In ‘defence’ of ‘Yahoo Boys’ - Bolanle Bolawole

According to Google, “structural functionalism or, simply, functionalism, is ‘a framework for building theory that sees society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability’...This approach looks at both social structure and social functions”. Human societies and human civilization have never been a one-way traffic but has been an admixture of the good, the bad, and the ugly. And this applies to all societies – be they Stone Age or Iron Age; modern or ancient; Eastern or Western; primitive or civilized; and whether black, white, yellow or coloured. We must therefore throw out of the window the simplistic and racist narrative of ‘we are the civilized, good guys while they are the primitive, bad guys’. Society is made up of the good and the bad. Just as there are bad Nigerian guys, so also there are bad American guys. Societies and peoples have their different vices. In the so-called civilized Western world, it is gun control gone awry; moral depravities of all hues and kinds, state terrorism organised at the level of assassination of ‘unfriendly’ foreign leaders and personalities and the subversion and subjection of foreign countries, economies and institutions to feather the nest of imperialist powers.

God the Creator declared matter of fact that not only did he create both good and evil but that none can have what is good without also having a share of that which is evil; hence the Yoruba saying: T’ibi t’ire la da ile aiye; meaning that the world was created to consist of both good and evil. Even the eco-system follows the same divine rule. The Animal Kingdom is made up of animals that eat herbs and those that devour flesh. Imagine what the eco-system will be like if there are no lions, jackals, hyenas and the likes or if all were carnivorous and none were herbivorous. There must be night and day for the eco-system to maintain balance, stability and solidarity. Functionalism as a political theory says whatever exists in a political, human or social system exists to perform a function. Therefore, such vices as corruption, prostitution, etc. exist because they perform a function. Akin to this is the economic theory of supply and demand. Where there is no demand, what will supply be doing? Yahoo boys and their victims are two sides of the same coin. Apt here is the Yoruba saying “Eni n wa ifa n wa ofo” Often, Yahoo boys seeking after quick riches meet similarly greedy and irresponsible counterparts in foreign lands ready to reap where they had not sowed. The average America knows he/she has to work hard to earn a day’s pay at home. They know it is only abroad, especially in Africa, that easy money is made. How is this achieved if not through corruption? Most victims of Yahoo scams seek to take advantage but end up with the short end of the stick. Except in the world of entertainment, a 60-year-old white lady seeking to marry a twenty-something year-old African dude ought to know something is amiss.

Before I continue, let me say I disagree with the criminal tendency of Yahoo boys because it is not a solution to the problems they are trying to run away from. They should read Ola Rotimi’s “The gods are not to blame” and learn that the more they try to run away from their problems, the nearer they will get to them. Rather than stay at home and confront our corrupt, clueless, and irresponsible leaders and bring about the required change, they abdicate their responsibilities and abandon the battle field. Profane men and women like Esau, they want Jacob’s already-made red pottage instead of enduring the pangs of hunger while they get their own food ready. There is no way many of such ‘Andrews’ checking out of this country on a daily basis will not suffer the fate of Esau. I have a few of them as in-laws, cousins, friends, and family friends who now groan abroad. In trips out of this country, I met many such Nigerians in those good old days of Gaddaffi’s Libya (not to talk of the hell that the place has now become) and in Europe who had only tales of woes and regrets to tell. They do menial jobs; earn little; are hunted, harassed and humiliated and had no peace of mind. A dry morsel with peace... admonishes the scripture. Those ones have, like Macbeth, murdered sleep by electing to become illegal immigrants or assholes in foreign land. Some people worked to build those El Dorado; before our very eyes we watched as some people built Dubai and Singapore; these cities did not drop from the sky. Why can’t we do similarly and build our own world-class cities for migrants to flock into?

Our youths who are into Yahoo-Yahoo take after our leaders in many respects. Leadership and governance here is Yahoo business through and through. Politics is the only thriving business in the country as of today. Corruption is the social order; it may have become an epidemic but the youth of today did not invent it. It was handed over to them by the elders. The only period when we had a semblance of governance and leadership was during the First Republic. Since after (beginning with the advent of the military in 1966), we have had, in the main, men and women who have ruined, rather than ruled, this country. From Yakubu Gowon (who said money was not Nigeria’s problem but how to spend it, and who went ahead to fritter and squander it) up to this point, our Nemesis as a people and nation has been leadership. While it is true that Nigeria has never been blessed with good leaders, the present abject leadership is in a class of its own. Every hope invested in Muhammadu Buhari has become monumental disaster. Worse than the worst, that is what we have at the moment! So, government after government, this country has sunk deeper into Donald Trump’s shithole. Leader after leader has proven less competent. Rather than fight to take the country back, our people are voting with their legs; so much so that Western Union Money Transfer has become our greatest foreign exchange earner. Nigeria receives more foreign exchange from Nigerians in Diaspora than from oil receipts. Many of our industries have closed down while churches and events halls have taken over. Area boys and girls, cult groups, ‘Alright Sir’ boys, political thugs, hired killers, bandits, petty thieves have taken over – not to talk of their senior brothers Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen and Hamisu-styled kidnappers.

