Dear Future Kidnappers,
I hope this finds you well. If so, doxology. (I mean praises be to God. Not everyone knows what doxology is these days). I am not mocking you. The very reason you have become so popular in today’s Nigeria is that all is not well. I get that. When I say I hope this finds you well, I mean that in spite of all the problems, some of which have driven you to this profession (forgive me if you have a day job which you prefer to call your profession), I hope you are somehow ok, health wise and all. Because to be ill and be a kidnapper can be a bit problematic. You don't want to have a bladder infection and be managing an abduction at the same time. In short, I am wishing that you are in good health or at least a state of health that will not jeopardise your business.
You see, unlike many Nigerians, my head is not buried in the sand. I will not express shock when you kidnap me. I will not express anger. I will not break down in tears. I will not pee in my pants (except if you kidnap me just after drinking and refuse to let me use the bathroom and if so, I apologise for soiling your premises or place of business). I will not have any of the reactions which I assume you have become accustomed to. (I am sincerely hoping that you have some experience in this kidnapping business because I would hate to deal with a beginner: beginners panic and do things like shoot the people they have abducted. If you are new, I will advice you to calm down. I am not going to be a problem. We can work through this together. Like they say, with God all things are possible.)
The reason I am calm is simple. I am a Nigerian that has common sense. I also read. I know how hard things are becoming. I also know how ungoverned Nigeria is. So whether it has become easier to kidnap people or life has become harder or both, I understand. Also, we both know the Police is not going to get involved under any circumstances except perhaps to make sure the ransom money is secure so yeah, I am not going to call them. None of my people are going to contact the police either. If we are going to have to spend money, better to give it to you, than pay for “fuel” and paper to write the statement then still end up paying the ransom. My point is, calm down and let us negotiate.
I want you to be reasonable. Ok. Wait. I see you are getting upset. I am not calling you unreasonable. God forbid. I was raised in a good Christian home and I cannot accuse a brother falsely. (You are my brother, let us not argue, even if you are from Cameroon. We are all brothers. Unless you are white and, not that I am racist but I know you are not white.) I am only saying that I am encouraging you to do what you normally would have done, which is, be reasonable. It is like encouraging a child who is already running: “Run Bubu, run”. Ok, I am also not calling you a child. Arrrgggh! Ok, look let us just continue. I don’t have much time.
I want you to understand that even though you may have read my name or the name of my book in the New York Times or The Guardian UK, it does not mean anything. I have no money. My publishers give me only 10% of the profit per book. And let’s be honest, I can never know how many books my publisher actually sells. If they tell me they sold only 100, I can’t prove they sold thousands. This 10% book business is not much better than hawking Gala and La Casera and pure water and scotch egg in traffic. (Ps. I don't understand people who eat scotch egg in public transport in traffic. They stink up the bus and they look silly opening their mouths wide to bite into it. If not that you can’t get much out of them I would have said those are the kind of people who deserve to be kidnapped. Those ones and the agents of darkness who eat moin-moin in offices and on buses.) Plus, I took more than half of the advance on my book and paid it to my landlord in Abuja. If you had not already gone through the trouble of kidnapping me, I would have suggested that you should have taken my Abuja landlord instead of me. But, still, think about it. For one thing, he increased the rent this year without notice or anything. I just came back home and saw a letter saying I had to pay a hundred thousand naira more than I paid last year. No fear of God or anything like that. That, or you take my publisher. My point is, I am a poor writer. All those countries you see me going to, I don’t pay for it. There are nice people in many countries who have read my book and pay for me to come and read there. They don’t even really pay. They just buy my ticket and give a couple hundred dollars as per diem (if I am lucky) and by the time you have gone out twice abroad, the money is all finished. You can’t even buy a decent perfume at the airport on your way back. And you know how Nigerians are. Once they know you travelled abroad, there will be a queue outside your house of people waiting for gifts. Some will even send you a list (without money). And if you ignore them they will say you are proud. They will remind you of the time nobody knew you and only them cared about you. They will call you ungrateful. But it is the life I have chosen. I can’t complain.
I also do not have a rich family. My father is a retired civil servant and my mother, well, unless you can sell her clothes and weaves there is no money to be made there. (I had heard that my mother had other richer suitors, but why my mother chose to marry a poor man is a story for another day.)So, just ask for a little money and we can all be happy.
However, while the negotiations are going on, I have a few requests. Notice I didn’t say demands. Your ransom is a demand which, don’t get me wrong, you deserve. I am only begging. As a writer, I want to at least make something out of the kidnapping experience. I need to write about it. You make the ransom money, I make some good writing and fame out it. At-all at-all na im bad pass. If possible, I want a selfie. Because you know how our generation is. If there is no photo or video or link it did not happen. You can die these days and the children of the devil on the internet will ask your family announcing it for photos or links so they can believe you are truly dead. I already said I won’t do anything funny like try to call the police. We both know how useless that is (this is not an American film where their police trace kidnapper calls and show up commando style). And really, I expect that as a professional you would have blindfolded me on the way to your business premises. Or we can just use an actual digital camera. If you don’t have one we can buy one - just take the money from the ransom money when you get it. Or ask, as a preliminary demand before actual negotiations that they send a camera. (If it wasn’t too much to ask, I might asked if you would let me sneak a couple of my own demands into your list of demands. But you alone worked for this kidnapping and I won’t just come and ride on your hustle. That would be opportunistic. You know, like a woman struggled with some rough guy for over a decade, patiently cleaned him up, married and made him decent, and then some random woman sees him on the street corner and thinks he was always this wonderful and tries to snatch him. Or like all those criminals who got elected across the country by affixing Buhari's photo to their campaign posters. That kind of opportunistic. God forbid.)
Can we please play some games while we are waiting? I find that boredom kills. Look at the damage our bored legislators do because there is no real work to be done, padding budgets and all. I suggest Ludo. Or WHOT. Also, talk to me. I want to hear your story. I will tell you mine. That you kidnapped me does not mean we can’t gist a little. You may find that we have more in common than you ever imagined.
(And please don't worry about food. I am not proud. I have no special dietary requirements. I will eat what you eat.)
This may turn out to be the best kidnapping you have ever done.
Ps. Just to be clear, the “Dear” at the top of this letter is not a mere salutation. You are really dear to me. God bless your hustle, and be with you and your loved ones. And may they never, never be kidnapped.