“You’re One Tragedy Away From Becoming A Yahoo Boy”


May 2, 2019

In certain cultures, adulting is marked with rituals, tests and celebrations. But when you’re Nigerian, adulting often comes at you without warning. Adulting comes in different forms; bills, family, responsibility, and you guessed it, a child.

Everyone who’s crossed that bridge has a unique story. Stories that can help you see you’re not alone. That’s why every Thursday at 9am, we’ll bring you one Nigerian’s journey to adulthood, the moment it happened and how it shaped them.

The question we’ve been asking is, “when did you realise you were an adult?”

The first guy is a 24-year-old student. He lives with his friend from university in a flat on the outskirts of Lagos. They only go to school when they can’t avoid it. This is how their typical day goes: wake up, get high, play loud music, eat, get high, nap, ‘work’. He’s always ‘working’, on his phone during the day or on his laptop at night.

He insists he can’t do it sober. His morning starts with a cocktail of uppers and marijuana. On nights when he has too much to do, his roommate says they need to use drugs – 5mg of Rohypnol to sleep.

“Going hard is my superpower. I’m a very independent person. If I need things, I just go for them. I don’t ask for help.  Sometimes, it’s not the smartest thing to do because you end up running from the actual solution. If I had told my Dad about my school trouble, I would have graduated with a degree.”

“My parents lived in Ketu when I was born. My mum went to her salon in Agege every day she could and my dad was never around. Grownups have to hustle, I know, so my Grandma filled in for them and raised me. After a while, I stopped going back home with my mum.”

“My childhood is a difficult time to think about for some reason. I lived between Agege and Ketu. The only thing I really looked forward to was spending time with my dad during the weekend. You know how boys tend to have issues with their fathers? I can’t relate to it. He’s the kind of guy who would do anything for his kids. “

“Most people think growing up means having children, or moving out or even getting a job.  But all those things are normal to me. I wasn’t scared of any of it.”

“Sometimes, when things were shaky, I’d think about how my dad worked so hard just to live an uneventful lower-middle-class life. You’re either rich or broke in Nigeria. I respected my dad’s hustle, I’ll always do – but I didn’t want that mediocre money.”

“As soon as I was done with secondary school, I started trying to get a job. I was around 16, 17. I managed a game centre in Agege – that’s how I bought my first phone. I just kept chasing the bag. When you’re on the streets, it’s easy to find one hustle or the other. But most people knew I liked to work. They were willing to show me what was popping at the time and I learned very quickly. My parents didn’t know I had started doing yahoo until I started sending good money home. This was around 2014. It just felt to me like the ideal thing to do.”

“Where I come from, people don’t wait to be adults to start doing adult things. So when shit hits the fan, I’m hardly caught off guard. My dad was in an accident in 2014. He was on a bike around Ojota. I don’t know if the bus lost control or was just reckless but it rammed into his knee. It wasn’t anything serious at first, we thought we could manage it; then months later, it began showing serious signs of damage. Next thing, my dad was in the hospital, unable to do anything but eat and sleep. When the hospital bills started coming, handling them wasn’t a problem. Then they became more frequent, and added a few more zeros.”

“Nothing prepares you to go from taking 50 naira from your parents to providing for them. I was 19 years old when I started answering calls from home to send school fees and money for drugs. My mum left her salon to tend to him. Lo and behold, I was the only person with a steady income”

“Going hard comes naturally to me, but that period made me a different person. Getting money online was my sole motive. Nothing else mattered at the time. I worked twice as hard as I did before; two times the sleepless nights, two times the endless anxiety of not knowing what’s next, two times the fear of not being able to pay bills. I shut everyone else out. I wanted no new friends except people that helped my hustle. My friends partied while I stayed up at night, spamming dating sites. I had chosen my priorities.”

“A lot of things in my personal life suffered, especially my education. Yahoo is a jealous lover, especially when your father’s life is on the line and it’s your only hope. But what happened to my schooling pains me like a physical wound. Because I was working through most nights, I was always too tired for the morning lectures. Then after a while, I stopped going to class altogether. When I consider the reality on ground, many of my choices are usually easy to make. But that school one was very hard.”

