Nigerian society is increasingly short of men and women to celebrate. This was why the story of Nigerian Air Force Aircraftman Bashir Umar, who returned to the owner €37,000 he found in a parcel at the Hajj Camp Market in Kano State on July 16, deserves public celebration. Twenty four year old Umar returned the equivalent of N14,843,300, a tidy sum in Nigeria in these hard times.
Umar’s returning the treasure to the rightful owner without hesitation proves that despite all the societal rot, good old virtues of honesty still reside in some Nigerian youths. Umar belongs to the NAF’s Mobile Air Defence Team, deployed for airport security duties. He found the parcel during a routine patrol with some of his colleagues. The Aircraftman returned the money to the owner, one Alhaji Ahmad, after calling a phone number he found on the parcel.
Impressed by his honesty, Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, who spoke at a special event on July 25 organised to honour the airman at Air Force Headquarters, Abuja, said Umar had displayed an uncommon act of integrity by returning the money to the owner. He said Umar also displayed the core values which the Air Force was known for. The Chief then promoted him two steps forward to the rank of Corporal.
Air Marshal Sadique said Umar is the only non-commissioned officer in the history of the Air Force to have an aircraft detailed to convey him with his parents to Abuja in order to be honoured. He commended the parents of the airman for giving him the values that made him a hero within a few years in his career. The Air Chief also gave him a letter of commendation.
Umar later explained that they were coming back from a patrol when he saw an envelope on the side of the road. He said he picked it up but refused to let his colleagues know what was inside the envelope. “I saw a phone number on the envelope, so when we got back to the barracks, I called it. A man answered, and I told him we found a package, and he responded that yes, a brown envelope, with the name Alhaji Ahmed written on it.
“Then he said the envelop belonged to him, and that we should meet that evening, to which I said no problem, that he should come to the Air Force Base and collect the money. The man came, parked his car outside, and I went to meet him. I then gave him the package, and he told me the contents, €37,000, which he counted and confirmed was complete. He was very grateful and asked me what reward I wanted from him. I told him I didn’t need anything from him because my job pays for all my needs.” Asked if he thought of keeping the money for himself, Umar said “not for a second in my mind did I think to keep it, because my father has always taught me not to touch other people’s property.”
A scant one generation ago, what Umar did would have escaped notice in Nigeria because thousands of people were returning lost and found monies and other valuables to their owners without thinking twice about it. But in these days when too many young Nigerians, called Yahoo Boys, spend their whole days in front of computers looking for ways to defraud other people, his deed is very unusual indeed. He is therefore a shining proof of the old maxim that honesty pays. He has made his parents, his home community and his employers very proud of him. It is no surprise that the Air Force High Command celebrated him in the way it did because these days, the security agencies are hard pressed to prove their honesty and reliability in the face of scandals such as the reported case of soldiers who disappeared with millions of naira said to belong to an Army General.