Sunday, 14 January 2018

419: A Final Review

In 2014, $12.7 Billion dollars were lost to the common 419 scam.

Scamming, it seems to be the clear issue in this novel. It plague's Nigeria, taking money from the foolish. Losing all of this money could mean many things to a family. But this novel actually talks about a whole lot more than just an internet scam. Things such as suicide cause the victim to feel alone if they fall for the trick. "Ruling it a suicide." (Ferguson 78). Even with Nnamdi in the Delta when big companies started to arrive was a huge issue. "Nnamdi was now 13 or 14 and was having trouble sleeping with the eerie glow of gas flares and heavy thumps underground." (Ferguson 175). (This passage shows one of the first effects of oil companies in the Nigerian Delta). People being killed because they live near the oil, cultures lost. This book has so many issues packed into it, even if you don’t notice them. 

The novel itself had so many different parts that made it unique. I was very interested in the whole scamming process before, but it also gave me so much more. I know many other people that would like to read this book. It has deep character development and a large climax. But, if you are looking for a book that sets itself up quickly, steer in the other direction. This book takes a long time to get across all of their points and create all of its characters. Maybe if you're a reader who likes quicker novels, you could try “We all Fall Down” by Eric Walters. It is a quicker story that goes in depth to some of the impacts of 9/11.

Overall, 419 was a great novel, going through the history of internet scams and how they affect everyone, even people who don’t even have access to this type of computer technology. It showcases other issues as well, such as suicide and the Nigerian delta. Many questions are asked and then answered, all except one, still standing without any explanation. Is this issue even anyone’s fault at all?

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Nnamdi's Room - A 3D Sketch

My Room:

An average person living in Nigeria makes around $500 per month.

Yes, the fact above is true. Well, at least in populated cities in Nigeria. For cases like Nnamdi’s village, it's a lot worse. Some families end up without jobs, relying on their own will to survive. “Have you any conception,” said Ironsi-Egobia, “how much a stall on Lagos Island costs?” (Ferguson 300). In my room, I represented this low income in many ways. First, I combined the kitchen, bedroom and living room into one place. This was to show how people like him cannot afford luxuries, like a big house. There are not any decorations inside, everything is simplistic. Growing up without money had a big impact on this story and his life. For example, he tried so hard to get money for Amina, but not himself. He was fine without the money, he just thought he looked bad if he was not getting anything to help out with the food. “He would prepare Amina a breakfast… and then see her on her way, deeply ashamed to be living off her tips.” (Ferguson 357)
Another big factor in my room was Nnamdi’s culture and religion. His village is very cultural and has many traditions. Many parts of the room were about this. The drum, rocks, wine glass, etc. As a child, you can see him growing up closely with his religion. It comes into play during many parts of the book. He throws stones whenever he doesn't know what to do. “I will throw stones, ask the orumo.” (Ferguson 280). But the most important piece in the room is the bookshelf. I made it pop out to show this. Nnamdi’s father was a storyteller. This is very important because it dictated the Climax in the book. When Nnamdi was in Laura’s room. Instead of killing her for money as instructed. Nnamdi told Laura a story. This is why culture affects almost every part of this room.

I’ve noticed that culture is the one thing that affects almost everything in this book. The different western culture of Laura clashes with the mixed lifestyles in Nigeria. The deep religion in Nnamdi’s blood affects a major turning point in the book, and all of the different people provide different perspectives on how to live life and handle the different plot points.

"Culture is the intersection of people and life itself. It's how we deal with life, love, death, birth, and disappointment."
                              -Wendell Peirce

A City's Force

My name is Ironsi-Egobia. I am the owner of multiple cyber cafes around Lagos. I came to this city as a kid. Without my parents. I came to this place to rise to the top. I made my own name for myself to show that I was independent. Ironsi-Egobia. Ironsi stands for a strong leader in Nigeria, while Egobia stands for “Money Come”. I started a cyber cafe with the little money I had. 419 is a very popular way to make money in Nigeria, but not everyone had a way to do it. My business was popular since it invited many people to get in the 419 action. Over the years I started creating more and more cafes, while also finding the biggest and best scammers to bring into my network. I have also grown outside of this 419 department. I have created an army of hundreds of street men looking for a job with little pay, giving me a big military force in Nigeria. But the true reason why I got here? I show no mercy. People in my way I will force aside. No second chances, when someone shows a flaw, it's there to stay.

