While it is true that some Nigerians have ingeniously transformed social media into a hub of excitement and profit, it is imperative that Nigeria addresses the excessive behavior of pranksters and video content creators. We must consider the psychological impact that their money-making skits have on their unsuspecting victims.
Little did I know that one day I would become a victim myself. I had indulged in prank videos, finding solace and entertainment in them, unaware of the havoc they wreaked on their targets. Although this new digital wealth may appear harmless, none of us, including myself, have taken the time to contemplate the detrimental effects these contents have on the prankees – the individuals subjected to these pranks.
Had I not fallen prey to such a cruel prank, experiencing the depths of mental anguish that even a million naira couldn’t alleviate, I would not have realized the urgent need to declare a state of emergency in the Nigerian video content creation industry. The repercussions of a misguided prank, played at the wrong time, haunted me for weeks, forcing me to seek professional help, shattering my belief system, and eroding my willingness to lend a helping hand. This is a perilous precedent in a country like Nigeria, where survival without assistance is a daunting task.
It is far easier to fixate our gaze on Facebook, engrossed in Instagram’s prank reels, or immerse ourselves in TikTok, observing the violation of personal liberties from a distance. However, until myself and two others, whom I encountered during the compilation of this piece, reveal the ugly side of what you perceive as beautiful, you may never truly comprehend the gravity of our concerns. There’s a dark underbelly to the seemingly innocent realm.
The primary purpose of prank videos is to entertain both the audience and the prankster. The prankster, of course, has the last laugh as these pranks become their source of wealth. However, if this lucrative opportunity had presented itself two decades ago, when Nigeria was known as the country with the happiest people in the world, it may not have caused such a stir.
To be frank, subjecting oneself to such emotional tests is unwise in the 95th happiest country in the world. May was a particularly challenging month for me, as it seemed to bring an eclipse of happiness into my life.
On that fateful day, I had just finished speaking with my contact, who was assisting me in obtaining my undergraduate academic transcript. As expected, I received yet another disappointing update, informing me that I would have to wait even longer. I had already been waiting for over a year at that point. To add to my frustration, my pitch for an investigative story had been rejected. I struggled to process the “sorry, we will pass on this” email that sat in my inbox, while the scorching sun beat down on me as I walked to buy overpriced fuel for alternative electricity. It felt like I was walking through a replica of hell. The last thing I wanted was for someone to turn my small act of kindness into sadness, all in the name of prank videos. All I needed was a hopeful hug from a compassionate soul.
“Uncle, please, can you wait?” The repetition of “please” tugged at my heartstrings as I slowed my pace. Jide Ismail then asked me if he could borrow my phone, explaining that his own was switched off. The situation resonated with me, especially since we were counting the fourth consecutive day without electricity in Oyo town.
I extended my phone towards him, a young man who appeared desperate for a call, just as I yearned for a comforting embrace. However, instead of accepting my offer, he feigned a conversation and declared, “Uncle, this will be the last time you lay eyes on your phone because it now belongs to me.”
I distinctly recall warning him, “If this is some sort of game, you better stop it right now. I am not interested in participating.” My protests were delivered in a jumble of incoherent English. Yet, he remained undeterred, driven by some unknown mission. I had not acted in a peculiar manner that would entertain his meager social media following of less than two hundred thousand, nor would it garner him more followers. As the realization dawned upon me that I might lose my phone to a complete stranger, I instinctively chased after him. Our pursuit became a game of cat and mouse, lasting for what felt like an eternity, leaving my body exhausted and drained.
Yemisi Adelaja crossed paths with me on Facebook, and her deep-seated resentment towards prank videos was solely ignited by her own harrowing encounter. She confided in me that she had been unemployed for three long years since completing her mandatory National Youth Service Corps scheme in 2020.
“I have tirelessly searched for a job, only to be met with frustration. My family and society refuse to grant me respite. Life itself seems determined to keep me down, burdened by countless financial obligations,” she shared passionately, her interest in the subject matter evident as she reached out to me over the phone.
On the fateful day when a renowned prankster played a cruel trick on her (she pleaded that we refrain from mentioning the prankster’s name, fearing backlash from her fans upon reading this piece), Adelaja had an important appointment with a contact who was meant to introduce her to the manager of an eatery in Ikotun, Lagos state. So she had to abide with her family friend at the Car Wash area so that she could meet up with the appointment slated for 11 am the next day.
“The mischievous prankster approached me as she fetched water from a flowing tap, pleading for my assistance in lifting the heavy bucket onto her head. Initially, I hesitated, haunted by memories of an Ibadan prankster who had drenched unsuspecting victims with water.”
