Is honesty no longer the best policy? That is the question that is being asked as Adeniyi Olayinka, the airport taxi driver who made news recently when he returned 2,400 dollars forgotten in his cab by a client, reports some people as doubting his sanity over the act.
Olayinka, Ogun State indigene and member of Airport Cab Hire Association of Nigeria (ACHAN), Murtala Muhammed International Airport branch, who returned the amount (said to be about N888, 000 when converted into naira), has just confessed in a chat with Saturday Sun that, contrary to expectation, not everybody is happy or applauding him over the kind gesture.
Why he returned the money despite people’s feeling
“There have been mixed feelings on what I did,” he confessed with a tinge of sadness in his voice. “While some people have been congratulating me to encourage me to continue being and doing good, there are others who are not happy. They said I am stupid. They said I was born to be poor, that that was why I returned the money to the owner.”
He recalls with pain the day he found himself in the midst of a group of people and the topic of what he did came up for discussion and some of them roundly upbraided him for accepting the N5, 000 thank-you reward given to him by the owner of the money. “They were discussing me and the N5000 reward that I was given and they said something to the effect that I was stupid,” he recalled. “They said I would die a poor man. I felt like beating them. But I left when I discovered that what they were saying was not making any sense to me. After all, I didn’t do it for them. I did it for my conscience, my mother, wife and my children.”
For his conscience, he said, because the money was not his. He did not work for it and so saw no reason to appropriate it or be found spending it. For his mother’s sake because, right from childhood, she had drummed it into his ears and those of his siblings not to touch anything that did not belong to them. Till this day, he recalled with trepidation how his mother, now late, would bring home a copy of Daily Times bearing the execution photos of Chief Oyenusi, the legendary armed robbery kingpin of the 1970s and would warn them about the consequences of emulating him by stealing items, money or material things, which did not belong to them. And, those images, he confessed, registered in his mind an everlasting lesson in hard work and self-contentment.
His words: “When I was very young ,my late mum would gather us and show us the newspaper picture of the renowned armed robber, Oyenusi, tied to a wooden stake behind which were drums filled with sand. And, she would tell us what he did that made him to be executed at the Lagos Bar Beach. She would say he stole someone’s property and then she would warn us not to pick anybody’s money or pen in school. That fear of being tied to the stake and shot publicly was what dissuaded us from crime.”
He did it for his wife’s sake because she has always stood as his moral compass in all situations. In fact, she it was who advised him to make sure he returned the money to its rightful owner. “My wife is a true Christian,” he informed. “Immediately I saw the money she was the first person I called and she gave me advice.” And, he is thankful to God, for heeding her advice, despite some people’s misgivings.
Financial challenges he defied to return the money
Considering the financial challenges he is faced with at the moment, which include raising money to pay the balance of his children’s school fees, the tall man admits that truly the money could have come in handy if he worked for it.
“We are facing a lot of challenges. The car that I am using is not in good condition. It does not have air condition, it has an alignment problem; it has only one good tyre and a spare,” he said. “I am yet to complete the payment of N170, 000 for the car.”
He recalled that on that fateful day Ayeni forgot his money in his car, he had expressed fear about whether the car would be able to take him home, given its condition. “But I assured him that we were going to get to his destination safely.
“Even recently the car dealer from whom I bought it on hire purchase reported me at Area F Police Division, Ikeja, Lagos, claiming that I didn’t want to pay him the remaining part of the money. I had to beg him. He threatened to collect the car back from me. I thought about all these but I knew that it was not my money and there was no way I would have been happy spending it. Since the news broke, the man has increased his pestering. He thought after finding the money I was rewarded handsomely and that I was hesitating paying him. The truth is that two of my children are in the university and I am yet to pay their school fees. And, the younger one is still asking me for the N10, 000 balance for her last school term.”
But the fact that he owes the car dealer N170, 000 out of the total amount for the used car which he bought for about N300, 000, the fact that he was yet to pay his children’s school fees notwithstanding, if he were to have another opportunity, he vowed, he would do what he did again and again.
Not the first time
As a matter of fact, this is not the first time he would return forgotten items in his car. He recalls once returning an international passport belonging to a friend of Dangote’s daughter who visited when they (Dangote’s daughter and her beau) tied the marital knot in Lagos. He had also returned a high-end camera belonging to a tourist photographer who forgot it in his cab.
Asked what prompted his noble action at a time he was saddled with some dire needs that appropriating the money could have helped to solve, he points to three things: his background, his religion and ACHAN rules and regulations which advise that such forgotten items be returned to the office for keep in case the owner later turns up.
Olayinka, a former undergraduate of Department of Marketing, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, who dropped out of school on account of shortage of fund, said a friend of his who used to work with Asset Securities office located at Murtala Muhammed Airport, connected him with one Chief Ajose for whom he started working as a cab driver before he saved the money he dropped in making down payment for his hire-purchase cab.
Rules and regulations in driving clients
Recalling what happened that day, Monday, July 29, 2019, he said he had just returned from a trip from Ibese in Ikorodu, Lagos, at about 1:30 am where he had gone to drop the passenger, Dele Ayeni, when he found an envelope. He headed straight to the association’s office to report his find and to return it before leaving in his car to look for the man. But before he could return from the man’s place, he had come looking for the money and found it intact in the envelope he handed over to his office.
The man who used the opportunity to speak on the ethics of their taxi service work lamented clients’ attitude towards commercial cab operators like him. “One of the challenges we face as a car hire operator is that people don’t believe or trust us,” he regretted. “They believe that a lot of things can happen to them. That is why we were taught that as a cab driver you don’t pick up a call while you are with a client because if you do and something happens to him, they could assume that you, the driver, is in the know about it. That’s why too we don’t hail or greet anybody even if it is your wife or any other family member. One more thing, we don’t carry anybody on our way back to the park no matter how tempting his offer might be.”
Of all their laws and bye-laws, their dos and don’ts, obedience to this last one that has to do with not picking anyone on your way back to the office or airport seemed to have worked in his favour and saved him from what would have turned out to be big embarrassment and trouble on the day that Ayeni forgot his envelope, he insists.
He points out that if he didn’t obey, perhaps, he would have carried, at a cheaper price, someone who might not believe in the virtue of honesty and hard work as he does and who could have easily made away with the envelope containing the money without telling him. And, there was no way he would escaped trouble over a matter he knew nothing about when the owner came looking for the money. Nobody would have believed that he was not the one who took it.