So, when my newly hired employee comes to me saying that he got caught in a trap while he was trying to trap someone else, I stick to my rule. This was the case for Winston. Faulty people make faulty futures I say to myself. But, there is one thing I have to ask these broken people before they say goodbye to the world. Did you mention my name? Do they know who I am? This is why I must be careful, for with the police, there are also not any second chances. Then I kill them. It has to be done. I’ve been experimenting with different ways to do this, but an ice pick still remains my favourite. 

But after Winston was dead, there was still something left to be done. Who would come to Lagos without the expectation to see the dark side of the city? I posted many guards around the hotel where this Miss Scarlet was staying. It was simple, one of my employees who worked in the hotel would leave Miss Scarlet's door open. Then, one of my men would meet her inside, take her money, and leave, this time without an ice pick in his hand. But of course, my new employee doesn't have the heart to kill. And with that, another story ending like Winston’s.

On a last attempt to take revenge on this character who has crossed the line, I will make sure that my taxi will pick her up, delivering her to the front steps of my door. But yet again, my people fail me. She escapes to the airport, by herself and catches a flight back to her home. Over all of my 46 years of life, no one has managed to get past me. But in the end, whose fault is it? And more importantly, do I deserve a second chance?

Quotes from Ironsi in the Book:
“Ironsi-Egobia is the name I adopted.” (Ferguson 117).

"A humble ice pick can become a tool of persuasion" (Ferguson 126).

Nigeria's Rights and Freedoms

Have you ever traveled? Been in a club? Voted?

All of these things are rights and freedoms that we have in Canada. They are all guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But in place like Nigeria, there is no document like the Canadian Charter. But what would change if there was something like the Charter in place?

Nigeria is a developing country. Throughout the book so far, it is portrayed mostly by the lack of police or authority. There is no section in Nigeria’s constitution about the right to police and security. For example, when Joe and Nnamdi are in their truck, a mobile police squad finds them. Only, these aren’t really police. Most people call them “Kill and Go” squads. Once they find someone, they will take as much money as they can, usually shooting them after. But let's look at the other side. If they had the right to authority and police, it would remove the distrust that plagues their country. People wouldn't have to constantly watch behind their backs for dangers. They could focus on other things, like their job or family.

I also wanted to talk about one other section of rights: democratic rights. One of the biggest reasons Nigeria is stuck as a developing country is their government. You can’t really make any change unless you have a government that listens to you. This is why we have democracies. The people may vote for their leader, and for their rights. Funny thing is, Nigeria is a democracy. The only problem is that it isn’t a good one. Even though there are elections, there are only few names on the ballots. Why is this? Since there is no police in Nigeria, candidates can go off and hurt their competitors, even kill them. So in the end, the candidate with the most military power wins.  “The white gates of Abuja soon appeared and they crossed through, into the nations dreamlike capital… “Did you know,” Joe said, “when slums appear in Abuja, the government bulldozes them down to keep things pretty?”” (Ferguson 239). (This quote shows the corrupt government.)

This lack of trust, authority, and good government in Nigeria has driven them deeper and deeper into poverty. The only way for them to turn back is to revisit their constitution, and check their priorities. If the people of Nigeria simply had trust, they could focus more on their jobs, growing the economy of Nigeria until they get out of poverty and paving the way for even more rights and freedoms in Nigeria.

Monday, 8 January 2018

A World Famous Scam

Hey everyone! Now that I’m two-fifths done my book, I thought it would be a good time for another post. Today, I wanted to go more in-depth into one of the most interesting characters: Winston. Reading the parts about him really interested me, especially how he acted.

I think the most surprising part about Winston is how he looks at himself in comparison with others. When he looks at himself, he sees and entrepreneur. “Winston considered himself many things, but not a criminal.” (Ferguson 65) Using his wits to beat his opponents. I have never imagined any scammer looking at himself like this. I would imagine scammers look down upon themselves, but it looks like incorrect. Others in Nigeria and Lagos don’t look at him the exact same way as he does, but close. There are songs made about 419 talking about how they are brilliant from that area. “Somewhere in the cafe, a radio was humming a song to itself: Oyibo, I’m asking you, Who is dey mugu now? Who is dey mastah?” (Ferguson 61) (These are song lyrics from the book. Mugu means fool in Nigeria, referencing whoever is getting scammed.) I believe this acceptance of the scammers must be a reason why they are okay in this area. Finally, people outside the Nigeria area. People like me look at scammers completely different. When I imagine a scammer, I’m thinking of a North American person sitting in his basement sending emails late at night, looking at what they're doing more of a prank or for funny, not as an actual job. Just the way my visualization is different really surprised me while reading this book.

