Perspective: The Socio-Political Dynamics Of The New Naira

by Ossie Ezeaku

National currency is the one thing that citizens of any nation hold dear to their hearts. The prowess is exemplified in its ability to foster national pride and unity. Apart from Its economic importance, It embodies the essence of nation-hood. It’s no surprise that the Germans, prior and sequel to the introduction of the Euro, have continued to dissent on the forfeiture of their much cherished “Deutsch Mark”.

Just as the nostalgia for the defunct Biafran currency still lingers in the minds of some Biafra enthusiasts, the replacement of national currencies in the European Union with the Euro, has also created a negative feeling of detachment on the citizens.

Albeit, most Nigerians have been feeling same regarding the graphic contents of our currency, subsequent governments have cared less about the issue. Honestly, the presence of Arabic on our currency do make some Nigerian citizens to sometimes refer to our own very currency as ‘” their own”, referring to the northern Islamic rulers and the caliphate.

Arabic, a language which was supposed to take its rightful place as a foreign and spiritual language, found Its way on top of our collective secular identity. The master–slave union which it impacted on the psyche of many citizens while it lasted can not be under estimated.

However, there is every cause to welcome the new Naira notes inscribed in Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba, and the subsequent proscription of the use of Arabic on the national currency.  In fact, It is one of the few right decisions ever taken in our country. It has unequivocally, reaffirmed the state of our Nigeria union and its tripodal foundation.

Good, It would be, If this noble decision  was extended to include other necessary inscriptions on the national flag!

While we grapple with the fact that the nation is multi lingual in nature, other ethnic groups should not see themselves as being left out in this decision. It is one of the best things that happened to all of us–Nigeria’s ethnic nationalities. For, It is better to project what is naturally yours i.e Nigerian, than to embrace a writing form that we knew little or nothing about.

In the true national sense, no one is a “minority”. We are all major stake holders in the Nigerian project. After all, the nation’s ruling party has asked the majority of Nigeria’s population to vote for Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, a minority Ijaw, for the office of the nation’s vice president. This is Inspite of the fact that his Bayelsa state, the only Ijaw state, represents 1.6m of Nigeria’s population. Of course,…It is certainly good for our democracy. It is about equity and fair play. 

But, certain naked facts have to be recognized on the choice of the three major languages on the new Naira:  Hausa language and its dialectical variations are widely spoken both as mother tongue and  lingua franca right across Northern Nigeria and beyond. The Igbo language group, apart from Its native speakers in the South-south and the South East, has national spread. It is the language of Nigeria’s local commerce, evidenced in every major market in Nigeria and the West Africa sub region. Yoruba, whose native speakers are found in the North Central and the South west zones is also spoken beyond Nigeria’s border. A language of commerce too.

While the decision of the Federal government and the management of the Central bank was in order, the impossibility of including the over 250 other languages can not be over-emphasized. To those protesting that their languages were not represented, they should rather see the big national picture, than stirring up unnecessary ethnic emotions. The sum total is that the Nigerian currency has at last, linguistically, been indigenized! It is a victory for the citizens of Nigeria.

When the goodies of the new Naira are counted, It would include but not limited to the fact that It brought regional and national unity across the board. And to a reasonable extent, would be credited for having off-set the lust for the defunct former Biafran currency, currently In circulation in parts of the country.

In the immediate future, there would be a conflict of loyalty amongst the few Igbo lovers of the defunct Biafran currency. Seeing two currencies, with one bearing the Biafran insignia, and written in English, and the other, bearing the Central bank of Nigeria written in IGBO, the tendency is that there would be a natural inclination to the latter.  On the other hand, the lack of sense of belonging being cried by the Igbo would have been one inch forward reviewed.

The demise of Arabic on our currency would naturally promote inter religious confidence across the land. It will reduce the level of suspicion between Christians and Muslims, which has characterized the religious landscape of Nigeria.

Needless to say that It would prompt mass quest for legibility in our respective indigenous languages, while promoting inter-ethnic lingual proficiency. In circulation, the new Naira would indirectly redirect the attention of non Yorubas and Hausas like myself, to how the numerals in these languages were pronounced. In essence learning Yoruba and Hausa languages simultaneously..

The Governor of the Central bank, Prof. Charles Soludo, the Odenigbo of Aguata, has pleaded that the intention of the new notes was not to spite on any group, but to present the notes to a clearer understanding of many Nigerians in their local languages. “Each of the three languages in the new notes has greater number of people in different parts of the country who understand it”, he stressed.

He was right. We must gear up for changes. For, in life, the only constant thing is change. Difficult changes, such as this type would be constantly needed in our economic and socio-political development. It is the only way we can succeed in our endevours and live as one and indivisible nation.

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