Yahoo and other criminal activities won’t help our boys because such easy and free money is hardly invested but is frittered in riotous living and they soon come to grief, like the prodigal son in the scriptures. And they give the country and every law-abiding citizen a bad name and battered image to boot. But we must let it be known that all nations and peoples have their bad and good guys; Nigeria and the United States of America inclusive. We must vociferously reject a one-way narrative that condemns us as a group for the sins of a few. There are other countries whose citizens have worse records than Nigeria but who are not being treated this way. And Nigerians abroad, especially in the US, have so many enviable achievements that make the Yahoo blot trivia but those achievements are being conveniently ignored and deliberately side-stepped to give dog a bad name so as to hang it. We must demand that this should not be so. Importantly, we must hold the mirror up for the Western world to behold itself! The other side of the story they are conveniently ignoring is that they cannot wash themselves clean of the problems of Africa. They are to a large extent responsible for the sorry pass that the black person finds himself today. Read Walter Rodney’s “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”; Dan Nabudere’s “The Political Economy of Imperialism”; Chinweizu’s “The West and the rest of us”; to mention but a few.

Africans carted away as slaves contributed immensely to building of the United States. Little wonder, then, that Bob Marley crooned: “I ‘n’ I build a cabin/ I ‘n’ I plant the corn/Didn’t my people before me slave for this country/Now you look me with that scorn/Then you eat up all my corn/We gonna chase those crazy/Chase those crazy/Chase those crazy baldhead out of town/We build your penitentiary/We build your schools/Brainwash education to make us the fools/Hate is your reward for us” etc. Who killed Marley? And who killed Walter Rodney? Who killed Patrice Lumumba? Who killed MKO? African leaders with promise were killed, ousted or frustrated. What of Nkrumah? What of Mandela? Can we ever forget the atrocities of centuries of Slave Trade and how it set Africa back to this day? How about the centuries of colonialism and neo-colonial imperialism? Our losses, our sufferings in the hands of the West beggar belief. We were relentlessly plundered. We were remorselessly pillaged. Our artefacts that they stole are in their private and public museums to this day. Wasn’t this why MKO Abiola vowed to campaign for reparation from the West? If they could do it for other Western powers after the Great Repression, if they could resettle Israel, why have they refused to do similarly for Africa? Where, if I may ask, is our own Marshal Plan?

Let the West listen to our own point of view! In place of Yahoo, Africa demands – and deserves - compensation for the ancient and present injustices visited upon us by the West. Africa cries for justice against on-going pillaging of its resources. Stop helping the thieves who masquerade as leaders as they siphon our riches to help develop already developed Western countries while our countries remain shitholes as Trump rightly said. Yes, David Cameron was right to have described Nigeria as a fantastically corrupt country – but is our stolen wealth not being kept with them? The Yoruba have a saying: “The one who climbed the roof-top to steal kegs of palm-oil is not as guilty as the one who helped him to lower it to the ground”. Without that help, the robbery operation will fail ab initio. The West is accessory after the fact of the looting of our resources by rogue-leaders. The West is precariously liable for our parlous condition, which is one major factor luring our boys into Yahoo and other crimes. When William Shakespeare said “the evil that men do lives after them...” he drank from the same well of wisdom as Yoruba elders who said “Asegbe o si; asepamo lo wa” The chicks of the monumental injustice and depravity heaped upon Africans by the West are returning home to roost.

The British forced opium on their Asian colonies. The Afrikaans forced illicit gin on black South Africans. America’s plantations thrived on slave labour. They used to assassinate good African leaders who could have made a difference if allowed to provide good leadership. They used to impose, prop-up and support despots. They ravaged and still exploit our economy and people. They closed and still close their eyes to pliant but corrupt buffoons who parade themselves as our leaders. They feed us with the chalice called grants, aids and loans (Read Cheryl Payer’s “The Debt Trap...The IMF and the Third World”). They impose IMF and World Bank conditionalities that ruin our economy and pauperise our people. Our people have a saying, when you drive a goat to the wall, it will turn on you. Tarnishing the image of millions of hard-working and law-abiding African simply because of the offences of a few, which offences the West cannot wash itself clean of, is certainly not the right way to go. It is the new Imperialism of the global age with scantily-concealed racial slur.

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