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A driver’s lesson on citizenship

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Murtala Muhammed International Airport

A story the other day that a driver at the Lagos international airport returned eight hundred and eighty eight thousand naira (N888,000) to a passenger who left the money in his car may seen routine on account of the amount involved but it is significant enough to illustrate that the negative pervasive corruption perception of Nigeria is not only false, it is undeserved.

It has been worrisome that even the nation’s leaders have been de-marketing the country at international fora by harping on corruption as a major challenge they have had to deal with. In the same vein, stories of scandals, misappropriation of public funds and sundry infractions are widespread by Nigerians.

But despite this perceived low tone in morality amidst extreme religiousity in the country, it is still cheering to note that there are Nigerians, and they are the rule not the exception, who uphold honesty not only as the best but the only policy.

Little wonder, Adeniyi Olayinka, a driver at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) taxi park in Lagos, was recently the incredible cynosure of all eyes and a Nigerian exemplar after voluntarily returning the sum of N888,000 forgotten by a passenger in his cab. This is despite the fact that the driver does not have a car of his own. According to the report, Citizen Olayinka works as commissioned driver to a member of the Airport Car Hire Association of Nigeria (ACHAN).

This remarkable character display underlines the glimmer of hope that good people abound and good things still happen in Nigeria, irrespective of economic hardship and poverty in the land. What is more, Citizen Olayinka’s exemplary act has put a lie to the strange narrative that poverty is the root of criminality and poor corruption perception index in the country.

There are some salient lessons to be learnt from the episode. One, this story raises questions about cash carrying.

Furthermore, the story strengthens the importance of patronising cabs from registered points at airports. The most significant lesson is that, using registered cabs enhances the possibility of retrieving lost items most times.

According to the driver, who can be deemed a good ambassador of Nigeria and all of her glorious character, not returning the money “would put another family in sorrow and it is against the orientation given to every member of ACHAN at the airport.” Hence, Olayinka stayed on the straight and narrow path, upheld character and shunned unearned prosperity. This also is a lesson to all human resource managers that character of applicants is as important as skills required to do some jobs. Which also reinforces an ancient saying that ‘‘character is everything.’’ This is actually a huge challenge in Nigeria today: finding men of strong and good character to run the country’s affairs at all levels. There are too many learned people who are without character. And until men and women of good character are in various leadership and management positions, corruption and poor governance will continue to defeat and diminish Nigeria and Nigerians.

Obviously, Olayinka’s moral values are connected to his fundamental human emotions and experiences, which motivated him to act in a distinctive way – sympathy and empathy for perceived suffering of his passenger in addition to his sense of duty and loyalty to nation.

The act of this remarkable driver dwarfs all the messages from the pulpit and mosques, pontifications against corrupt practices, as well as various attempts at rebranding Nigeria; and even the works of the anti- graft agencies. It is one clear case of living the reality of ‘good people…great nation,’ instead of just mouthing it as a slogan. It is a show of individual responsibility to rebuilding a country with ethical principles and values of honesty. This act is indeed a definition of integrity, sticking to morals, which is the foundation of a person’s ability to judge between right and wrong.

Therefore, those occupying public offices where corruption has been draining the purse of the nation, denying Nigerians infrastructure, blocking access to quality health care and education, electricity, among others, should not wait for town criers to spend time convincing anyone that moral values matter to all Nigerians for a better Nigeria.

So, leaders at all levels should emulate Citizen Olayinka. They should copy his sense of duty and loyalty to the nation.

Also, the more Nigerians replicate Olayinka’s story, irrespective of their location or origins, the better for the country. Nigerians in the diaspora too, should learn from him, live on the straight and narrow and shun any form of crime. They should emulate Olayinka’s moral core and make every Nigerian proud.

Now, national and state orientation agencies should use the iconic Olayinka as ‘Goodwill Ambassador’ in their value re-orientation campaigns to enhance the quest for a better Nigeria. The Nigeria authorities should recognise and honour citizens with good character (such as Olayinka) to encourage more compatriots to stay on the straight and narrow path.


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