Despite her (Adelaja) lack of an alternative outfit and her friend’s possession of the house key, which she had taken when leaving earlier, the prankster proceeded to pour nearly half of the water from the bucket onto her. “And when she noticed my disapproval, she callously emptied the remaining water onto my head, claiming that my attire was inadequate and unfit for public appearance.”
Adelaja, burdened by the disappointment of a missed appointment and the subsequent failure to secure a job, was still grappling with the horror months later when our paths crossed. The extravagant prank had left her in a pitiful state, contributing significantly to her current predicament. She insisted that her encounter with the comedian marked the lowest point of her tumultuous 2023 thus far.
Speaking of low points, the terrifying ordeal that 66-year-old Moshood Olapade experienced with an Ibadan prankster was not only disheartening but also sent shivers down his spine. This motor spare parts seller, stationed at the bustling Gate Market in Ibadan, confided in me that even after five long months, he still struggles to recover from the anxiety inflicted upon him by this malicious prank.
It was a seemingly ordinary Saturday morning, filled with hope and optimism as Moshood embarked on his journey to work. Little did he know that his path would intersect with a mischievous prankster.
He recounted that the road to his house was bushy and somewhat scary and that he had warned his children not to go out anytime above 6 pm. For someone to choose such a path for a place to “prank me about death and assassination is ill-advised and beyond reasonable.”
The prankster halted Moshood in his tracks, claiming to have something of utmost importance to discuss. With bated breath, Moshood listened as the prankster insinuated that certain individuals at his workplace had paid for his life. “Coincidentally, I had just received my monthly thrift at work, and the sheer coincidence sent a wave of bone-chilling fear coursing through my veins.”
As the tension escalated, the prankster went so far as to claim he possessed a firearm, brandishing it menacingly from his back pocket. Olapade, unsuspecting and desperate to escape this terrifying situation, attempted to flee, only to find himself pursued relentlessly by his tormentor. A fierce struggle ensued, punches were thrown, and Olapade’s only option was to raise the alarm. As a crowd gathered, he pleaded with them to understand that it was all just a prank, pointing out his cameraman who had been discreetly hiding nearby.
“In those agonizing three minutes, my life hung in the balance, teetering between existence and oblivion. The prankster, who went by the name MC Laughter or something of the sort (though my memory fails me due to the overwhelming stress), had managed to inflict a profound psychological toll on me. Even after revealing the truth behind his cruel charade, the aftermath was devastating. I found myself unable to function properly for over two weeks, both at home and in my professional life. Nightmares plagued my sleep, and an overwhelming sense of suspicion clouded my interactions with those around me at work.”
While these videos may initially appear harmless and entertaining, they unleash a chain reaction that rivals the destructive force of an earthquake. The true victims of these pranks are innocent individuals who simply set out to navigate their daily lives, only to unwittingly become pawns in the pranksters’ game. These individuals unknowingly contribute to the pranksters’ success, at the expense of their own well-being and peace of mind.
Due to the grave consequences of these chain reactions, I sought the expertise of Dr. Tosin Togun, a Counseling Psychologist at Sure Hope Consulting Clinic, to shed light on whether our concerns about the impact of prank videos on our mental well-being were justified.
In our meeting, Dr. Togun concurred that pranks may initially seem harmless and entertaining to both the pranksters and their audience. However, she revealed that the psychological toll on the victims should not be dismissed, even though we have collectively chosen to remain silent about it.
“The aftermath of being pranked can trigger anxiety disorders in victims, while those already diagnosed with such disorders may experience heightened attacks following such traumatic experiences. Furthermore, individuals with pre-existing high blood pressure may suffer from intensified palpitations, panic attacks, and even heart failure, potentially leading to strokes or sudden death. Tragically, many victims may find themselves unjustly stigmatized by society, losing their social standing and esteemed reputation.”, she scholarly enlisted.
She believes 50% of prank videos are harmful and could lead to clinical depression. What happened to me envelopes what happens to most victims. In many cases, most pranks are not socially favorable to us, but pranksters and their audience don’t seem to care.
I narrated what Moshood Olapade went through after being pranked, and she said that what he dealt with was a manifestation of maladaptive behavior. “It is bound to happen. He would even begin to technically withdraw from social circle and engage in self injurious behaviors”.
In her passionate plea, she vehemently argued that prank videos should never become the new norm in our society, let alone be considered a lucrative business venture. The inherent dangers they pose far outweigh any potential benefits they may offer. It is high time we recognize the detrimental impact these videos have on individuals’ mental well-being and put an end to this alarming trend.
