Nigerians are creative. Whoever is in doubt should check the speed with which they often turn serious matters to grand jokes. The latest being the memes targeted at the incongruous story about a snake swallowing N36m at the Benue office of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board.
From the names given to car brands to churches, the humour cum inventiveness is never in short supply. Nigeria has naira denominations ranging from N10, N20, N50, N100, N200, N500 to N1,000. But the names they call the notes are sometimes confusing and astonishing.
The Hausa for example give ethnic names to naira notes. One has to understand the language to know the naira note being referred to. Same goes for the Yoruba who refer to money as ‘kudi’ or ‘owo’ and the Igbo who call money ‘ego’.
For instance, Hausa call N5 naira biyar; N10, naira goma; N20, naira ishirin; N50, naira hamsin; N100, naira dari; N200, naira dari biyu; N500, naira dari biyar; and N1,000, naira dubu daya. Naira is added at the beginning of each local name to identify the denomination.
Among the Yoruba especially, N50 is called wazo (wazobia), denoting that the note has images of the three major ethnic groups in the country. There is also the image of a lady in the note representing the Middle Belt. Wazobia is coined from how the three major ethnic groups express the English word, ‘Come’. Yoruba say “wa”; Hausa utter, “zo”; while Igbo say “bia.” Funnily enough, N50 is also referred to as ‘white’ or ‘kala.’
A driver, identified only as Akindele, said the name came from the colour of the note. He said, “I hear people call N50 ‘white’ and ‘wazo’. But there was a time I asked to know how the names came about and some boys in our park asked me the colour of N50 and I said it’s white. So, they told me not to ask them silly question again as I could see the colour myself.”
Majority of the names given to naira notes in Yoruba came from boys who work at motor parks, especially the ones popularly known as agberos, otherwise called union boys.
The N20 has the picture of the late former Head of State, Gen. Murtala Muhammed. The N20 is identified as ‘Muri’, a shortened form of ‘Murtala.’ Apart from that, the note is also called ‘shandy’.
Most of the ‘street boys’, who spoke with our correspondent, were unable to explain how N20 came to be known as ‘shandy.’
But one of them identified as Busayo Ahmed said, “It is a slang. Something can just happen, you know like a brainwave and someone will rename a note. Since street slang is meant to dumbfound people, it will be adopted by those within the clique.’’
Ahmed may be right when one examines the name, faiba (spelt fibre) used to identify N10. This thus translates to the marking of N100 as 10 faiba, indicating N10 in 10 notes.
The N100 note has the image of the late Premier of the Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. They also refer to it as ‘Awo’. The ‘Awo’ is understandably an abbreviated form of Awolowo but referring to same note as faiba can be puzzling.
Similarly, N200 is referred to as 20 faiba, indicating that it is N10 in 20 places or notes.
The next time you hear Figo, know that N500 is being referred to. The note has the image of the late ex-President, Nnamdi Azikiwe. He was popularly called Zik, hence the ‘Ori Zik’ which is used to identify the money.
A Twitter user, @okeyjames, reacting to the slang used to identify N500, wrote, “If only Luis Figo knows that his name ‘Figo’ means N500 in Lagos.” Luis is a retired Portuguese footballer.
A sociologist at the Kaduna State University, Dr. Hauwau Evelyn Yusuf, said people used their dialects to name money in order to identify well with it.
She said, “The Yoruba call money kudi or owo and the Hausa refer to N50 for example as naira hamsin to identify with their own languages and people. It is just to make it blend with their cultural system.
“In Southern Kaduna for example, the people refer to money as krum. Though the money we spend is naira, the 50 in N50 for instance is a borrowed counting system. So, people will just find a common name which their people can relate and identify with.’’