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Muhammad Tahir Zakari

We all shed crocodile tears about the turpitude that has overtaken us—those in authority mouth sanctimonious sentiments about the need to combat the cancer that have eaten deep into the nation’s fabric, while at the same time continue the brigandage that makes the nation bleed badly. The followers, long tired of being onlookers while the pillaging goes on, have also joined in the odious philosophy of helping one self, even if it means killing, maiming or merely incapacitating their victims, which in a vernacular parlance literally means: Kill him if you catch up with him; cut his legs if you couldn’t kill him. And we need not look any further than our noses to see this notion enacted as mindless and death dealing violence occur everywhere including colleges where the slightest disagreement is resolve through bloodletting.

Yet as commonplace and widespread as the sadism has become, once in a while and out of the blues, an individual pops up like a number, to remind all of us that all is not lost, that in the sea of overwhelming moral turpitude and ethical morass, there still exist individuals that take all the verities and preachments from the religions seriously and are willing to be guided by them in their lives. When the occasion demands they are willing to stand up and put up a wholesome and commendable display. Among those people include 41 year old Muhammad Tahir Zakari, a staff of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

According to the story, not long ago on one Friday evening, Muhammad had just finished his ablution to join in the Magrib prayers when his mobile phone rang; appropriately he switched it off. Whoever it was would have to wait until he finished his prayers.  Having duly prayed, he stepped out from the Mosque and took out the phone and as soon as he switched it on an eye popping figure of 6.2 million naira appeared on his set as his new account balance. He was thrown into a quandary; he probably must have wiped his eyes to reassure himself that he was seeing correctly. He checked again, still the figure remained the same-6.2 million naira and all of it in his account.

In these days of slush funds, drug peddling and money laundry, this sort of money may not amount to much to many people, but to Muhammad on a salary of 60,000 naira only per month, it surely was a hell lot of money.  He scurried home to his wife and 10 children and dependants, dragged the woman to one side and said to her that God has answered their prayers and showed her the figure. But unimpressed, the wife handed the phone back gently and told him dead pan that it was a mistake made either genuinely or with an intention to some mago mago, therefore he had to return the money. Good woman that she was, she told Muhammad that ‘’if God wanted to help you he will give you a means to make money not just drop this kind of money from nowhere.’’  Now, the rest of the story is already in the public domain. Muhammad alerted his department about the error after cross checking from his bank. The department was grateful and told him that it was all a huge mistake made by some inattentive accountant who may have added a number of zeroes to his 62000 naira a month salary.

Those in authority in Muhammad’s department must have deemed his attitude as uncommon. Another person would have simply and quietly gone ahead to apply the money as if it was actually his own. Perhaps lodge it in another account and proceed to paint the town red, as they say. Well, as it turned out, the money went back to where it came from and Muhammad was handsomely rewarded with a recommendation for a national award—Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR), which he was recently invested with  along with other recipients. But then the award of national honours has come under intense scrutiny for having lost its purpose and relevance. The charge is not frivolous because for anyone who cares to look properly, the names on the honours roll always read like the roll call of who is who in the public service. In effect, public service officers are being given awards for merely doing their work and nothing more. Well, with the inclusion of some one like Muhammad, the criticism of the modalities of the awards is yielding result.

It will be wrong to dismiss all this as sanctimonious drivel, of making a mountain out of a molehill. Muhammad’s noble act was fittingly recognized and rewarded. This singular act would go a long way to give some shine to the award and save it from being merely ritualistic and a charade. Thus,  Muhammad’s award has lent it respectability and relevance. If the Nigerian society must be changed from what it is to become wholesome as we all want, then a way should be found to put Muhammad’s award to uses that will benefit the country. For one, he should be made the new poster -boy (man) of Nigeria whose self less and altruistic attitude displayed by returning the money erroneously lodged in this account need to be emulated by everyone, particularly those in high places in government. Who can tell the effect this would have on impressionable young men and women who have now become thoroughly brain washed to think that the wayward path is the one to take?

In all this, the federal ministry of information and the national re-orientation agency as well as civil society groups should find a way to deploy Muhammad’s new status to good use for the benefit of society. He should be held up as a quintessence of Nigeria’s moral and ethical aspirations.

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