As a security guard mounting the gate of the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Oba Akran Branch in Lagos, Ogbanago Ibrahim Mohammed did the unthinkable when he returned a whopping sum of $10,000 misplaced by a customer. He had the begging opportunity to be rich with what was obviously a ‘manna’ from heaven but the Igala-born lad chose the rarity lane by denying himself the luxury of instant riches – he deprived himself of ephemeral fortune for a lasting honour. And the honour has been pouring in mixed references and feelings; while the world celebrates his sparkling integrity posture, some of his kinsmen mock him in drums of jeers and sneers. A particular reference was a radio caller who poured curses on the young man for being daft and unreasonable to have returned what was clearly a divine packaged fortune.
How did the journey start? Ogbanago found a wrap of dollars lost by a client, at the time he found this money, he had no house to stay – he was literally squatting with friends, he moves around these friends randomly. With such money, it was an open heaven on earth for this man to transform into a life of instant luxury. $10, 000 in 2016 was a huge money that would have catapulted his fortune – he dropped greed and embraced honesty. While he flags the toga of honesty, has that in any way translated in personal material fortune for him? The closest material recognition that came to him was the magnanimous gestures from former governors Bindow Jibrilla and MA Abubakar of Adamawa and Bauchi states respectively who dashed him some monies – his bank did the only needful of hosting him to a dinner of recognition but sadly without a cash benefit or employment opportunity. He was left stranded, unmotivated and unrewarded by the bank he helped to increase its image. Ordinarily, such a gesture should wear the emblem of permanent reference in the bank.
The rewards of integrity are substantial, for the individual and the community. A person of integrity enjoys the self-respect that comes from honestly earned accomplishments and contributions to the larger good. However, acting with integrity comes with challenges. We may not always be aware of the needs of others, particularly individuals at a distance. The rewards of moral behaviour are often not immediate or apparent. It may seem as though the right thing to do has few benefits in comparison with an action that could bring immediate gain.
An individual who aspires to strong moral standards experiences the rewards of personal satisfaction and the affirmation of belonging to a community of integrity. And President Muhammadu Buhari wasted no time in appreciating the rare display of this man when he decided to honour Ogbanago with the Federal Republic Medal (FRM). Even though the masters of ceremony at the investiture refused to read the citation of the Ogbanago, the president made a glowing reference to the young man’s act of integrity in his speech.
In further appreciation and to reduce the volume of sneers that come to the icon of integrity, his kinsmen in the FCT decided to host him to an appreciation dinner recently. The Igala Community in Abuja elevated the presidential honour by hosting the ICON OF INTEGRITY AND A ROLE MODEL to a banquet as a way to recognize and honor him for bringing glory and honour to the Igala people. Many young Nigerians have expressed their dismay over the rare courage displayed by the young man. To them, Ogbanago has missed the single opportunity to escape the rage of poverty. But as distinguished Igala sons and daughters demonstrated during the recent banquet organized in his honour, such a unique characteristic should not go unrecognized. He has been given a job by Hajia Salamatu Baiwa Umar-Eluma, a well-known philanthropist and thought leader, as a reward for his good spirit.
Leading the way also was Hon. Abdullahi Ibrahim Halims, a member of the House of Representatives who represents the Ankpa, Omala, and Olamoboro federal constituency. Hon. Abdullahi Ibrahim Halims spearheaded a generous fundraising campaign to buy a befitting car for Ogbanago, whom he referred to as a deserving son and the pride of the Igala people.
In the same vein, a day has been set aside annually as Ogbanago Colloquium for Integrity where issues of honesty and integrity will be discussed as a centrepiece for values and orientation. Also, a Foundation would be established to sustain the integrity philosophy of Ogbanago.
Present at the occasion was elder statesman Chief Sylvester Momoh Onoja OON who chaired the day and poured undiluted encomiums on Ogbanago- describing his act as a consistent display of a child bred in real value.
Capping the waves of appreciation for a rare display, Nigeria’s media orientationist Ordinary Ahmad Isah of the Brekete Family has featured the young man on his show and slated him for another round of awards for integrity come December 2022.
Indeed, Ogbanago remains an icon for young Nigerians, whose lifestyle and pedigree must be emulated; for the Igala people, he is a worthy ambassador; and for the country, he is a face of hope. Integrity is the quality of being honest, noble, blameless, trustworthy and sincere. In a corrupt world like the one we now live in; integrity is a quality that may set someone out from the crowd. Although integrity does not necessarily bring tremendous wealth or big bank accounts, it does ensure a quiet and happy existence, respect, and recognition for the man and his community.
Honesty is always the best policy, and it remains the hallmark of Igala Identity, as the people continue to uphold this principle wherever they may be. Ogbanago Muhammed Ibrahim showed uncommon honesty and integrity while enduring hardship and poverty by returning thousands of dollars that a bank client had lost. Indeed, like Muhammadu Buhari, there is a burden on the shoulder of the young Ogbanago, the custodian of integrity.