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Paradigmatic Shift in Literary Ignorance: Ajami on Naira Reloaded-Adamu



Professor Abdallah Uba Adamu

Paradigmatic Shift in Literary Ignorance: Ajami on Naira Reloaded-Adamu

Abdallah Uba Adamu

As we enter into ‘will they, will they not’ mode of uncertainty typical of Nigerian public culture about the change of Nigerian higher currency denominations announced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on 25th October 2022, my mind went back to an article I wrote on 16th April 2007. This was in the wake of the removal of “Arabic inscriptions” on the Nigerian currency (the Naira) on 28th February 2007 in the new currency notes that removed the Ajami (Hausa written in Arabic script) writing that indicated the denomination of the respective currency note and replaced with the Latin alphabet. This is a ‘remix’ of that posting on the then popular platforms of Blogspot. Mine was called Nishadin Hululu (Hausa Popular Culture).

The full historical overview of how the Arabic “script” came to become part of essentially northern Nigerian Muslim Hausa educational package is given in Manuscript Learnability and Indigenous Knowledge for Development – Hausa Ajami in Historical Context. A version is available at https://bit.ly/3zoi7XN.

I rarely bother to visit Nigerian “Naija” websites on the web or any other group of politically motivated Nigerians. I know what I will find — the usual vituperative tirade against northern Nigerians, Muslims, Hausa, ad nauseum. Southern Nigerians have three fundamental articles in their crusade against northern Nigeria: Islamic fanaticism, conservative feudalism and their weird perception of “born to rule” syndrome apparently held by the ‘northerners’. No matter how many groups of Nigerians you interact with, these three form the main focus of the divide in Nigeria. They are the main reasons why Nigerian “unity” is virtually impossible.

Ejoor:The General Behind Nigerian Army Logo

I doubt if there is any other group of Africans who hang out their ethnic dirty laundry like Nigerians. I accept, for the most part such ranting is probably not personal; they are basically religious – the Christian versus Muslim divide, rather than any feeling of superiority of one ethnic group over the other. Any such feelings of superiority are part of a religious template that sees acquisition of education as the central criteria for judging the value of a whole people. Thus education, not religion, is the central fulcrum around which the Nigerian nation wobbles.

Southern Nigerian acquired education through Christian Missionary activities from about 1849. Such education became the mainstay of acquiring Westernized modernity. Inevitably Western education brought by Christian missionaries to Nigeria became equated with Western Christian values. For the most part, Christian southern Nigerians are happy with this because it makes them “civilized” — in the absence of any cherished antecedent cultural values. Thus, any other worldview is considered barbaric.

Northern Nigerians, specifically the Hausa and the Kanuri acquired education through conversion to Islam since 1250 and in Kanuri kingdom, even earlier. The constant eddy of scholars from north African learning centers throughout 14th to 17th centuries ensured a sustained scholastic tradition in Muslim northern Nigeria. Muslim northern Nigerians therefore had a longer exposure to the concept of formalized learning and literacy than southern Nigerians. A universal basic education was indeed introduced around 1464 in the city of Kano when new methods of indigenizing the Arabic script to Hausa phonology were created. This led to the creation of a novel way of writing out Hausa language in a script the young scholars will understand. It is this method of indigenizing Arabic script to Hausa language that became “ajami”. It became one of the main ways of educating young pupils in northern Nigeria. Do you remember all those “Almajirai” you see in northern Nigerian cities? Well, most are fluent in ajami writing. Currently, the most prominent modern Hausa political singer (though not the most talented or likeable), Dauda “Rarara” Adamu Kahutu, has an extensive catalogue of his songs all written Ajami which he reads as he records in the studio.

Ajami, therefore, is any literacy strategy in which any language is written in Arabic. Over 50 languages are currently written in the script. Let us look at the parallel sphere. If any African language is written in Latin characters, it can be called Ajami. Ajami is not Islamic; any more than Latin alphabets are Christian.

However, in a new era of reform, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) decided to remove the “Arabic” script from the Nigerian currency in new currency notes launched on 28th February 2007. The removal of ajami script on the Nigerian currency reflected the deep-rooted religious divide that is Nigeria, because the Arabic script was seen as religious – and Nigeria is considered a secular country. This equates Arabic with Islam – ignoring the huge number of Arab Christians that exist throughout the Middle East.

