Faces on Nigeria's Currency Denominations: Urgent Need for a Re-Visit
Nigeria gained her independence from Britain on October 01, 1960. She became a republic on October 01, 1963 and on January 01, 1973 Nigeria's currency was changed to Naira and Kobo from pounds and shillings while it's colours were done so on April 25, 1984. The introduction of Fifty Naira(N50), conversion of One Naira(N1) and Fifty Kobo(50k) to coins was done on August 27, 1991. One hundred Naira(N100) came up on December 01, 1999, Two hundred Naira(N200) November 01, 2000, Five hundred Naira(N500) April 01, 2001 and One thousand Naira(N1000) October 12, 2005. On each of the currency denomination, there is a face of a Nigerian except N1000 which have two faces and N50 note with four imaginary faces. Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa is on N5 note, Dr. Alvan Ikoku on N10 note, Gen. Murtala Muhammed on N20 note, Chief Obafemi Awolowo on N100 note, Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello on N200 note, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe on N500 note while Alhaji Aliyu Mai Bornu and Dr. Clement Isong are on N1000 note.
Faces on N1000 note, the latest entry reflect North and South in line with the Federal Character Principle. For the North West, Gen. Murtala Mohammed and Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello are represented, North East is represented by Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and Alhaji Aliyu Mai Bornu, South West by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, South South by Dr. Clement Isong, South East by Dr. Alvan Ikoku and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe while North Central is not represented at all. The non-representation of North Central is most unacceptable and that is why I am calling for a re-visit so that the Federal Character Principle can reflect in featuring faces of Nigerians on our currency denominations. Let the imaginary faces on N50 note be scrapped off and replaced by the face of Late Chief Senator Joseph Tarka.
I recommend Late Chief Senator Joseph Tarka because of his contributions to the upliftment of the people of North Central way back before and after Nigeria's political independence. Late Tarka was among the delegation that visited Britain to discuss Nigeria's independence after a “self government in 1956 motion” was tabled on April 01, 1953 by the Late Chief Anthony Enahoro of the Western House of Assembly. He was the first man from the region to form a political party, the United Middle Belt Congress(UMBC). Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo founder of the Action Group(AG) tagged with Tarka of the UMBC and both parties opposed the then ruling Northern Peoples Congress(NPC) led by the Late Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello in the first republic. The opposition was indeed very stiff.
Tarka moved for the creation of Middle Belt Region out of the Northern Region. The Hausa-Fulani politicians accused him of attempting to divide the North and showered grievous political punishment on him and the entire Tiv people because they were in control of government at the centre. Apart from Tarka's opposition party(UMBC) activities, this also contributed to the non-involvement of Tiv people in government in the first republic. His aim was not to divide the North but to bring development and a sense of belonging as can be noticed in a similar action later taken by a part of the Western Region which gave birth to Mid-Western Region, later Bendel State and today Edo and Delta States. Still in the first republic, Tarka moved against sharing of Federal positions, appointments and opportunities by and among a few ethnic groups at the expense of others.
After the aborted first republic, he toured the North with the likes of Mallam Aminu Kano, Aliyu Makaman Bida and other colleagues under the aegis of Northern Consultative Committee to preach Northern unity in a stable Nigeria. When the South East seceded, he declared the support of the Middle Belt for one Nigeria and was one of the Chief Advisers' to Gen. Yakubu Gowon on how to sustain peace and maintain Nigeria as one nation. When Joseph Tarka was the Federal Commissioner (now Minister) for Transport under General Yakubu Gowon, he advised Gowon on the need for twelve States, an idea he nutured and pushed for in the first republic before military incursion into the polity on January 15, 1966 and that led to the creation of 12 States which was the first in Nigeria on May 27, 1967 by Gowon.
When the planning for a new constitution towards the second republic through the constituent assembly was on between 1977 and 1978, the debate on Sharia raged and threatened the unity of Nigeria. Tarka was invited as an august guest to proffer solution. His contributions made the issue to be resolved amicably. In the second republic, out of the five registered political parties, namely; National Party Of Nigeria(NPN), Nigerian Peoples Party(NPP), Unity Party Of Nigeria(UPN), Great Nigerian Peoples Party (GNPP), and Peoples Redemption Party(PRP), Tarka was one of the founding members of (NPN), the platform on which he and Shagari contested the Presidential primaries but he lost out to Shagari under suspicious circumstances. He had always protected the interest of the people of North Central while in active politics. His stand for the people of the region has given them the freedom and liberty they are enjoying today which ordinarily would have been trampled upon by the Hausa-Fulani.
Tarka did so much for North Central and Nigeria but these are the few of his achievements I have chosen to mention. He deserves to be eulogized and immortalized. I call on the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi to as a matter of necessity and urgency, look into this and take the necessary steps that will ensure the replacement of imaginary faces on Fifty Naira note with that of Late Chief Senator Joseph Tarka so that the Federal Character Principle will prevail.
Donald Terfa Gaadi