By: Esther Omoye
Every Eke market day, there always seems to be a buzz about Uniben on Twitter. If it’s not stories about the men dem reign during Ekosodin old glory days, it is about the revolutionary protests against school policies or some well-told passed-down school tale with small pepper from the New Benin market to spice up the whole Otakhiyeke. But interestingly, some days ago, the focus seemed to have shifted to a swindler on a rampage on Twitter.
The so-called Twitter Swindler is Iriodalo Emmanuel Obhafuoso, a graduate of the Uniben Demonstration Secondary School and Uniben. Odalo used Twitter to meet multiple women and then he established lines of interactions while maintaining the same profile of being a well-travelled and brilliant man. Ultimately, most of these women sent money to him whilst he ran from one lecture theatre to another for his Eco classes on the Ugbowo campus.
How did he manage to get away with it for so long?
Like a trust fund beneficiary off the Fred Ajudua script, Odalo appeared skilful, jumping from one method to another to keep his scheme running. He obviously had his demographic target of women on Twitter and maintained a low profile for as long as he could until he was exposed some days back by one of his victims.
What kind of scam was it?
Odalo apparently followed a pattern: Sometimes, he would send mildly flirty messages to the inboxes of these women, describing himself as a financial analyst, or he’d send a couple of pictures of himself in his infamous black turtleneck shirt in fancy places. And other times, he would enquire if they were single with that overly-confident-Uniben-boy-rizz that puts us off most times and slowly build a relationship with them. His accusers claim that at a certain point, Odalo would confide in them that he was suffering from a heart condition that needed surgical attention or share a peculiar birthday wish list from his younger sister. Eventually, he would send a picture of his chats with his younger sister, and once that groundwork had been laid, he would get money for his heart condition and items off this birthday wish list.
How much money did he steal?
As of 22:17 p.m., October 13, 2023, there was yet to be an official estimate. But he seemingly has scammed more than 20 Twitter women, with one of them talking about a go-fund-me she organised for his surgery that amounted to her giving him the sum of N4 million.
How did he get caught?
Eventually, one of Odalo’s long-term victims turned the tables on him by sharing pictures of him and their chats on Twitter. After the story went viral, he took a break from his jet flights and deactivated his account.
How do you identify a Twitter Swindler?
If he only has a job on most days: Odalo described himself as a financial analyst on most days without further establishing any facts about his job. He rather shared other information about the problems in his life to keep most of these women in a pity chokehold.
If he only has pictures taken in fancy places: I know, right? Why should this be an indicator? Most swindlers appropriate a fancy lifestyle to get their victims comfortable around the idea that they’re financially buoyant. Odalo used this same tactic, taking pictures in fancy places while smiling like he had won the lottery.
If he’s Edo and wears a black turtleneck: The Devil Wears Black Turtle Neck. We all know Benin harbours a secret gateway to hell on an average sunny day, so tell me why a Benin boy is confidently wearing a black turtleneck indoors. It will all make sense very soon.
If he is well-traveled and without pictures: Pictures are like a golden circle; they tell more stories than anything. Odalo confidently talked about his travelling experiences with some of these women, significantly across 26 countries, without any pictures to show for it except his black-turtlenecked pictures. Who visits Paris without pictures at the Eiffel? Who goes to the UK without wanting to visit the Big Ben? If the pictures are not on his Instagram feed, they should be in his gallery. Uncle, share them with me. I want to awwwn at your pictures.
If he has throwback rap videos on YouTube: Odalo might have introduced himself to Twitter women as a songwriter to C and D list artists, but one thing he failed to mention was that he had left a failed rapping career behind. A budding M.I., one Benin boy with nothing but his rap dream and hoodie in a 2019 Martell Rap Challenge video on YouTube.
Check for him on the streets of Twitter: Why should Twitter trust someone you’re talking to if you already do? I mean, Twitter can be infamous, but if there’s one thing they’re bound to do right, it’s to eat up a background check like Benin erosion eats up every road. And if this check had possibly been carried out? They most likely would have found out that Odalo was a repeat offender; inside that evian, another evian dey inside. He had similarly pulled a N400,000 scam with his secondary school classmates from 2014, claiming the urgent need for a heart surgery he never went through with in a recently shared video — showing him yet again in his infamous black turtleneck.
If he immediately starts billing you: I mean, if it’s an ick for dem girls to bill dem boys during talking stages, it should be a bigger ick for us dem girls. There’s literally nothing wrong with spending on a man you like, but one who immediately starts billing you? Broda lahor wowo. Odalo made sure he never missed billing these women early on with several stories. So doing, he successfully scammed them on a continuous basis.
If he suddenly has too many health issues: I mean, I understand our health can fail us in the most drastic way and even unexpectedly, and it’s not always easy to seek fundraising online, but why are you suddenly in need of costly procedures when we start talking? From spinal surgery to heart surgery? Ahhh! Na which baba do the jazz?
If he or his sister have a birthday wish list: Wetin we no go see again? Lmao! Wasn’t it a couple of months back that women were being dragged on Twitter for having birthday wish lists? Well, I bring to you the queen of birthday wish lists: Iriodalo Emmanuel Obhafuoso. Odalo had a birthday wish list and using a system best known to him, he got his wishes fulfilled by several of his victims to the extent of having a newly bought PS5.
If he has over-the-top rizz: We all like a smooth talker, someone who can hold conversations. But there is always an over-the-top mark. One peculiar trait Odalo harnessed was his being very corny and having notice-me humour. Baba was doing 45 press-ups in a minute with his humour and you could just see him straining.
