal Code Procedure. The Criminal Code Procedure expressly captured the offenses and the punishment, hence the later sobriquet of operative, ‘419 Boys’

Let us consider this. For all their strivings, Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth is about 85.8 billion USD. Bill Gates’s net worth is about 109.7, and our own Aliko Dangote is supposedly worth some 7.9 billion USD, while the oil mogul, Femi Otedola is said to worth some 275 million USD. But neither is the riches of any of these super-rich gurus, moguls, developers, and investors are the real deal here. At least, identifiably, they made their money sweating blood, practically. The real deal here now is the cool bucks, yes mega cool bucks, made coolly from the leisure of a 5-Star hotel room in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

In the footballing world, we all see Messi, Ronaldo running themselves ragged, week in, week out. Dirtied, bruised, and wounded in most cases. Over what, if I may ask? Our own local made, Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola, even Mike Adenuga, suffered untold self-denials. Despite the harsh business environment in the country, they pushed hard enough to reach the top. Also the Forbes Magazine’s favorites, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg are known for study endeavors. These people hardly sleep. They are in endless meetings analyzing various business strategies and developing innovations to counter slumps. Worst still they require hordes of aides, professionals which must they pay monthly. They pay yearly, huge sums as taxes. They put up structures and operational machinery, here and there. It could be utterly laborious. Besides, other intelligence is needed. To the Cyber slush, all, these rigmaroles, are just too complicated. In most cases, he’s a lone ranger, only collaborating with other initiated priests in their Shrine.

The World of a Cyber Kingpin is swift, pacy, and nebulous. They live on false identities and lies. Kingpins live distantly discreet life. They mostly live in isolation, preferring to quarantine themselves, most times. Seen rarely, but heard very little. And compulsorily, must weave all manner of garrulous lies to cover their tracks. But conversely, the two recently Cyber fraud GOAT contenders, Invictus Obi and Ramoni Igbalode live far contrasting lives. One lousy, the other reticent. The busted Dubai Lord ‘Gucci Boy’, claimed to be a Real Estate Developer, brand Ambassador for Gucci, Rolls Royce, et al; but the US busted, Obi was principally known and celebrated as an investor, entrepreneur and inspirational speaker. But in the duo, the defining ingredients of a Cyber Kingpin are well embedded. Even though, the pre-requisites of the kingpins are essentially different. A tranquil ambiance, expedient, and cool to enhance seamless operations. Yet the duo toed different lifestyles.

Unlike Messi and Ronaldo, the trade here is never seen but felt by the devastating impacts. They hug the laptop and burrowed themselves on the internet all night. They micro image, phishing, all vital websites. Their abode is usually, a posh 5-Star hotel. And to make all easy, such high taste hotels provide free and seamless internet facility. The smartphones also come handy to compliment the laptop. Various bank account, run with fictitious names, please do not remind me of the CBN’s BVN. They know how to dance around whatever administrative logjam with the connivance of equally soiled minded Officials. The active bank accounts and more essentially, the negative intelligence! Once these are laid down, not the IT giants, Microsoft, or the Dangote’s conglomerate can rival them. Welcome to the world of Ramon Olorunwa Abass or Ramoni Igbalode a.k.a Hushpuppi and his ilk.

The arrest of the 32-year-old Ramon Olorunwa Abass or Ramoni Igbalode a.k.a. Hushpuppi a few days ago in Dubai in an operation, code-named Fox Hunt by the combined team of the FBI and the Dubai Police authorities bring to the fore, once again, the social disconnect in our society. Hushpuppy is a cult figure among Instagram and social media users. Some 2 million followers on the Instagram platform. He lived large. He moved with the high and the mighty. He threw social parties with Senators and other high ranking government officials in attendance. At one of his endless social parties, Hushpuppi was quoted to have regaled his guests, with the fantasies of how he pays his domestic staff and aides mouth-watering salaries and wages. His driver, he boasted, go home with a handsome 700,000 naira every month as salary, his cleaners pocket 250,000 nairas monthly, and so on. Unfortunately, no one among the free dinner salivating listeners bothers to cross-check his means of jaw-dropping wealth, rather it was the garrulous humpy host who fired the clinical poser: How much do the bank managers earn per month? He had sought to know. To the poser, no one could respond. The guests, including a former Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senator Dino Melaye, an On-Air Personality, Pastor Daddy Freeze, and some others inclusive, only laughed heartily. The sumptuous buffet on offer was the goal of the night.

Igbalode is said to worth some 400 million USD. Far more than Otedola, the oil mogul. Far more than Adenuga, the telecommunications tycoon. However, he is not alone in the odious trade. His rival for the Guinness Book of Records ‘The Best’ award, Invictus Obiwanne Okeke, was listed by Forbes Magazine in the year 2011, as one of the influential 30-year-old in business Worldwide. He was celebrated. He was adored. He came down to Abuja, Nigeria’s seat of power and influence. He was immediately recognized. Identified and inducted into the high chambers. He was variously known as Invictus Obi, until he was arrested in August 2019 by the FBI, in connection with some high-level Cyber fraud. He has since pleaded guilty to the 11.1 million USD wire fraud, Cyber fraud. He stands the risk of spending some 25 years in prison if convicted.

Whether they come as Ramoni Igbalode, or Invictus Obi or Olalekan Ponle a.k.a Woodberry, young, intelligent, wily, but with Satanic desires. And in a society that is slow to reprimand, but quick to condemn, the three young Record breakers are already cooling off their heels in various jail houses in Dubai, UAE, and United States.

But solving the Hushpuppi’s and several others, either incubating or already in the field, swarming all over the Cyberspace, scamming innocent transactions, may prove to be an uphill task. Did Ramoni coned the former Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Alhaji Atiku Abubarkar into that photoshoot with him? Did he tricked the former Speaker, Federal House of Representatives, Rt Hon. Yakubu Dogora into posing for a picture shoot with him? We are not even talking about the activist, Deji Adeyanju here, but the far more conspicuous senior citizens seen frolicking with the 32-year old scammer. This is worrisome. And when one juxtaposes the Inspirational Speaking activities of Invictus Obi, we now realize how dark the blind alley is. He must have mentored a thousand youths, and goaded them into his line. So also are the several thousands of Ramoni’s followers on Social media. The GOAT comparison simply pales into insignificant in the light of this. Because, this is a conundrum the authorities must unravel, hence, the Fox Hunting of Ramoni Igbalode, may end up an exercise in futility. Since others are in the line, well-groomed to take over, from the fallen number one.







Afolayan Adebiyi writes from Lagos, Nigeria

© Feferity Media Group 2020

Images: Courtesy of Freepik and Google.

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