Earlier this year, Nollywood actor Charles Okocha holidayed in the house of Mompha in Dubai.
Ismaila Mustapha aka Mompha posing with his cars
Within a space of two years, a man with no decent history, no evident entrepreneurial ideas or viable business ventures and limited education bought a McLaren 'flying car', Lamborghini Urus, Ferrari 488 Spider, 2020 Rolls Royce Wraith Eagle III, Range Rover Autobiography and other exotic cars and Nigerians on social media started 'tapping' into his blessings.
Nobody cared to know his source(s) of income. They assembled on his Instagram page where he showcases his ostentatious life and started begging him for crumbs. Even Nigerian celebrities weren't left out, they sacrificed their egos to be associated with him. Despite the fact that they could smell from a distance that he was shady, nobody really cared as long as they could be beneficiaries of his largesse.
In early October 2019, Ismaila Mustapha aka Mompha who is based in Dubai announced that he bought the one of the 2020 collection of the Rolls Royce Wraith Eagle III reportedly worth N180 million. He claims to be the first African to buy the car which is of a limited edition, specifically 50 pieces in the world.
In one of his posts on Instagram, he once said he drives the 'Rolls Royce Wraith in the morning and Range Rover Autobiography in the afternoon'.This is apart from the expensive clothes, shoes and other pieces of jewellery in his possession. He is a premium customer of the Emirates Airline and he always flies first class. He even nicknamed himself a 'citizen of the sky' due to his regular foreign trips. Now the question is this: What does Mompha do for a living? He claims to be a Bureau de Change operator. Even the president of the Bureau de Change operators in Nigeria, Alhaji Aminu Gwadabe can't bask in the kind of luxury Mompha displayed. As he showcased his wealth online, he gathered over 650,000 followers on Instagram by doing regular giveaways and people worshipped at his feet. His former friend-turned-foe Raymond Igbalodely aka Hushpuppi was also, on the other hand, showing off items that could stun the richest man in Nigeria, Aliko Dangote.
These are interesting times. In the past, people with questionable sources of income always live in hiding. They could be briefly seen but they don't want to be heard from. They avoid media attention like James 'Ghost' St. Patrick, the main protagonist in Power TV series. One of the greatest mistakes Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar made was venturing into politics. The U.S frowned at him making Colombia an official hard drugs cartel and immediately started exposing him. Today, we have people like Mompha and Hushpuppi associating with bloggers and celebrities to gain media attention. Mompha loves to show his wealth and brag. Hushpuppi takes it further by even commenting on public issues and offering his vivid opinions. He hardly denies being an internet fraudster. When he was called out last year by an activist Deji Adeyanju, Hushpuppi didn't bother denying who he is. He only did a long video detailing how much he has suffered in his life and how he made it to the 'top' and Nigerians changed their stance about him after listening to his phoney tales.
Earlier this year, Nollywood actor Charles Okocha holidayed in the house of Mompha in Dubai. He was taken around town in some of his cars and they even did a comic skit together. He must have left his house with some crisp dollar notes stuffed in the pockets of his tight jeans. This was all aimed at giving Mompha the media attention and visibility he hungrily craves for on the internet.
In the comment section of Mompha's Instagram page, you will find an assembly of female celebrities especially from the Yoruba section of Nollywood lobbying to be 'blessed'. One of the greatest fans of Mompha is a social media influencer, Tunde Ednut who is one of the top two Nigerian influencers on Instagram. Late last year, Mompha gave him a sum of one million Naira to share among his followers during a regular giveaway exercise. Before then, he had always given him monies to Tunde Ednut who shares his handles over the place. All these are done for the purpose of advertising Mompha's Instagram page to the world. He wanted to be a public figure by all means.
Other rich guys rumoured to be into internet fraud also sponsored the music of artistes for the same purpose. They make cameo appearances in music videos and the artistes stamp their names all over their songs as some sort of honour all in a bid to be identified with by the general public.
The almighty Daddy Freeze isn't left out despite his self-acclaimed public persona as an idealist, reformer and fiery critic of Christian clerics. Daddy Freeze travelled to Dubai with his baby mama and was hosted by Hushpuppi. Daddy Freeze who claims to be an 'online pastor' was so drunk in the wealth of Hushpuppi that he interviewed him and showcased his luxury home and cars without making enquires about his profession. Since then, Daddy Freeze has been singing the name of Hushpuppi just like the way North Koreans rock the songs of praises of Supreme leader, Kim Jong Un. That video Daddy Freeze made with Hushpuppi will one day come back to haunt him; he is beginning to lose his credibility rapidly.
The implication of this publicity strategies is that fraud became attractive to everyone. The younger generation started feeling it's the way to go. People started giving up on developing themselves academically and vocationally. The mentality instantly became about fast money, fast cars, exotic hotels, designer clothes and the best of women.