If he uses rap songs as punch lines: Who would have thought? That a day would come when I’d be laughing off the lyrics of Chamillionaire’s Ridin? In one of the chats, Odalo swiftly told a knock-knock joke, continuing with lines from Ridin, hoping the unsuspecting beautiful woman would complete the song’s lyrics. And my girlies, I can’t help but say that if he drops a rap song as a punchline in your inbox, give him a 360 analysis before spitting your own bars.
If he thinks he is the best thing since the leaf rice at Physical Sciences: Obe to dun, owo lo pa! Nobody! Nobody in Uniben can disapprove of Mama’s food. Everybody in school knows that’s the meanest plug, and that’s why I’m so angry. This man probably thinks he is the best thing that has happened since Mama’s leaf rice in Uniben. You could see it in his pictures during his time in school and even afterwards. A sort of I-am-best-thing-in-the-world-since-Mama-Physical-Sciences-leaf-rice aura? And that’s impossible. Confidence is an admirable trait, but an overconfident man online?
If he has been single for almost two years with a dead ex: May her soul rest in peace. It is easily said, but rightly so, the longer they are single, the more chances they are a bad match. Girl, if he’s been single for two years, and most especially with a dead ex, please, as you’re paying your last respects, ask the right questions. Odalo described himself as single for two years with a dead ex to one of his victims, perusing the idea of grief and placing her on a pedestal, while the innocent sista is probably busy at New Benin market on a Tuesday night, picking up some very good okrika. Chei!
If he pumps out of thin air like a typical Benin genie: This! Nobody comes out of thin air. This is not Aladdin and the genie lamp. If a random man texts you on Twitter, he’s been observing you; he’s been keeping tabs on you. The first thing you should do if someone like this texts you is to go through their feed and your mutuals, and if there is nothing to be worried about, be on the low so nobody flies away with your funds in a magical carpet.
Pray to God for a natural detector: I see people blaming these women and calling them unintelligent for falling into the hands of Odalo, especially during such hard times. If there’s one thing I’ve always prayed for, it is a discerning spirit for myself and my girlies. I never would have thought I would be praying for a natural detector against a Twitter Swindler. Anyone could have fallen victim to Odalo, and it is not a matter of it-could-never-have-been-me. Today, it is Odalo. Yesterday, it was someone else. We don’t know who will be next.
How to outsmart a possible Twitter Swindler.
If he has only a job on most days, ask him about his job every day: Question him, ask him about his colleague, about his boss, his role and what he does on the other days. Make him understand you want to know every single detail about his job.
Ask for pictures in workplaces, at home, with friends, and a possible video call: Now, if there are enough pictures and videos. Make video calls.
He should send you pictures of places he has been to: If he is well-traveled, he should send you more than a couple of pictures of the places he has been to. And if he isn’t a picture person, that’s alright. Ask him when his next trip is and ask him to take one and do a tour video of the destination as a favour.
Do a background check: I know this isn’t always easy, but do a sweep. Across Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube and, of course, Twitter. Get to know them from their interactions with other people, with their likes, tweets and retweets. Still clean?
Counter-bill him: Nobody, not even women, should be billing men they’ve just met. This should be a big turn-off for anyone. If he bills you immediately after you start talking, tell him about your imaginary problems and bill him. If person give you, you sef go collect.
Recommend he seeks alternative help: I know we only live once, and yes, health is precious. And it isn’t bad at all to want to help someone you’re getting to know, but always seek guidance. In most circumstances, you might not have the emergency funds. Tell him about other options, about going public, while still discussing other means of helping — especially considering how, in recent times, there have been some exposed health scams on Twitter.
If he or his younger sister have a birthday wish list: For years, Nigerian men have shamed Nigerian women for having birthday wish lists and posting these online with the hope that someone buys something off it. And a Nigerian man is sharing one with you? During a talking stage? Gently tell him off, and get him a gift of your understanding. Talking stages are not for birthday wish lists; roses are red, violets are blue, but birthday wish lists shouldn’t be tolerated during talking stages.
If he tries too hard, question him: There’s literally nothing more suspicious than a man who tries too hard online. Efforts are an A+, but if he’s trying too hard? You might just want to guard yourself before considering his efforts.
If he has been single for a while, do the drill: Odalo wouldn’t be the first person who has successfully swindled women with the I’ve been single for years plot. Why should this be a checker? When anyone could be genuinely single for years, most swindlers create this world of being single for a couple of years to neutralise their relationship status and create a dead-end in their past. Once this neutral ground is established, there is always access to further romanticise your connection.
If he love-bombs you, ask him to start with paper roses and a first date: How do you know if you’re being love-bombed? If he over-communicates his love for you. This is mostly done with excessive flattery and extreme displays of attention. These love-bombing actions should be a red flag right away. However, you may catch yourself second-guessing them because they might appear loving. But love-bombing is manipulative. An over-the-top love declaration from a man you just met online should be carefully entertained; you never can tell.
If he appears out of nowhere: I’m a firm believer that nobody just appears out of nowhere, and I know Twitter algorithms work like a 9-5 job, but you always have to be on the lookout. If he is a mutual, why the sudden interest? Why you? What changed? Always keep the questions coming for you. Twitter has ushered in a lot of love stories, but the questions should always be there because you can never quite tell a lover from a swindler.
Esther Omoye is a final-year student at the University of Benin. Her works have been previously published in Vanguard Nigeria, Green Black Tales, and My Woven Poetry. She can be found on Twitter @OmoalukheOmoye.