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Fani-Kayode’s claims on Nigerian currency in the pre-colonial era false

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Claim: Former Nigerian Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, claims there was an Arabic inscription on the Nigerian currency in the pre-colonial era.

There was no Nigerian currency in the pre-colonial era, as the entity “Nigeria” came into existence following British colonial rule and amalgamation of Northern and Southern protectorates in 1914. Also, the inscription on the currency in question is Ajami Hausa and not Arabic.

Full Text

Nigeria’s diversity, with its multiple ethnicities, religions, and languages, constitutes the country’s rich culture. Sometimes, these different groups are at loggerheads. 

Over the years, the Nigerian state has been embroiled in rivalries and inter–ethnic struggles for political influence and dominance, most of which are spurred by disinformation and misinformation from notable and influential personalities, including celebrities, religious leaders, and politicians.

On Saturday May 29, 2021, Femi Fani-Kayode, a former Nigerian Minister of Aviation, wrote via his official Twitter handle (@realFFK): “It is interesting to note that there was an Arabic inscription on Nigerian currency even in the pre-colonial era. How do you explain this and what does it tell you???”

Screenshot of the post

He attached to the post, a photo of a One Nigerian Pound currency note, once used by the country.

Exposed to his over 1 million followers, the post had generated numerous engagements – 294 comments, 457 retweets and 957 likes, within six hours.

The post, believed and supported by many of his followers, formed the basis of their comments.

For instance, Mahmud Zakariya (@MahmudZakariya4) wrote: “It shows that northern Nigeria Flag of Nigeria is a force to be reckoned with in the country’s politics. No region is as important as the north.”

Another user, @Favbreed1 commented: “That Nigeria’s colonial masters (Britain) allowed it in a secular nation, is what has emboldened the Fulani…to think Nigeria and its people belong to them and it’s ok to displace them and take over their ancestral lands.”

Prince Stephen Blossom (@GraciousTongue) wrote: “It tells me that the acclaimed polished & educated Southern leaders were never smart at all. It tells me the reason minor tribes like the Fulani were able to systematically grab Nigeria to themselves. They set an agenda very early, & they planned towards achieving it. That’s it!”

Supporting the post, @topsy_adeusi also commented: The crisis you see today was 85% created by the British. The North was poor the south had wealth. The British through the sultan in Sokoto decided to enslave the remaining parts of the regions. So, it is not surprising to see those inscriptions. (Saynotobritain).”

Mr. Fani Kayode has a large social media influence – over 1 million followers on Twitter

Mr. Fani-Kayode, popularly known as FFK, is known to have in recent times, made bogus statements, capitalizing on his large social media followership to spur the spread of disinformation and misinformation. Examples can be found here and here.

Verification

To verify the claims by Mr. Fani-Kayode, Dubawa delved  into Nigeria’s history. Findings reveal that, contrary to the former minister’s claim, there was no Nigerian currency in the pre-colonial era. The Nigerian pre-colonial era refers to the period before the advent of colonial rule in 1914, when the Northern and Southern protectorates were united into a single British colony for administrative purposes. The amalgamation marked the creation of Nigeria.

Tracing the history of currency in Nigeria, the Central Bank of Nigeria notes that “during the pre-colonial era, different cultures used a variety of items as means of exchange. These included cowries, manilas, beads, bottles and salt amongst others.”

This finding reveals that cowries, manilas, beads and other traditional currencies competently served the functions of money in the pre-colonial era, thus, discrediting Mr. Fani-Kayode’s claim which suggests the existence of a Nigerian currency in the pre-colonial era.

“It is interesting to note that there was an Arabic inscription on Nigerian currency even in the pre-colonial era. How do you explain this and what does it tell you???”

Mr. Fani-Kayode attached to his post, the photo of a One Pound note, which he claimed to be a Nigerian currency used in the pre-colonial era.

Dubawa assessed the currency and observed that it is dated 15th September 1958, which is clearly during the colonial era. As such, there is no possibility that it was in use in the pre-colonial era, as claimed by Mr. Fani-Kayode.

The currency note shared is dated 15th September 1958 – during British colonial rule and two years before Nigeria’s independence

Contrary to the claim by the former Minister of Aviation, the inscription on the currency is Hausa Ajami and NOT Arabic, veteran journalist Mannir Dan-Ali revealed in a BBC article. “It is Ajami Hausa, not Arabic, that is on the naira notes,” he wrote.

“The Ajami writing on each naira note is for the benefit of the tens of millions of Hausa speakers, who can only read and write in that script, which is taught in schools across the North.”

Mr. Dan-Ali, a former editor-in-chief of the Daily Trust newspaper, explained that Ajami was the first means of literacy on the African continent, centuries before the arrival of Western colonizers and Christian missionaries with the Roman alphabet. 

Ajami is used across Africa, including for Swahili in East Africa, Nigerian languages like Kanuri, Nupe, Yoruba, Fulfulde and Hausa, and Tamashek, the language of the Tuaregs in North and West Africa.

Musa Muhammad, an archivist notes that the inscription on the naira is a transliteration of Hausa into Arabic. “The letters on the currency are as secular in origin as the Roman alphabet used in modern Bibles. Any non-Arab language written in Arabic script we call Ajami,” he says.

A professor of communications at the University of Maiduguri, Abubakar Mu’azu, said the sign on the naira represents the value of the denominations of the naira in Hausa.

“The Arabic letters used to write in Hausa are called Ajami. An Arab may read it but may not get the meaning unless he/she understands Hausa,” he told Dubawa.

The Ajami inscription on the currency note shared by Mr. Fani-Kayode says “Pam Daya” in Hausa, which means “One Pound”.

Conclusion

Claims by a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, that there was an Arabic inscription on Nigerian currency even in the pre-colonial era, is FALSE. During the pre-colonial era, there was no Nigerian currency. At the time, different cultures used a variety of items such as cowries, manilas, beads, bottles and salt, as means of exchange.

Moreso, Nigeria did not exist during the pre-colonial era. The country came into being as a result of colonial rule. In 1914, the British colonial government created Nigeria, with the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates.

Findings have also shown that the inscription on the currency note is in Ajami Hausa and not Arabic, as Mr. Fani-Kayode has claimed.

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