How all Nigerians Became Scammers.

Before you start itching to rush and comment, read to the end. First, watch this video.

This official PS3 advert is the one that instigated writing about Nigeria and scams again (as I have touched on this topic previously.) I actually found the video hilarious and posted it on my Facebook.  I was actually surprised at the anger expressed form both my FB link post and the YouTube comments. People were angry that SONY/PS3 called Nigerians scammers. I listened to the video again and the man (in a poorly constructed sentence) clearly said

“Bernie, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet otherwise; I’d be a Nigerian millionaire by now”. This statement neither says nor implies anything about Nigerians being scammers. All it says is that there is false information online, which would make him a Nigerian millionaire. He could have got the false information from anywhere. But amazingly, we all “knew” he “meant” Nigerians are scammers.

If you are not convinced with my analysis, fill in the gap with any other country and sees if it “means” the country’s people are fraudsters. “….you can’t believe everything you read on the internet, otherwise I’d be a________ millionaire by now” (e.g., if you put Brazilian there, your mind will go to Football and you will be wondering “how?”)

I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink: The Power of thinking without thinking. Here, he explaines how our mind worked when we quickly made  the assumption that the man called us scammers, it is called thin slicing. You should buy Blink, and read it.

The question now is, how did we get to the point where it is so easy to fill in the blank and we become scammers? I belie why we were able to come to the assumption so quickly is that it has become a “known fact” that we are a nation of scammers. In my previous post about cleaning Nigeria’s image, I explained that my one of the Tutors (An IBM Security consultant) was explaining about security risks online and ranked “Nigerian Scam” number 2; higher than viruses. Please note, not “Scams”, but “Nigerian Scams” (I do not remember if I rose to Nigeria’s defense as I had got it from over five tutors in about two weeks of lectures). Almighty Google has also referred to “our scams” in an official blog post on April fool’s day, not to talk of the insults on eBay. I have been trying to get my Internet banking for my NatWest working for almost five months after I forgot my PIN. I kept wondering why there was always a hitch. I got the answer when the person always attending to me said one day, “Oh, you are Nigerian? That must me why…” It is simple, the pin was never sent on purpose.

I believe we are as guilty as the foreigners in branding ourselves so negatively. Do I talk tinge of pride we feel when we hear of a Nigerian being on a most wanted list or suspected of duping people of millions of dollars (“o boy, Naija no dey carry last”), or the respect we have for convoys of the criminals in our midst, or the joy we feel when yahoozee / Maga go pay/ I go Chop your dollar plays on air. Almost every Nigerian movie has we have allowed it to become a norm and this is destroying us gradually. We found it hilarious when kokolette Rita said “we do demons”, and “he heff c c his hunder yahoo” and called her names for “falling our hand”. You see, the branding of a nation is the responsibility of its nationals as media company can spoil our image solely if we do not give them a helping hand. We have to start removing the negative image that has been brought upon us.  I know Nigerians are not the only ones that perpetuate fraud online and we obviously succeed with the connivance of the foreigners. But you see, we were the ones that were used in the PS3 ad, Google’s April fool and a documentary.

  • We have to abhor fraud in any way shape or form, it is damaging us. I personally will stigmatize any yahoo boy that comes my way; I will NOT dance to any song that glorifies fraud (I really liked yahoozee). I will NOT ‘hail’ my guy that ‘hammers’. Enough is enough!
  • We have to stop churning out movies that always depict fraud and jazz. We have to show the other side of Nigeria (ns). For every gangster American movie Hollywood gives us, there are three movies depicting the strength of their marines, sports, and country. They ensure that Bernie Madoff does 150 years in jail for fraud while we ensure that our big crooks go scot free (“Is he the only one that stole? This is a Northern/Southern agenda”).
  • We also have to tell the world at every opportunity about the Soyinka’s, Achebes, Adichies, Okonjo-Iweala’s, Ribadu’s, e.t.c that we have. We have our people representing worldwide. (My next project will work on showing our good side on a grand scale). We do not need government money to “rebrand Nigeria”. We are good people and we will show it. It all starts with the owner of the brand which is YOU.

To those that are shouting boycott PS3 should remember to add Google too. Of course I know we do not have the will power to do that. What happened to our British Airways and #LightUpNigeria campaigns? We just don’t have the stamina to fight for ourselves.

So let us do our best and clean up the mess in everyone’s subconscious (whether we like it or yes, it is in the mind. The only difference is that some people speak up) so when we hear “… can’t believe everything you read on the Internet otherwise; I’d be a Nigerian millionaire by now”, it will not ‘mean’ Nigerians are scammers.

God Bless Nigeria

Oo Nwoye, KCOB.

I’d like your comments and suggestions pls.

Update: I heard that the Nigerian government has demanded am apology from SONY. They have now changed the ad. Problem solved right?