In letters to African journalists by the BBC, Mannir Dan Ali, a former editor of the Daily Trust, looks at the controversy over the Arabic alphabet on Nigerian currency notes and and the national emblem.
A lawyer has asked a court in Lagos State, Nigeria, to order the Central Bank of Nigeria to remove the Arabic alphabet, commonly known as Ajami script, on the country’s currency.
It also requires the removal of the Arabic inscription on the Nigerian Army logo bearing the inscription “Victory from God”.
But many people are not aware that the Arabic alphabet used in the writing of other languages is called “Ajami” script.
This was the first way to read and write on the continent, hundreds of years before the arrival of the European colonialists and the Christian missionaries who came with English writing.
Not only Hausa, languages such as Swahili in East Africa and Tamashek and Tuareg in North Africa and West Africa, and Nigerian languages such as Kanuri, Yoruba, Fulani and Nupe all use Ajami.
The great scholars and administrative staff of the Sokoto State, which invaded northern Nigeria in the 19th century, all used Ajami script to write a number of books.
|Photo of Nana Asma’u, one of the most famous women in the Islamic world who used Ajami to write many books in Hausa and Fulani in the 19th century|
Nana Asma’u, who told Shehu Usmanu Dan Fodio, was a prolific writer of poems – and probably the first woman to use Ajami script to write many Hausa and Fulani books.
More than 150 years after her death, Ajami script is in Hausa and not Arabic in Nigerian currency.
Severe secession and dissent have been one of Nigeria’s biggest problems since European Union annexed northern and southern Nigeria, and the Lagos region in 1914.
Still, some politicians in the country view the move as a “mistake made in 1914”.
The division was achieved by cultural and religious alliances and the understanding of people who came together as one nation.
Although the media portrays that “the majority of northern Nigeria is Muslim and the majority of southerners are Christians” which does not necessarily reflect the origins of Nigeria’s greatness, this poses only one problem.
The young woman explained how the controversy in the court in Lagos now originated.
The exchange began almost 10 years ago, when Nigeria was celebrating 50 years of independence, with a change of 50 naira. Four years later, 100 naira itself was revised.
This caused a great deal of controversy among the Muslims and Christians of the country after English script was used to write the amount of money in Hausa instead of Ajami.
An article in the New Yorker magazine summed up the issue by saying: “Some Christians support this move as an attempt to remove Nigeria from the path of Islam and the country, where the majority of the country’s Muslims consider it anti-Islamic.”
|N50 have English with the value of the currency written in Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo|
It is clear that those who oppose the use of the Arabic alphabet in Nigerian currency view Ajami script as Islamic and compare the origin of Ajami to Arabic as a result of Arabic being the language of Muslims, where they see the origin of why Ajami is used as spread Islam throughout Africa.
They fail to realize that they have started a Boko Haram ideology, with jihadists who have been fighting in northern Nigeria for almost 11 years criticizing anything related to Boko Haram education.
|It is written in different languages to ensure that all Nigerians can read the value of the country’s currency|
The Ajami script in every Nigerian currency is for millions of Hausas who can only read and write Ajami script, which is taught in schools across the northern part of the country.
Such people can go to court to appeal that they have been deprived of their rights if Ajami’s text is removed.
At the same time as the debate over Ajami script on the Nigerian currency continues, some on social media have been quick to point out that there is an Arabic script on the Israeli currency, and it was written as a result of the Arab minority living in the land.
|An Arabic inscription has been stamped on the Nigerian military logo to dispel rumors that the star is a Jewish symbol.|