On Naira Marley and Yahoo Boys By Kayode Akinwumi

By Kayode Akinwumi

Like a colossus, Naira Marley stands out in the Nigerian entertainment scene for about a month now. The surge in his popularity overnight has proven yet again how effective a tool controversy is in gaining public attention. His bold defence of internet scam, otherwise known as yahoo yahoo has been the subject of constant debate. It has also brought him into a series of jibes exchange with some big names in the industry like Simi, Tunde Ednut and Rugged Man. But that is not all the controversy brought him. It brought him as well, the dreadful attention and scrutiny of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. He was arrested on May 10 alongside co-artiste, Zlatan Ibile and 3 others. While the others got out on administrative bail, Naira is to appear in court today on an 11 count charge.

As one would expect, diverse reactions have trailed Naira Marley’s arrest. While some are in approval of EFCC’s action, describing it as significant in the fight against internet scam, another group of observers see it as a misplaced priority on the part of EFCC that should be busy prosecuting the bigger scammers, the politicians. A part of this second group see Naira Marley as a kind of scapegoat and a hero of an oppressed class – the yahoo boys. Some others regard the emergence of the internet scammers as a result of the actions and inactions of those in government. Some have even called for a protest demanding his release.

Although I agree with much of the arguments given by the second group, I do not disapprove the action of the EFCC. Also, I see the calls for Marley’s release as rather hypocritical. To explain my position on this issue, I will put it in certain perspectives. First, I don’t see crime as the necessary reaction to the criminality of our politicians. What do I mean? Simply put, our politicians are criminals, so are Yahoo boys. Unfortunately for Yahoo boys, celebrity status does not provide the immunity of being a politician. Should they be pardoned on this ground? I think not.

Second, the idea of escaping the harsh economic realities in the country through scamming is delusional. If, as most have realised, the political affects the economic so much, there is no escape for any of us until we sort our political woes. Yahoo boys can channel the sleepless nights they use in scamming their victims into the planning of an organised resistance against the political class of this country. Someone of Naira Marley’s social influence can definitely be the link to the common folk in setting a revolution in motion.

This brings me to the next perspective which is Naira Marley’s position in relation to previous cases of celebrity arrest in Nigeria. He is not the first, and surely won’t be the last to be incarcerated. Leading the pack by numbers is the legendary Fela. Another famous celebrity incarceration is Orlando Owoh’s stint at Alagbon. Today, Fela is an icon of the struggles of the common people, the reference point for celebrities seeking immortality. He’s remembered so much for his artistry, but much more for what he stood for. But Orlando is remembered today only for his music. In fact, much of our insight into his arrest comes from his hit track detailing his prison experience. So, Naira Marley’s arrest and possible conviction is not his ticket to martyrdom as his fans would have us believe. His only chance of impressing his feet on the sands of time would be his stand for the people, not for yahoo boys.

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