How to not build a Nation



Nigeria has all the potentials to be a great nation. It has the resources, the technical know how, the ready population to market its products and all that is necessary to build a prosperous nation.

For many a nation it is a big dream to be like Nigeria. Certainly, not for where it is.

But for what it has and what it can be if properly utilised. However, which development am I talking about? When so many Nigerians crave only superfluous domination, if it is not obtainable, then even seeming domination of one’s tribe, religion, or region would do, all of which lead to harbingers of doom and confusion having a field day.

While the masses in turn live with the mere fact of having a member of their faith in office, this they unfortunately relish, when they live in ruins.

Discourses in Nigeria today are hardly treated of their merits. There are addressed based on biased viewpoints which are never helpful. Even those that are contended with fairly are seldomly seen to be so. This inherent hassle is buttressed by the Nigerian vested interests.

This is why with the glut of challenges facing Nigeria the inconsequential issues seemed to have taken the centre stage. Unnecessarily, endless politically motivated fracas, Social media censorship, the Arabic inscription on naira, and things like that.

Some could argue that they are important. Even at that, it is vivid which issues a nation in a war against itself like Nigeria should address first.

Scholars, columnists, experts, and all opinion leaders have in one way or the other at one time in our history expounded the dire need of leadership in Nigeria. I cannot assert that it is sufficient.

But what I know is that we are extremely in need of good followership which has not been given top billing or arguably given its fair share of verbiage by all those who write for the progress of Nigeria.

Yes, it is crystal clear we are in a nation in serious need of leadership at all levels. But what have we done as citizens to confront our disturbing reality? How different are we to any leadership, if we aid and abet the squabbles in the country? How can most of us acclaim to be better than the leaders when we elect them, support and protect their interests?

We may deny the undeniable and defend the indefensible. But the question is can we stop the consequences of our deliberate malefactions? Ponder on this!

The Arabic inscription on naira predated naira. It has been there even before our independence.

Right from when we were using pounds as our legal tender and the British held sway in the biggest British colony that has become what it is now the sovereign state, Nigeria. Nevertheless, all that was not taken into account.

Why did our erstwhile colonial masters use Arabic, on our national currency? They are abundant literatures available to all who wish to avail themselves of the views formed because of ignorant verbiage, divisive, self-serving, and ascerbic commentaries by those who should have known better, in this issue since a Lagos-based lawyer, Chief Malcolm Omirhobo, who filed the suit before Justice Mohammed Liman, argued that having Arabic inscriptions on the naira notes portrays Nigeria as an Islamic state, contrary to the country’s constitutional status of a secular state.

Despite that I will restate it. The people of Nigeria from the northern region who could easily be classified as ‘illiterates’ whether ignorantly or mischievously were well lettered in Ajami script that is the Arabic you see on the naira as a threat to the secular nomenclature of the Nigerian state.

In case you don’t know what Ajami script is, or you need to refresh your brains here is what Wikipedia has for you: ‘The term Ajami (Arabic: عجمي‎, ʿajamī) or Ajamiyya (Arabic: عجمية‎, ʿajamiyyah), which comes from the Arabic root for foreign or stranger, has been applied to Arabic alphabets used for writing African languages, especially those of Hausa and Swahili, although many other African languages were written using the script, among them Yoruba, the Fulani/Pulaar of Fulfulde.

‘It is considered an Arabic-derived African writing system. Since African languages involve phonetic sounds and systems different from the Arabic language, there have often been adaptations of the Arabic script to transcribe them, a process similar to what has been done with the Arabic script in non-Arab countries of the Middle East and South Asia and with the Latin script in Africa or with the Latin-based Vietnamese alphabet.’

If I were not a Nigerian, or did not fathom how Nigeria works I would have waved aside this issue and have a fair share of my dose of laughter. Although, that will be an awful thing to do in a country that revel in a perpetual fight against itself. With the adherents of both faiths being at the centre of practically all issues, understanding this aids in knowing where we are coming from.