The logic of the removal of the what the Nigerian economic establishment call “Arabic inscription” on the Nigerian currency given by the Nigerian Government was premised on using a Latin inscription that is available to all Nigerians (even if in mutually exclusive languages), rather than an exclusive script tied down to a particular religious culture. According to the then Governor of CBN, Professor Chukwuma Soludo during a sensitization visit to the Sultan of Sokoto,

“I will also like to inform you that the removal of the Arabic inscription on the notes is not targeted at any group or religion but rather to promote our language and cultural heritage…As you can see, Naira is the symbol of our nationalism and our pride. It is pertinent to let you understand that Arabic is not one of our national languages and it was inscribed on the notes forty years ago because the majority of people then, can read it in the northern part of the country to the detriment of their counterparts in the South (ThisDay, 16th February 2007, posted to the web 19th February 2007 at https://bit.ly/3TQ4FEw.

Similarly, the CBN issued a rebuttal to the controversies by stating that the “de-ajamization” was to “conform (to) Section 55 of the 1999 Constitution, which recognises four languages, English, Hausa, Ibo and Yoruba as medium of conducting government businesses.” After all, as they claimed, after forty years of Western education, most people in Nigeria should be able to recognize the Roman inscriptions. This, we believe, can strengthen our unity by ensuring equity and fairness. Indeed, the replacement was done in national interest and the desire to comply with the Constitution of the country.”

But how can national unity be attained when still a large proportion of the country is marginalized? To prevent this marginalization, the British colonial administration introduced the Ajami letters on the first Nigerian modernized currencies, well aware of the large gap in education – and therefore ability to read and understand Latin characters on the country’s currency notes. An example was the £1 note.

“Fam daya” was prominently written to enable those literate in Ajami, but not Latin alphabet to identify the currency.

It is interesting that a main argument was that the presence of ajami on Nigerian currency was seen to the “detrimental” to southern Nigerians (who presumably do not understand it) – yet the inclusion of Latin alphabet is not seen as detrimental to non-Roman literate northern Nigerians (especially non-Muslim Hausa, who presumably do not understand it). In this warped logic, it is therefore easier to alienate Muslim Hausa northern Nigerians than southern Nigerians, especially since a Christian was the President of the country (and a Christian Governor of the Central Bank facilitated the alienation). Of course, when a Muslim becomes the President, the arguments might be revisited – and reversed; which another subsequent Christian president will also revisit, and so on endlessly. Farooq Kperogi actually imagined a nightmare scenario that might come out of this in 2022 at https://bit.ly/3TOt2T1.

The inclusion of the script on the Nigerian currency by the British colonial administration was an acknowledgement of the rich literary heritage of a vast number of people in Nigeria who could not read the Latin script– and not a strategy to impose Islam on anyone in Nigeria. Certainly, the British colonial administration had no reason to propagate Islam. Yet on the currencies circulated by the same administration the “Arabic inscription” was conspicuously present. This was maintained subsequently until 2007, when the despised Arabic inscription was removed and replaced with the much-loved Latin ‘inscription’. An example with ₦50 illustrates this.

The ₦50 with the ‘Arabic inscription’ of Ajami merely indicating that it is fifty naira in Hausa. In the redesigned ₦50, the Roman name for the Hausa was ‘naira hamsin’ instead of the Ajamized ‘hamsin’ in the old note. Yet, ‘hamsin’ means fifty in Arabic! So, like it or not, Arabic still remains on the naira. To get rid of it, you have to get rid of the Hausa language entirely, since about almost 45% of Hausa words are based on Arabic language.

Further, other multicultural countries do pay such homage to multiple literacies in their currency notes. The Indian currency, for instance, has 15 language scripts, including Urdu (ajami) – despite Arabic not being part of its national languages.

