Friday, December 24, 2010

Santa Claus the Maga: A Christmas Tale (pt. 1)

Santa Claus the Maga: A Christmas tale

Even though he was under the hood of his extra large bright red top, Santa could hear the footsteps which became louder as the men moved closer in the busy airport. He began to panic knowing he was close to escaping. He pulled up the sleeve of his right arm, “Just a few seconds more”, he thought. His head was raised when he felt a hand grip him on his right shoulder. The few seconds he felt he needed now seemed like hours or even days because he had vivid awareness of all that happened within the last 24 hours…

The Mail: It Always starts with a mail.

Santa was furious and it was quite obvious. Not only because he stormed out of the meeting with the union representing Santa’s Little Helpers, but most of his suggestions were not supported. He felt like it was him against the North Pole and he was confident that what he stood for the good of Christmas spirit. He also felt the issues brought up shouldn’t have been discussed at all. Santa’s Little Helpers were demanding for increase in their wages and everyone was threatening to strike which would be bad for Christmas that was barely a week away. So far all the reindeers of his sleigh were on strike including Rudolf the red nose reindeer. The union also discussed how the credit crunch had affected their activities. The chief accountant who was also present at the meeting gave his own analysis of the union’s proposal. If Santa were to agree to their terms, millions would be spent on labour while only $25,000 dollars would be available for the production and distribution of toys for Christmas. Santa suggested everyone should work together in the spirit of Christmas but one of the elves reminded him, “If only the spirit of Christmas could pay my taxes and my holiday to the Bahamas during summer”.

Santa stormed into his office and shut the door. He remembered how Christmas was and compared it with what he was experiencing and despite the changes he wanted the joy children experienced during the festive period to be the same. He sat behind his desk and switch on his system. Prior to the invention of the internet Santa was used to receiving letters by post but now it was through his mail box. The Union had suggested the switch years ago to save cost and time. He was going through the requests which he noticed had changed from what kids asked for years ago. Years ago children were satisfied with a doll, or they asked Santa to make their dad come home for Christmas. What he saw now was the opposite, iphone4, ipad, ps3 (one for me and another one for my brother so that he won’t disturb me when I’m playing mine). One mail read, “Santa I need a new laptop…you know what? Just give me the cash and I’ll get it myself”. With $25,000 he knew he couldn’t fulfil 5% of the wishes. He was scrolling down when he saw a mail with the subject “I need your help”. Santa read the mail and after the last line his mood changed, there was a gleam of hope Christmas would be the same and all his little helpers would still have their jobs. The content of the mail was about the heir to a very rich industrialist. His father had been arrested by the government and his properties confiscated. However, the government were not aware of a discreet account operated by the industrialist that contained close to $78 million. In order for the son to access the account he needed some amount of money to bribe some officials and transfer the sum to a foreign account. He would give 40% as compensation to whoever helped him raise the fund for the bribe. Santa responded to the mail. He needed the money to save Christmas and was desperate enough to do anything to make Christmas beautiful.

He was off his chair when he heard a voice prompt from his system, “You’ve got mail”. His eyes became fixed on his monitor screen while his right palm was placed on the mouse. With perfect eye-hand coordination he clicked on the ‘open’ icon where he read the reply to the mail he sent few minutes earlier. The heir replied he was pleased with the response and demanded to know how much he had to support him with. He also asked for his account number and asked if he was comfortable with him transferring the millions into his account. Santa responded with another e-mail. He wrote he had $25,000 and had no problem with the millions transferred into his account. The thing was Santa had no personal cash or account and would have to transact using the Father Christmas account. The next few e-mails sent were on information that would facilitate the transaction. The conclusion of it all was Santa sent the $25,000 to the account and should expect the millions in his account before noon the next day. Santa couldn’t deny he was glad and could only explain what just happened being caused by the spirit of Christmas. He would prove to everyone what Christmas was all about.

