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The Kindness of Strangers

The Kindness of Strangers

Africa today seems full of people eager to give our author millions. Isn't that nice!

Like most of the general population (but unlike those CEOs who were lucky enough to unload their stock options just before their company's earnings took a dive), this past year has put a dent in my retirement funds bigger than the one next to the headlight on my 93 Magna. And believe me, that's a pretty big dent. It didn't take me long (I'm lying; I procrastinated for over a year) to put my tail between my legs and change my asset allocation from a "Movin' on up" 80 per cent stocks/20 per cent bonds ratio to a "I'm petrified" 40/60 split.

Having said that, I thank my lucky stars I have one wild card that the depressing Dow Jones Index can't touch. For at least a couple of years now, I've been receiving personal, confidential e-mails from a number of different potential benefactors, all who happen, coincidentally, to live in Africa. Each of them has offered to cut me in on a multimillion dollar bounty that has, in one way or another, fallen into their hands. The amounts are staggering, ranging from $18 million to as high as $152 million (and that's in cold, hard US dollars, mind you, not some tepid, squishy sub-Saharan currency).

Why have I, a humble journalist, been chosen by so many people to share in this most excellent windfall? I'm still not sure (although I do pride myself on being trustworthy, dependable and willing to give complete strangers personal financial info), but in one way or another they all obtained my e-mail address from a surprising variety of unexpected sources.

Lucky Me

Agogo Mustapha, a senior accountant with the Office of the Honourable Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, says he got my address "through a secret enquiry I made from your country's Chamber of Commerce down here".

A couple of Nigerian military officers, General Benjamin Ojiani (retired) and Brigadier General Bibiola Waritimi, both said they obtained my "contact" from the US Embassy/High Commission in Abuja. (Despite my suspicious nature, I took both these missives seriously because they thoughtfully added THIS IS NOT A SPAM MAIL to the subject line.)

A Senegalese gentleman, Kalibu A Omar, said he was "writhing following the impressive information about you through one of my friend who runs a consultancy firm in your country". I have no idea what this consultant said about me, but it must have been hot stuff to make Mr Omar writhe. Normally, I don't have that effect on people.

I was a little less impressed by how Johndear Franka found me. He admitted that my e-mail was given to him by "the Girl who operates computer". But he did add that I was the only person he was contacting. And here I thought I was just another random address.

What's been even more delightful is that in the past year, I've started to receive these generous offers from VIPRFALs (very important people related to former African leaders). Manuel Savimbi, for example. He is the son of Jonas Savimbi, the former leader of UNITA, a rebel group that fought for years in Angola. (He died on the battlefield earlier this year.) Mariam Abacha, the wife of the former Nigerian head of state, the late General Sani Abacha, dropped me a line, as did Mrs. Sese-seko, widow of the late Zairean president Mobutu Sese-seko. Mobutu's son also sent me a nice note.

Have We Got a Deal for You!

These are just a few of the people who have proposed business deals with me that dwarf anything former Enron CFO Andrew Fastow could have dreamed up - and he was a really inventive guy. The sources of these riches tend to fall into two categories. In the first, my proposed benefactor has discovered that the owners of certain large bank accounts have passed away and the banks, despite their best efforts, have failed to locate any next of kin. Seeking someone honest and upright to work with, they've fallen back on Plan B - me, a "foreign partner", who will provide a bank account into which they can deposit their stash o' cash.

In the second category, my benefactor is part of a deposed or deceased political or military leader's family and wants to hold on to the family fortune before the new, upstart government absconds with it. Naturally, he needs someone outside the country to help - me and my bank account.

Mr Dumbushe is so impressed by my business acumen that he wants to pay me $2.68 million if I will only let him invest in my next venture, whatever it may be. In fact, he's willing to send that money - sight unseen - to my bank if I simply send him my account number.

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