On 11th December 2013, Ifeoluwa Ojikutu, who tweeted with the handle @RoyalAmebo, died in the United States. She described herself as a business strategist, a US Certified Life Coach, a UN Youth Ambassador and a Real Madrid fan. Her friends said she was witty, fun, active and full of life.
This is all very sad, except that @RoyalAmebo was not a real person.
A Beautiful Friendship
The @RoyalAmebo twitter account was created on 28th December 2012, almost a year ago. “Ife” quickly became a favorite among her newfound twitter friends who engaged her on various topics ranging from romance to politics, football and celebrity gossip – all that a normal Nigerian young person would be interested in. One of the people she befriended was the legendary social media personality and activist, Japheth Omojuwa (@omojuwa). They became so close that he wrote an obituary to her in his weekly column in YNaija.
My soul is in tatters. I have never felt so much pain. She was my Angel. I never met her but we spoke everyday via my twitter DM. I did more than meet her, I had her in my world everyday. No one in the entire world has expressed as much love to me as Ife. She loved me so much. She treated me like I was as big as Michael Jackson and she said it every time. When the walls of the crowd came at me to take me down, Ife was the one in my DM sharing her strength with me. Ife was my love. Ife was my happiness and she was always there. Ife left me and now I am lost.
But Omojuwa wasn’t the only friend she made. She also developed a relationship with another Twitter user – @femitripp – who became her boyfriend. It’s not clear if Femi actually met his online lover – he had a meeting with a person he later believed was @RoyalAmebo but later said that her pictures didn’t match his memory of her. Nevertheless, he had lovely things to say about her.
We weren’t a perfect couple and we had our share of misunderstandings but we will never go to bed without sorting things out.
— OluwaFemi (@femiTRIPP) December 12, 2013
RoyalAmebo started her Twitter career as a young lady working in Abuja. She started befriending many users but repeatedly avoided requests for physical meetings. Soon after, she was mysteriously transferred to Lagos. Her new Lagos friends didn’t seem to get to meet her either. Then work took her to the United States.
In September, RoyalAmebo announced that she had discovered she had a kidney condition needing treatment. It is not clear that she actually raised any money for this treatment from her friends, but this illness did provide a reason for her non-appearance and her subsequent “death”.
Okikiola Asher (@asherstuta) claimed to have donated money towards her kidney surgery. She also claims to have offered to donate a kidney to her, without ever meeting her once.
I paid into an a Firstbank account…But she was kind enough to stop me from making the second payment! I for don wreck by now.
— Okikiola Asher (@asherstuta) December 14, 2013
I wanted to give my kidney to someone I never met! Now I see the stupidity in it all!
— Okikiola Asher (@asherstuta) December 14, 2013
Even if she didn’t raise money for her kidney treatment, she did collect money from her online friends in form of favours and loans. A lot of these payments were deposited in accounts at GTBank and First Bank. Investigations are still ongoing to discover the identities of all who made payments to these accounts but it is clear that people parted with money thinking they were doing their friend a favour.
In The End
Ife was scheduled to return to Nigeria for Christmas. Her friends planned a series of activities for her including a meet-up at Bar Enclave. For many people, it was meant to be a time to put a face to the handle. And then she died.
It is unclear what made RoyalAmebo’s handlers kill her off. Some speculate that the pressure from the much-anticipated meeting made them skittish. Others think that it had something to do with the Oshiomole Widow incident. Apparently, she pledged N100,000 to the fund being raised by JJ Omojuwa and he had contacted her to redeem her pledge. Perhaps the pressure of disappointing on of her best friends was too much. In the end though, it didn’t matter. Ife was dead.
Tracing the news of her death takes us to an email address that hasn’t responded to inquiries. When her “death” was announced, there was an outpouring of grief on Twitter. There’s a whole Storify detailing the reactions from the Twitterati.
Ife wa fearless, yet such a baby. So outspoken, yet so considerate. Rest. Rest baby. Be fearless on this journey, @RoyalAmebo.
— Dupe Killa (@dupekilla) December 11, 2013
She said to me “whenever I come to Lagos, I’m going to look for you and break ur head”. Now she is gone even before we met. RIP @RoyalAmebo
— LOST (@heisneron) December 11, 2013
A few days later, there were rumblings about the incident. One of the first to come out with any definite statement was Babatunde Rosanwo (@rosanwo) who had been following the incidents with keen interest. Others who had been affected began to communicate and by weekend, it was clear that there had been an major scam perpetrated. Investigations are still ongoing as to the details of the matter – who paid what to who and how much. There’s talk of involving the authorities in the matter.
Love in the Age of Catfish
The concept of deceitful relationships isn’t new but it has taken on new dimensions in the time of social media. Catfish – where one is tricked into having a relationship with someone who is the figment of another’s imagination, especially via social media – has become such a phenomenon that it has its own MTV show.
With social media becoming a bigger part of our lives, it is inevitable that we will hear more of these sort of stories. So what kinds of precautions should people take to protect themselves? How much verification should we be looking for before taking relationships to another level? Is it wise to completely dismiss the place of physical relationships? These are the questions that will surely be asked in the coming days.
Read next – Five Possible Signs You Are Being catfished
Techcabal will continue to look into the story and bring you updates as we get them. If you have any information concerning this, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.