“I remember one time I decided to salvage things and just be more serious with school. I promised I wouldn’t hustle for a month and started going to classes again. It was as if my entire family crashed in that period. I barely managed two weeks before I faced the facts. When it was time for my set to graduate in 2015, I knew I wasn’t going anywhere”

“After about six months, my dad left the hospital but he’d lost his civil service job. They didn’t take him back when he got better and he had trouble getting a new job for obvious reasons – so I got him a car and set up a small voucher business. If I had to do an estimate, I’d say I spent over 5 million naira on family alone in that period. If I hadn’t come up with that money, my dad would probably be late now. The only reason my family still stands is because I knew how to get that money. The easiest way to get money in Nigeria right now is Internet fraud.”

“Times are hard for g-boys now. The game is changing everyday. Most of my money still comes from love scams but our hustle has gone way past that. The big money is in the more complicated frauds, jobs that take tens of people working in different parts of the world; like wire transfers and hacking. The most popular g-boys on Instagram and Snapchat – guys like Hushpuppi and Expensive Aboki Wire are into these kinds of fraud but it’s not easy to get into those circles. It’s either you hustle your way there or you join everybody else to do juju.”

“It’s like an accepted tool of the trade now. Even policemen will advise you; “How far? How you go be yahoo boy and you no get money to buy car? Shey you no go do Juju?”

“I’ve been hearing that line for years. Going fetish just feels to me like taking things too far. There have to be limits but I get that some people don’t respect that. That’s probably why people think we just hustle out of greed. Everywhere on social media now, people are judging yahoo boys. When they want to talk, it’s usually about how we’re destroying people’s lives and whether we ever think about the people on the other side.”

“It’s hard to imagine a fraudster with empathy but I actually pity my client. I do. I think about how disappointed and blindly hopeful these people must feel. But I don’t think losing 10,000 dollars when you have 100,000 dollars is a big deal; that’s just 10%. If take 90% of all she has, that’s a different discussion.”

“It’s easy to judge g-boys. But what if I told you people who work 9-5 don’t work as hard as yahoo boys. They see the balling and social media but no-one knows about the sleepless nights. You’re always working, round the clock. There are bank fraud jobs where boys have to sit in front of a laptop and hit refresh every minute for up to eight hours. If my client hits me up at 2am with something that can spoil my job, I have to respond. You have stay ready for anything. That’s why we use drugs the way we do. You can’t come up with these things when you’re sober. Do you know how hard it is to convince someone who has never seen you to give you money?”

“But what’s the alternative? The cost of living a good life in Nigeria is too high for the average Nigerian with a regular job to afford. All it takes is one small sickness and your entire family is in poverty. Internet fraud isn’t easy. It’s just the way out. And I may not have known it then, but in this country, you’re one tragedy away from becoming a yahoo boy.”

“What if I hadn’t taken that way out? If I hadn’t started yahoo when I entered university, I’d have started it after I graduated. There’s a part of me that always wants more. Family may have turned my grind up but my reality that has kept me on it. This country has nothing to offer me.”

“My dad is better now but he still limps. My mother is back at her salon too. But the family income isn’t strong yet, so I’m still playing in my position. We never talk about it but everyone knows where he stands. My father hardly takes decisions now without talking to me. I’m like a father to my siblings now. My only regret in all of this is that I can’t graduate. All my university is offering me is a certificate of attendance.”

“I owe it to myself to go back to school though. I like to think I can apply my grind and spirit in other fields. That’s why I’m moving to Asia for two years to get a degree. When I get back, I’ll go into agriculture and invest in music too.

“Most boys don’t like to hear this but the truth is we can’t do this forever. I don’t want to be doing this with a kid and a wife at home. There’s a right time to leave. For me, that time is when you can stand on your own – you have land in acres, houses bringing in rent. I want to keep hustling till I have enough money to be sure me and my family will never starve. Then I’ll stop”

Update (May 8, 2018)

Internet fraud is illegal under Nigeria’s laws. Under the Cybercrime Act 2015, hackers found guilty of unlawfully accessing a computer system or network, are liable to a fine of up to N10 million or a term of imprisonment of 5 years (depending on the purpose of the hack). The same punishment is also meted out to Internet fraudsters who perpetuate their acts either by sending electronic messages, or accessing and using data stored on computer systems. Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act 2006 also provides sanctions for individuals found to be obtaining money by false pretenses and intent to defraud.

Find Zikoko
wherever you are

Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.