Monday, January 26, 2004

How are the Mighty Fallen

Ever wondered who the real sources of all those 419 letters you received were? Here's your chance to learn about just one such individual, who goes by the name Fred Ajudua. It turns out he's actually been clapped in jail, which goes to show that Obasanjo can get the the odd thing right now and then. How astonishing it is to learn that Fred - the one and only, the man of the 10-car motorcade, the man of the multi-page spreads in Ovation magazine, the "businessman" so renowned for his exploits that he became known only by his first name, like a Nigerian Cher or Madonna - is sitting in a jail cell in Kirikiri, like a common thief!

DETAINED businessman and Lagos socialite, Chief Fred Ajudua, is among several inmates of Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison, Lagos, who have picked up teaching appointments under the Africa Resources Initiative Education Foundatiion (ARIEF).

Ajudua, currently standing trial for alleged involvement in advance fee fraud "419" charged, now teaches basic law at the prison.

Ajudua, a lawyer, disclosed to Daily Champion at the school's launch inside the prison, that he was motivated into teaching the course because, "most of the inmates would not have committed the crimes for which they were imprisoned if they had known, for instance, the difference between robbery and armed robbery."

Which of course raises the question why he went in for a life of crime, seeing as he clearly knew full well what he was doing.

He said he had always wished to be a lecturer in Law adding that the establishment of the school has offered him the long-awaited opportunity, stressing that imparting knowledge to fellow inmates gives him satisfaction.

Yeah, right. Knowledge of how to make an end-run around the law, no doubt.

Chief Ajudua expressed optimism that if prisoners were properly educated, they would leave the prisons better citizens and ready to contribute to the improvement of the society.

According to him, the essence of imprisonment is not to punish or degrade but to reform and transform the individual.

Heh. In the immortal words of Mandy Rice-Davies, he would say that, wouldn't he? And what better example of the transformative powers of prison could there be than the noble Fred Ajudua himself? I suppose we ought to release him straightaway, seeing as he's all reformed and everything. What do you mean you "refuse to take him at his word?"

"It is in the light of this that extra efforts should be made by the prison authorities and Africa Resources Initiative (ARI) to bring the school to the standard obtainable elsewhere. The laudable effort at educating the inmates is commendable because, education or knowledge is something every individual should not be deprived of," he said.

On the benefits of the ARIEF programme, Ajudua said the inmates were lucky that "in their own time, such a programme is put in place for them. It has not been there before. And the way I am seeing things and if the quality of teaching and teachers in the prison is anything to go by, I bet you these students will beat those who are enjoying their freedom outside. This is so because there is absolute concentration and commitment."

He urged the Federal Government to encourage the founder of the school, Lady Doris Anyadoh so that other prison formations across the country could benefit from the programme aimed at ensuring mental development of prisoners.

He hinted that he might continue with teaching any time he leaves the prison.

"I may continue with teaching after leaving here because I am always fulfilled anytime I succeeded in imparting some knowledge to somebody else. I look forward to being an accomplished law lecturer in future," he stressed.

For some reason I can't quite put my finger on, that "hinted" bit comes off more like a threat than anything else. As you can see, Fred does a good line in plausible-sounding bullsh*t. The guy has all the expected talk of reformation down to a science - don't believe a word of it, however.

Comparing life inside and outside prison, Ajudua who once ruled the social wavelength went philosophical:

"Life inside prison or outside of it does not really matter. What matters is the reason behind the design that one must be at a certain place at a certain time. God may send one to prison in order to save one from death at the hands of hired assassins or armed robbers. By being sent to prison, God may be extending one's life by several years.

"What really matters is the impact one is able to make in the environment one finds oneself. How did you help in the growth and development of those you come in contact with anywhere you find yourself? That makes the difference between life in prison and life out of it," he said.

A lot of nice-sounding fluff, but fluff nonetheless. Still, if there's one thing this article makes clear, it is that the conmen behind these 419 letters are by no means all as dumb people think they are. Ajudua is a crook, but he's no dullard, and neither are most of the other 419 experts I've encountered in Lagos. If those pleading letters from Mrs. Sese-Seko and Mariam Abacha are riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, consider that these errors were put in intentionally, to lull the gullible into a comforting sense of superiority over those dark-skinned dummies who can't find a way to get $26 million out of the country without the help of clever white men like you, Joe Blow, sitting in your la-z-boy in Peoria, Tx; though this story doesn't mention it, the reason for Mr. Ajudua's arrest was his defrauding of one greedy Dutch gentleman of the grand sum of $1.7 million dollars.