Her pose caught my fancy. She was off centre, as if walking off the page, with a backward glance, and a ‘come hither’ smile. She advertised her missing belt.
I normally just avoid these Nigeria Facebook Babe Photos. They are usually baits for randy old men to swallow line, hook and sinker. Even a passing comment, ‘Pretty’ will soon attract a super sales woman, hell bent on loving you out of your next pay cheque. Mugus can fall, but when you’re a Senior Maga, born and bread in Onitsha, you can spot a 419 pitch long before you smell the shit.
Yet I chose to engage, to pass time, as I was getting ready to leave for London the next day. I think it was the artistry of her pose that made me write ‘I have your belt’. A flurry of conversation followed. She did not talk sex or beauty.
First we argued whether or not I had her belt, then the conversation branched out. She talked ideas, she talked hopes, she dreamed dreams. She was not the average brainless babe that use pictures to hook men but a bright, brilliant, charming kid just out of medical school, worked hard to save up during her housemanship and nysc. So she wrote…
She wants to be a lecturer in medicine. Her family was not rich, so she saved up all this money, almost N1,000,000 and paid for her studies in Switzerland. “Why Swiss” I asked? “That’s where my agent placed me” She said. “Your agent?” I asked “Why did you not just apply yourself?” “I knew him through a friend, that recommended him”.
Hmm. A Nigeria admissions agency in London? Now this was my territory. I used to lead an association of British Universities. I had negotiated with several State Governments and had sent over 1000 students to do masters in the UK, so I knew this territory well. “How much did you pay for school fees again?” I asked. “N750,000” she replied. “How about your living expenses?” I asked. “They said when I get there I will work”.
Now I have this passion for helping poor young people fulfil their dreams. So I sponsor poor kids to university, help poor musicians make records or models or other artists. It gives me a kick. It’s my hobby. In my village I have this programme for helping poor kids read and go on to university. So this girl really caught my interest.
She had a big dream and dreams die hard. She was burning with her dream to train thousands of doctors for her country by going to the best European school. The problem was it cost £17,000 for a British medical degree and £10,000 for living expenses. That is over N6,000,000 not N750 000.
Let me cut this story short. As I caught my plane for London, I asked for details of her friend. She said he was a doctor in Kensington Hospital and the address of the admissions office was in South East London. She also gave me some London numbers.
The very next morning I drove to the office in South London. I found the building alright but no office. With a heavy heart I told this girl there was no such office. That this whole story did not make sense. She started crying.
I called Ruth, a girl that was on my scholarship program who understood girls better, to tell her the story. She screamed ‘Uncle Sam don’t get involved. It’s the girl herself who is the 419. Her game is not sex. Her game is to set you up for serious 419 by telling you false stories. She knows there is no office. She wants you to believe she has been duped so you can give her money or help her or come for her and she will set you up.”
You won’t believe what happened next. I told this girl my suspicions. She burst out crying. She had been talking to the guy who told her I was the 419 trying to deceive her. She screamed she had not lost her money and I was deceiving her. She swore she will deal with me. Akuko apua n’egwu.( Matters escalated rather quickly)
Dreams die hard. The next moment the 419 team was upon me. I got a call. “Brother, stop interfering with my family. If you go to the Police we shall deal with you.” The girl herself sent me a flurry of messages. She said her friend was a doctor that finished at Imperial College London. I was trying to deceive her. She will deal with me. I broke of communications…
Dreams die hard. I could not fully break away. I checked the facebook page of her friend. This guy had never seen London not to think of Imperial College. He looked too local, kpako, jaguda.(really poor) There was only one picture of doctors in a surgery and he claimed the only black person there was him. Obviously downloaded from the internet. Alright, I decided to find this guy in his hospital to prove my theory wrong … you guessed right. No London hospital is called Kensington hospital.
Dreams die hard. Two weeks later I checked this girl’s Facebook page again. It was full of life – her pictures with family and friends. Pictures of her in the lab and surgery. She was certainly real. My heart moved out to her. I texted her. This time she was calm. She was coming to terms with her enormous loss. The dream was dying in her.
Dreams die hard. I have decided to help this girl to fulfill her dream of becoming a medical lecturer, and to do her masters and Phd in Britain or in Nigeria. Sorry Ruth, you may be right she is 419 but I would rather lose than let her lose if she was real. They told me the same about you Ruth. Now you have almost finished school. They told me the same about kids in my village that they were merely deceiving me, yet so many had graduated. The greatest damage to our country is not 419 itself but the fear of 419.
Dreams die Hard. If you would like to help me to help this girl and other poor kids hoping to make it in education, please inbox me.
As I was leaving UK at Heathrow Airport, I branched into WHSmith book sellers. I saw a book on Nigeria by Will Ferguson a white author. I flipped through the novel. I paid for it and got engrossed immediately. The title – 419….
Na Naija we dey!
Words by: AGHA EGWU