The above may sound logical and instructive, but debating economic issues on the basis of sectional affiliation in a united country is not worth it, especially when it won’t add value to our means of livelihood and promote peaceful coexistence.
When the new Naira notes and coins were formally launched by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in February 2007, it received wide excitement. The beauty, durability, compatibility and strong security features make the currencies a pride of our nation. The reintroduction of coins for lower denominations is also a welcome development that would address the problem of divisibility in transactions and make for appropriate legal tenders for the kid’s pocket money and for professional beggars. Manufacturers too may be forced to produce products and goods to encourage the use of the coins unless they want to be economic saboteurs.
As commendable as the new local currencies are, there is controversy over the removal of Arabic inscription from the notes and replacement with descriptions of the value of each denomination in the major Nigerian languages that are mentioned in Section 55 of the 1999 Constitution i.e. Hausa, Ibo and Yoruba. Other tribes, as popular as some may be, are in the class of the minority and were excluded. Fulani, Ibibio, Ijaw, Nupe and others are in the class of the over 300 ethnic minorities in Nigeria.
The campaign for the removal of the Arabic inscription on the Naira notes which past administrations had ignored had been going on for a very long time. In fact a popular web portal nigeriaworld.com has a dedicated space on the debate on its site for a very long time which sustained campaign for its removal. Unfortunately many still believe that the inscription is Arabic language while others see it as Islamic symbol. Neither of the two is correct. The inscriptions, though in Arabic letters, were Ajami which is wording in Hausa language. It is the same way one employs English alphabets to write in Igbo, Yoruba and other languages. The Ajami is not Islamic just as there is no feature on our currencies that depict anything religious. We don’t have such message as “in God we Trust” of American dollar or “there is no gods but God” of Saudi Riyal. So why is the brouhaha over the removal of Ajami?
Surprisingly some of our very enlightened brothers like the respected Northern columnist, Mal. Haruna Mohammed passionately defended the retention of Ajami. Erudite Islamic scholar and Director of Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), Dr. Ishaq Akintola read religious persecution into the removal of the Ajami. In fact Dr. Akintola, a Yoruba from the Southern Nigeria, is quoted in a statement to have said that “Government has no right to remove Arabic from the nation’s currency.” He added that he was “surprised Obasanjo’s administration can contemplate such a dastardly crime against the Muslims of the country despite all our sacrifice in the interest of peace and unity.”
The emotion may be justified in the face of reckless accusations and allegations that Hausas and Muslims are foisting their interests on Nigeria. Professor Wole Soyinka, according to Haruna Mohammed is the leader of this group that seems to have shown disdain for anything North or Islam. He quoted some of the remarks of Nobel Literature laureate that: “among its (North) crimes were that the region had imposed Arabic and its coat-of-arms on the country’s currencies.”
I think the defenders of Hausa and by extension the North and Muslims and by extension Islamic religion should look at how to explore our economic potentials to our advantage. It is regrettable that today the North and Muslims are backward in almost every economic index. Check the list of capitalized banks, private institutions of learning and privatized public institutions and yet there are abundant unexplored economic resources that can be harnessed for our economic prosperity.
There are things we shouldn’t state in the public arena such as a piece like this but since one cannot reach each and every intended target, there is nothing wrong in baring it all: at least to make the point for redemption.
It is utterly unfathomable that, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) under Soludo attempted to write off the bad debts of the Bank of the North, one of the few oldest, just to make sure it retains its name and heritage. Internal wrangling and politicking of Northerners make the North to lose its identity as it now has other financial institutions, outside its catchment locale merging to make Unity Bank while some banks that were established a few years ago made the list and retained their names. The free monthly allocations that accrue to some of the Northern states from the Federation Account could have been deployed to the neglected agricultural sector and other profitable and potentially productive sectors to diversify their economies. It is pathetic to note that most of the factories in the North that were booming in the past are moribund due to harsh economic conditions that could have been addressed if their governments had intervened, especially in the provision of Independent Power Project.
If CBN must be castigated it should be on its directive to banks to shed governments’ share holding in excess of 10% as part of the monetary reform. This, I strongly believe, is a wrong agenda that would discourage governments from salvaging their institutions and creating employment for their people. Must we privatize everything to few private individuals whose only credentials are powerful connections and boardroom politics? There is a need for rethinking on directives that prevent government from wise investments.
Aside from economic empowerment, little interest is shown by wealthy individuals in assisting our people as is the case in the other parts. I was appalled to read the emotional rendition of Prince Bola Ajibola, former attorney general of the federation and a philanthropic Muslim, on an occasion he organized for supports towards his project, Crescent University, the first registered Islamic higher institution in Nigeria, which is situated in Ogun State. Instead of full attendance by highly affluent Muslims in the society, it was witnessed by ordinary Nigerians and even Christians who made generous donations to the project. If we don’t invest wisely in education like our counterparts, how could we have educated and enlightened youths that would receive and propagate the true message and be easily empowered economically and politically?
We can’t keep on alleging conspiracy theories when we have our people too in powerful positions in government. Or could they be holding sensitive public offices for their personal interests? We don’t need to wait for our turn to make changes for our people. After all, what did our immediate past leaders do to make us truly economically empowered for the future? Next time when we debate, let’s face the reality by discussing how our youths would have access to right education, gain full employment and ways and means of revitalizing our industries and exploring our abundant mineral resources instead of blaming others for the inadequacies of our leaders. I wonder if ordinary Nigerians would mind if they remove all the tribal marks on the Naira notes on the condition that the monetary value would be felt by all the households regardless of status. It may not be strange to read agitation by a group asking that their tribal mark on the Naira note should be on prominent position. I guess where could that be: left or right; up or down?
This article by Yushau A. shuaib was originally published in Daily Independent April 18, Leadership April 22, Thisday April 23 and The Punch April 30, 2007