By CHUKWUJAMA EZE
My dear friends, sometimes in life, little things matter as much, if not more, as big things. And if we don’t appreciate innocuous gestures that consider little, even big ones will pass us unnoticed. Today is not my wife’s birthday. No, her birthdays coincide with the anniversary of the end of the Nigeria Civil War on January 12 of every year. But she’s done a little thing that has impacted my life and given me good cause, as usual, to toast her in public. Don’t get jealous. Tell me, which husband of a credible and God-fearing wife will not celebrate her strong character even from a roof top? Sincerely, I admire her daily in the privacy of my heart and comfort of our home, but this time, am minded to share my feelings with my family and friends.
Where is the fire of this smoke? Please, I’ll return to my Hero anon. But let me first set the background. Nigeria is not only politically but economically and morally bankrupt. Which is why rogue governance, bribery, corruption, internet fraud and sundry crimes are today the new normal in our beleaguered fatherland. This appalling level of national decadence is easily blamed on poverty, unemployment and general economic hardship. But truth is, we live in denial and do not accept responsibility for our individual contributions to the national malaise. Crime and corruption are actually propelled by personal greed and shall forever remain reprehensible and therefore, punishable. Why is it that Nigerians who are not criminally minded do not succumb to crimes, no matter the circumstances and temptation? Under Nigeria’s present prevalence of fraud both off and online, there are still honest country men and women. And fortunately, they abound in their intimidating numbers across tribes, religion and geography.
Now, back to the story of my Hero. In my emotional reckoning, my wife has creditably discharged and acquitted herself not only as a worthy companion of high credibility, but an honest Nigerian worthy of emulation. Why? This mother of my three children received a credit alert of almost N14m from an unknown source and exhibited what will make me eternally proud of her integrity. What happened? At exactly 4.50pm on Monday August 3 2020, my own jewel of inestimable value was in her friend’s hair salon where a substantial percentage of my wealth stream regularly flows. Suddenly, her mobile phone beeped an alert. “At first,” she later recalled, “I didn’t check my phone as I dismissed it as one of those unsolicited messages with which network providers inundate hapless Nigerian subscribers.” (But), after some time, she casually scrolled through her phone and what she saw was eye-popping. Behold, it was an online transfer of, wait a minute, N13,946,400 from Sankiya Global Investment Ltd. What?? Sankiya who?? Nearly N14m?? For what purpose?? She couldn’t believe her eyes. “I’ll call my husband immediately,” she told herself.
And she promptly did. Of course, my wife was not surprised that her husband’s answer accorded with her already waiting thoughts. After all, birds of the same feathers flock together. “You don’t know Sankiya and you have no transaction with the company,” her husband reasoned with her over the phone. “So, we’ll return the strange money to your bank tomorrow.” Her reply? “We would have done so today if it were within banking hours.” A consensus ad idem (meeting of minds) between husband and wife was complete. And so it came to pass that in the morning of the following day, off we set out to the Zik Avenue, Enugu branch of Zenith Bank where my wife is an account holder and informed the Manager of our mission.
Of course, the bank staff were profusely thankful to their honest customer. At her own request, a biro and paper was provided with which she promptly wrote a letter, authorizing the bank to reverse the strange sum of N13,946,400 out of her account, to Sankiya Global Investment Ltd. In a jiffy, we were done with the bank and few hours later, my wife received a debit alert at 2.23pm the same day. Since then, phone calls and social media comments have been numerous and varied. Some to vilify and others to glorify her honesty. The comments range from jokes– “Mrs. Jesus Christ”. “Angel”. “Saint”…to outright mockery—“Pretender”. “Hypocrite”. “Pharisee”… to hard knocks—“Naïve”. “Foolish”. “Stupid”. “Yeye”…up to passionate kudos—“Godly woman”. “Role model”. “Credible character”, etc.
But my wife’s response to the diverse reactions from critics and well-wishers has been firm and unequivocal. “I didn’t return the money to impress the puritans or be crucified by enraged compatriots, but to satisfy my personal conscience and demonstrate that despite the hard times in Nigeria today, there are still a multitude of incorruptible and God-fearing country men and women out there, both at home and in the diaspora,” she said repeatedly.
For fellow Nigerians, therefore, who are disappointed by her conduct, my wife concedes to them their freedom of opinion and choice. Yesterday, one of my good friends (whom I shall hereinafter refer to as “Original Naija Bandit”) jokingly accused me of committing a mortal sin by allowing my wife to return almost N14m in a corrupt country like Nigeria. My forgiveness, according to Bandit, lies in my confession before any priest of my Catholic faith. Jokes apart.
“As for me and members of my family,” my wife insists, “our good name is more important than silver and gold.” According to Google, Sankiya Global Investment Ltd is a private limited liability company in Lagos Island. Folks, shouldn’t I celebrate my own Queen? I won’t stop extolling her virtues ooooo. My wife is my Hero. For life.
EZE, a journalist and lawyer, lives in Enugu, Nigeria