Naira Marley, the poster boy for Internet Fraud better known as Yahoo Yahoo, has also become its scapegoat.
Called in for questioning by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) a week ago, he is still in custody, awaiting arraignment on an 11-count charge of credit card fraud on Monday, May 20, 2019.
This finally provides an answer to his ill-advised rhetoric in his latest song, ‘Am I a Yahoo Boy?’ —or better still, rearranges his choice of words to co-opt an implicating confession, ‘I am a Yahoo Boy!’
Naira Marley has been vocal about how internet fraud is not a crime per se.
In the weeks leading up to his hit song (oh yes it is a hit, and trending on Youtube too) he got into a hot exchange with Simi. They held opposing views about internet fraud and while Simi insisted that her music should be boycotted by Yahoo Yahoo boys, Naira Marley’s logic was that YahooYahoo is not much of a crime, if slavery wasn’t.
This warped logic has been on the streets so long it has grown a grey beard.
Internet Fraud as a staccato response to colonialism and slavery is a bit of an intellectual over-reach vehemently held on to by practitioners and their sympathisers as well as their praise singers.
A few years ago, Falz caught flak for calling out 9ice for praising Yahoo Boys on his mid-career hit, ‘Living Things’. Given the animus that the lawyer-turned-emcee endured from that rather friendly exchange, the relationship between contemporary Nigerian music and internet fraud has always been more complicated than it seems.
If this music truly reflects our society, then this should not come as a surprise. There is a cadre of talented musicians who jump at fraud to finance their careers. There is another cohort that offers patronage, by way of setting up record labels and promoting musicians on their roaster, from the illegal money with a goal of legitimising their wealth. Yet, there are those who support the by buying their records, attending their shows, paying them to perform at their events. They often end up in their songs like the list of names in Small Doctor’s ‘Penalty’.
The internet fraud lifestyle has been explored in our popular music so exhaustively that there is even a song, Kush Jnr’s ‘Payment’, which instructs you on how to dance after getting paid. But nothing has been as brazen as Naira Marley’s ‘Am I a Yahoo Boy?’
I remember when 9ice was quizzed on National Television (Rubbing Minds) about ‘Living Things’. What was impressive was how he struggled, with a deadpan face, to insist on how certain implicating lines could be interpreted differently. For example, ‘wire wire’ meant harmless bank transfers.
Musicians as far back as Sir Shina Peters enjoyed the patronage of socialites whose finances they could hardly investigate. In the years since the musician evolved from the minstrel, he still offers their services to whoever will pick the invoice. At the moment, a good number of our nouveaux riche who cannot point to legitimate sources of their income are huge patrons of contemporary music.
In the unfortunate case of Naira Marley, his outspoken behaviour (song, comments, etc.) has earned him an arraignment and the lesson is glaring for everyone to see.