Dear Mr. Bomb,
Thank you for your letter. Don’t worry, I’m not mad so I won’t go to the police. The bribe I paid them 2 years ago for my stolen car which they never recovered is still vexing me. I will keep this to myself. Please take care of my darling husband. He likes to eat soft eko in the night, if you can manage it. By now he must have told you about his injections. I know you may not believe him but it’s true: if he doesn’t take his anti-clot injections every night he will just die on your hands – and me I am not going to pay any ransom for the dead body of my husband o. I’m telling you now. It is true that the injection is extremely expensive, and I know you may not have budgeted for it when you were planning this kidnapping, but you have to spend money to get money, not so? So please let me know what the ransom is and I will pay it. My husband is a good and a faithful man. We don’t have any children and he is all I have. As you instructed, I will stroll down Tosin street at exactly 9 pm, wearing a yellow headtie, and I will give this letter to the first beggar boy that comes carrying a yellow bowl and calls me ‘Ashawo’. But please now, can you choose another password next time? I don’t see the point of being insulted for nothing’s sake.
Mrs. Ashiru Koton
Dear Bayo de Bomb,
Sorry o, I wasn’t trying to make fun of your nickname. It is just my lack of experience of things like this. Please forgive me.
About this kidnap business, is this ’5,000,000′ naira or ’50,000′ naira I am reading? I think the zeros are a bit too much. Didn’t you know I am just a housewife? Or don’t you people do any research before kidnapping somebody? Anyway, me I also read newspapers as well. The Surulere businesswoman they kidnapped three weeks ago, is it not one hundred thousand naira that they paid? My husband is an ordinary civil servant and you are asking me for five million! I know that the Surulere people took three months to negotiate the ransom down, but look, I don’t have three months. And with the cost of anti-clot injections, you yourself don’t. Look, the truth is that I am going to Dubai this very weekend and my ticket is non-refundable, so just tell me your ‘last price’. Me, I am offering to pay fifty thousand naira. Please. I don’t have the kind of money that you are asking. If I try and borrow more than five thousand naira my friends will laugh at me. Unless I tell them the truth… first you say I shouldn’t tell anybody, next you say I should bring five million. From where? Does your own housewife keep five million under her bed? Don’t forget that my husband is just an ordinary deputy director in the civil service. Yes he sees a little bribe here and there like everybody else, but it is not the type that you are thinking.
Or do you want me to talk to my husband’s senior brother? He can raise two or three hundred thousand easily. The problem is that my in-law is a senior director at the Ministry of Police Affairs. That is the problem. If I tell him he will just be thinking, Police! Police! That’s the problem. And you know how efficient the police can be when the investigations concerns them personally. – If they arrest anybody, there is no court. They just settle everything with ‘accidental discharge’. I am sending my savings passbook with this letter so that you can see the kind of money that my husband gives me every month. I am not complaining, mark you, because he pays most of my bills. Except that I don’t see the money in cash, that’s all. You know how you men are. Don’t say I’m teaching you your job o, but normally kidnappers will kidnap a child or a mistress or something, not the main man who can raise the money. Anyway, should I send you my trinkets? They are not real gold, but they are very, very pretty (and I know my husband will replace them when he comes back). If you agree, I can pack them up very well and give them to your beggar boy instead of your five million naira.
By the way, Mugu is not much better than Ashawo. I will answer Mugu this time, but for next time, let the password be Sisi Eko. This is not a good home-training you are giving your apprentices, I have to tell you: teaching them to be calling respectable women like me bad names like that.
Mrs. Ashiru Koton.
Dear Bayo de Bomb,
Hah! Look, I’m begging you on my knees, don’t castrate my husband! Are there not enough women in this world? Bayo de Great, what is really vexing you now? If it is that password of a thing, okay, call me Ashawo! If it is rudeness, ask my husband, this is how Ashiru Koton talks… and if it is that other thing… who will you believe, a weed-smoking beggar boy or a respectable housewife like me? I was wearing a big yellow headtie with buba ati iro. If he saw a ganja-vision that looks like me, wearing green beret and black raincoat and trying to follow him, is that my fault? Am I James Bond to be changing dress in the middle of the road? That your beggar boy must be mad. I don’t know why you should send a ganja-smoker to do a serious job like this! Don’t be surprised if he finally runs away with the ransom!
Anyway, thank you for reducing your ransom to the final, final price of one million naira… And thank you for returning my passbook. Let us leave my Dubai spending money for now. I have told you the ticket is non-refundable. Even my hotel has been paid before I even got my visa. So am I supposed to fly to Dubai and sit in the hotel for 1 week without eating? Will you do that to your own wife? How can you think of that sort of punishment? How much is that chicken change spending money anyway, for you to put your eyes inside it? Despite that you are a kidnapper and I am a respectable housewife, with the things I did to get that spending money, we might still meet in hell! And then you want me to give you the money? Bayo de Great Bomber, let’s leave that chicken-change money for now, please.
