One of the reasons why I stayed from writing about the Mavrodi Mundial Movement, MMM-Nigeria before now was because I didn’t want to offend the sensibilities of people close to me, who had partaken in what’s become known as the biggest Ponzi scheme in Nigeria till date. Naturally, in my personal capacity, I advised those that shared their intention with me to back off from investing into such a scheme, and did my bit on social media to dissuade people as much as I could. I doubt that I was successful, considering that those around me still went ahead to do it, and nobody online referenced me as the reason why they didn’t join the craze or quit after reading my posts, which at some point was as frequently as thrice daily on social media networks. Not even the criminal history of the founding Mavrodi brothers in Russia could persuade them to career otherwise, in fact, I could say I was more fortunate than Facebook friends like Chukz Harrison Okoli, whose posts on Facebook, advising against participation in MMM and it’s imminent collapse and consequences was met with vitriol by peeps on his wall.
In one of my blog posts in this series, I must’ve mentioned my early days of engaging in one business or the other, especially in my university days, from the phone call business, with an Intercellular desktop phone in my room in the hostel (I never did the roadside thing, and my customers appreciated the cover and privacy the room I shared with Bishop provided), that failed because of “credit” calls, especially by a certain girl (whose name memory fails me to recall now) in school who couldn’t have imagined giving me a second glance had it not been for my phone business, and I so gullible even allowed her to make calls for free many times, hoping that something may happen between us (erm … I fantasized about her for nights on end back in the day sha), as well as former roomie, Taofeeq who always came in the night to receive calls from abroad without paying; to selling radiographs in the dental school/clinic to patients, students and dentists amongst other ventures I tried my hands at, mostly to augment stipends from home.
I may have mentioned that I invested in ponzi schemes as well, back then. The first time was when I was in my third year, from a Chris that was in final year and my next door neighbour. I got four forms for ₦4,000 (all that I had in my bank account then), to distribute to four people, who would then do the same and continue the chain. Of course I couldn’t convince anyone to join my down line and I lost my money, even before the scheme crashed. I still maintained the formal relationship with Chris afterwards but it was cold, and him been muscular, bigger and taller there was little else I could do than sit back and lick my wounds, especially after seeing all he bought with the proceeds from the scheme I lost my life savings at the time to. When he suffered some injury from an accident, I couldn’t bring myself to commiserate with him because of the anger still seething in me for him, though I can’t recall if I wasn’t unhappy at his misfortune.
I again, failed to learn from experience, when I invested into another ponzi scheme, this time at ₦1,500 for three forms meant for three people I’ll refer to the scheme. Not even family and friends (including my childhood best friend whom I traveled down to see in his campus) wanted to pick this from me, so again I lost that, at the time, and for a long time stayed away from such schemes, or anything that had “networking” attached to it, till my service year in 2006. The girl I met in camp with whom I was enamored at some point, and who of course didn’t give a damn about me sold the idea of GNLD to me, which I bought into speedily, purchased products (in retrospect I think, just to get closer to her, without thinking the prospect of the business through), which I couldn’t sell because of their exorbitant nature, and had to eventually use some of them myself (one of which fed my libidinal energy to heights never before attained), while I gifted friends, including a terminally ill (from cancer) friend of a friend who died not long after I offered her one of the “supplements”. Just one of the meetings at the GNLD office in Lagos, and I quickly understood the hypnosis that was going on, I knew that will be the last time I’d devote my time to any kind of ponzi scheme, designed only for those at the top, with positions like diamond, gold, platinum and the likes, while the rest of us in the crowd feed their insatiable appetites as “worker ants”. I couldn’t even see the possibility of rising to the top of the pyramid without physically killing those ahead of me. The alternative would’ve been to walk the length and breadth of Lagos and Nigeria, speaking to every human (and jinn) I encountered to sell the products, being more diligent than members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in order to break even. I lost ₦15,000 for startup on that one, and about ₦45,000, at the end of the day, in the venture that was less than six months without a single profit financially.