And while not explicitly stated, the links made by the Nigerian economic establishment with Arabic to Islam seems to be part of a move to “de-Islamize” Nigeria – scoring a cheap point particularly in the way most northern Nigerian States re-introduced Islamic Shari’a in their governance from 1999 led by Zamfara State, and the earlier issue of Nigeria’s membership of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) in January 1986, which the Nigerian Christian (as well as Marxist Muslim) groups were against.

We look forward to the new currency notes in December 2022.

Professor Abdallah Uba Adamu is a dual Professor of Education Science and Cultural Communication


Emotional Farewell: Staff Bid Adieu to Departing Executive at FCTA




By Bala Ibrahim.

In Arabic, the name Najeeb means the Distinguished, the Noble or the Outstanding. The Arabic dictionary says if you’re seeking a name with inherent star power, Najeeb will make for a lovely fit. It is the masculine respelling of the Arabic favorite, Najib, which stands for the Distinguished.

Yesterday, Friday, 29/09/2023, I had reason to write on one of the 21 Chief Executives at the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCDA, that was relieved of his duty by Minister Nyesom Wike. As of the time of writing the article, I hadn’t any inkling about his name or the company he headed. Within minutes of the release of my article, responses came in torrents, giving the name, the agency he headed, his state of origin and an addendum, spelling out his personal qualities which people admire. These include honesty, generosity, courage and selflessness. His name was given as Najeeb, Najeeb Abdulsalam, whose sojourn as the Managing Director of the Abuja Urban Mass Transit Company, AUMTC, was cut short by the Minister of the FCT, barely three months on the saddle. I was made to understand that Najeeb came from Danbatta, in my native Kano state. In short, Najeeb Abdulsalam was described by many as a man of noble character. The encomiums were so encouraging that they gave me the justification for this follow up article.

For starters, I must make it very clear that the mission of the article is not in any way meant to support Najeeb for reasons of nepotism, not at all. I wrote without even knowing his name or where he came from. I was only touched by the show of uncommon support, solidarity and the sincere sentiments from those he led, alongside the testimonials of those that know him.

His staffers’ account gave the picture of an Officer and a Gentleman, with commitment to discharging correctly, the work he was assigned. Some of the staff that served under him were even volunteering to go with him, should the Government refuse to reverse the termination of his appointment. It is not surprising, because the name Najeeb is meant to go with a certain degree of nobility. Indeed I know some Najeebs, and truly all of them are noble and outstanding. One of the testimonies I received about Najeeb Abdulsalam is thus:

“I can proudly say that I was part of the overwhelming success he recorded during his 3 months+ long tenure at the agency. A friend and a business associate of mine financed the supply of spare parts and supervised the repairs of 37 number buses of the agency. The repairs are almost concluded with about 5 more buses to go out of the Lot. I managed the whole transaction on behalf of my friend. If merit was a yardstick for appointment into public office, Najib would have received a merit award instead of having himself unceremoniously sacked from office by the HMoFCT Bar. Nyesom Wike”.

Another one says: “Individuals like this should be fished out by the leadership of Government and celebrated to serve as an encouragement for others to perform well, Najeeb is highly disciplined and upright individual that I know, being a former Local Government Chairman twice”.

If the society sees traits like integrity, honesty, courage, loyalty and fortitude as the virtues of good behavior or character, then people like Najeeb Abdulsalam should be among the cardinals of the system. Three out of the 8 point agenda of President Tinubu are, Job creation, Adherence to the rule of law and the Fight against corruption. With people like Najeeb Abdulsalam at work, I see Asiwaju’s ambition as a fait accompli.

The Abuja Urban Mass Transport Company Limited (AUMTCO), where Najeeb Abdulsalam was heading up till last week, was established by the then Ministry of Federal Capital Territory, which had a change of name to the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) in 1984, as Abuja Bus Service (ABS). It later mutated to Abuja Urban Mass Transport Company Limited, AUMTC. The ambition is to implement an environmentally friendly and sustainable Urban public transport system in the FCT, for effective, comfortable, safe, regular, efficient and affordable transport service delivery. The company has had a sizable turnover of chief executives, who served for years at various times, but according to insiders, non came near Najeeb Abdulsalam in performance. And he was only there for three months.

