‘My name is Gongo Aso, Gongo for short.
I am an orphan with a $700m inheritance who is in desperate need of your assistance.’
I lean back and look at the words I have typed. They are stark; black prints against the blinding whiteness of the screen.
I read the words again and smile. This is what my friends and I call “mugu-proof lines”. They tug straight at the hearts strings. But you have to be white, as in white man, oyibo.
I was lying in bed, two nights ago, when the lines came to me in what, I suppose my old professor would have called, an epiphany. It was no surprise that I had drifted off listening to 9ice’s monster hit, Gongo Aso.
Gongo Aso had a nice ring to it and it was also pregnant with possibilities. I could say we owned Aso Rock for instance before the government took it from us to build the seat of power. In this trade you needed to have enough ammunition for a long drawn out battle. Taking money from an unseen, greedy fuck from Australia or Canada or Wyoming involves more than skirmishes. You had to anticipate stuff before they happened.
People say those of us who do yahoo-yahoo operate with charms. I know, a few people who do, but the bulk of what we do is basic psychological, call it pavlovian and you won’t be wrong.
We are like fishermen with a hook and a bait. We just focus on the greed of the next man. It’s basic psychology. Man is inherently greedy, throw him a bone and you prove Pavlov right; he salivates.
It happens all the time. The white man thinks he is seen a poorly educated African who would send him one hundred million dollars if he can front him ten thousand dollars to expedite the transfer.
Every time, I get a hopeful reply in return to my emails, I always imagine a fat white man in Wyoming, smacking his lips and thinking of how to keep all the money to himself.
We are both criminals trying to outsmart the other one. The only difference is I get my hands on his money first. And that’s what this is always about; getting your hands on the money before the other guy.
I am about to start typing when I feel a presence behind me. I reach for the power button on the monitor.
“Not so fast, Mr. Gongo Aso.”
I turn. He is over six feet tall, dark and big in the way a corrupt police officer is big. He settles into the seat beside me and sets his worn ID card on my table. FCID.
I was hoping it was a small time cop from a small station in the area trying to play in the big leagues, but it wasn’t. FCID is trouble.
“I don dey watch you, since,’ he says picking up and pocketing his ID card.
“So, wetin dey?” I ask, turning to look at him.
I don’t see his hand move, but I feel the slap and I am on the floor before I realize what has happened. I feel the blood trickling from my nose as he pins me to the ground and snaps the handcuffs on me.
The business centre is empty by the time he lifts me up to my feet and drags me out to the car park.
“Where is your car key?” he asks as we stand beside my silver coloured Honda Bullet.
“In my pocket,” I say as I wipe the blood on my sleeve. From the corner of my eye, I can see Justina, the lady who manages the cyber café waving in sympathy.
I manage what I suppose is a smile. Justina, though older had liked me from the moment she saw.
“You don’t look like a thief,” she said the first time she stood behind me and looked at my monitor.
“What does a thief look like?” I asked swivelling round.
Her big breasts were straining against her T-shirt. She looked like a woman who must have been very pretty once but age and hard living had taken their toll. She smiled and a dimple appeared on one cheek.
“Thief eye dey shine too much,” she told me.
A Warri girl, she spoke pidgin most of the time. “You be like church boy, proper church going aje-butter.”
“And you na Catechist wife, abi?”
Justina and I became friends. She knew what I came there for and even though she was obligated to report such activities, she turned a blind eye and I in turn made sure she was happy.
I remember the night after I bought my car. She had insisted on taking me for a drink after I gave her one thousand dollars.
We went to the hotel that I was staying at and when I told her I didn’t drink alcohol, Justina burst into laughter that ended in a coughing fit with tears coursing down her cheeks.
“Which kain yahoo boy you be, eh? So, you don’t drink and you don’t smoke, how you dey enjoy the money nah?”
“I save,” I said smiling, in spite of myself.
“You no get babe?” she asked.
“Abi you be yanshman?” she asked blowing perfect smoke rings.
“No. I am not gay. Me and my babe, we broke up 3 months ago,” I told her.
“And since then?” she asked giving me this look.
“Nothing-nothing,” I said looking away.
“Haba, that one no good. Call room service make dem bring rubber.”
That was the first time we made love and once in a while, when she wasn’t too busy or working late she would invite me over to her place or ask to join me at the hotel I stayed at most of the time. It was a great arrangement. She was good. I needed it and there were no strings attached.
“Get in,” the officer says as he pulls the back door open.
He shuts the door, walks around to the other side and gets in behind the wheel.
We exit the compound and drive out of Shomolu on to the Ikorodu expressway. He doesn’t speak and I don’t speak either. It is a game and I have played it before.
I have six thousand dollars in in my boot. It will come in handy whatever the outcome.
We drive all the way to Maryland, turn into Mobolaji Bank Anthony. We cruise past Sheraton where I celebrated my 20th birthday last year. I will be 21 in three weeks. I wonder now whether I will make it or still be in detention. The party had been wild. We took a suite, installed a deejay, stuffed the bar and went buck wild.
There is something to be said for those of us who don’t drink. You get to have the most fun watching your mates go from sober to pissed-out drunk as the night stretches.
He drives all the way to Toyin street in Ikeja, turns into Allen avenue, drives the length of it, makes a right and we are heading towards Agidingbi.
He turns off beside Mr. Biggs and drives as if he is heading towards Marwa Gardens but instead makes a sharp right and we are in a deserted street, in front of an uncompleted building.
“How much do you have?” he asks
“Four thousand dollars,” I tell him as he pulls me out of the car.
The street is quiet, the building seems empty. It is clear he has been here before. This is not a random choice. I look around. No one is in sight. A cold dread settles over me. What is this about? If what he wanted was the money he wouldn’t have brought me here.
“Four thousand,” he says and shakes his head. “Not good. You need to have ten thousand dollars here with you or you are dead.”
“I have six thousand dollars,” I tell him.
“Not good enough,” he says and shoves me into the building.
“How about the car?” I ask but he shoves me hard against the wall in answer.
It is cool inside and dark too and the whole place smells of piss and shit. He pushes me further inside.
“Your ransom is ten thousand dollars. That’s what Walata said: ‘If he gives you ten thousand dollars let him go. If not, finish him.’”
He produces a gun and digs it into my ribs as he speaks.
“Walata! I told him I was sorry, I can…” I begin to say when I hear the blast and the bullet rip through me.
Then he fires two more shots and all is blackness.