Failure Delivery

Santa woke up with a smile the following day. He was again his jolly self and the elves couldn’t understand why he was experiencing that emotion. That was the last reaction they expected considering what they concluded at the meeting. He bounced to his office and switch on his system as his eyes shifted from the wall clock and the screen. Two hours after noon there was no mail so he decided to send one to know the status of the transaction when he grew impatient. He did but the mail bounced, it couldn’t be delivered because the recipient e-mail address no longer existed. “NOOOO!” he screamed. The accountant, a young black man, opened the door. He shifted his gaze from his screen to his door. “There’s no problem here I’m alright,” he said hoping the accountant would step out. The reality of what happened was dawning on him. “Have I been scammed?” he thought. The accountant walked in and shut the door behind him. “I said I’m fine,” Santa said. The accountant took a seat, “I’m not here because of your scream Santa, I was going through the account online and I spotted a transaction was made yesterday. $25,000 was transferred to an account from your station. Do you know anything about it?”
Santa burst into tears, “I did it for Christmas.”
The accountant was confused, “You transferred $25,000 to another account for Christmas?” he asked to confirm the statement.
Santa explained what transpired and the accountant whose name was Chi had only one response, “Santa Claus, YOU have been SCAMMED.” The statement hit him so hard he fell back in his chair. “Before I walked in here I traced the account and realised it was deposited into a Nigerian account and the last time I checked the money was still in that account.”
“Nigeria, Isn’t that in Asia?”
“No Santa it’s in Africa.”
“I learnt they speak German there though.”
“No. That might be South Africa, I can assure you you wouldn’t need to speak German in Nigeria.”
“Are you telling me I can get it back from Nigeria?” Santa asked.
“Possible, but not that easy. I can’t do anything from here unless it’s transferred from the bank in Nigeria but I don’t know why anyone would want to do that during a Christmas week. There’s no point me asking what you were thinking but I’ll suggest you go to Nigeria if at all you want the money back. I can’t even believe you didn’t even consider the implications.”
“I understand. I risked the only amount left for Christmas.”
“Santa, in case you haven’t realised it your popularity here has dwindled and with an issue such as this I doubt you’ll remain Father Christmas for long.”
“That can never happen, I’m Santa Claus, Father Christmas.”
“Anything can happen my friend, Chelsea FC sacked Mourinho remember. Besides you stormed out of the meeting quite early yesterday before it was concluded. In your absence the Union suggested a total rebranding of Christmas. In most parts of the world Christmas is losing its flair. Virtually everyone supported changing the image of Father Christmas as a solution and suggested the figure of Christmas should go with the trend, someone buff and clean shaved like Brad Pitt in ‘Fight Club’ instead of a pot-bellied white bearded guy that laughs Ho! Ho! Ho! And also they suggested the new Father Christmas should have a partner, more like Bonnie and Clyde relationship, they described someone like… oh na na, what’s her name? Oh yes, Rihanna. Yes, a Brad Pitt and a Rihanna. That would involve the youths more and they would be interested coming out to see them and sit on their laps.”
Santa was disgusted and the only thing he could say was, “That’s disgusting.”
“Maybe it is. But if the Union finds out about what you did they could accuse you of misappropriation of funds and that would definitely get you out of here and they would get what they want.”
“Please, tell me you won’t tell them.”
“That’s not my job here and YOU WILL GET IT BACK ‘cause I’ll send you to Nigeria.”
“Nigeria. I’ve never been there.”
Chi got on his feet. “Don’t worry about that I’ll teach you all you need to about Nigeria, the important stuffs at least.”
“Chi, what do you know about Nigeria. You are just an accountant.”
Chi cleared his throat. “Santa, answer this question. How many Nigerians do we have here working at the North Pole as Santa’s Little helper?”
“Em…let me see. None I guess.”
“And don’t you find that weird. Santa, there’s no place you’ll go on this earth and in space that you won’t find a Nigerian. My name is Chi but that is a short form, after all I am Chinese. My full name is Chukwudi and I’m from Imo state.”
“Wow! Are you the only Nigerian here?”
“Legally OR illegally?”

For the next few hours, Chi taught him the basics about Nigeria and Nigerians but it was obviously not what Santa expected but Chi argued it was necessary. He told him to referring to guys as ‘chairman’ was a good way of making their acquaintance. Also of the lessons was how to make a presence in order not to be taken advantage of. “Santa, there are situations where people would want to cheat you out of what is yours in Nigeria. When that happens you have to know what to say. Repeat after me ‘abi wayre se e ni?’”
“Aby wayray shey her nee,” Santa responded.
“No Santa! If you say it like that they will wose you slap.”
“I only got the slap part, but I get the point. Aren’t you supposed to be teaching me about the politics and stuffs, about what’s right and wrong?”
“And what good would that do. Scamming is bad, you were scammed. What can you do about it cause apparently the con told you the intention for requesting for the fund. You have to be really street and have the ability to adapt. I’ll give you some movies to watch, Sunday Dagboru, Jenifa, Omo Getto, just to have a feel of what you might face. I would have given you any movies by Mercy Johnson but I don’t want you to be distracted.”
“Aren’t you coming with me?”
“Has my visa permit expired yet? Besides whom do you want to cover your tracks over here? I’ll link you up with my brother down in Lagos, Nigeria. I’ll tell him all he needs to know and assist you during your stay. I don’t know how long it’s going to take you but I’ll reserve a plane seat for you every day but you know you have to be here before the weekend. I’ll ask one favour from you please do not tell my brother my income.”
Santa didn’t get why he would ask for such a favour but that wasn’t important. He needed to prepare, from the perception he had about Nigeria he decided to watch some movies on his own, the Ocean’s Eleven series, Hustle, and Lie to me. After all he needed to be street.
“One more thing Santa, I’ll give you a solution to drink. It’s called the Michael Jacko concoction; it changes the skin colour of a black person to white and vice versa. It’s only effective for 24 hours but I’ll give you enough for one week. The last thing we need is Father Christmas to be kidnapped.”

