The Fall of the Billionaire Gucci Master: Will Hushpuppi Movie Rights Will Have Negative Impact on Nigeria?

The study of history is the playground of patriotism. Thus the forever patriot and the soldier of fortune will, in Nigeria’s present crisis, soar or shrink. But whoever rises through the torment to write our chaos into bliss deserves the love and gratitude of every Nigerian.

If the producers knew this, they would be less excited and more wary about having acquired movie rights – in partnership with US film company, Will Packer Productions (WPP) – to make a movie based on Evan Ratliff’s Bloomberg article: “The Fall of the Billionaire Gucci Master,” about Dubai-based Nigerian fraudster, Ramon Abbas aka Hushpuppi.

Last week, Mo Abudu announced that her film production company, EbonyLife Studios, had acquired the rights to produce an action thriller with WPP on the stable of Universal Pictures.

Published just over a month ago, Ratliff’s article tracks Abbas’ life, from his beginnings in Nigeria up until the alleged multi-million dollar scams he initiated and took part in. While it isn’t a full-length biography, the article is quite thorough and detailed enough for Abudu to make it into a film.

“When the Hushpuppi story made headlines last year, I pitched the story idea to @willpowerpacker and James Lopez,” she enthused in the Instagram post announcing the project. “They bought the idea and as headlined in this press release, together we won the rights to the Bloomberg article by Evan Ratliff mentioned above.”

While she is still sourcing for script writers, reception to the movie idea has been ambivalent, with concerns that it might end up being an endearing representation of an alleged fraudster or damning commentary on the character of Nigerians and the country in general.

These are the times that try Nigerians’ souls and unclothe both men and women from their smiles to their undergarment of miseries and endurance; insecurity, economic depression and political instability, among others, afflict the country, shaking it from the basement to the rafters.

And pundits strongly believe that this neither the hour nor the time to feed uncomplimentary notions about the country being a nation of fraudsters – something the movie project might end up doing.

While it is arguable that poor leadership has created a large chunk of the country’s problem, the emergence of characters like Hushpuppi may also be attributed to the fact that our societal values are not what they used to be and the moral compass of the country is faulty.

We face the same issues that has plagued Colombia. People like Pablo Escobar cemented the nation’s reputation as a drug state and the civil war and insurgency by the FARC painted the country as very unstable.

Similarly, for Nigeria, Hushpuppi is our Escobar and Boko Haram our FARC with the same negative effects.

Declassified documents show that the American CIA worked closely with Hollywood to sell a positive image of America from the 1940s and especially the 1950s and 1960s as part of her soft strategy against the soviets during the Cold War.

While Nigeria had never enjoyed the benefit of such initiatives, we owe it to ourselves to write and produce complimentary narratives about the country.

Hushpuppi was arrested in June 2020, in a special operation dubbed ‘Fox Hunt 2’, alongside 11 of his associates over allegations bordering on hacking, impersonation, scamming, banking fraud, and identity theft.

Packer and James Lopez will produce through their Will Packer Productions, with Abudu using her own EbonyLife TV.

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