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Youths, money rituals and the collapse of a generation

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EFCC arrests 60 at Yahoo Boys Awards ceremony in Ogun State

The Insight by Lateef Adewole

Last week, I had this lengthy chat with my niece on WhatsApp. It was regarding the trending case of ritual killing that involved those four teenage boys in Abeokuta, Ogun State, who murdered and beheaded another teenage girl, Sofia, 17, a girlfriend of one of them. When I watched the video clip where the main “butcher” was interviewed and saw how they packed the headless body of the girl in a sack, my heart broke.

The discussion with my niece boiled down to how young boys and girls have become so desperate for quick money, just to show off that they have arrived and want to “belong”. She told me that those girls fall victim because they want to be the “Odogwu’s wife”. In Igboland, an “Odogwu” is nickname or title for someone who is very important, wealthy and powerful. Therefore, while the boys want to “blow” doing Yahoo Yahoo and money rituals to become the “Odogwu”, the girls compete to be his girlfriend to earn the title of “Odogwu’s wife”. Such girls use the latest expensive gadgets like iPhones. They wear designer clothes and spend money lavishly. All these they see as class!

Four teenagers have been arrested for killing girl for money rituals

The four teenagers arrested for killing Sofia for money rituals in Abeokuta, Ogun State

To meet up with the demands of such girls, the boys get their hands soiled as witness in these boys’ case. However, doing money ritual seems not to be exclusive to boys. Girls, including teenagers, now do the same. While we are still wrapping our heads around the case of the boys, a news broke about four secondary school girls who were arrested in Lagos with human head found in their possession. I was shocked to my marrow as that was the first clear case involving girls-only that I know.

It was reported that the cab driver, who took them to school, raised the alarm immediately he got to the security at their gate, who immediately rounded them up and searched their bags, where the heads were found. He alleged that he had been perceiving a foul smell as he was driving them. What’s this world turning to? Why does it seem that this happens only in Nigeria and some other African countries? What has really gone wrong?

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EFCC has arrested 27 Yahoo Boys in Osogbo, Osun State

FILE: EFCC has arrested 27 Yahoo Boys in Osogbo, Osun State

Sincerely, these cases are not new. In fact, they are insignificant when compared to what we have heard in the past. What made them spectacular were the ages of people involved, between 15 and 19 years, both the boys and the girls. These are children in secondary schools or just finishing. There was another video of younger boys of 10 to 13, who claimed they want to learn how to do yahoo. What’s really happening?

My niece actually queried if only songs were responsible for the youths’ misadventures after she read a post I forwarded in that regards. My niece is young and a lover of “trending” music, in fact she is in her early twenties. That was what led to that discussion. She believes there are too many other factors beyond music responsible for youths’ actions. I agreed with her to a large extent.

However, right now, music seems to be a much more easier medium by which these dastardly acts are being propagated, especially considering the kind of lyrics they contain, which I would not want to start relaying here. Many youths have found solace in these songs. By that, they immerse themselves in them, sing them, imbibe them and practice whatever they learn there. The songs have become part and parcel of their lives. So, what they listen to then becomes their “gospel”. That’s the problem.

But before children reach the stage where such music influence them, they were given birth to by some parents, grew up within a family, and moulded by a society. Where are all these factors? What roles have they played in what a child grows up to become?

Vehicles recovered from the alleged Yahoo Boys in Imo State

Vehicles recovered from Yahoo Boys in Imo State

To start with, family remains the bedrock of the society. It is the smallest unit, whose congregation forms the larger society. How are these family units conceptualised and metamorphosed in our society of today? Marriage forms the foundation of the family. How are people getting married these days?

As Africans, Nigerians and Yorubas, marriage used to be like a “project” for parents and families concerning their children, whether boys or girls. The character of the prospective couple is number one concern to the parents. The family lineage is then investigated and all other necessary findings done, before a family would accept a marriage proposal of their son or for their daughter.

But now, that may not be the case. The worst is “marriage by accident” where the couple are not ready at all. They might be forced into it by circumstance of unwanted pregnancy. Many times, such relationship often end up in broken homes with the woman often left to cater for such child. That’s a huge task. There are foolish adoption or imitation of uncivilised act of “baby mamas” that is now a trend. Such act is unAfrican and sometimes have negative consequences.

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Even where a child is from a properly consummated marriage, our society often corrupt them. This remains the biggest factor that encompasses and gives birth to many other negative factors. While we were young in those days, our parents were very strict and disciplined. Apart from that, the society we lived in was moral, ethical and did not condone irresponsibility. You don’t have to be the parent or family member of any erring child before you administered appropriate punishments to such child, even on the road.

Nine yahoo boys convicted in Calabar

Nine yahoo boys convicted in Calabar

Such child dared not mentioned it at home for fear of double punishments. But now, no one touches another man’s child, no matter the gravity of the offence such child commits. His or her parents could fight or arrest anyone who does that. What do we expect when parents now go to fight teachers in their children’s schools for punishing them? What do we expect such children to turn to when they grow up?

It is the society that has thrown morals to the dogs. Gone are the days when the Yoruba proverb that says; “omo re ko s’agbafo, o n k’aso wale, eroju ole e o mu” (your child isn’t a washman but brings home many clothes, that is an act of stealing that must be arrested immediately), was still succinct. Sadly now, many parents are unconcerned, carefree, careless or enabler at worst, about whatever their children do. Many parents would never query their children for bringing things they didn’t buy for them home. They just let it slide.

