Charles Onyango Obbo
‘Oga at the Top’ and other tales from Naija land – why we love Nigerians
Posted Wednesday, September 18 2013 at 01:00
Some chap rushed out “Oga at the Top” T-shirts, and sold one million of them within one hour in Lagos!
By the weekend, I was totally fed up with African politics and wished to get away from it for some days. Salvation came from an unusual source. The good people at the firm had paid a lot of money for me to attend a “social media summit” at Strathmore Business School in Nairobi. So we spent two days listening to folks like Kenya’s Sunny Bindra and Nigeria’s Anderson Uvie-Emegbo who have taken time to do serious research on what individuals and companies are doing with social media like Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, and so forth. Not just playing smart, but making money or growing their business.
What was delightful was that unlike a lot of these digital and social media events where you hear a lot of examples from the US, Europe, and Asia, we were fed on meaty stuff that is happening right here in Africa.
Not surprisingly, Uvie-Emegbo had us reeling over with laughter with juicy stories from his homeland. There is a social media site called Eskimi. I had kind of heard about it, but not paid attention. Started by some Lithuanians, Eskimi is a social site for “meeting new people”. It sounds innocent enough, but the devil is in the details.
Eskimi now has nearly 20 million users in Africa, after barely two years. When it came to Africa, it started in Nigeria. It was blown away by the response. In the first year alone, a record 6 million Nigerians signed up.
Among other things, Eskimi allows you to hook up with someone and share stuff like photos. If the other person likes a sample of the photos, he or she can ask for more for a small fee. Eskimi shares the money with the owner of the photos.
The founders of Eskimi, however, had not reckoned with Nigerians. It turns out that many of the photos shared, and for which many users were willing to pay, were of nude women – and men. Our Nigerian brothers and sisters figured out that they could create false identities and sell fake photos of African curvaceous women and hanky men to suckers.
There weren’t really 6 million Nigerians who signed up. Probably it was a few thousand of them, each with hundreds of accounts raking in the money. Quite a few Nigerians made a fortune, before the world begun to wisen up, but it was a boon for Eskimi. Its business model had been fully established as workable, and paying more than Twitter and Facebook. It has now cleaned up, and Uvie-Emegbo says we should watch out. In the next few months, Eskimi is coming to your town.
From the same Nigeria, we heard the incredible story of “Oga at the Top”. Again, I had seen images and references to it on Twitter, but didn’t think twice about them. I missed a phenomenon.
It all started innocently with a TV interview earlier this year of the Lagos State Commandant of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corp (NSCDC) Shem Obafaiye.
There were conmen setting up fake NSCDC websites, asking people for application fees so they could be recruited in the force. Mr Obafaiye’s job on the show was supposed to be fairly simple—say whether he knew that there were scammers using his organisation’s website, and what he planned to do about it.
You need to find the video on YouTube to believe the disaster the interview turned into. Obafaiye was hopelessly unprepared. When he couldn’t answer a question, he said it was being dealt with by the “Oga (big man) at the top”.
Then he was cornered. He was asked what the name and address of the genuine NSCDB website was. It is painful watching him fumble. Finally, in a desperate Hail Mary move, he threw up the name of a website—it was the wrong address!
Within hours, Nigeria was in frenzy, and parody videos making fun of Obafaiye were popping up all over the place. “Oga at the top” is the most viral story out of Africa this year. An incredible 34,000 parody videos have been made, and it pops up a very impressive 6,500,000 search results on Google.
Some chap rushed out “Oga at the Top” T-shirts, and sold one million of them within one hour in Lagos! But there is a tragic footnote to it all. Word is that Obafaiye’s children were laughed out of school. Family sources suggested that he tried to commit suicide.
Perhaps it came as an act of mercy that he was transferred to some village station in Nigeria, because he had become too much of an embarrassment to the NSCDB, but it was also for his and his family’s good. They give a lot of grief these Nigerians; you just cannot help but love them.
firstname.lastname@example.org & twitter:@cobbo3