Thanks to Homer for the idea of this story!
It was such a glorious Friday to be alive! It was a luscious late summer morning that was far too pleasant to waste a single moment of by being indoors. It wasn't too hot and there was a strong sea breeze coming in off of the Gulf (Gulf of Guinea) but without much hint of any later rain. As far as I knew I was a free man today with no appointments so I resolved to get an early start to a long weekend and drive down the coast with Ayoka to visit family. Ayoka, the joy of my life just as her name indicates, is my most loyal and obedient friend, my fully restored 1962 Chevy Impala SS Convertible, of course with the classic 409 engine. A most wondrous and sweet ride! It cost a small fortune to buy and another fortune to have it (safely) shipped here but it's the best money I've ever spent in my life.
Instead of the usual Mercedes or Land Rover I have my Ayoka. It makes me distinctive if nothing else. There are 10 million people in Lagos and a few of them even do what I do for a living so it's nice to have an edge. Plus having an old American vintage car makes me a bit more colourful and adds to my reputation for making some order out of our chaos.
Here in Nigeria there are over 500 languages spoken, English is our common binding thread for communication. The British were good colonial masters but freedom is better ... even with all of the problems we now have. Many hundreds of tribes, scores of different ethnic groups, dozens of religions, etc - all fighting for the spoils of modern progress. One controls the oil revenue from the Delta, another controls most of the international freight shipping, another the river trade up the Niger, another coal mining, another tin, others agricultural or manufacturing. Needless to say, there is not a great deal of love between most of the bigger tribes.
My own tribe is a very small and minor one along the mountainous coast next to Cameroon that controls no vital or strategic resources. In size we are definitely among the smaller ones and we hold no political clout in Abuja, the capitol but fortunately we also require very little from them as well. Economically however we exert power far beyond our size of our numbers. In the past and until the end of the colonial era, we were primarily traders, acting mostly as middle-men in the trade between Nigeria and Cameroon and some of the remote islands in the Gulf, especially the strange island of Sao Aynum-Dam. The wealth came slow but steady and we reinvested in ourselves and our tribe many times over. It is important to remember that in Africa tribal loyalty always comes first before national loyalty.
My brothers and I were all able to attend the finest public schools in England, Eton and Harrow. My eldest brother Keyondre (Kerry) went to Cambridge studying international affairs. He is our tribal leader and a Provence Governor. Think of him as our tribal CEO. My next older brother Andikan (Andy) went to Sandhurst and is currently a General commanding all of the military forces in our region. Definitely a most able Chief of Security for our tribe. Both have done well with their lives. They serve the government well and honestly but their first and foremost loyalty is of course to the well-being of our tribe. Fortunately, this poses no great conflict and none of us have any political ambitions.
It is never good to advertise ones success in our country and we are better than most at keeping our affairs quiet and our heads kept down low. Our tribe has kept many secrets for untold generations and we prepare our children well to protect them further. When the next civil disturbance starts it will be between the major tribes and/or religious groups. We will be uninvolved but yet we will still find a way to continue to prosper.
As for myself, I am the youngest son called Raimi (compassionate) but most commonly just called "Ray". I attended Oxford and studied accounting, business, computers and law for handling our tribal financial accounts and business affairs. Think of me as the CFO (Chief Financial Officer). I still oversee those duties but an increasing amount of my time these last few years is now taken up by my outside consulting business that brings us record profits that my smuggler ancestors could have never even dreamed about.
I like to think that I am a handsome man and being not quite yet forty years old I still feel some of the energy and ambition of my youth. Life has been very good to me so far.
As a man of top notch western education and wealth, plus being from a tribe of virtually no political importance, I have become perhaps the best and most prestigious 'mediator and facilitator' in Lagos, the largest city in Nigeria and our economic capitol. I've gained the reputation over the years as being honest and impartial — an extremely rare commodity in this city. It is common nowadays for most major deals involving either multiple tribes or foreign multinational corporations to at least pass by my desk for a review.
I'm loyal to my clients and serve their interests well — as long as my fees are paid and I am treated with respect. Do not misunderstand me; I'm not a 'saint' but I very much have my principles. If my client is fair with me then I shall return this trust in full, protecting their interests, money and secrets as if they were my own. If treated with distain or mistrust however, my pride can easily become hurt and our relationship will suffer.
It is best not to speak at all of what should occur should you seriously wrong me and become my enemy.
My fees are high — outrageous even but I have no shortage of clients. My reputation of treating all parties fairly and giving good judgments for my fees is well established with the numerous foreign embassies and consulates, not to mention the innumerable tribal leaders. I'm licensed to practice law both here and in the UK but I've only rarely had to set foot into a courtroom but I'm often consulted by clients in both countries on the various aspects of English and Nigerian law.
Nigerian law is kind of a misnomer since actually we seem to have four entirely different sets of contradictory laws.
· English Law which is derived from its colonial past with Britain
· Common Law, a development of our post colonial independence
· Customary Law, which is derived from the hundreds of tribal laws and customs
· Shari Law which had been used long before the colonial administration in Nigeria and used mostly in the predominantly Muslim north of the country.
This leads to significant confusion on many seemingly routine matters but makes me invaluable as an impartial mediator, as I know each of these sets of laws thoroughly.
I'd also like to think I was one of the first to see the potential of making Nigeria the technological Mecca of Africa and in a great many respects I believe we have succeeded. Our tribe has sought to become the most 'tech savvy' and has had many recent great successes, such as making us the high-tech bank for most of Africa.
If the modern computer age has brought prosperity to my tribe then I must also share in the shame of the negative publicity that computer crime has brought our countrymen. Particularly the so-called '419' scammers.
If you have a computer with email you will know all about emails purported to be from some rich millionaire banker in Nigeria who just needs a little help getting his money out the country. Spending a few dollars up front could earn the greedy responder millions in return. It's a scam of course. The only persons getting rich are businessmen hiring roomfuls of kids with computers to blanket the world with their fraud schemes. The '419' name comes from the fraud portion of our legal codes.
The schemes work frighteningly well largely due massive corruption and culture of patronage in this country. Everyone from the lowest street punk to the richest crime lord pays a percentage of their take up the ladder to their patrons for protection, political and judicial. Some '419' bosses have gone to jail recently but this is largely window dressing. These were minor and unimportant people who were either politically expendable or had crossed their patrons.
Every week my office gets phone calls from around the world from victims seeking to regain monies stolen via one of the various '419' frauds. I'm honestly sympathetic but equally frank in stating my extreme limitations for being able to help them. Sometimes my people can get lucky and get some of the money returned and this has given me the reputation of being a miracle worker. As a side benefit my successes in this area have put me considerably in the good graces of several western law enforcement agencies such as the US Secret Service (they, not the FBI, handle US 419 complaints), the London Metropolitan Police (Scotland Yard) and INTERPOL. This has gotten me a few IOU tokens — someday I might need them.
Giddy-up giddy-up 419's!
Politically I am tied to no political party and have never endorsed any candidate for office, nor will I ever run for any kind of national political office. This gives me the independence to be sort of a 'gadfly' and I can quietly speak out on corruption issues with very little danger of retribution. I have a long and tedious speech that I give potential clients and young law students about dealing with corruption. I call it the 'Iceberg Metaphor' and this is a vast abbreviated version.
.... There is more of this story ...