But don’t worry. I have seen how to solve this problem. I don’t know how much money my husband has in the bank (you know how secretive you men can be!) but I am sending the cheque I tore from his cheque book, which arrived by post this morning. I have written my name and your one million naira final, final ransom. Let him just sign it and write the letter of authority. I am his wife and even though the money is heavy, the bank manager knows me. (If you go there yourself, you know there are plenty of cameras and police and whatnot.) I am sure I can cash the cheque for you, but you have to ask him if he has enough money there or not. Because I don’t like to go on foolish errands.
And please o, don’t useless my husband for me!
Mrs. Ashiru Koton.
Dear Marwa de Machete,
Thank you for taking over this matter. And thank you very much for the new password. ‘Sisi Eko’ is a very nice nickname. I don’t know why that your Bomber boy was making so much wahala about giving me a decent password.
I don’t have any extra anti-clot injections at home. My husband buys them at one pharmacy in Ikeja. Ask him, I am just a housewife. I am sorry you had to run out of your house at 2 o’clock this morning to look for injections, but I warned that your doubting-thomas assistant. I am happy my darling husband is well now.
Thank you for the cheque. Why should I be angry that you changed the money to ten million naira. Afterall,you were discussing face-to-face with my husband who owns the money, and I am just an ordinary housewife. The only problem was the alterations all over the cheque. If you want to alter a cheque why couldn’t you look for the same black biro that I used to write it? How much is black biro? The bank manager became suspicious at the blue and black ink we used to write the cheque and refused to pay it, especially when you didn’t allow my husband to answer his mobile phone when they tried to reconfirm the cheque. In fact, when he saw the spot of blood on the cheque he insisted on calling the police. I told him it was red ink, but he said it looked like blood, so I started to scream (I know how to cry very well) and he agreed that it was just a domestic husband and wife matter. Now, just because of your greed everybody’s eyes are red in that bank. There is no point in sending you another cheque because I dare not go back there. That is the problem with you greedy people: by now you should have one million naira in your pocket, and I should have my husband at home, helping me to pack for my visit to Dubai, but no: you saw a cheque that is not even blank and you started adding zeros again. First you sent beggars to call me ‘prostitute’ on the street, now you’ve made everybody in the bank think I am a thief!
You better take the fifty thousand naira I have at home and let’s settle this matter once and for all, before my husband’s injections sends you into debt. (Don’t worry, I will still add my trinkets. As for me I always keep my promises.) You don’t have to make millions and millions on your first job, you know. Don’t say I am insulting you with proverbs but you know that when the trader waits too long for the best price, her tomatoes can become rotten. Since we are talking about food, did you remember what I said about soft eko? It’s not that he cannot eat pounded yam at night, it’s just that I know how many piles operations he has had.
Anyway, I am sending you back the uselessed cheque with all the ‘Refer to Drawer stamps’ – before you start thinking that I have cashed your money and added it to my Dubai money (I know how you men think!). By the way, between you and me, whose blood was that on the cheque? Don’t say I am doubting you o, but please send me a picture of my darling husband. And ask him for me if true-true he had ten million naira in that account? I didn’t know that overdraft can reach like that…
Mrs. Ashiru (Sisi Eko) Koton.
Dear Marwa de Machete,
This picture of my husband… I have been crying since morning… why did you naked him like that? Even his mouth is double the size it used to be. Look, I’m very sorry if I vexed you. – I don’t even know what I could have written to offend you like this, but whatever it is, I’m very, very sorry. Kai! …But why? What sort of people will flog an innocent man just because of his wife’s sharp tongue? And what did I even write in the letter that could have vexed you like this?
Well, at least his john-thomas is still there.
You people are still behaving like armed robbers. The newspaper said that the Surulere Businesswoman used to play ludo with her kidnappers and eat akara from the same plate with them. And for three months nobody harassed her ‘as woman concerned’! Please now, behave like kidnappers. After all you are not working in Guantanamo. My darling husband is your tomatoes. You must not let him rotten.
To come to the business side of the matter, I think that hundred thousand is not impossible for me to raise. This is what you should have said since, instead of all those million millions you have been calling. Now my flight is leaving tomorrow night and with how my husband is looking now, I don’t even have the mind to go again, even if you release him now. God will punish all of you, true! If you see how I suffered for this Dubai journey! Anyway, my own watches are kpanjo, but my husband has one expensive Rolex that I can use to borrow the remaining fifty thousand. He doesn’t normally wear it except he is going for owambe parties and I have been looking everywhere for it.