One thing about Winston that is different is how he tricks his victims. Unlike other 419ers, Winston spends time stalking his victims, creating more detailed and personalized emails. This way, people are more likely to fall for the scam, unlike when people will mass mail the same text to everyone they can find. “the yahoo boys throwing out mass-message formats into cyberspace. Winston was different... now spent more time up front, right at the start, sussing out targets, focusing his forays.” (Ferguson 63). This different approach to swindling might have created his view of himself. Different from the others. More refined and professional.

Lately, in the book, Winston was called to meet with the owner of his cyber cafe. The owner's name is Ironsi-Ebobia. He is a very mysterious man and offers a deal to Winston. Ironsi has a secret computer lab, where he will let Winston work, along with many fake documents to help with the scamming. The twist? Ebobia wanted a large portion of Winston’s earnings. After the talk, Winston felt insecure with himself about how he was known, so he moved to a different cafe without telling Ironsi. That very day, the police came and tried to catch scammers in action. Winston was caught but then set free when Ironsi bailed him out. Now, I am at the part where Ebobia is almost threatening Winston to give him 60% of his earnings. “”You will pay me a tithe.” This was no longer a matter of debate; somewhere in the silence, Winston had acquiesced. “Sixty percent to me,” said Ironsi-Egobia” (Ferguson 126) This part also really surprised me. Why is Ironsi really interested in Winston? Just because he wants more money, or something else? We’ll have to see as we read on.

Monday, 18 December 2017

419: An Introduction to Settings and Characters

Hey Everyone! This year our class has been diving into a new novel study based on social issues. We had a choice of a big collection of books ranging from many different issues. Last post I talked about which book I chose and why. This post, I wanted to talk about the first few things that really stood out to me at the start of the novel. These mainly had to do with setting, since the story goes to many different places.

From what I know so far, there are three key characters in this book. Laura is a twenty to thirty-year-old woman that lives in Canada.  She is the protagonist in this story. Also, far away in the Sahara desert in Nigeria lives a girl without a name. I do not know much about her yet, except where she is. I believe she will be a co-protagonist in this story. Finally, there is Winston. On the other side of Nigeria, he lives in Lagos. He is the scammer that swindled Laura’s family. Every one of these characters in this book has a different attitude towards things, so let's go into a little more detail.

Laura lives with her family on the lower-middle end of the economic spectrum in Canada. She still has easy access to modern technologies and techniques. She has a very strong heart and was very connected with her father, that is until her father died in a mysterious accident. “You, I love… It was something they shared” (Ferguson 37). She lives by herself, but still has a good relationship with her mother and brother. There's not much more to say in this situation.

Next, in a desert Nigeria, lives a women. I do not know much about her yet, but I do know a bit about the area around her. The book describes a lot about how she is always on the hunt for water. This girl ends up stealing water from many different people to survive. She also has stripped herself of almost all of her possessions, to make sure she is not a target for theft. “If she avoided the side streets and enclaves where outsiders were instantly noticed… She was not worth the robbing long since divested herself of anything of value” (Ferguson 84). This tells a lot about her place. Unlike Canada, everything is very unorganized. It is a very different world, almost a free for all. There is not much, or even no authority, meaning anything can happen. This different culture of every person for themselves will definitely clash later on in the book.

Finally, comes Winston. Winston is a very interesting man. He lives in Lagos, a very well developed city in Nigeria. Every day, he goes to a cyber cafe, logs on, and sends scam emails to people across the globe. The funny part is, he sees himself very highly. He considers what he does as a job, not as criminal activity. “Winston considered himself many things, but not a criminal.” (Ferguson 65). He does not feel any pain by taking anybody’s hard earned money. The area around him really gives him this freedom to send these scams. There is a little police interference, but most of the time there is none. This is because he grew up in this area where he learned that this was OK. This is where the famous 419 number comes up. 419 is the number of an old Nigerian criminal code. Today, it is used to represent all of the scamming activity that goes on inside Nigeria. After all, it is the densest area of cybercriminals. It even talks about many different scammers of the same like that share information and strategies! Because of this lack of authority, this area will play a big role in the plot of the story.

These three different Cultures that originate from three different places are going to move this story along. With different decisions and attitudes, I’m very excited to see what happens next in the novel.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Social Issues Novel Study - First Post

The Name of my Novel: 419
Author: Will Ferguson

Why I chose this book:

There are multiple reasons why I chose this book. First, I know the author very well. Because of this, i have the chance to ask him questions about the book, and maybe even invite him to talk to our class about the novel. Second, after I read the back, I was very interested in the subject. I want to learn more about this area that they call 419. Finally, I have had a lot of recommendations to read this book. For example, both my parents have read this book and thought that I should read it to. Along with this, it won the giller prize when it came out.