Recently in the United States, a high-profile trial took place involving the founder of the collapsed healthcare company called Thenaros, Elizabeth Holmes. At 38 Holmes was relatively younger when she left her studies at the University to start a new healthcare company valued at $10 billion way back in 2014 guaranteeing her a great fortune. She sold an image of a cognoscente, a rare gem out to ameliorate the diseases (some incurable) ravaging mankind. She had claimed fraudulently that her company had remarkable technology, one capable of diagnosing a number of medical conditions from a mere drop of blood! At a time she was dubbed the ‘new Steve Jobs’ as she made billions of Dollars while advertising a medical sanguine way out of cancer, diabetes and stroke.
The bubble burst when it was discovered that it was all fraud — well planned and executed. And it lasted for years before the truth prevailed. That is the final end-story of every fraudulent scheme everywhere, whether in Africa, Europe, Asia or the Americas. The cookie always finds a judicial way to crumble! And victims are made!
As an ambitious teenager, she launched Theranos after dropping out of Stanford University at the age of 19! Now the jury is out. And the Jurors had recently ultimately found her guilty on four counts of fraud, with a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison! Pregnant, she had apologised for her failings lamenting that she was in a haste to achieve her objectives.
Prominent investors included the billionaire media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, Tim Draper, Oracle Executive Chairman and founder Larry Ellison and National pharmacy and retail chain Walgreens. The executive Board of Directors included notable names like Henry Kissinger (former United States Secretary of State); Jim Mattis (retired Marine Corps four-star general); George Shultz (former United States Secretary of State); Richard Kovacevich (former CEO of Wells Fargo); William Perry (former United States Secretary of Defense); and William Foege (former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Money is good and sweet but when corners are cut to make it (including wire fraud) then something must give in favour of justice. The god of money must be a powerful element indeed as it wields all-embracing influence on us all! The African politicians and kleptocrats can tell you that money smells good and when it is stolen plentifully (with some lodged in foreign bank accounts and others used to buy up foreign properties) then the future could be as rosy as possible.
Let us digress a little bit. That is why you still have Museveni Yoweri still ruining the future of Ugandans and Paul Biya spending over four decades in power and still counting! That is why you have Obiang Nguema still contesting for the presidency after 42 years on the saddle! That is the reason Faustin-Archange Touadéra, a Professor in mathematics, wants desperately to change his country’s constitution to be able to stand for another term in power after the expiration of the two constitutionally sanctioned. That is why the Malian Colonel Assimi Goita is gunning for the Wagner Russian military mercenaries to guarantee his longevity in power.
Back home, that is the major reason, filthy lucre, why President Muhammadu Buhari is refusing to throw in the towel despite his deteriorating health profile and presidential mediocrity. That is why Atiku Abubakar is not yet tired of contesting for the presidency after failing on four consecutive times. That is why Asiwaju Tinubu, in spite of his gaffes and health challenges and baggage, still sees himself, ’emi lo-kan’ et al, as the next President post-Buharism!
The Supreme Being must be irredeemably disappointed by the Adamic elements’ desperate quest for money. Worshipping Him in truth has become a mere ‘slogan’ by Pastors and new generation ‘men of God’ out for ‘competition’ for riches by the unfaithful. The carnal mundane world is apparently prevailing in this titanic battle of good over evil. Our world is now a vast garden of satanic elements doing their possible best to remind us of the meaning of mammon!
The issue of mammon and God has a striking definition in Nigeria. Here is a great country where money is practically everything! You have digital scammers and hard drug barons; you have sophisticated fantastically-corrupt politicians ruining our collective lives; you have unscrupulous rich men, suffering from the syndrome of bigmanism, using their filthy lucre to lord it over folks; you have professional kidnappers and satanic terrorists doing maximum damage to peace and security of lives and properties.
Yet the God syndrome afflicts millions of poor folks! Instead of salvation the ‘men of God’ preach prosperity which manifests itself in their lives by their obscene exhibition of wealth and mundane acquisitions. Satan, instead of the professed Almighty God, has an overpowering influence in their lives! But they pretend that the opposite is the case!
The former Silicon Valley star, a combination of brain and beauty, may not have known that her pet project was destined to be a farce or she may have been in the know. Whatever motivated her to be rich and famous could be found normal in capitalism. If she had succeeded in her plans perhaps history would have been made for the betterment of mankind. Alas, she took Americans for a costly ride, an adventure into a special field beyond her capacity.
In a digital new world of opportunities and possibilities billions of Dollars could be made by just simply being innovative in one’s revolutionary ideas. While poverty still ravages millions of folks (especially in Africa) some lucky guys like it big. It is now a more prosperous world yet less than one percent of the world population living in obscene opulence leaving the rest of us to be struggling to eke out a living.
Nevertheless, we acknowledge that it is still a capitalist free world dominated by free enterprise and freedom of expression and democracy. Making money is never a crime anywhere! But what rankles is the way and manner such wealth is made.
The banks (including Savannah Bank) that went under many years ago took billions of Naira investments from Nigerians. There are many Elizabeth Holmes in Nigeria, smart crooks hiding under business to do damage to the national economy. But her environment, Uncle Sam, encourages innovation and investment in innovations unlike Nigeria where technological and pharmaceutical innovations are practically non-existent on account of lack of governmental interest or support.
Bill Gates struck ‘gold’ by making Microsoft a household name in the world. The late Steve Jobs made a great name and fortune for himself by launching Apple. Mark Zuckerberg made a name and good money for himself by making Facebook a global brand. Twitter, prior to its controversial acquisition by the richest man in the world, the South African-born Elon Musk, was made popular by Jack Dorsey who smiled to the bank recently by becoming billions of Dollars richer.
Perhaps Ms Holmes had wanted to join the list of young billionaires by coming up with a revolutionary health-related concept, albeit one tailored towards commission of gigantic fraud. Now that it has become a scam worth billions of Dollars the young mother must be made to give account of the conception and actualisation of the multi-billion Dollar fraud. Justice must be served to the ‘victims’ of her scam!
The rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes serves a valuable lesson to humanity. And that lesson is that we must be circumspect in what we believe or buy or invest in. If it sounds very tempting and interesting then it could be an expressway to financial perdition.
All that glitters is far from being gold! Go figure!!