For those who grew up between the 1980s and 90s, one single note of N20 in one’s hand, perhaps in your pocket, was a lot of money. In my place, during the days of my childhood, it was called ‘Muri kan’. Understandably, it was the highest denomination of our currency then, with just N10, N1 and 50kobo as other denominations of our currency in notes. Then, I remember we had 1kobo, 5kobo, 10kobo and 25kobo as coins, which were spent by all.
However, ‘Muri kan’ was so unique as well as important that it was actually called the king of money in my place. The reasons are simple. One, it was a note that commemorated late Murtala Rahmat Muhammed, former head of state, reputed for his transformational efforts within his short spell in the saddle of leadership between 1975 and when he was brutally murdered.
Two, the note, being the highest denomination of money in the land was not just what everybody had in their possession; you definitely had to work hard to earn this ‘oba owo’.
And I remember clearly, that Nigeria’s currency value, despite all the austerity measures then, that I as a littel boy used to hear people lamenting, were still very appreciable.
I will share some experiences here. My father bought our black and white 14inch television set at N230 in 1983 or so. In fact, when I was to enter secondary school in 1991, the whole fee that was to be paid as a new student was N124.50k. My father wanted to sell the TV because of this fee.
During my primary school days at IMG Primary School, Adeoyo, N4 near UCH Ibadan, my father would give just 50kobo to my elder sister and I as money for breakfast in school. Sharing formula; my sister takes 30kobo and I take 20kobo. It was like that throughout my primary school years.
I had a unique experience which keeps reverberating in my memory. In 1989, I went to the village with my father as was the practice during the holidays to move to the village to spend the holiday.
One afternoon, as I was returning from the market where I had gone to sell fire wood for just N1 after trekking God knows distance, I suddenly saw a N20 note on the floor. With fear and uncertainty, looking around and seeing nobody, I picked the money and ran as if some people were running after me to ask for the money.
What I cannot forget about it is this: that year, I was meant to repeat my primary six classes having failed my first attempt at common entrance examination. I needed money to buy new notebooks. The N20 that I found was handy; I bought all the 60leaves big note books and had some change left.
My common entrance fee was also N20. It took my father a while to raise the money to pay the fee. This I remember irked my class teacher then, Mrs. Oke, who said, “you Nurudeen, you are repeating and you haven’t paid your common entrance money”. The N20 was not easy to come by, my father, God repose his soul, was just a driver in a private company. I doubt if he was earning N100 monthly then.
Today, however, I ask where is our N20 and I ask someone somewhere to bring back our ‘Muri kan’. In my house, the same N20 note after being changed and changed and now in an annoying polymer form lies useless and worthless like in almost all homes in Nigeria.
I found one on the window in my kitchen and that was what inspired this piece. My kids do not appreciate N20 whereas the oldest among them is just seven years old. Each time I give them either N5 or N10, it means nothing to them. I dare not spend N10 in my secondary school days in a day. You must explain how it happened.
Now, dear General Muhammadu Buhari, if you feel what I am feeling and what the generality of Nigerians are feeling, please help bring back our N20. We appreciate those who gave us N50, N100, N200, N500 and N1000 notes as our monies but the truth is those denominations are valuable just in name. They actually don’t carry the weight, perhaps aura and blessing of that green paper N20 note of the 80s and 90s that I grew up to know.
Mr. President-elect, nature has thrown a knife of opportunity to you at last, kindly grab the wooden edge now, carve a brighter future for us and generations to come. History will reward you. This is a clarion call that our economy must be revived, our currency that stands at one dollar to N200 must bounce back.
Though, I’m not an economist, I surely know that with N500 and N1000 as our highest denominations of currency, only a little can be achieved to redeem the naira. Therefore, bring back our N20.