Lessons From The North: Dirty Notes

For all the jibes on the seeming unintelligence of the generality of people from the Northern part of Nigeria by most other Nigerians, there are yet lessons to learn from them, one of which is that the value of a legal tender is in the amount it embodies and not the wretchedness or otherwise of its note.

I remember my friend and law school roomate, Amanda Il’yasu. A beautiful, petite (I can actually call someone petite with confidence), smart, vivacious young lady. We did not meet on the best of terms. I recall how we had fought over cupboard space in our room. I had secured my space and because I lived in the same town, I had gone home for the weekend to relax before starting school the next week. She had been assigned the room temporarily as she had travelled from the north and when she had, by some stroke of luck gotten the same room again, she had been so happy but did not realise that an occupant with a prior interest had gotten the same room. She was resentful and territorial.

I was not only angry but also affronted “How could this Gambari come to Enugu to chance me?? Mbanu! Chukwu ekwekwana.” On her side, she was fuming, how could this girl come in to disturb her joy after she had secured this space? “ ba har abada” She must have said over and over to her friend, Oneh Abu who also understood and spoke Hausa. I felt a little outnumbered since the rest of the roommates pretty much kept to themselves. But I was a daughter of this region. “These foreigners would not come here to infringe on my rights. It should be the other way round.” I thought.

Being a law abiding person within my legal rights, I soon raced off to the Porters to report the problem in my room. The Porter was reluctant but finally came to the room. He said one thing, or two if you care.

There are many people who do not have accomodation, if you two want to fight over cupboard space then I would have to give out your space. You’re lawyers, you know the right thing to do.

We both knew the consequences of “little misbehaviour” in the Nigerian Law School, so we settled for a taciturn compromise. She made space for me and I kept to my space. Before long, we were laughing over jokes and learning the names of our respective siblings. I learnt she was Fulani but had a thing for Igbo guys.

It was from Amanda that I first understood that Northerners do not reject currency notes no matter how wretched they appeared. They believed, as everyone rightly should, that the value was in the exchange it could bring and not in the newness or otherwise of the note. She had graciously accepted all manner of notes given to her by retailers as balance until she had to spend them and they were not gracious about rejecting them. All her complaints fell on deaf ears and she had to devise some sneaky means to spend those notes on those nights when we went food hunting. She quickly converted and learnt to reject notes. She had asked me one of those days when she had come back with her money sans food, bewildered.

We never reject money in Zaria, why do you people reject money here Bunku??

She always called me Bunku never Bonkie (as we usually called each other here in the east when we shared a bunk) I never answered that question. I did not have an answer, however, It made me remember those days I always singled out clean notes but had to eventually face the bitter truth that a dirty N500.00 was still worth more than the N100.00 mint.

It’s been a bit since I last spoke to Amanda, but I remember her once in a while, one of which was when I read a post on Facebook by a lady who had gone to the North and was surprised to find out that nobody rejected wretched notes. In her story, she had been very adamant in her rejection of the dirty notes. She had said that from her attitude, everyone had realised that she was new in town and said as much which made her feel some bit of embarrassment. They all understood that the wretchedness or otherwise of a currency note neither increased nor decreased its economic value.

I gave this a lot of thought, I hope people would be more amenable to understanding and applying this little lesson in economics. A wretched N1000 note is still as valuable as a straight-from the mint N1000 note.

Let’s fix up.

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