Welcome to 9ja

Less than 24 hours later Santa was two hours away from landing in Nigeria on a commercial airline. His mind raced back and forth and ended with the hope of everything turning out as planned. He had taken his time to draft the possible ways to get the money back within the shortest time. Christmas was days away and all payments were made on the eve. Even if there was going to be anything like Christmas that year, he needed the only cash available, also to save the image of what Christmas was. He clearly didn’t feel Father Christmas having a girlfriend. He marvelled at the Michael Jacko concoction Chi had given him, it was a Pigment alteration solution, a drop was all it took to turn Santa’s skin colour from white to black and it would remain black for the next 24hours.

He stepped out of Murtala Muhammed airport with nothing but a briefcase 6 in the morning. His eyes was searching for someone who would be holding a cardboard with… he spotted him. His name was boldly written on it, S-A-N-T-A. He walked to stand in front of the person. Chi’s cousin, Emeka, had striking resemblance with him and there was no mistaking. Emeka noticed the person that caused an eclipse in his front fitted the description Chi had given him, big, fat, black, with white beards. He helped him his with his suitcase, “Welcome to Nigeria, Mr. Santa.” He followed him to a beat-up red Toyota Starlet parked outside. “I will assist you with everything you might need and already I have made some preparation. I’ll explain as I drive you to your hotel.”
Santa was still sceptical and that was the point he noticed he hadn’t uttered a word. Emeka had been driving for the past twenty minutes through the heavy traffic and nothing seemed to be moving except the sweat dripping down their faces. “I didn’t get your name.”
“You didn’t ask. My name is Emeka but my nickname is Emekus.”
“Anything simpler, like…”
“Charles. That is also my name.”
“You said you’ve made some preparations, what exactly? I left in quite a hurry that I didn’t have time to make any myself? Moreover your brother told me he would take care of everything.”
“Chukwudi explained everything to me. He traced the IP address of the initial mail you received to a cyber cafe in Gbagada, here in Lagos. I was also able to track the email address of the yahoo guy that scammed you on the streets.”
“Are you like a computer hacker or something?”
“Not really, I work at Computer Village I repair phones but I know small about computers sha.”
“Computer Village,” Santa repeated. “It sounds… wow! I love the name, you have ‘computer’ which signals technology and associated with cities and then ‘village’ which sounds ‘rural’. I have to thank you for making that possible it must have been really difficult.”
“Somehow sha but it was possible. Let’s hope he hasn’t spent the money because yahoo guys hardly keep loose cash lying around this festive period.”
“I hope so. It would really mean a lot to me.”
“Santa I’ve already booked a room for you at Sherlaton hotel.”
“Sheraton hotel, isn’t that too much?”
“It is, that is why it’s Sher-LA-ton hotel. It’s not that bad. They have a bed”
Santa thought, “Aren’t there suppose to be beds in hotels.” He took a deep breath. Nigeria is indeed beautiful, where I’m from I hardly see colours like this. But I can’t help but noticed the type of cars also stuck in this traffic, Nigerians must really love cars.”
“That car thing is seen as a necessity; at least man must have one small thing to push him around. Nigeria is one place where a man would rather buy a very expensive car while he finds it difficult to pay his house rent.”
“I see cars everywhere and it’s like on every street you see a car with a ‘For Sale’ sticker on it. It’s materialism like that that would push youths into becoming con artists.”
“That reminds me, my brother said he works for you. The thing is I don’t know much about his work or where he works. Like how much does he make? My brother talks about how life is really rough for him over there.”
Santa was shocked Charles asked him that question because Chi anticipated it. He was confused about life being rough for Chi because he was the flashiest staff in the North Pole. “Enough I guess. That isn’t my department so I wouldn’t know precisely.”