On his first day in office as the Minister of the FCT, Bars. Nyesom Wike promised to restore the national capital’s master plan by cleaning up the metropolis, instilling orderliness and ensuring infrastructural reforms, which were destroyed by decades of corruption, incompetence, carelessness and impunity. If the Minister is serious about matching words with action, people like Najeeb Abdulsalam should not be removed from the saddle.

Najeeb’s antecedents have given Kano state additional magnificence, especially when put alongside the recent story of Auwalu Salisu, the 22-year-old commercial tricycle operator in Kano, who returned the sum of N15 million, forgotten by a Chadian commuter in his tricycle.

The Minister of State in the FCT, Mariya Mahmoud Bunkure is an indigene of Kano. She must rise up to the challenge, by waking up to smell the coffee. The country needs people with integrity to manage it. And in Najeeb Abdulsalam, I see a glimpse of such noble-mindedness.

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Kano State Education In 100 Days-Muazzam



Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf

Let me begin by refreshing our memory with the popular saying of the African Independence Revolutionary Nelson Mandela who said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” This is a clear testimony that any nation which wants to progress and have an independent life must make education its priority in governance.

This important reason is what led Engr. Rabiu Musa Kwankaso’s Administration in the years 1999-2003 and 2011-2015 to introduce a primary school pupil feeding program, providing them with free uniforms, canceling school fees, introducing the payment of SSCE fees to Secondary School Students, establishing State Universities, and offering overseas scholarships to outstanding indigent students to study in different disciplines. Today, many of these students have recorded tremendous achievements and are contributing their best to the state, Nigeria, and overseas.

His Excellency Engr. Abba Kabir Yusuf promised during his campaigns that he would continue from where his Leader Engr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso left off. Education was made a priority in his blueprint, being the first, second, and third agenda items. This was stated by H.E Engr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso several times and was reiterated in the RMK 2023 Blueprint, page 3: “Education is a public good, we shall ensure, through the correct reforms and investment, that all our schools provide the appropriate quality education to our citizens…”

The first assignment of Engr. Abba Kabir on education was in primary education. He conducted a special investigation on AGILE, a program that supports girls’ child education. He selected 19 LGAs for the program and disbursed the sum of N917 million to benefit 45,850 female students. Unfortunately, this World Bank-supported project didn’t receive the required attention and results until now. One may inquire from 23/6/2023, when the program was launched until today, about how many female children are enrolled in school, especially in rural communitiesThe results would be certainly amazing.

Secondary school students in Kano State are in joyful moments after the Executive Governor of Kano State paid their NECO fees. The previous APC administration had abandoned the examination fees of 55,000 students, but they turned a deaf ear towards the end of their administration. To save the students from this quagmire, the Kano State Government ordered the release of N1 billion to ensure they were eligible for the examination. It might interest you to know that 11 boarding schools were abandoned in the past administration, and N79,284,538 million was released for their renovation and reopening during the 5th State Executive Council.

On 23/8/2023, the Executive Governor of Kano State, Engr. Abba Kabir Yusuf, approved the payment of N700 million to 7000 Kano indigent students at Bayero University, Kano. He also approved the renovation of pedestrian bridges at Bayero University, Kano, Sa’adatu Rimi University, Kano, and Aminu Kano College of Islamic and Legal Studies, Kano, which were abandoned since 2015. We have another great effort where 131 Kano indigent students have been approved to travel overseas for a Master’s Scholarship Program sponsored by the Kano State Government.

This is a clear indication that the Education Sector has been made a priority in the first 100 days under the Leadership of the NNPP in Kano State. During the past APC administration, releasing funds for the Education Sector to cater to its immediate needs was not easy. They were more inclined to demolish school structures to transform them into shops, plazas, event centers, or recreational facilities. This behavior drove donor agencies and organizations to neighboring states like Katsina and Jigawa State to fulfill their charitable gestures.

We have reason to thank the Almighty Allah for these wonderful and generous gestures. We believe and hope that the first year of H.E Abba Kabir Yusuf’s administration will bring back the lost glories in the education sector in Kano State, Northern Nigeria, and the country at large, In Shaa Allah (God willing).

