OPINION: CALL TO REMOVE ARABIC SCRIPT: BETWEEN RELIGIOUS BIGOTRY AND COMMONSENSE

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Taofeek Ajibade

In the last few days, the attention of the Nigerian public has been drawn to the “Arabic” inscriptions on our Currency notes and the Nigerian Army insignia – and which the promoters mischievously interpreted as a subtle “Islamisation” of the country.

One could be misled to think that the antagonists sincerely want a purely secular country, but, unfortunately, they are all silent on other inscriptions, epithets, and signs which are unarguably taken from Christian orientation!

There is no arguing the fact that the religion of the colonialists is Christianity and, expectedly, they brought with them their language – English. They not only forced us to speak this language, but they also bequeathed the same to us by the time they were leaving the country. Why have we not moved a motion to discard a language that is originally associated with our colonizers who were all Christians, especially given the fact that not less than 50% of this population is Muslim? Today, we all speak English and even compete for the best grammatical proficiency without ever thinking it is not one of our extant native languages.

Similar to this is the Cross sign in our hospitals. Why have we not yanked off the Cross sign which symbolizes healthcare because we are not all Christians, while the cross signifies Christianity? Why do we think this argument is not sustainable? The sign in itself has nothing to do with our healthcare – any other sign would be just as fine. But we all feel it is no sound idea to consider replacing it for its religious significance.

By the way, many do not know that the purported Arabic writing on our currency note is simply a combination of the Arabic transliteration of the English word “Naira” and the Hausa word for “thousand”? Odds are that an Arab not familiar with the name of our currency would not understand its meaning, though he would read it quite well. It is like using Igbo orthography to transliterate “Naira” combined with the Yoruba word for “thousand” in the same Igbo orthography. It’s simply no more than this. Why any fair-minded person would think it is sacrilegious to allow for this beats my imagination, especially considering that English itself was brought by an exclusive class of Christians.

The only truly Arabic word there is in our system is that written on the Nigerian Army logo. Coincidentally, this logo is complemented with the Stars of David. Though the designer had a different but commendable concept for using both the Arabic word and the Star of David which is historically devoid of religious bigotry or equalization, we have today murdered his good and patriotic intention on the altar of religious chauvinism and hypocrisy.

May I add that while the Arabic language does not even represent Islam – Arabic had existed long before Islam and is not exclusively for Muslims – the Stars of David is exclusively associated with Christiandom.

Dear compatriots, it is important we rid ourselves of religious bigotry and join hands to fight bad governance which is the bane of our progress. We have got much more important concerns at hand than these pedestrian squabbles.

Nation-building is a lifetime project. Tyranny has neither religion nor ethnicity. The consequences of corruption do not discriminate between the rich and the poor, as well as between the religious and atheists. Is anyone other than the ruling class buying fuel for free? Is anyone paying less for electricity?

Just recently, the Governor of Kogi State spoke of hiring a consultant to tax every loaf of bread sold in the state! Prices are daily going up while the wage rate remains stagnant. We all share the pains and suffer the same consequences. Even those who think themselves untouchable today will tomorrow join the growing list of oppressed masses and be subjected to similar torments, even if it is in small measure. Who is not aware that many years after leaving office as Head of State of this country, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari – the current President – while still contesting as a civilian, was not allowed to hold a rally, had his convoy shot, and was also teargassed? He also had to take to the streets to protest the same fuel price hike he has today taken to a whole new level. That is how far a dysfunctional system can affect anyone indiscriminately.

That is why we all have a primary responsibility to work together for good governance and a society free from impunity, nepotism, and mediocrity which have all now become the order of the day. If we have a system that is working, no one would have to worry about religion. Religion is not our problem; religious adherents are. Those who loot this country have neither religion nor ethnicity as the basis. They will always unite to keep the masses preoccupied with, and divided on, frivolities so that they may continue and get away with their corruption and impunity.

God bless Nigeria 🇳🇬