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The Nigerian Prisoner

March 3, 2010

Musings of an outsider inside is a delectable review of Outsider Inside, a collection of essays by Keith Richards – a self-confessed gabby who has spent more than three decades in Nigeria as chief executive of a couple of companies. Another review here surmises that, for Mr Richards, ‘living in Nigeria (as against Chinua Achebe’s ‘being a Nigerian’) is abysmally frustrating and unbelievably exciting.’

A friend utterly disagrees. Being a banker, he’s more worried that this year’s $27.1 billion budget is yet to be passed. For him the surreal drama over the Nigerian Prisoner is misplaced. President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua has not been sighted in over three months. Yar’Adua’s Svengalis must have read the Spanish Prisoner. How else, but through a confidence trick (advance fee fraud or 419), can you keep 150 million Nigerians in the dark about their president? These con-men and women have so far managed to tell Nigerians (magas) tales spun in Jeddah and now in Abuja.

As it is, no one knows what their ransom is (the entire country perhaps?). What’s certain is that some of their conspirators have been rewarded with marriages to the prisoner’s daughters. Alas, there aren’t enough daughters to go round. Rather, e-mails and backroom deals promising pecuniary rewards to would-be suckers are making rounds. It’s also uncertain if David is a mark and whether Dimeji is a bank ole. Overpaid and scared to bits about their salary for the next four years, they’ve chosen to seat on their hands and watch. Siddon look is a favourite pastime of Nigerians.

Not anymore. The Nigerian Prisoner may be “a perfect icon for the country: prostrate in intensive care and held hostage by a secretive, greedy clique!” The local press, the Internet and social networking sites are beaming sunlight, the best disinfectant, over a benighted country. 6,000 mega lies can hide the truth only for so long. Enough is enough!

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