Santa checked into the room to freshen up while Charles waited downstairs. There was no time to waste. It was almost noon and Charles had raised his hope about seeing the scammer at the cafe he usually operated from. He check his watch, he still had hours before the pigment alteration solution wore off.
“Let’s go,” he commanded as he caught up with Charles in his car. Charles started the engine and accelerated off. In less than 30 minutes he parked by the road side.
“We are there.” Charles pointed to a nearby storey building. “That is where the cafe is. I’ll go in and check if he’s around and from then on you…”
“Don’t worry Charles, I know what to do.”
Charles disappeared into the building and walked out few minutes later to signal he wasn’t around. He joined Santa in his car. “Don’t worry, he’ll soon be here.” They ended up sitting in the car under the scorching sun for the next hour until Charles saw the guy. He tapped Santa indistinctively on the shoulder, “That’s him! That’s him!” Santa saw the young boy walking towards the building, he was younger than he expected, around 18 years of age or probably younger. He alighted from the car fast and walked towards the guy. He caught up with him as he was about to step into the main building, he was about to walk up a staircase within building that led to the next floor.
“Hey!” Santa screamed as he got closer.
The guy turned as he kept walking. With his back facing the person behind him he placed his phone in his boxers. Santa’s grip was strong on his shoulders as he turned him to face him. The boy had a stern look on his face.
“Ha! Wetin?” he shrugged his shoulders to free himself. “You be EFCC?”
Santa had nothing to say. It appeared the young guy wasn’t intimated by his huge physique. He knew the boy would walk away soon and he needed to make his presence felt. He pushed him against the wall and with a very stern look he said, “Abi wayre se e ni?”
He noticed the look on the boy’s face changed. He was obviously frightened. He dragged him outside where he revealed who he was. He was the person he conned amd parted with his $25,000, The boy was going down the emotional lane, from stern, fright, he then expressed sadness and began to cry. The tears touched Santa but there was no need pitying someone that deceived him.

The boy whose name was Elvis told Santa what he needed to know. He wasn’t a scammer, in fact Santa was his first attempt and he was surprised he got a response within minutes of sending out his first mail. He became even more surprised when Santa was willing to pay the money into his account within the hour. He wasn’t an expert so he asked someone who had experience to help him out. The other guy took over asking for the account details. Santa wasn’t interested in those stories, he needed to know where the money was.
“I was supposed to get paid today, the guy that help me said he would settle me. He told me that they usually use a bank manager for huge sums like that and pay it into an account he operated that would make it easier to withdraw. Unfortunately the manager has not been busy with management since morning and he no get time for us and…”
“Are you telling me that there’s a possibility the money is still in the account.”
“There is because that’s where I’m coming from.”

He dragged Elvis with him into the car where he instructed him to sit in the back seat. “Tell him where we are going to.”

Charles drove them to the bank it wasn’t far from where they were. As they were about to make a final stop Elvis spotted a man crossing to the other side of the road. He entered a fast food joint. “That’s the bank manager.”
Santa got his cue and walked into the same location casually. The bank manager was placing an order and took his seat at the far end of the eatery. Santa sat opposite him, the manager raised his head.
“Yes what can I do for you?” he shifted his gaze from him to the main road which was visible due to the glass structure of the building.
“I suggest you focus your attention here cause there’s a possibility that we are being watched.” Santa paused.
“Watched!” The manager began to lose his composure.
“There’s an ongoing investigation and you happen to have tangled yourself in the web. Right not the FBI is suspecting some terrorists movement in Nigeria and have decided to use the pretext of online scam to sponsor their activities. We have traced the money to that bank and realised they used someone with authorization to withdraw the money.” Santa paused again to give him time to think.
“I don’t understand.”
“I don’t mind you not understanding but I’ll be gutted if you pretend. A specific $25,000 was sent recently and a team was sent here to trace the amount to the destination. Where’s it now?”
“I don’t… I mean Kunle Discussion is with it, I mean part of it.”
“What exactly do you mean? Kule Discussion and part of it.”
“Kunle Discussion, he’s the guy I usually transact with. He gets the job and in the end he gets his cut and I get mine. He was here moments ago.”
“So how much was your cut in this particular transaction?”
“And I’m guessing the rest should be in his account?”
“No, it’s with him. Cash.”
“SO you get $10,000 for sitting on your desk?” He noticed the eyes of the manager glowing, he was close to tears. “You seem like a good guy but I don’t think that would exonerate you from all charges. Or what do you think? With that said, I need to continue to track Kunle Discussion so where is he?”
“I don’t know. He calls me and I pick whenever we have business, nothing personal. I’m sorry.”
“Why are you apologising? I’m just doing my job. Could you do one thing for me and ask Kunle Discussion where he is heading to?”

The manager made the brief phone call and was able to get the location. Kunle Discussion was at a bar, Road Runners. Santa thought about the situation, the most important thing was getting the money back. He looked straight into the manager’s eyes. “I would have loved to let you go like that but it isn’t my decision to make alone…”