When a colleague of mine introduced MMM-Nigeria to me, late last year, at a period I was having one of my most trying of financial years, coupled with the recession that was moving into a depression in Nigeria, a decade after I swore off ponzi schemes, I couldn’t be persuaded to join, because those losses though many years behind me, were still raw. I had also in trying to cushion the effect of the recession on my personal economy, sold the shares I had in the Nigeria’s stock exchange at a huge loss. I knew MMM would fall, and couldn’t bear to expose my fragile heart to it when it eventually does, and this decision I made even without considering the nitty-gritty of how the business was set up. All my misadventures with ponzi schemes, in different names and modus operandi, and the losses incurred, besides the trauma that followed each occasion informed my decision not to partake in it, despite its popularity, not even the fact that those involved also had an inkling that it would eventually fail and hoped to cash out before it would turn on its belly. I didn’t ever want to be in a situation like Chris was after the scheme he introduced me and others fell through. I preferred a situation like now, where those in my employ wish for life on my behalf to ensure the continuance of the sustenance that flows from the business/value I created and still creating severally, no matter how small. One thing I remember telling one of those intent on convincing me to join, was that I’d have considered joining if an entrepreneur like Dangote ever considered that route in his business life.
I couldn’t fathom also, investing in a business where if I’m lucky I’ll make away with people’s money, with the knowledge that lives will be destroyed, families shattered, even attempted and successful suicides when it eventually crashes, especially when there’s nothing tangibly visible that ones money is invested in, or an asset that can be disposed of when things go awry. I wasn’t as greedy as I used to be back when I was younger, and since learning my lessons with ponzi schemes I’ve slowly and painstakingly (still do) built small businesses that have allowed me sleep peacefully at night, and ride smoother in the face of a recession. If there was no life threatening risk in this MMM venture one of the so called “guiders” at the top of the pyramid wouldn’t have “fled” Nigeria for the Philippines recently with his newly wedded wife (whose wedding was well attended by Mavrodians far and wide, when the going was good), when it became apparent that the return of the scheme after a break in December (when most Mavrodians, as the participants call themselves, needed their deposits, profits put at 30%, and bonuses the most for Christmas and sundry needs, wants and responsibilities), leading to heartbreaks, depression and actions arising from both during the period. Two of those associated with me had planned to pay their rent with the accumulated sums, another was planning to buy a car with it, only the fourth person kept his intentions closer to his heart, and I figure he had the most stuck in the scheme, as “HELP” provided to others, at the time the scheme declared and enforced a recess in December after about a year of “stealing from Peter to pay Paul” kind of arrangement, till the number of new enrollees “Providing Help” mostly couldn’t keep up with the number, especially of the rogues at the top personally “Getting Help” or through proxy accounts in their favour.
When MMM-Nigeria came back online this January (13th), a day before the expected return, the participants whose quick resort to insulting and cursing of those warning them of the imminent collapse of the scheme (many of them had staked their lives and fortunes on) remain legendary in the history of online spats in Nigeria’s cyberspace, returned gleefully taunting those they claimed wished them evil. Videos of their celebration went viral on YouTube and other social media outlets,
unfortunately they refused to back their verbal resolve not to let the scheme die, by not “PROVIDING HELP” when matched with their respective “GET HELP” partners, especially after the moderators of the scheme (now more like a scam) placed certain restrictions on who and what categories of Mavrodians can get help, as it attempted to clear backlogs, with the majority of those still intent on doing some business being those who were set to “get help”, after providing several “helps” in December, before the break, with the hope of recouping their capital at least, if not with the interests accruable and bonus before bailing out on the scheme. The moderators even had the temerity to blame those who invested more than their “spare money” (something I could never understand seeing as I have never had spare money all my life), telling them they’d have to wait till after those with much less payouts where settled before they could be attended to.
Amongst the factors that will finally do the scheme/scam in, erosion of trust must rank as number one, though not the normal trust, but the kind that’s akin to the “honour” you find amongst thieves. Right from onset, you could see the insincerity, with the “players” setting up numerous accounts under different names and account numbers, so they could benefit from the bonus (which no Mavrodian I’ve encountered, have been able to explain to me how it’s sourced) from referrals. When I refused to join, one of them begged me to allow him use my account for a part of the spoils, but I refused citing security reasons, and now that things have turned out this way, who knows where these many bank account details will end up? I must confess that this latest experience with MMM-Nigeria put certain friends in perspective for me, especially in terms of financial exposure from me to them, but I’m glad at least that they have taken their misadventure better than those that are making the news today in Nigeria. Unfortunately, it’s testament to the gullibility of Nigerians (about three million in this particular case) that other schemes in the likes of MMM have risen to take it’s place, or strengthen their stronghold, till such a time as they will meet their Waterloo, and the whole cycle is once again repeated.
N.B. Current Exchange Rate Of The Naira To The Dollar: ₦496 – $1
In February 2017, another video from the same man as above went viral on YouTube, where he regrettably sang about the demise of MMM.