Ask him if he put it in his safe. – When we were building our house in the good old days, my husband used to see serious bribes; and EFCC was working well that time, always sniffing around like police dogs. So he use to hide his bribes at his senior brother’s house, which is actually their family house. We still have a room there that we lock up, with a safe inside the wardrobe. It is free from armed robbers because of the mobile policemen permanently stationed at his brother’s gate. Now that his bribe income has dried up, my darling husband doesn’t go there much. Just ask him where he kept his Rolex. If it is in his safe, I will need his combination. Tell him I am not selling his Rolex o! (I know how he will hate that sort of thing!) I am just going to borrow money on it until he comes out.
Hai! Did you flog my husband with wire or koboko? Please send me pictures of his back view. I have to do a vigil for his healing tomorrow and anoint the pictures and burn incense in front of them. I am sending his buba and sokoto, in case you have torn all his clothes in your vex.
Mrs. Ashiru (Sisi Eko) Koton.
Dear Marwa de Mugu,
These new pictures of Mr. Ashiru… I have been laughing since morning! I can see some new wounds on the poor man. I’m not surprised that you had to flog the combination number out of him: our marriage could have survived the money he was hiding from me, but not his will.
I saw the Rolex there but I can see that your ransom has gone up again. Well I won’t even pay you fifty thousand naira anymore. I have to be honest with you: as soon as I got your first letter, I went to my Igbo pharmacist friend in Ikeja and used the money to fix a CCTV over her counter. There are five or six pharmacies in Lagos that sell my husband’s injection, but when I read your bomber boy’s first letter very well I realised that even if his two parents resembled human beings, at least one of his grandparents must have been a gorilla. True true, when the time came, guess which all-night pharmacy (in the whole of Lagos State) your whole gang went to at 2 o’clock in the morning? You must be the one they were calling Desalu, not so? That ugly scar on your face must be the reason for your Marwa de Machete nickname. Sorry o. I know this is your first kidnapping. It’s not easy, abi? You should go back to armed robbery. Even monkeys can make money from armed robbery, but kidnapping is not a good job for mugus.
Anyway, back to our business (I can’t tell you how much I found in the safe because my maths is bad… and it is a private divorce settlement anyway, none of your business). So because he confessed that he had plenty of money in the safe, your final, final, final ransom is now fifty million naira, eh? I’ve told you: it is greed that’s going to kill you. That’s why you were calling me ‘mugu’ and ‘ashawo’, not so? From Mr. Ashiru’s pictures I don’t know if you’ve found your ashawo yet, but me I am definitely nobody’s mugu. Tell my ex-husband that as well. Tell him that after twenty-five years of marriage I still can’t believe he was planning to leave our house to a mistress and a bastard son. Okay, so he was the one that ate the bribes and it was his name on the C of O… but who queued up for weeks and weeks at GB Ollivant, buying cement and iron rods? Who fought labourers and greedy tipper-drivers for the three years it took us to build… kai, but love can make a woman stupid! For twenty years I hid the medical report that confirmed that it was his K-legged sperms that made us childless – just because I didn’t want my husband to feel like a half-man. – And then he goes out and finds a mistress that presents him with somebody’s bastard to call his son! Anyway, give him this medical report, it is my going-away present to him. From now on, money will be my own husband, and if my love for him tries to comes back I will bring out these your pictures again and remember how I married a worm by mistake. I also have some going-away presents for you people (because I’m a woman of my word). You can’t sell them for much, so just give these trinkets to the women in your lives. Because I really, really pity them. And, sorry: I told my pharmacist friend that she could double the price of the injection, that you will be desperate, but – that Igbo woman – she went and tripled it.
Release Mr. Ashiru immediately, Mister Mugu. You have beaten him enough, thank you, and I really want him to see the hole in his safe. I am not afraid of his brother’s connections with INTERPOL. It isn’t their business to bring back runaway wives, and Mr. Ashiru can’t tell anyone I have stolen his millions, because EFCC will first of all ask him where he got them from in the first place. I am leaving for the airport now, so my housemaid will be tying my yellow headtie this night. But if Mr. Ashiru doesn’t answer me from his house when I phone from London, his brother will get your Nollywood Pharmacy video and copies of your letters. (And you know how efficient the Police can be, when they really want to work.)
By the way, thank you for your silly letters. I didn’t really want to live as a second-class person in a Moslem country, and I don’t know how I could have applied for asylum during my stopover in London without all those threats to machete me and serve my pieces to your dogs.
For the full history of the writing of The Ransom Letters, start here.
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