Ibrahim Mu’azzam Senator SSA Public Affairs to the Kano State Governor

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In my piece of August 23rd, 2023 titled “Blackmail Against Judiciary and Threat to Kano’s Security”, I brought to the fore the position of Kano State Governor, Abba Kabir Yusuf, owing to comments on Radio made by his Broadcast Media Aide, Abdullahi tanko Galadanchi. From those comments, the Governor counted on nothing to achieve victory, other than bribing the Honourable Judges of the Tribunal. This position was further affirmed by a leaked audio attributed to a Political Mobilization Aide for Kano South, who advised the Secretary to the State Government to ensure that all funds are channelled to procuring favourable judgement, even if to the detriment of the state, he emphasised. The Secretary to the State Government also, in his speech to mark 100 days of the government in office, attributed the administration’s failure to fulfil some of its promises to paucity of funds caused by enormous expenditure related to the proceedings of the Election Petition. Summarily, the administration has in its dwarfed wisdom, stylishly legitimised efforts to procure judgement through emotional blackmail, all of these came on the back of threats to lives of Tribunal Judges, and threats of making Kano a field of cultivation of lifeless bodies through anarchy and banditry.The administration of Abba Kabir Yusuf is indeed always clever by half; I predicted the ouster of some appointees that outwardly made heated, inciting or compromising statements, however in its narrow foresight, the government sacked only two out of numerous appointees that danced to an obviously authorised drum and song. We saw the Secretary to the State Government on video, accompanied by some Commissioners, threatening fire and brimstone, saying unambiguously in Hausa that “duk wanda ya taba mana zabe a Kano, sai dai uwarsa ta haifi wani”. This is the worst form of debasement that government has ever been brought to in the history of Kano State. The most senior appointed official of government threatening lives of Honourable Judges is indeed worrisome to every sane mind. Of course, tens of appointees followed suit thereafter, expressing intentions to wreck unprecedented havoc in the event of an unfavourable judgement, one after the other, we listened as they clawed at imaginary straws and have continued to sank even lower into abyss. In the case of self-acclaimed rufflers of feathers, Kperoogi and Naja’atu, it is funny that they missed the threats to lives of Honourable Judges and did not pay attention to government officials threats to make Kano worse than a banditry-torn Zamfara and Katsina; rather they only found their sense and logic in seeking a court to defend the indefensible and become father Christmas by granting Abba and NNPP that which they did not ask of the Court. Their illogical logic did not cause them to realise that APC in its petition raised numerous issues around non-compliance, and the NNPP even after its poor defence (due mainly to its complicity in the matter), failed to file any counter against the APC to cause us to have to defend the lawfulness of our votes. Yet, Kperoogi and Naja’atu believe that the court should have fed Abba & NNPP in their mouths, since Kwankwaso has made that a birth-right of theirs. In her comments, Naja’atu also exclaimed that if elections were to hold in Kano today, Abba would win by a landslide; this same woman not too long ago said the same of Atiku Abubakar, and we all recall how badly he was trounced in her home state of Kano.One would imagine that Kwankwaso, Abba & NNPP would have learnt a lesson or two from the irreparable damage the recent loss in court has caused them. Unfortunately, Abba through his mouthpiece, Bature, has come out to claim that the Honourable Judges might have been made to give judgement under duress. This speaks volumes of the failure of the Abba administration to see what is placed right before them, right in front of their noses. The Honourable Judges in their submissions have outrightly made clear the reasons why they chose to pronounce judgement via zoom, and it is the fault of none but those who demonstrated an uncultured, recalcitrant and violent tendency by threatening lives of judges and peace of the entire state, in the event of a loss. Let me do Abba and Bature a favour of asking them to read page 226 of the judgement, and frankly undertake an introspection exercise before engaging the public on such a matter again. Since I know you both may still be in slow recovery from the reality check dished by the Tribunal, I will assist you with some of the painfully piercing lines; “I use this opportunity to condemn the gang of Red Cap wearers… I am in no doubt that the security Agencies know and are aware of those who removed their eyes from their case and put it on the Judiciary. They are also aware of those who extended the threat further by declaring that THEY WILL KILL THE JUDGES. THIS THREAT MUST NOT BE SWEPT UNDE

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