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Internet fraud, tribal identity and the nation’s image

By Jerome-Mario Utomi
19 September 2019   |   3:25 am
Two separate but similar reports that left me lost in the maze of high voltage confusion in the past few weeks or thereabout are; the FBI’s release of the names of eighty suspects involved in internet fraud-related cases, with 77 of them Nigerians.

Two separate but similar reports that left me lost in the maze of high voltage confusion in the past few weeks or thereabout are; the FBI’s release of the names of eighty suspects involved in internet fraud-related cases, with 77 of them Nigerians. And from their names, Nigerians have identified 74 out of 77 as Igbos. The second is the recent declaration by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s (EFFC), that more suspects will be uncovered as an investigation into the 80 Nigerians indicted for internet-related crimes by the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) continues.

To digress somewhat, from the above account, what Marshall McLuhan thinks about the internet in his two books; The Gutenberg Galaxy; the making of typographic man (1962), and Understanding The Media (i1964), appears to have come true. Essentially, ‘while describing the internet as an ‘extension of consciousness’, he noted that the globe has been contracted into a village by electric technology and instantaneous movement of information from every quarter to a very point at the same time- bringing all social, economic and political functions together in a sudden implosion’.

However, like every a new invention which comes with advantages and challenges, activities of criminal elements on the internet if not checked may destroy the attributes and virtues of such invention. Specifically, I have taken note of the commendable actions of the FBI and the EFCC towards arresting the situation if given time. Also, I have full confidence in the steps so far. I have also had the opportunity of reading different opinion articles expressing divergent views about the occurrence. While some writers viewed the event as a national tragedy, others have very regrettably used ‘patterned observation’ to conclude that such is a hallmark of the Igbos.

Propagation of this asymmetrical positions is not only a misstatement of facts but betrays the well-intentioned resolve and sacrifices of security operatives to arrest the menace and dilute our hope of achieving a crime-free nation. Ascribing such to the Igbos aside acting as an indication that we are unmindful of the fact that by virtue of our amalgamation of February 14, 1914, by Sir Lord Luggard, whatever affects the Igbos or any other tribes have an impact on our national image. Also, from an objective assessment of commentaries that characterized the FBI report, it will not be a wrong assertion to conclude that the hatred for the Igbos is intense. Another and possibly more important understanding is that the events of the past weeks further confirms the belief that despite their (Igbos) tough and capacity to endure great hardship, they still need to work harder to positively redeem their identity. But most important than all of these positions is the new awareness that the impact of the ill-fated declaration of Eastern Region independent country with the name, “Biafra” on May 30, 1967 by the then Military Governor of the Region, the late General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu left a deep scar on the soul and identity of Igbos. On the other hand, there is also no need denying the fact that even with the defeat of the Igbos in the Nigeria/Biafra civil war, the majority of the people, especially those born after the war harbour immense sentiment for separate political and cultural identity for the Igbo nation in the mould of restoration of the short-lived Republic of Biafra.

The above narrative provides answers as to why inter-ethnic peace which was enforced by the colonial masters have presently become difficult to maintain on our shores. Certainly, the use of mundane factors as against centripetal ethos in discussing the FBI and other similar reports if not arrested, will but make; objective analysis impossible; render discovery of the real source of the problem and solution difficult; cause the nation to lose sight of the real and lasting meaning rapped in the occurrence; allow the lesson go with ethnic/tribal wind while leaving the national image continuously battered as the Igbos presently accused of and referred to as the true face of fraud, are an integral part of the nation.  

Whatever affects their identity dents our image as a nation. To make further distinction, an image according to Olins is the totality of all the impressions that an organization makes on all its audiences (good or bad), or how its leadership is seen to behave publicly. While identity is expressed, image is what is perceived. While identity is physical, image is mental. The reason for making this distinction is the fact that nation-building requires a specific type of thinking. When a particular tribe/group strives to achieve a position of superiority over the other, their citizen’s function differently, but when they are in harmony, and see all like a development army with the same ranks and tasks, they get committed in the job of nation building. There are deeper lessons to be drawn from this conversation if we are to build a united Nigeria. We must as people become familiar with the fact that in today’s globalized world, any nation that is laced in mutual suspicion, will find it very hard to make radical development; that we are a nation with ethnic/tribal, historical and cultural differences is not a ticket for our tribal loyalty to be stronger than our common sense of nationhood; that instead of attributing negative behaviours to one another, we should be proud of our heritage; sharing a common experience and developing a distinctive way of life as Nigerians and ensuring that our geography guarantees a future that will be more closely interlinked.

As to the cause of the appalling situations (Internet Fraud and mutual suspicion among tribes), I may not speak in concrete terms but I know that close to the entrenched absence of people-purposed leadership which characterizes our sphere and fuel distrust is the national vexation by the people who once lived in comfort before life became a burden. Admittedly, indulging in criminal activities cannot be the solution to current economic challenges in the country, but it is equally worthy of note that today, life in peoples’ estimation has become not only a burden but the shout of the ‘good old days’ now rends the nations’ wavelength with the cost of living comparatively high. With our value system, which used to be sound gradually has been eroded and people no longer have values for hard work and honesty. To correct the trend of internet fraud and mutual suspicion among the amalgams, total success may be unattainable, yet the problems can be brought under control, obstacles can be overcome, and the worst can be avoided.

As an incentive, while I submit that no country can achieve success or sustain its existence without trust between and among its people, the government should on their part recognize that it’s the socioeconomic challenges in the country that drives so many Nigerians to destitution and those without self discipline to criminal acts.
The present administration must also work to correct what is wrong by creating jobs for our youths to curb unemployment which fuels acts such as cybercrimes. Poverty needs to decrease at a faster rate. The FG must take steps to bridge excessive inequality in the country as well as reduce the cost of governance.Nigerians on their part should brace up to unify and achieve national harmony by seeking to understand and accommodate our differences.  
Utomi wrote from Lagos

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