By: Theophilus ‘Femi Alawonde.

Image Credit: 123RF.com

Some days ago, a video made the rounds on the Nigerian version of the internet. It was that of a girl – unseen to viewers – who made a show of comparing and contrasting two parking lots at a tertiary institution. The one, allotted to the students, the other, to the lecturers.

This girl ridiculed the sort of cars that the lecturers own, and showered praises on the students for the sort of exotic cars they own, while subtly giving glory to the illegal activities these boys supposedly engage in – activities that we have come to categorize under the common noun, Yahoo Yahoo, or Yahoo for short.

The video has since sparked several reactions and gained enough traction that a major national media house reported it as a video news story. I have read comments and takes on the video, and there’s one takeaway: the different perspectives of our current social situation that single, random video has brought to light. Let’s go back in time…

We Should All Be Yahoo Boys

“We Should All Be Yahoo Boys”. That’s the title of an article I wrote about 4 or 5 years ago. I was prompted to write it when I found out that yet another friend of mine had given in to the pressure of internet fraud.

When I shared the link on my Facebook wall, I got a message from a friend who subtly probed further into what prompted me to write the piece. Apparently, she had fears that I was on the verge of falling into the fraudulent precipice and wanted to give me all the motivation she could for me to hold on to what is true and legitimate.

Between then and now, the rate at which the Nigerian youth are engaging in internet fraud menace has skyrocketed. While I don’t have any statistically proven way of measuring, I gauge by the number of victims I knew then, and how that figure has more than quadrupled.

And now, back to our unseen friend in the now-viral video. Her action shows how there has been a negative seismic shift in the value system of our society. The value system keeps getting more corrupt by the day, and at the receiving end of the moral decadence and its poison are boys that don’t know they’re victims.

Mounting pressure on them to venture into these fraudulent activities are social and societal elements – insatiable family members, girlfriends, the patriarchal system of our society, and peer pressure.

These boys risk jail time, fall victim to an untimely death, lose family members, or run mad, while continually living with a hollowness that ill-gotten wealth cannot bring – the hollowness created by a lack of fulfillment and a sense of purpose.

How Societal Pressure Affects the Boy Child: Girlfriends, Potential Girlfriends, or Girls in General

Like the girl who was quick to ridicule men who bought cars through honest labour, there are several girls out there who would quickly ridicule any boy or young man that would choose honest labour over the ill-gotten wealth of Yahoo.

Social media platforms are rife with such scenarios in pictures, videos, and leaked chats. And what do we do? We laugh them off, criticize them a little, and internalize them. Of course, some would say, “many of those leaked chats are doctored and fake.” Fake or not, they’re having the same effects – it goes beyond the action, it’s about the perception. Perceptions birth norms, and norms would live years and centuries after actions have been forgotten.

How Societal Pressure Affects the Boy Child: The Family and Pressure-conditioned Upbringing

Of the several comments I read on the ridiculing video is own where the author lambasted the girl. Beyond that, he said any man who has responsibilities to cater to – a family – has no need competing with boys on who rides a better car or owns a finer house.

A laudable criticism of the girl. However, the issues burn deeper than that. First, there is the generalization that those cars are owned by male lecturers – also implied by the girl in her video. Second, is the patriarchal nature of our society – as supported by the religions that have taken dominance. In our society, catering to the needs of the family is the responsibility of the man, and if a man has a woman who contributes – equally or fractionally – to catering to the family’s finance-related needs, he should count himself lucky.

This is the view shared by Reno Omokri, a Nigerian with hundreds of thousands of followers. That view mirrors the views of many a Nigerian. The thing is, there is the pressure back home on the male child. The pressure that he has watched on the shoulders of his father as he went out of the door each day and returned creased with his worries.

These are the qualities we have often celebrated in the typical Nigerian father – not that expressive, but he goes outside that door every day, returns, and puts food on the table, even if he’s almost bent double by his worries and labours.

There is the need to change orientations – right from the family unit – that a family is built by equal or commensurate inputs of every member of that family, especially the adults that decided to enter into a marriage and raise a family. There is the need to make children know – from the outset – that bearing the family’s responsibilities and catering to its financial needs are not the birthright of the male child.

That is in not to say irresponsibility among men should be supported. However, there is the need to lessen the pressure of “I need to make money for my family”. “I need to make money to start a family”, and other family-induced financial pressure on the male child. That way, boys will not be conditioned to hustle by all means – legal or illegal – to make money.

The Eternally Boiling Pressure Pot of Social Media

The pressure to make money through whatever means possible is everywhere on social media – Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, WhatsApp, you name it. Broke-shaming is indeed a thing – one that people on social media shamelessly engage in. They are quick to score cheap points at the financial stability, or otherwise, of their targets. Yahoo boys “living the life” flood the timeline with several images. Trips and vacations are thrown everywhere, and the sea of algorithms always finds a way to sweep it to your timeline.

Day by day, we are all internalising these things, and by so doing, they become a part of our societal norms. Of course, not everyone will fall. However, so many have fallen.

It’s a mutating menace, an army of cankerworms eating into the moral fibres of our society. It is devilish; it is spreading like cancer. The tripod is tilted, and boy children keep falling outside of the societal cauldron and into the abyss of irredemption.

Things must be done! Some things are being done. Look back to when you were growing up… If you turned out well today, would you have ever imagined you would turn out well, 5 or 10 years ago?

I would most likely have not. I had my share of fishing from the sea of societal vices – bent double under the weight of a multi-faceted pressure. My parents’ purses and pockets suffered from my malignant spirit of theft. I mastered the art of lying to cover my tracks. I was robbing myself much more than I was robbing them…

Till one day when I just thought to stop. No more, no less. And I stopped. I have hardly ever mustered as much self-will as that since then. But, it is rare to see someone who would be buried deep in a vicious act and then choose to stop of their own volition.

Very rare. And that’s why you and I must do what we can to reach those boys. If we do not reach them, think of how many would never muster enough courage to stop – how many would degenerate into worse acts… How many would become the men we never want our family members around.

Let me tell you this: when we go out on our school outreaches at Boys Without Borders, you can always see the 1, 2, 5, 10 boys who are raptly listening to you. Your words striking some chords in their heart. Those words, we may never know how big a tree they would blossom into. But there is assurance that they are listening, they understand, and they would remember that they were told with love, care, and passion.

But how many boys can we reach? Few, single-handedly. Much more, unitedly. You don’t have to belong to an NGO to make some impacts. You see boys every day. You know what some of them engage in. You know what you engaged in, how it turned out to be… Stories stay longer, let your stories inspire some boys to change. Let our societal perceptions begin to witness a positive turnaround – especially for the younger generation.

If we can’t bring back many of the men we’ve lost to vices, we can protect the boys we currently know from falling into the abyss of irredemption.