Microsoftization of Nigeria: genuine social reform for Nigerians or special interest agenda? By: Michael Bobby Obodo Jr.

Before I commence, I want to quickly say that I thought the artists and members of BLING masterfully coordinated and delivered their recent campaign song. I would also like to point out that a few of the artists, casts, and brains behind the campaign theme song, are people I may call my friends. Omawumi, I have known for many years; Banky West, I have known for a few years now; Adebola Williams (if he is actually the person in the video), I met through a youth initiative of mine. We have been in communication via the internet, from time to time; and Ohimai Amaeze, I met the same way I met Adebola Williams. So whatever the perspectives of the readers of my article may be, I urge my readers to ponder over this article, objectively, and express their opinions about it without prejudice or hate.

I got the opportunity to see the video put together by BLING and sponsored by Microsoft (the computer/internet giant) titled “maga no need pay” (maga: a word used to refer to “victims” of cyber crimes). One word: impressive. But this is only insofar as it has to do with the message the song carries, and not so much as the implicit and overall motive behind the campaign (with regards to Microsoft), provisions put in place to make the message effective and substantial and, the moral sentiments behind the message as expressed by some. I will now move on to explain my point. I will begin by attempting to give a little historical background of the ‘bad guys’ (as is the undertone I get from some, if not most, of the people spear-heading this campaign) that this campaign is geared towards.

Education is, and has always been, a fundamental aspect of the values of every Nigerian family, as far as I can recall. Every Nigerian parent strives to provide a basic education for their children. This is what my memory, and I believe that of my fellow Nigerians, allows me to remember about a typical Nigerian parent. I can vividly recall Nigerian parents breaking their backs from farming or selling, working night and day being house helps to people, selling recharges cards, and carrying concretes on their frail and fragile heads at construction sites, just to see their children through school. They try to get their children either into private or secondary schools (if they can afford the fees). Heck…they put their kids in ‘AKARA’ schools (one of the worst standard of education in Nigeria), if they don’t have the means and capacity to put them in the aforementioned schools. Some of these children manage to get to only a certain level in their educational lives, sometimes due to their personal choice (which is also prominent in western societies) or due to the inability of their parents to continue with their school fees and items (books, crayon, sandals, school uniforms, etc). Others go on to complete both their primary and post-secondary levels of education. Hurray? Nah! Most of these ‘bad guys’ have to wait for 10 to 15 years, most times, to secure jobs that are usually not related to their professions (and if I may add, after many years of fasting and praying day and night for God/Allah’s intervention)…these are the few lucky ones. What about the majority who aren’t as lucky? They source for alternative means of making a living…any means of livelihood. Make sense? I think so, because survival by any means is intrinsic in the human nature. What this means, then, is that susceptibility to any form or way of livelihood flaunted to these ‘bad guys’ by other ‘bad guys’, is largely inevitable. Who, then, should we fully or partly blame for what the ‘bad guys’ end up becoming?

As most Nigerians know, most members of our government are so deeply entrenched in corrupt practices that they don’t even remember what their job title is or what they ran for, in the first place. They have failed, woefully, in living up to the very core definition of the positions they were voted into- FREAKING PUBLIC SERVANTS!! And guess the guys who mostly vote them in to a position of power? Same ‘bad guys’ who hope they come to their socio-economic rescue. We all know what happens when most of the so-called leaders get into power…embezzlement galore. Their mega-millions are mostly electronically wired via the internet provided largely by Microsoft. Why not start with these ‘real bad guys’ by cyber check-mating them? The answer to this question should be left for another time. Now that we have a little insight into the backgrounds, lives, and type of government that these ‘bad guys’ come from, let us move on to examine what the real motive of this campaign sponsored by Microsoft, truly is. I will treat this discussion in a sort of rhetorical format.

Could it be that Microsoft (the sponsors and endorsers of this project), has an ulterior agenda for why they situated this campaign against cybercrime in Nigeria? As some may be aware of, the digital/internet age has become enormously competitive, and Microsoft’s position as number one in the rankings may have been gravely dislocated and the pinch felt in their gozillion-dollar accounts. Note: corporations have an ‘always-stay-at-the-top-by-all-means’ policy. So what might a corporation like Microsoft do when it seems like they are beginning to lose their consumers, due mainly, to identity thefts from spam e-mails, frequent computer crashes, unreliable security features, and, of course, Yahoo! Yahoo!; with their competitors- IBM, DELL, FUJITSU Siemens, CISCO, INTEL, Mozilla Firefox, etc.- providing these consumers with internet security and maximum satisfaction?

Could it be that Microsoft sensed that many Nigerians largely-hold both a moral and personal despise for those who commit cybercrimes, and simply played into these moral beliefs and attitudes of the ‘good’ Nigerians, since it goes against their personal and religious beliefs? By sponsoring an initiative as MISSPIN and BLING, could it also be that they are using these initiatives, spear-headed by Nigerians, as a front to guise their real motive- since they can’t use economic, political, or even international regulations to force the hand the Nigerian government to take swift and effective actions? Would it not be fair to ask Microsoft where they were and what they did when this cybercrime initially started? Or might it be that they didn’t act because they had not begun to feel the pinch? I stand to be corrected if my assumptions are incorrect.

