A letter from the kidnappers’ den

Guest writer, Dr Abdullahi Sadiq

As a rule, I usually returned home before dark, even on hectic days. On the odd days, I had to stay out very late, I would call in advance to alert my wife. The clinic day following the World Glaucoma Week was expectedly busy, partly because of the impact of our glaucoma awareness campaign and because of the influx of the patients who missed their appointments owing to the activities of the week.

On this particular day, tired, exhausted and famished, I decided to sit and rest a while before getting on the steering to make my way home. I put a call through to my wife. As usually the network had gone haywire. “The number you’re calling is unknown to this network,” was the response. “Which number? I asked myself. “They must be crazy,” I thought.

Just then my wife’s call came through. “Why are you still in the hospital?,” she had asked. I informed her I was preparing to leave for home. I heard the voice of my first child in the background requesting her to remind me about what I had promised to purchase for him as I drove him to school while the younger one was excitedly shouting, “Daddy, daddy, daddy.”

“I found myself in the parking area reserved for the hospital consultants. The conversation with my wife and the voices of my children still ringing in my ears, I ignored the three unfamiliar faces of people standing a little distance from my car. Suddenly, they swooped on me, bundled me into their car, blindfolded me and taped my mouth to prevent me from screaming.

“Alas, I have been kidnapped! The vehicle zoomed off with a tremendous speed.  I couldn’t believe all that was happening to me! “These people don’t know me. I am a poor, unknown eye doctor and nobody would be prepared to pay any ransom worthy of all their effort! Why don’t they go after the rich politicians and business men? This must be a case of mistaken identity. Yes, it must be!” I remembered someone had asked me about a week before if I was Dangote! I had brushed it aside because I had thought he was just mocking me or wanted to make me happy.

“One of my abductors broke the silence.’’ He was at a television station enlightenment programme for the general public. He was also so vocal at the recently conducted glaucoma patients’ interactive session organized in commemoration of World Glaucoma Week,’’ he said.

“At that point, I started praying incessantly and mobilised all the prayers I could muster. It was a long journey as they drove throughout the night with no security check point. I had no idea in which direction we were going because of my covered eyes.

“Finally, we arrived at what I made out to be a camp and I was again bundled out of the vehicle and kept in a dark isolated room. I was kept for 48 hours without food or water. I knew I was about to faint owing to low blood sugar, when I was served a plate of white rice with stew albeit without any meat. I had no idea of the time while I was in the dungeon. I lost hope of reuniting with my family members as it was obvious my life was at the brink of extermination.

“I was half asleep when the door of the cell was banged open and two people jumped into the room, ‘’tomorrow you are going to meet her majesty, the queen of “blindophia’’ one of them said and quickly left without waiting to acknowledge my response. The first time I saw light was when I was summoned to a makeshift palace.

“It was apparent to me I was going to face a five-member panel obviously chaired by a frail, old lady who had an expressionless face and wrinkled forehead skin. ‘’My name is cataract and I am the richest member of blindophia,’’ she introduced herself. “I am the wealthiest because I am the most common reason humans are blind. In blindophia, the net worth of an individual is determined by the number of people made blind,” she further said.

Other members were introduced as Miss Glaucoma (the grand thief of sight), Prince Ametropia, the terror of refraction, High Chief Retinopathy of Diabetes as well as the veteran Opacity of the cornea.

The grand thief of sight (Glaucoma) was furious when she overheard you divulging classical information about her activities. It beat all her imagination when you instructed people with family member(s) having glaucoma, people aged years and older as well as myopes to imbibe the culture of regular periodic eye checkup.

The strongest blow was when you educated people with glaucoma to adhere to their medications and went as far as offering surgery. How do you want us to flourish when you encourage diabetic patients to be regular with their medications in order to prevent blindness from the retinopathy, provide spectacles for short/long sighted as well as encouraging people with corneal scar have corneal transplant? You are even mobilising people to donate corneas to save sight. These measures are inimical to our progress and therefore orchestrated your abduction, ’’ she concluded.

I am more convinced than ever that our effort is yielding result and  I am ready to pay the ultimate price in the course of enlightening public about preventable blindness and I can assure you Nigerian ophthalmologists will not relent in their efforts of sensitising the general public about blinding eye diseases. The battle line has just been drawn. “Wake up ! Darling wake up! Aren’t you going to work today?” my wife called out calmly. I opened my eyes, happy to know it all was a dream!

  • Dr. Abdullahi Sadiq, a consultant ophthalmologist at the National Eye Centre Kaduna
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