First, a massage.
Many weeks back, I got a call from an Abuja based investment company.
“You have been highly recommended to attend our millionaires club seminar by ……” Said a lady at the other end
“What do you do in that club,” I asked.
“We help people to raise money to do business,” she responded.
“How do you do that,” I asked.
“You will find out when you come. Will you be coming?”
“Spaces are limited, so we need your confirmation to reserve a seat for you.”
By this time, a dozen red flags had popped up in my brain. The language, the mannerism, the quick ego massage, the subtle cajoling were all traditional markers for boiler room marketers of phony investment schemes.
From the opening lines, I had gleaned enough info to dismiss whatever the caller and her company had to offer.
“What day are the prospective millionaires meeting?” I asked out of mere curiosity.
“This Saturday at ……. Plaza.”
“Ok. I will be there.”
“Thank you sir. You will get a text confirming your personal special reservation number and meeting venue.”
I chose to attend because I would be in the area for another assignment anyway and a writer should never miss an opportunity to experience something that could become handy for an article such as this one.
Behold the speaker at the seminar which lasted for about one hour forty-five minutes was someone I knew.
Five minutes into the seminar, I had heard enough for me to walk out but stayed on out of respect for the speaker and to witness the unveiling of the grand plan, the great “Pyramid of Egypt.”
I had expected that the company would put out how they help individuals to raise money for business right out of the box.
That was not to be. First the speaker quoted many lines from so called investment gurus from around the world. Lines that have been quoted so much that they have lost all their inspirational values.
Then came a very long list of patronizers who fired their bosses and became overnight millionaires. Then came a generous display of luxurious houses and expensive gifts offered by the young millionaires to their parents or whoever they wished.
The backside of the chicken
At last, after one hour thirty minutes of what looked like a Sunday morning preacher’s bombast, the structures of the legendary pyramid scheme broke out like the sun through a heavy cloud.
N38,000 for a slot to kick things off. But if you are a chap in a hurry to be a decorated millionaire, you can do a multiple of that figure.
Isn’t that a pyramid scheme? Oh no.
The fee is for “real” products offered by the company.
What kind of products?
A ragtag collection of natural products that will boost your immunity and perform other “bla bla bla” service in your body.
How much time was devoted to explain the products? Couldn’t have been more than five minutes. But the claims were outlandish. One of the products could cure cancer.
At this point, the “group think” syndrome had kicked in for potential suckers.
The bird catcher comes in.
We were now going to be addressed by a medical doctor who was slaving at a general hospital until he “saw the light and was called” to share in the wealth of the nations.
Smartly dressed, he bounced on to the stage with a harvest of claps politely coerced from the audience.
He related a sweet church like testimony of how much he was earning from his laborious work as a doctor always on call until he called it quits, joined the company and money started pouring in like a heavy rain.
The bait is tossed
“In gratitude,” said the doctor, “I want to give back to society. I want to mentor 10 people here to be millionaires before the year runs out. I leave the speaker to choose the ten people.
The offer was followed by an applause. An unforced applause. It was time to shake the tree and let the suckers glide.
“If you want the doctor to be your mentor please put up your hand,” said the speaker.
Many hands flew up like rockets.
“We have more than 10 people. Let’s do it again.”
Still more than 10 hands went up.
“How do we resolve this,” said the speaker.
“Let’s do balloting,” said someone in the audience.
“No. We can’t do that,” said the speaker.
There was no explanation as to why that couldn’t be done even though it was the logical thing to do. It was obvious a subliminal stimulus towards a predetermined response was on.
“Let me tell you what we are going to do. The first 10 people to enlist in the program will be mentored by the doctor.”
Seven hands went up and coughed out 38k a piece. That came to 266k in the coffers of the company. But that was just one of the many sessions scheduled for that day. The company would at the end of that day have another one million Naira cooling off in its account.
For many of those people milling around the plaza like ants in an anthill, the grilling journey towards their first million (if ever) had just begun. They must go out there to fish for other suckers who will help build their new colony of hope.
A week later, I called the speaker, declared without equivocation that the so called business contraption was a pyramid scheme and challenged the bogus claims made about the company’s products.
I got a stolid response. It was clear that the speaker and his colleagues had taken refuge under the castle of alternative or distorted reality. Why would they not? They were making money and taking lavish vacations around the world.
No doubt, some people who showed up that day will make money if they are able to convince some wide eyed fools who want to get rich quickly to part with their hard earned dough. But many others will find themselves stuck in six feet of snow with their pants down.
Why do Nigerians do this to themselves again and again. Well, we live in a land of miracles. One day, it will be your turn to be an idiot. I hope you feel good about it.
After all, says the Nigerian, something must kill man.