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A Thread Of Tech And “Yahoo” Boys

Having conversations like this on social media can be discouraging especially when it’s one with a lot of grey areas. I’ll start off with saying that as a 17-year-old teenager from Ikorodu, the only thing that prevented me from getting into “Yahoo” was because I couldn’t afford a Laptop.

Not morals, not religion, not convictions. If someone had introduced me to Hustle Kingdom (HK) then, maybe I would have been on a much different path- One that leads to “Tunde wire” This desperation became deeply rooted. In my heart due to the many nights I watched my mother go to bed hungry…

Things are a lot more intense now, as mothers are taking loans and plunging themselves into massive debts to buy Laptops for their sons to start doing “Yahoo”. This is not hearsay. To them, a worthy sacrifice as it could be their only ticket out of generational poverty.

O really understand this Yahoo boys menace, we need to get off our social media high horses and feel the pulse of the streets. We can’t keep complaining about effects without addressing the underlying cause. Dismissing it as just greed or theft lacks depth and is too inconclusive.

It’s a crime no doubt but it’s easy to be judgmental about crime when you live in a world privileged enough to be removed from it. The streets has taught me that everyone has different notions of right and wrong, and what level of crime they’re willing to participate in.

I’ll use Ikorodu as an example as it is home for me. If you randomly select 20 teenagers between the ages of 14-18 in Ikorodu, I can assure you that 80% are already into internet scam and the remaining 20%, given enough time will eventually give in to peer pressure.

This is honestly how bad things currently are. The journey of most Yahoo boys doesn’t begin in adulthood, we lose most of them within the ages of 14-18.

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This is where they get recruited into Networks popularly called HK. Every HK network has a “Mentor” who houses 10-20 boys for months and teaches them his ways of Phishing, Dating scams, wire fraud etc. The mentor empowers them with a Laptop and internet.

here are thousands of HKs scattered across Lagos, Warri, Benin, Port Harcourt and Ibadan especially. Go to any hotel in Ikorodu at night and see for yourselves what these boys have become. In these groups, the lifestyle of using drugs and flaunting wealth is nurtured.

The more desperate ones advance into Yahoo plus- a more sinister level where they resort to rituals, sex with blood relations etc. A boy, a laptop and his dreams, reduced to a desperate life of survival fuelled by insatiable greed. This is our collective failure as a society.

What can we do differently?

Two years ago, my mentor Johnson Abbaly called me and said he wanted me to be involved in a project called the” Smartan house” in the slums of Ikorodu. The idea behind this was to create a parallel culture that rivals yahoo boy culture. Our own HK.

The experiment was to find some of the smartest teenagers in Ikorodu living in extreme poverty between the ages of 14-18, then find some more teenagers already involved in internet scam and bring them together in the smartan house for 8 weeks. We called it the Smartan Crucible.

In those 8 weeks they learnt these skills under the guidance and mentorship of Johnson Abbaly. We separated it into 3 prongs and created a world class curriculum to introduce them to the world of tech and mindfulness.

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The Smartan project was successful. We realized that best way to steer the hearts of young ones away from internet scam was to create an enabling environment where they could be influenced by their own peers just like HK but this time grounded in a quest for building real skill

The number one reason why there’s an alarming proliferation of Yahoo boys with no end in sight isn’t just because of greed or poverty, it’s the lack of deliberate mentorship and guidance. These young people have fire in their hearts and a strong will to succeed against all odds.

This zeal can be guided differently. The real consequence of internet scam culture is not just how it ruins our reputation on a global stage, it’s that we’re losing the battle for the minds of the future work force of our country in thousands, to a crude system like HK.

You can’t tell young people to have great dreams and aspirations when their experience of the world and the opportunities therein is confined to the limitations of their environment. Their only perception of success is one egbon adugbo (Senior boy) that bought Benz from doing “Yahoo”

One of the teenagers from the Smartan project travelled to South Africa on a full ride scholarship to the African leadership academy. Many of them have now gained important tech skills and are seeking internship opportunities.

The model is simple

  1. Go to public schools, go to the streets, find 50 yahoo boys between the ages 14-18 2. Bring them into the smartan house for 8 weeks
  2. Assign them to a mentor who can devote 2 hours weekly for 2 years to guide them on their new skill path with stipends.

Credit: Tunde Onakoya

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