The writings of an intense journalist

Thursday, 13 August 2009

ADETOKUNBO ABIOLA - Aug 12 2009 06:00
As infectious as yellow fever, internet chatrooms are the new Nigerian craze. Students, pastors, politicians, journalists and business people log on 24 hours a day offering cyber-romance or business deals.

Nigerians have wised up to the scamming spammers such as 419 practitioners, the Yahoo Yahoo Boys and the Night People.

Now they're crowding into chatrooms such as Hi Nigeria, nimsanigeria, Online, UK Chatterbox, and Nigeria Chat Room to look for kindred spirits and do business with them.

For some African women, chat-rooms unshackle them from the requirements of traditional modesty. Shina 247 signed up to Nigeria Chat in April, writing: "I'm a nice lady. Looking for hot sex and fun. My email address is ..."

Sugar-mummy lovers -- young men who can't keep their fingers off the bodies and money of older women -- join in the chatroom mania. One wrote in Online recently: "I'm a 21-year-old young guy who is looking for a sugar mummy to cater for his needs. My number is ... I am in Ejigbo, Lagos, and I promise to be good to that woman."

Many use chatrooms to express their love for their girlfriends or boyfriends. Analechukwu Nwachukwu, a student, wrote on Online "Baby, ur baby boy is missing u so much. Just have it in your mind that I can't do without u."

But it's not all about love or cybersex for Nigerians. Online entrepreneurs use the chatrooms for schemes that aren't quite scams but are close. Tidestring 80 had this proposition in "I have discovered a new secret that can help anyone browse the internet for free. You can use your MTN card. And as a loyal member of this forum I'll be willing to teach you for free." When you contact him -- as I did -- you'll learn that Tidestring 80 won't tell his secret for free. He wants money.

Chatrooms aren't free of embarrassment, though. A journalist who logged into a chatroom in March was confronted by a fellow Nigerian who wrote: "I'm in Port Harcourt. A u a g?" When the journalist learned that "a u a g?" meant "are you a gay?" he promptly logged off. He didn't know how to cope with a situation he was experiencing for the first time -- meeting someone who admitted being gay.

Adetokunbo Abiola writes for The Hope Newspaper in Akure, Nigeria

Source: Mail & Guardian OnlineWeb Address:

First published I2 August on Mail and Guardian, Africa's first online newspaper