Why You Should Care About The Arabic Symbols On The Nigerian Army Logo And The Naira

...And Other Symbols

The letters on the Nigerian Army logo is Ajami, a writing script among the Hausa people in various parts of Africa. It was derived from the Arabic Alphabets and its use in Northern Nigeria dates back to the fifteen century with the advent of Islamic scholars and schools in the region. It is similar to our English Language with borrowed Latin alphabets. Calling it Arabic is the same thing as calling written English Latin. It can also be found in our Naira notes for easy identification by Nigeria’s northern population who are not English Language literate. Nigeria is an acclaimed secular country with excess religious intentions and colorations and that has not gone down well with some persons. Any sign of ‘Arabic’ around is seen as an attempt to subdue and conquer the non Islamic population. The fear is not illogical. No matter what it means, whether it gives God victory or not, its adds zero to victory or the army’s success. It is like Super Eagles praying before they go on the field to disgrace themselves in a match they never prepared for. Is their something more to it, because they are not too dumb to know this?

Some persons have suggested that the Nigerian Senate is built like a mosque and that that structure is a tacit support and endorsement of Islam by the state. Some have also suggested that the Nigerian Aso Villa, the residence of the country’s President, was structured to subconsciously perpetuate the Islamic ideology. The claim is not illogical. In the 1999 constitution compiled by military men, Islam was mentioned about 28 times, Shariah mentioned 73 times, Muslims mentioned ten times, with the mention of no other religion. This is supposed to be the constitution of a secular country. Compared to the script on the Naira notes, the script on the uniforms makes little or no sense. It is more of a symbol of domination and arrogance. Another domineering symbol can also be seen in the fifty(50) Naira note. On it, three out of the many tribes all over the country are represented. Nigeria is supposed to be a secular non tribal country but three tribes are given preference over the over hundred in the country. Do we want a country for all or a country where some tribe or religion rule and tell us we are equal?

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Their is a set of Nigerians who do not care about these symbols on the army’s badge, the symbols on the 50 Naira notes or the structures of these significant buildings. Unfortunately, some of these persons are the greatest proponents of the non existent One Nigeria mantra. You want One Nigeria but show a careless attitude when the structure is being fragmented. When sound arguments against some institutionalised bias in the system are made, they give a careless attitude. They respond with words like, ‘but what have they gained from littering the constitution with the colours of their religion?’ How does Arabic, Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba on the Naira note affect my bank account? How does it even affect me? Does it stop me from spending the money? The National Assembly was built as a mosque and so what? Why should the ‘Arabic’ writing on the Nigerian army badge disrupt my sleep? As long as I’m eating and doing fine, anyone can paint his tribe’s name in the entire Naira notes. Some will even add that we should care less about these things if we really want One Nigeria. Shallow statements! Their argument is that whatever symbolism, whether purposely intended for domination or otherwise, is irrelevant as long as it doesn’t affect their existence.

The problem with such thinking is the neglect of the power of symbolism. In a country battling to have a face, in a country with disjointed homogeneity, the only way to align the thoughts of the people is by exercising equality and equity. The man making his money and living large may not have an issue with these symbols but the man for which these symbolisms were made will have a problem with him because of the sermon of these symbolisms. Do you get that? You will not have a problem with him because you don’t care but he will have one with you because he cares about it. You have no problem with any religion and you don’t care but the influence the religion has on its adherents creates a problem in how they treat you. When you perpetually project a people to be special and above the other class, with time, they begin to act it. They begin to treat the others classes like serfs. If the entire country is assumed to be secular but your tribe or people keep getting special treatment then the subject of unity and oneness is far from being settled. This is because you will believe you are special and the others have weak genes. You will think you were born to rule while others are born to serve you. You will think you are above the class.

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Take a look at the Fifty Naira Notes for example. Why should we have the cultures of three tribes out of hundreds in the country on a national currency? Why is their a translation of the 50 Naira in those three languages? What idea are we trying to project with such creations? The country ought to have an identity and if this identity must be consistent it is must not be broken into tribal sentiments. The continual projection of these three tribes over others have created an overblown sense of self that is disastrous to the homogeneity of this ailing country. See how these tribes see themselves today! The defense given is that this was done so that the illiterates of these major tribes find it easy in transacting their businesses. They fail to see that they are insulting the intelligence of these illiterates. In matters of money, in Nigeria, even an illiterate businesswoman is good at maths. And people are not dumb or toddlers. You don’t need to understand English language or the Arabic Numerals to know the value of money you’ve been using since childhood. Secondly, where is the language for the illiterates of the minorities?

