What Is Your Hostage Value?

For popular nollywood actor Pete Edochie, it was his status as Chairman of the Re-branding Campaign and the possession of a priced MON that made him a choice pickup for the boys. Edochie topped the chart as ‘Top Hostage’ for last week and unlike most other cases of hostage taking, he came out with a feedback. A clear message from the boys. They couldn’t have chosen a better messenger for the assignment. And in his characteristic way, Edochie shortly after his release, called the press and delivered the message, Hot!

The media had reported Edochie’s kidnap, the demand of 60million and later 10million as ransom, but were rather too silent on what was finally paid for him to get out. Well, as we all know-though the security guys would rather have us believe otherwise- no body goes in there and comes out without dropping something, at least in appreciation of the entertainment the kind of which Edochie alluded to. And for a big fish like Edochie who ironically heads the Governments effort at burnishing away with a wave of wand the bad image we have acquired for ourselves after many years of failed leadership, one can guess that quite fair amounts must have changed hands.

While Edochie’s kidnap made news headlines, so many other similar events went unnoticed and unreported. What started as isolated cases of malfeasance by Niger Delta militants has now grown to become a full blown trade and has assumed such heights especially in Eastern Nigeria that is now both alarming and I dare say, interesting.

Time was when it was just foreigners who enjoyed hostage threats in the country. The threat had later flowed down to the relations of political office holders and the rich. Today everybody including yours sincerely who daily does battle with the same realities of our failure as a nation just like the Boys has a hostage threat hanging down the neck. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, everyone has got a hostage value.

The boys seem well learned in the art of pricing. When you are picked, your worth is ascertained and a price tag put to you. Typical of Nigeria where no agreements is reached except by negotiated compromise, they hike the price just a tad, so that after the usual market place bargain a price just about your real worth is settled for at the end of the day.

Your worth as a hostage is measured by the car you drive or that which a relative of your drives, the house a relative of yours lives in, Your close relationship with someone who is suspected to be of high hostage value, the information that you live and work in Abuja (or any other city) or you have relatives who do, an information that you just came in from abroad, as well as less seemingly worthwhile reasons as the size of your tummy, the swagger in your step when you walk, the impression that you are rich or smell of riches of any form.

“Riches” now doesn’t have to be millions. A friend and her family recently traveled to their village for the New Yam festival and annual August Meeting ritual. Her little brother of fourteen was picked up by persons who were nothing more than village urchins and a ransom of a hundered thousands was demanded. Eventually they settled for Forty thousand naira.

Now what beats me is that save for the case of the visiting female Rotarian who was kidnapped in Kaduna by persons who obviously were amateurs in the game, our security network which funnily is an amphibious collection of so many different bodies funded annually by the federal budget, has irretrievably failed to smash any of the gangs doing this and free a hostage. Did you just say shame on us?

Well, back to the experience of the reigning top ex-hostage Pete Edochie. The message the boys asked him to deliver ironically had the same content as much of what Mrs. Clinton told us some weeks back that got the PDP really ranting. It had the same content as you will find in the writings of all the popular angry Nigerian columnists from Soyinka, to Okey Ndibe and Pius Adesanmi and everybody in-between. It was the same message in all the articles you will find in Nigerian online forums and individual blog sites. It was the same thing we’ve all be shouting about; that these people have gotten so good at stealing that even the very cloths on our bodies doesn’t seem safe anymore.

Pete had undertaken to offer the Government (which he ironically currently serves) some words of advise. I remember very much the word “stipend”. He asked that that word be added to our national recurrent expenditure list on behalf of unemployed youths just like politicians already enjoy. If Edochie was suggesting that cash be doled out monthly, then I wouldn’t quite agree with him simply because, we would only be providing yet another avenue for people to sink their filthy hands into the public till.

These stipends should come instead in the way of a resolution to the ASUU (and other union) strikes, the better funding of education, the provision of constant power to drive the Small and medium industries, the training of youths to enable them to be self employed, the genuine fight against corruption, the establishment of hospitals that are not mortuaries, the fighting of the extreme poverty, an end to the stealing…

Well, until these stipends are thought important enough to receive the attention of our leaders, we can’t help but continue to walk about as hostages each with a distinct Hostage value. On my part, I have been trying to work out what my value could be just in case the boys undertook the misadventure of picking me up one of these days. You might wish to take some time off and do the same.

Written by
Sylva Nze Ifedigbo
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