Youthful Dr Zedekiah Brown, articulate and mysterious, walked into the office of Maxwell Dusu, a middle-aged architect, and made him a proposal on how they could make loads of money without much hassle. Max was shocked and was initially minded to throw him out. But he decided to listen. After all, what had he to lose?
Part of the proposal went thus: `…you know these white people are so trusting. And some of them like to make money without working for it. And they think we’re stupid. So we play along. We tell them sweet stories of how they can pick up millions without doing anything. We tempt them enough to part with their money.’
It has to be advance fee fraud, 419 as they call it, Max thought. He asked, `How?’
`Easy as ABC. One variation of the story is about a contract completed ten years ago during the then civilian government which was soon overthrown by a military regime before payment could be made. The military then sat on all payments. The foreign company, having borrowed so much to execute the contract soon folded up. Now this money has been approved for payment. But government does not know that the beneficiary has gone bust. We find a sucker who is willing to believe that this money is really there and that we will have it transferred to his account and he will have a share of thirty per cent. I’m talking in terms of hard currency.’
`Yes. Very crazy. We have to work hard for it though, make it convincing, providing documents that look authentic. By the time the victim is thoroughly hooked, the deal develops a hitch.’
`Which is?’
`We tell him the Central Bank authorities want ten per cent bribe or a commitment fee paid up front before they can allow the money to be remitted. Or we say that a five per cent tax has to be paid up front. But I prefer the bribe story. After all, that confirms to him the opinion he already has of us, that we are all crooks. Besides, ten per cent nets us more.’
`Go on.’
`He’s so anxious to get a thirty per cent share of, say, thirty million pounds that he pays the ten per cent. We get three million for doing next to nothing. It just requires cunning, boldness and daring.’
`Man, that’s fraud. And I don’t see anybody falling for such a stupid story.’
`Oh, they do. And it isn’t fraud. How can it be? We don’t remit any money.’
`But you take his money under false pretences.’
`We only exploit his greed, his gullibility.’
It has to be fraud. Max had heard of this scam but had not really believed that a right-thinking man would give away his money like that. He said, `I still think it is fraud.’
`He he he, I prefer to call it reparations! You know that some of our black brothers are beginning to shout that the white people should pay compensation or reparation as they prefer to call it, for plundering Africa. The white people came and took anything they wanted by force. But they are not going to give back anything willingly. Why should they? After all, they see our own black brothers ripping us off right now and putting the money into the white man’s bank. As far as I am concerned our black brothers should be made to vomit all the money they are stealing. But, for now, let’s concentrate on the white man and collect our share of the booty. It is a game of wits. We do it in a businesslike, gentlemanly way. The man who provides his account number for us to pay millions into knows he hasn’t done anything to earn the money. He wants to rob the country and won’t shout too loudly if he ends up on the losing end…’
As to what the white man has to do to earn his share of the money Brown explained that all he needed to do was to:
1.     Provide his company’s blank letter head – four copies, signed and stamped.
2.     Proforma Invoice – four sets – blank, signed and stamped.
3.     His company’s account number and name and address of his bank into which the money will be paid.
Max was sceptical and suspicious of the whole story. I am sure you are too. But you must be curious to find out what happened.
Many years ago while holidaying in London I visited an old friend, A Jewish furniture dealer in Junction Road, a nice old man, bent with age, always friendly. He had once invited Simon and me to his lovely house in London.
On this bright day, he, having given me a cup of tea, went to a cupboard and pulled out two thick files, sat down, and after flipping through a page or two, pushed the files across the table and said, `Peter, you are a writer, take them. Those letters are from your country men. Go and write about them!’
The files were both labelled `Nigeria’. They were thick with all sorts of letters, but each was conveying the same type of message which we then called 419, advance fee fraud, promising to pay a large sum of money into his account if he would provide certain minor help.
So I wrote about them! Find out what Max did with Brown’s story. Download the full length story, Game of Life, from Amazon Kindle.

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