Why do we have the Ajami on the Uniform of the Nigerian Army? Is that necessary? Why not English, the country’s Lingual Franca? This creates a divide in the system. It overtly shows that some people are more important than the others. Why consider the illiterates from a certain section of the country and forget the illiterates from other sections? If the trick is to help people with a popular tribe understand, what happens to the illiterates from less popular tribes? While the unconcerned citizens see nothing wrong with it since it doesn’t affect them, the Nigerians whose ego it massages and titillates, treat them with a certain disdain. That’s the power of symbolism. It doesn’t have any effect on you but because someone believes in it, in a country where such egotism shouldn’t be promoted, his actions affect you. While you enjoy and live large, a fragmented society is growing. A society where some persons think they are the purest of breeds. A society where some persons feel they genuinely own Nigeria. If you don’t care you should start caring now. You should start demanding for the creation of a nation of citizens and not tribes.

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For the past two years, we’ve been experiencing a surge in herdsmen madness. Some of these herdsmen have openly said they can’t stop roaming various states in Nigeria because they were born to roam and ranching, a modern system, is not for them. They have slaughtered, both cattle rustlers who try to steal their cattle, and innocent people who have no business with their cattle. About a month ago, a post mounted by the members of the Nigerian Army, which served as hiding place for the people running from the herdsmen, was leveled and the hiders massacred and wounded. Claims by the indigenes suggested that the military men begged them to use the place as hideout but were no where to be found when the herdsmen approached and did their damage. You wonder how that is even possible. How the military men who were supposed to be protectors, men who literally begged the dead and injured to come hide in a safe house, eloped when it was time to give them guidance is still a mystery. The same story was told when the mayhem in Southern Kaduna happened. The residents claimed their aggressors were provided support by the military. Till date, no report has suggested otherwise.

What is the point of providing one a safe house when you are not willing to keep it safe? What has military men siding with aggressors got to do with the Arabic symbols on the badge of the Nigerian Army? What has the three languages of Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba on the Naira has to do with the state of Nigeria? The product of the relationship is there for any honest observer. It has fragmented the country and given some people wings above the rest. It has created a society of unequal rights and privileges. That bold statement on the Army’s badge is simply suggesting to us the most important people around. Do you still wonder why some persons around act like they own Nigeria? So many other languages could have been used. What’s so special about the Ajami? You may not like it to be interpreted that way but that’s what symbols do. With such favoritism and pampering of the ego of a few, how then do we expect them to act and be treated the same way? It becomes difficult for their ‘property’ to have it hard on them. It becomes difficult to prioritise Nigerian lives over the lives of some tribe(s). How do we expect the three major tribes in this country to behave with those drawings on our legal tender telling tales of some super cultures?

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You say you don’t care right? You think you have to care about something for it to affect you? Look around you and tell why their is rot in our system? You don’t care about a man’s source of income but look at what the Yahoo Boys have done to the image of the country and her citizens. You don’t care how that influential tout lives his life but look at the amount of influence he’s got. You don’t care what that preacher does but see how his followers now treats you! You don’t care about the popular fag but look at what he is creating. You will surely live in that society that his likes have awakened. You don’t care about structures and symbols but you are attacked for structures and symbols. You don’t care about the badge on the Nigerian Army but why do you think they don’t respond the same way to the same crimes from different section of the country? You don’t care what is written in the Naira but what’s your reason for the unpalatable ego at play by certain tribes in the country? You don’t care that Nigeria is still in the OIC, Organization of Islamic Countries, and you don’t ask the motivation and belief that inspires some religious killings in this country. You can keep deluding yourself but whether you care or not, EVERY symbolism in this country affects you.

About Poet 171 Articles
I am Rey Alaetuo, a conscious Poet and health care professional living in Owerri, Nigeria. I am an exponent of humanism and a vigilant Poet. I am deeply interested in the propagation of positive human values and behaviour.


  1. If you are really interested in a better and more inclusive Nigeria for all, please refrain from politicising National history. Thanks.

  2. And also by the way, is English local to the country? Did it not come from Europe in 1904? Before that Ajami was around for 900 years, how can you dismiss such colorful local history on the basis of your bias and tribal sentiment instead of embracing it and be proud of a visual history that still exists on our badges and currency? Are you not satisfied everything else is now written in English? You want to take ordinary living history away from us. Finally in case you did not know, Yoruba, Ibo and Hausa are all official lingual francas for Nigeria.

  3. All this ranting. Em, you know Ajami script is not even Arabic, it’s Hausa, and it should be of more historic significance to us than English because it came first to what is now a part of the Nation. This was used since at least 1904 by the Royal West Africa Frontier Force, becaue it was the script of Trade and authority in West Africa when the British came. It predates Nigeria. So please, get your history right and don’t base your bias on simple history that the Army is proud of.

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