Could it be that for a corporation or a person to embark on a campaign that is solely geared towards getting people to leave a particular act- like drugs, pedophilia, and of course, Yahoo, Yahoo- that they would have provided and put adequate provisions in place for these people to fall back to, so that by this way, their journey through recovery or rehabilitation would be a successful and meaningful one? While considering this thought, let us move on to examine the provisions Microsoft and its partners put in place before they underwent this gigantic campaign against perpetrators of cybercrimes.

I stand to be corrected if my statement of what Microsoft and partners have done, with regards to their provisions for the millions who may be touched by their message and want to immediately do the right thing, is wrong. This is a text excerpt that I got from BLING and Microsoft’s YouTube video site, on the provisions that they have put in place for the yahoo-yahoo guys that may decide to repent:

The rehabilitation program will allow twenty-five (25) young people who have been involved in cybercrime activities to benefit from training (life skills, employability skills, I.T., etc), mentorship and paid internships. They will serve as role models for other youths who have been wondering about their future beyond online criminal involvements” (Gbegan Sesan…admin officer, I suppose).

I wonder if a 25-person mentorship, employability, and paid internship approach, is a match for such a massive campaign that has been launched by Microsoft and its partners. Understand that most of these people may have been forced into acts of cybercrime, not by their choice, but by the horrible predicaments that their government have made them come to terms with. Are these provisions worth making someone that benefits rather substantially from cybercrime, leave their acts?

Is it to much to demand of Microsoft, with its gigantic wealth, to build facilities in the major cities in Nigeria, that cater to computer enhancements learning programmes + employment for thousands of repentant cybercrime guys, immediately after completion of these programmes? Could Microsoft and its partners not set up infrastructures, create projects that demand for labor, so a significant number of this ‘bad guys’ can gain full or part-time employments? Could it be fair to say that these provisions by Microsoft and partners are unsubstantial and non-agenda-specific; and as such, are just all over the place? What is the projected time frame, by the organizers of this initiative, for Nigerians to witness meaningful success through this initiative?

I just came back from a trip to a few countries in Africa, and I was blessed with the opportunity to visit some orphanages and schools. Before visiting them, I took time to find out what they lacked, and what I could do to help them. Without any formal announcement, I proceeded to the orphanages and schools, equipped with materials and items that were be specific to their various needs. So when I urged the students to do everything within their will and might to remain in school and not drop out, I provided them with the materials that would help to keep them in school. For the orphanage homes, I provided them with food stuff, clothes, books, etc., as well as encourage them to be responsible and productive members of their society. I told them that it was ok to be homeless and without food for a while. But that that should be the very reason for which they should have the audacity to dream of a better life and believe that their dreams will come to pass, working on the right paths and striving to be the best in all that they do. What I believe I was able to do during these visits was to empower, encourage and set these youths to become successful in life, but not without some sort of adequate and reasonable assistance to match my…campaign.

Speaking on the subject of success, I want to throw a question out to those who sang and beautifully demonstrated their musical and acting abilities, in the campaign music video. Were they compensated in some ways- like monetarily, or given titles that improves their social status? Or they took on the task, voluntarily? Better still, are they among the lucky ones who have mouth-watering jobs as a result of their God-given talents, education, and luck (yes- the person you know is a big part of moving up in Nigeria)? I worry if maybe, they embraced the explicit idea presented to them, without taking time out to critically analyze what the real motives might be. And if they are very optimistic about the end result of the Microsoft campaign, based on the facts they have been presented with.

For centuries, and even to this day, Nigerians have been systematically brainwashed into serving the interests of others. Don’t we think it is about darn time we refrained from been easily carried away by the surface agendas of these people, and start digging a little deeper into their implicit motives, before we serve their interests? Let us take countries that have been branded with horrendous stigmas, as a case in point. Major criminal stigmas that are associated with some of these countries- Italians (mostly referred to as mafias), Columbians (seen as drug carriers), and Mexicans (also widely referred to as drug carriers), are been dealt with by both the citizens and governments of the respective countries, not by business corporations. Why? Because the overall GDP of these corporations are not directly affected by these crimes; and as such, could care less. So what does it say then when a corporation suddenly becomes interested in championing or sponsoring initiatives to curb a stigmatized-crime in a country, instead of leaving it to the government and its citizens to deal with? Are there facts to show that corporations like Microsoft, Diamond corporations, Gucci, McDonalds, etc., launch massive campaigns to curb the stigmatized-crimes associated with the aforementioned countries? I await these facts, if there are any.

Could it be fair to argue that a gigantic and gozillion-dollar-earning corporation, like Microsoft, has failed to convince and satisfy many critical thinking Nigerians in explaining what their real motive and/or long-term agenda behind this cybercrime fight, is? Like I stated in my opening paragraph, this is not an ethical, moral, or intellectual attack against my Nigerian brothers and sisters- some of who may have embraced this idea looking at it from a surface point of view. I highly applaud them for their strong desires for a new beginning in our beloved country, nonetheless.

My profound question and concern, however, still remains this: What is Microsoft’s real motive and agenda for Nigerians who are involved in cybercrimes, in terms of meaningful and long-lasting socio-economic reform? You be the honest judge. God bless us all!

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