The lowest level is when such parents even demand to benefit from the usage of such items. How can parents whose child is still a student with no work, see that child using expensive phones, wearing expensive clothes, shoes and other fashion items which they did not buy for him or her, and not ask questions? Students, without any known job or source of income, would buy and ride cars in schools, and their parents would be fine with it. What kind of useless parents are those? Same parents accept gifts such as money and material things from such children.

I have heard of a mother who said her son was destined to do yahoo. She even took him to prayer house or juju man for “blessing” and fortifications. There is now “Association of Mothers of Yahoo Boys”. I read of an award night organised by an “Association of Yahoo Boys” in Abeokuta, Ogun State, some months ago. These are the new lows we have sank to.

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What do we expect from a society that glorifies riches without questioning their source any longer? Anyone who displays riches is immediately given high regards in our society today. They are recognised by the traditional institutions with chieftaincy titles. They are given front seats in religious houses. Clerics and clergy men dedicate time to eulogise and pray for them specially, musicians sing their praises. All these because of money, irrespective of the source.

Few days ago, I heard that an “Alfa” (Muslim cleric) cursed anyone who condemns yahoo boys, in a public programme, all because they gifted him huge money at the programme. Pastors do not bother to ask where money comes from, so long the person pays tithe and make other bountiful donations. These religious leaders even worsened the situation with their new craze for prosperity preaching. They are examples of what they preach. What else is expected from their followers and congregation?

Who are the role models for youths and young people today? They are no longer our past and living heroes who we used to adore. Literary giants, educational colossus, leaders without blemishes, traditional, religious or political, do not inspire our youths any longer, all because many of them are not rich financially. Alhaji Lateef Jakande died living in the house he personally built many years before he became the governor of Lagos State.

The same man governed this Lagos State, built thousands of houses for the citizens in public housing schemes. He was a federal minister for works, where he built the largest public estate in the whole of Africa. Yet, he never owned a single flat in any of them. This used to be the kind of leaders we had in the past, who young people aspired to be like, but not any longer. Are our political leaders like him now? How can we then expect different role models for our youths?

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What young people see today are our flamboyant, prodigal leaders who steal public funds to finance such lifestyles. They see people that represent them in public offices, elected or appointed, who are supposed to serve them, become their lords, trample upon them. They see people who were struggling to survive just few years back come to sudden riches by virtue of getting into political offices. They see politics as shortcut to success, with little or no hard work. These are their role models and mentors. So, if they can’t get into politics, they device their own ways to sudden riches by themselves: money rituals!

They see celebrities flaunt money on social media. This is in consonance with what they watch in movies. Most of our films hardly showed tortuous journey to success. They simply show how young people live in opulence, live in big houses, drive big cars, lavish money and enjoy “near perfect” life. Many films are all about money rituals and obscene display of wealth acquired through them. All these are ingrained in the subconscious of the viewers, especially young people, who may not be able to discern the messages being passed.

Our schools used to be the second homes and training grounds for children where discipline is instilled in them, but have they not failed in this regards? While many public schools are now breeding grounds for touts and cultists, many private schools produce “over-pampered” irresponsible students. Peer influence remains a major factor in all of these.

However, there are some children who turn out to be wayward, despite efforts of their parents, schools, religious houses and society. Still, parents must become more involved in their children’s lives, know what they are up to and be responsible for them. Our religious houses should stop glorifying money and elevating people, simply because of their money. Morals and fear of God should dominate their preaching. Enough of gospel of prosperity.

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It is understandable that the economic challenges facing citizens could hamper parents from paying adequate attention to their wards or discharging their responsibilities effectively. Poverty has led many children and families of such children astray. Parents who find it difficult to feed themselves, not to talk their children, would have lost their power and control over such children.

Governments at all levels have many roles to play in curbing all these, starting with people in power. What images are they projecting to the society? How can leaders leave in opulence consuming the supposedly inadequate public resources while the led citizens suffer in penury? Leadership should be by example not precepts. Discipline and frugality should be sincerely adopted and projected to the larger society by our political leaders and office holders.

The people have surrendered their sovereignty to their political leaders. The citizens have entrusted their lives, security and well being to the government, as also enshrined in the 1999 constitution (as amended). When government then fails the people in these regards by not providing basics necessities for the citizens such as affordable and quality education, healthcare and housing, portable water, safe and effective mass transportation, stable power supply, road and rail infrastructures, and security in particular, what will people do?

If all these are provided by government, even if not free but very affordable, the pressure on parents and children to survive will be less. They might not be pushed into such heinous acts. We had saner society in the past. We enjoyed free education and free healthcare. Living and survival were affordable. These made life easier. Although there were money rituals but they were not as preponderant as we have now. No child or youth would even be found engaged in such. Only adults, who were very few. They also hide it, not show it off as we see now.

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Again, the government is still responsible for protecting the life and properties of the citizens. When ritualists are apprehended, the onus is on government to ensure justice is served. People found guilty of such offences should be punished appropriately to serve as deterrent to others. Otherwise, it makes other prospective ritualists to be more audacious and this will breed impunity.

Parents and the society at large, need serious reorientation. Enough of the get-rich-quick syndrome. Hard work needs to be recognised, appreciated and bountifully rewarded. Questions should be asked as to the sources of money of people who suddenly come to such riches. It is time we change our worldview and value system. This must start from home, but leadership must drive it by leading by example.

May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.

God Bless Nigeria.

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You can follow me on:
Twitter: @lateef_adewole
Facebook: Lateef Adewole

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