The lowly security guard of a foremost bank in Nigeria stumbled upon a wad of cash. $10,000 to be precise, in the premises of his company. It was there for the taking. He chose not to take it for himself. Instead he returned the cash that amounts to about N3m in Nigeria to the management of his branch. A huge sum that had the potential to change his life forever. But, the 29 year old who reportedly earns a paltry N30,000 monthly literally passed up the opportunity to be a millionaire overnight. It is mind blowing and challenging at the same time.
One would have thought that this rare act of honesty would be applauded by all, but interestingly, this has not been the case. In typical fashion, some people have been less than pleased with the action of the Kogi State indigene. They have been castigating him and some swear he’ll never “make it” in his life again. The young man confirmed this when he stated that some people have ridiculed him, saying that he should have used the opportunity to change his status instead of taking the “stupid” decision to return the money. I personally read a tweet where someone described Ogbanago’s action as that of one who clearly chose to divert God’s call just when the almighty made up his mind to bestow him with riches. Another swore that he would curse the security personnel if he were his brother.
Time and again, I have been convinced that it’s almost impossible to define the Nigerian society and what it stands for. Our society is one of amazing contradictions, a jumble of complexities, a convoluted knot of humans who are vastly different even though they occupy the same geographical space. It’s evident in every sphere of our existence as a country. The majority of us swear we abhor corruption and would do anything to see that it goes into extinction in our country, yet when our politicians loot our common wealth blind, a section of the populace choose to see absolutely nothing wrong with what they did because they are affiliated to the thieving politicians in one way or the other. As long they belong to the same political party or have benefited from them in some way, then whatever they did must surely have a plausible explanation.
In a country where the economic conditions have even the upper class in a state of slight panic and surely praying for some windfall or means to substantially increase their wealth, it’s certainly befuddling to see a security guard pass up the chance to drastically improve his lot in life albeit by taking something that doesn’t belong to him. Some would argue that it was “manna from heaven” Ogbanago didn’t set out to steal anyone’s money. He stumbled on it! That’s their argument. But we all know the said money belonged to someone (who has since showed up to pick it up), so there’s no way to rationalise him keeping the money for himself however fortuitous the scenario may have appeared.
While many hail President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts to rid the country of corruption or at least reduce it to the barest minimum and bring treasury looters to book, others are convinced that the president is on a personal vendetta against rival party members. The pertinent question is: Has anyone who was indicted in the anti-corruption war been found innocent? It’s really hard to understand what the average Nigerian wants sometimes. We have a long list of crooks who have pilfered the nation’s treasury over several decades, and by doing so have plunged the nation into the worst economic crisis in years. We hold campaigns, seminars and conferences everyday in a bid to stem the tide of corruption and fraudulent activities, yet when we find honest people like Mohammed Ogbanago who choose to take the high road when they could have easily done otherwise, some of us deride and ridicule them instead of taking a cue from what they have done.
People like Ogbanago should be celebrated. I am glad that he got special recognition and commendation from the management of the bank. But beyond the accolades, I believe the security guard is deserving of more than a handshake and a commendation. It would be nice to know the sort of reward he received from his employers. It would hardly be out of place for the management of UBA to give him a monetary reward and more importantly, promote the young man to a more respectable position in the organisation in line with his qualifications. This will not only encourage him to continue in the honourable path he has chosen, but also serve as a motivation to others to toe the same path if they ever find themselves in a similar situation. After all Ogbanago himself admits that he was inspired by the actions of Josephine Agwu, the airport cleaner who found and returned a whopping N12m cash sometime last year.
As we strive to make sense of the conundrum called Nigeria, even if we cannot completely decipher the entirety of what we have to do and the sacrifices we must make to set the nation on the road to recovery, it goes without saying that we must embrace the old time values of honesty, hard work and integrity. Like Ogbanago, in our little corners of the world we must choose to do right thing. As infinitesimal as our actions may appear to be in the grand scheme things, it ultimately adds up in creating the nation of our dreams.
It’s the hard way. But, it’s the only way.