And it will definitely help us in making any headway. This is Nigeria.

In a nutshell, the Hausa written with Arabic alphabets for the benefits of those whose only means of reading and writing is through this in order to facilitate trade cannot be said to be an attempt to dominate any religion, region, or country.

For God’s sake by whom? The colonial masters who first thought it wise for effortless trade, the government who have continued through successive administrations?

Yes, there was the Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration which removed the Ajami script on some lower denominations in February, 2007 barely three months to the expiration of his tenure.

Also, President Jonathan’s administration did same on the one hundred naira note to mark Nigeria’s centenary celebration. This proved to be as controversial as this. It sparked strong reaction from both faiths then. Thus, this is a continuation of those two in one way or the other.

The Islamisation is it by Nigerians and countless others, especially from West Africa, Central Africa and others who understand Hausa, and can only read it with Ajami script? I guess you don’t know they are still so many like that despite a leap in the number of people attending western-style schools. Perhaps you should travel around Nigeria, especially the Northern part to learn about this.

Don’t you think they deserve to be considered too? Aren’t they Nigerians? Those that are not but trade with us from the places I pointed out, are we not longer interested in trading with them in an easy manner? We must not forget that our economy is mainly informal.

So, traders still stashed naira or get to transact physically using cash despite the advancement in banking services and the cashless policy of Nigeria.

It is preposterous that someone’s thinks in 21st century Arabic or any language at all written on its nation’s currency could Islamise the country. How on earth is that possible? I guessed some nations like Israel that has Arabic on its currency should have been Islamised since.

To know that there is a case in a court of competent jurisdiction filed by a lawyer is laughable. But it speaks volumes of how divided this nation is.

I have seen some people saying it is the poor performance of government of the day that brought it to limelight. Yes, this is not the best of time to be a Nigerian. Government at all levels need to work harder for the overall benefit of the country.

Things are in disarray. The leaders and the led should work shoulder to shoulder for us to get out of the woods.

The fact still remains that whoever is in government there are many Nigerians who have decided by default to be in utter insecurity about anything any of the two major religions in Nigeria does, affiliates to, strikes a chord with, or even seemingly does.

This has been the bane of our underdevelopment. This is a typical example of how not to build a nation.

I had witness firsthand how some parents bitterly complained, literally fought, threatened the removal of their children, and wards from the Secondary School I attended, when Arabic was introduced in the school and students enrolled.

The parents and guardians responded alleging same ungrounded in fact Islamisation campaign. They should take cognizance of the milions of Christians in the Middle East and other places in the world that do not only have Arabic as their official language but also conduct Church service with Scriptures written in Arabic. And uses Arabic for almost all their activities.

However, I comprehended the parents’ stance filled with unnecessary fears. Fortunately, or otherwise depending on your viewpoints the school management responded by discontinuing it for those not interested.

At least the fears of those parents and guardians made some sense. After all he who pays the piper calls the tune. With their glaring lack of knowledge about Islam as a religion and Arabic as a language, their stance was more understandable.

Although, on this issue I think whether someone cries foul or not. It should sink in that no one can Islamise, Christianise, or even Traditionalise etc, any part of the world except God who created all creatures.

If he had wished to create us in same religion, tribe, and creed He would have done so.

In this 21st century, we should think on working on things that help us all. We should all devoutly follow our faiths and stop trying to instigate the adherents of any faith against the other.

It is in our best interest that Nigeria works in our lifetime. In spite of everything, I know of patriotic and wonderful Nigerians from all the states of Nigeria who are willing to risk it all for the sake of unity, progress, and strive to greatness of Nigeria against all odds.

We will overcome, if you join your hands with people like that to actualise the Nigeria we will all want to see our unborn children and children’s children prosper, within the ambit of the law. Be part of the solution and not the problem. It is a great choice to make.

Abdulrazak Iliyasu Sansani can be contacted on Facebook

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