Allow me to introduce you to Ayinla Sodiq Ayobami, Prank Master Ijoba, who has amassed a staggering number of followers on social media. With his captivating prank videos, he has managed to carve a path towards financial stability in a country where job opportunities are scarce.
When I asked him about his motivation, his response was resolute and unwavering. ‘I am pursuing this path to secure a better life for myself and my family,’ he declared, his voice brimming with determination maintaining that there’s no job anywhere in Nigeria.
Mbam Uche Henry, who is known as MC Makopolo and regarded as King of Pranks across his verified social media handles with over a million followers, divulged to me that he ventured into the craft to explore creating an alternative content source different from what most comedians were doing ten years ago that would generate revenue and relevance for him.
” I am using my pranks to cure high blood pressure through laughter,” he boasted.
Abdullahi Moruff, aka Trinity Guy, another popular social media prankster, saw the prank video as a lifesaver because things were not going well for him. He needed to survive and make judicious use of Nigerians’ appetite for video content.
“My advice is that you should not go into prank videos. It is a dirty business. I’m still in it because I’m getting money from the murky waters and those slaps. I prank strangers so as to get sellable crazy reactions. I’m not your mentor, don’t venture into prank videos”, he warned.
You wouldn’t blame pranksters for engineering new ways to make money, having discovered that social media is the new national marketplace. Nigerians rank the number one country that spends more time on social media. But we should all condemn how they have turned people’s negative psychology and emotion into a business.
“If I use something worth 500 naira, I pay them 1000 naira”, Abayomi told me. MC Makapolo added, strategically evading the amount he offers, that he “gives little incentives as appreciation for the trouble,” while Trinity Guy maintained that he placates all his victims with cash gifts.
Jide Isnail also wanted to pay me 5000 naira to compensate me and post on his Tik Tok, but I insisted that no amount of money could alleviate the psychological damage his “mental test” had caused me.
Dr. Togun told me that despite her psychological savvy, she would never allow any professional prankster to do so to her.
The reality, as she inferred, is that most victims of prank videos consented that the pranksters post them online because they think they don’t have a choice. The deed had been done.
The financial return or seeking consent before posting does not justify the anxiety, physical injury, and psychological pain the pranks pose. Dr. Togun even raised that we might hardly see the true versions of people now as their brains will become wired that everything is a prank.
“People are now getting more skeptical. Nobody is now ready to help. Humanitarian services are dying because they don’t know if the person requesting is either or not trying to set them up for social media engagement. This is very dangerous”, she cautioned.
I have watched dozens of videos where pranksters frowned on their colleagues who have played pranks on them. They threaten their colleagues to “put down the videos.”
Some of these prank videos have often glaringly turned violent with unsuspecting victims, with the ripple effect being that the video makers rake in more financial incomes while the victims nurse excruciating injuries. Instead of their colleagues eating their losses when their partners in crime prank them, they go hard on themselves and nurse unending enmity among one another.
Just in June, Destiny Etiko, a popular Nollywood actress, warned famous Nigerian prankster Chibuike Gabriel aka Untouchable Comedy, to take down a prank video of her circulating the internet from his various platforms and social media. What was striking in what she said in the video I also saw was that “I know you’re my colleague, but you’re looking for someone to do that NONSENSE with. Colleague my foot”. Even they (content creators) know that there’s not much sense in what they are doing!
From the depth of his decade-long experience as a prankster, MC Makopolo suggested that pranks and social experiments in Nigeria should be educative and intriguing. They should not go in the direction that “some of these youngsters are going with pranks. They are actually becoming dangerous and alarming. These days, all they do is for clout and no passion”. He believes very strongly that the trend should be checkmated.
Glaringly contrasting to Section 37 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended) guaranteeing privacy protections to citizens in their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations, and telegraphic communications, most pranksters in the country fail to honor citizens’ rights.
Instead, they molest, harass, ridicule, and torture innocent people on camera to feed their audience to earn financial rewards from social media users on their respective platforms. At times, they beg them for forgiveness or even tip them. No way! None of these match the damage the video had done to their body system, way of life and subsequent manner of reasoning.
Therefore, it has become essential for relevant government authorities in Nigeria to inform policies to check the excesses of prank video makers alongside video content creators alike to give people full and due ownership of their private lives.
Since June 26, 2023, A Family Court sitting at Iyaganku, Ibadan, Oyo State, had ordered the remand of Abdullahi Moruf, Trinity Guy, in Agodi correctional facility over alleged sexual exploitation of a 10-year-old girl until Tuesday, July 11 when the case would come up for mention.
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