The situation in Nigeria made their mindsets justifiable. We have leaders who are talented in corruption and they are working assiduously to loot every day. Nigeria has an unemployment rate of 23% and over 90 million people live in extreme poverty. The Human Development Index rates Nigeria lower than an imbecile's IQ. Most intelligent people get frustrated and suicide became the only way to leave Nigeria and start all over again in heaven. Internet fraudsters popularly called Yahoo Boys used this opportunity to seek justification and validation about what they do. They won arguments on Instagram popularly used for showing off. From their colourful lifestyles shown in pictures and videos, funny handles and badly written English language, we knew them. They shared money regularly online and started getting massive followings.
During this period, Nigerian musicians namely Simi and Falz were attacked for speaking against internet fraud. A controversial rapper and United Kingdom returnee, Naira Marley linked the current spate of fraud to a payback mechanism for the pains of slavery inflicted on Africans by white men. Even one of the biggest music acts in Nigeria, Davido retweeted his view to show endorsement.
Yahoo Yahoo became a big debate online and the con artists were winning the conversations. Most ladies surprisingly were behind their backs. During that period, you could walk up to a lady and be like 'My name is Jesse, I like you, I am a Yahoo Boy and she will jump into your hands'. This is because she believes this is the 'profession' that could efficiently pay her bills and help her 'slay' to the envy of her friends online. During this period, jokes of Nigerians ladies desiring a "god-fearing Yahoo boy for a serious relationship" pervaded the Nigerian social media space.
Truth be told, most of these suspected internet fraudsters gave their female lovers the best treats, they always end up being spoiled with the good things of life and this increased their tastes. Their tastes became unrealistic as they couldn't find such young men with deep pockets in their immediate environments. This was how the Momphas of this world gradually changed our societal values and behavioural patterns although one can't solely blame them for the acts of greed by the women.
In life, most people don't have it perfect. Even the top stars we celebrate across the world have dark sides in their lives. They got their hands dirty in their transition to greatness while dealing with difficult situations but they never stopped there, their eyes were on the bigger picture. American rapper, 50 Cent was once into drugs and heavyweight boxer Anthony Joshua also pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply a class B drug in 2011. Today, these people are living better lives doing legitimate jobs. Most internet fraudsters want to do it for the rest of their lives. They are addicted to easy money. They wish the government could legalize it and even create a special industry for them. They want to gain wide acceptance in society and be accorded medals.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC later changed the narrative at the beginning of this year when it started its incessant harvest of Yahoo Boys. Parading them on social media followed by critical comments of critics reduced the morale of the fraudsters who felt ashamed. Nobody wanted that kind of ignominy to be brought upon himself and his family or friends. They started hiding their faces although some myopic people will still argue that the EFCC should go after politicians who they believe are the real problems of Nigeria.
The future of Nigeria seems bleak with the Momphas and Hushpuppis of this world being allowed to strive. They don't look like the problems of Nigeria and many will argue fallaciously that they should be allowed to operate and help their poor families. The truth is that the activities of these men gradually pollute the minds of vulnerable people who have issues with reading between the lines when they consume social media contents. This mostly leads to depression as they wonder why a man who isn't as qualified as them educationally or in terms of intelligence would be living in affluence while they struggle with a take-home-pay that can't actually take them home. After several doubts, they assume internet fraud could be the way forward and they will use our so-called corrupt leaders as the justification for their actions.
How does this affect Nigeria? There is a connection between leadership and followership. Bad leaders are made by bad followers. There is a strong likelihood that a bad leader had always been a bad follower before mounting the podium of leadership. Most of the people who adore the fraudsters will find their way to public offices with that mentality of defrauding people and living the best of life like their mentors. It becomes apparent that the vicious cycle of corruption in high places will never end with the generation of the current elderly politicians, the detrimental values will or has been passed on to the younger ones who I believe will set new records.
How much more can Nigeria endure the challenges of bad leadership and corruption which have crippled the country despite the human and mineral resources at its disposal?
An estimated $582 billion has been stolen from Nigeria since independence in 1960 according to a Chatham House May 2017 report. The only industry working perfectly well in Nigeria is the corruption industry and this is why most of our politicians are richer than the businessmen because that's the only gateway to instant and unimaginable wealth.
On this note, the arrest of Mompha is a welcome development and a reality check for unscrupulous people who want to live big out of stealing big from people. Using him as a deterrent will at least trigger the factory reset button in the brains of Nigerian youths whose minds might have been corrupted with the quantum of malicious contents they have consumed on social media.
Osayimwen Osahon George is a journalist and a PhD student at the University of Ibadan. He can be reached via his email; [email protected]