Christmas is in the air. In America, exteriors of homes are being lit in litany of colours. Trees, white and green, are beginning to find space in sitting rooms. But make no mistakes about it, there is another holiday Americans glamorise. It is called Thanksgiving Day. The truth, however, is that it is more like Thanksgiving Week. It started on Monday and is ending this weekend. Turkey is the preferred protein to celebrate Thanksgiving.  Schools and some offices close for Thanksgiving and many people travel away from home to enjoy the season.

Even convicts in prisons across America enjoy the season one way or the other. Being confined didn’t deny them the privilege of eating turkey.

One convict who, perhaps, didn’t find the turkey tantalising enough is Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, alias Hushpuppi. He was the toast of many musicians and celebrities. He was arrested with 11 others in six simultaneous raids carried out by the Dubai Police, and extradited to the United States for conspiracy to launder millions of dollars from business email compromise (BEC) frauds and other scams. He has now been found guilty and jailed in America. It is his first Thanksgiving as a convict.

Hushpuppi’s story is akin to that of a man who shot an arrow in the air and covered himself with a mortar to escape being hit. He told us he was a social media influencer and displayed opulence in such a way that Africa’s richest Aliko Dangote has not. The one who described himself as the billionaire Gucci master had 2.3 million followers as of June 2020.

Hushpuppi forgot the rule that “if you cannot do the time, don’t do the crime”. He is not the only one who has given or is giving Nigeria a bad name. He is not the only one who has made our green passport a suspicious document and an object of ridicule. We have many others I have chosen to address as puppies, who are rubbishing the country and its people home and abroad. Unfortunately, they are in the minority, but sadly grab the headlines.

Some years back the United States released a list of 77 Nigerians involved in scams. Before then, it arrested a popular Nigerian youth, Invictus Obi, over a number of scams. Many of the indicted 77 have been nabbed in the U.S. and some have been picked up in Nigeria with the assistance of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Like Hushpuppi, they might be extradited to the U.S. to face the music.

When Hushpuppi and his partners in crime were nabbed, the police seized from them 13 luxury cars worth N2.640 billion. The gang, before meeting the waterloo, had made over 1.9 million people cry by duping them of about N169 billion. Also found on them were 21 laptops and 47 smartphones, among others. They were geniuses in hacking into the computers of their targets and move money from one account to the other across the globe.

The saddest part of these puppies’ tales is that the proceeds of their fraud always end up on expensive properties, designer clothes, expensive watches, luxury cars, and charter jets. They also waste money on wine and women. They live like tomorrow will never come. To them, there is no sense in the Biblical saying: What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?

The fate of Hushpuppi and other puppies like Invictus will not make others in their trade learn. The allures of having garages beaming with Rolls Royce, Cadillac, Limousine, Bentley Continental GT, Mercedes-Benz Maybach 62, and armoured Range Rovers are irresistible for these bad eggs. They will continue to fill their wardrobes with hundreds of pairs of shoes, designer wears and never repeat a piece of clothing or footwear. They just want to enjoy life as much as possible before their hearts stop beating.

Conmen, for me, are not only these puppies who reap where they do not sow. They certainly go beyond men who ask for plenty of cash to buy chemicals to wash supposed black currencies into crispy dollars and Pound Sterling.

There are conmen on the pulpits who call themselves men of God but they are really men of god; their god is small and his only motivation is cash obtained by deceit. What do you call a ‘man of God’ who, during a church service, brings out his mobile phone and dials God? The confused man proceeds to ask ‘Is that heaven?’ He then begins to say all manners of nonsense and his excited congregants are in awe of him. They are excited that, finally, their woes are over. He then adds a clincher: “I will soon release God’s phone number.”

There is also another puppy on the pulpit who once engaged a demon in a shouting match. The demon he employed for his deceit looked like one of those actors in a badly-scripted Nollywood home video. As expected, he defeated the boasting demon and declared the devil a liar, when he is actually the liar and devil in human form.

What about another conman on the pulpit who practically strangled a woman with a stiff neck. How on earth can someone with a stiff neck be delivered by squeezing the life out of the ailing neck? She collapsed and after a few seconds the ‘pastor’ performed some abracadabra and the old woman jumped up shouting Hallelujah. She was healed. Just like that!

The likes of Hushpuppi blame the conmen in power for pauperising the people. This, to a large extent, cannot be faulted. But, that is not a justification for breaking into the account of people overseas, and at the end of the day, all you do with it is buy cars, wine, houses and squander so much on women. Why do we squander money enough to give us hospitals of world-class standard and universities that can rival Harvard on frivolities? Is this life really worth having in our vaults currencies running into billions?

Amid all these evils wrought by the puppies of this clime, it is heart-warming that for every Hushpuppi there are ten Ikenna Nweke who will return a missing wallet with foreign currency even when no one is watching them. Nweke, a doctorate student in a Japanese university, returned a lost wallet and turned down the offer of compensation. He projected honesty, integrity, and contentment, which the bulk of Nigerians represent.

Hushpuppi and other puppies cannot erase the records of Wole Soyinka, the late Chinua Achebe, Segun Odegbami and millions of others.

There is no justification for defrauding either white or black people. No fraudulent person will go without paying the price. It is even worse when the victims are Americans. The FBI and Interpol will go to any extent to get you and, when they do, it will be too late for had-I-known.

My final take: Fraudsters give the impression that the streets are paved with free cash and they are just picking and spending. But, the reality is: You have to sweat it out to make ends meet. You have to earn every single kobo and if you engage in illegal activities or break the law, even if innocently, you will face the music.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here