Friend, dear friend! Don't turn up your nose at me. I realise I am not much to look at, what with being torn, tattered and so dirty. I repulse even my own self. But what can I do...What could I have done? Sit back, look at me and listen to my story. Look, listen and learn while I tell of my journey from pride to fall. I hope you will then understand.
I was born on the 4th August 2005 at the Minting Maternity of fairly well-to-do middle-aged machinery. I was the pick of my batch; batch 0036890NF. My sheen was unsurpassed, my imprints pronounced and even Murtala Mohammed's moustache seemed just a tad more distinguished on me. I was crisp and ready to take on the world.
It was astonishing the rate at which my confidence deflated once I got out to the real world. Hardest to take was the realisation that the peptalk we were given before being sent out was totally inconsistent with what obtains outside. Contrary to what we were told, we couldn't even walk head up high, side by side other world currencies. Most disappointing was the fact that even you, our fellow compatriots, preferred other currencies to us. That, dear friend, was the unkindest cut of all. But forgive me, I digress.
I began my journey (...to obscurity?) from the Minting vault to the bullion van, to the IntraBank vault, to the cashier's cage to Alhaji Maigoro's briefcase. It was Friday and he was going to do his weekly almsgiving ritual at the mosque. I remember snuggling against Rebecca, a pretty fellow 0036890NFian. We said our hurried goodbyes as I was thrust from Alhaji Maigoro's clean, perfumed hands to those of Maimuna, the leper. She hurriedly stuffed me inside a dirty calf-skin bag hanging at her waist, unceremoniously squeezing me. DARKNESS!! I was there for quite some time, wondering if this was to be my humble abode and praying it wasn't. A few hours later, my 'landlady' took me out, flattened me (...thank God) and passed me, together with three other notes to Ibrahim, the butcher, who promptly re-squeezed me and dumped me in a tin on top of other notes. By this time I had creases, my sheen was losing its shine, Murtala Mohammed's moustache did not look so good any longer and his face had acquired a frown (...I exaggerate of course). I was stuffed with several other notes and I thought to myself, 'hmm, strangers, not quality stock, probably counterfeit'. You see, I was still looking new when compared to the other notes and I was still a snob. Reality soon shook the scales from my eyes. I was in that tin until the end of the day. Then I thought that having survived that airless, smelly deathtrap, I could survive anything. I did not reckon with Iya Ramota.
That night Ibrahim took me and some others to Iya Ramota in exchange for some moulded black stuff. I do have my pride and it hurt that Ibrahim considered that mould a fair exchange rate. Iya Ramota was my worst nightmare. She stored us near the darkest recesses of her person where the dank smell defies adequate description. Mercifully, I passed out.
I came to the next day when I felt light on my face. Sunlight and oxygen never felt so good. I was suddenly (most happily you bet!) transferred from Iya Ramota to Adebayo, the taxi driver, a large impatient man with tribal marks on his cheeks. He crammed me into what was originally an ashtray but now served the dual purpose of both the ashtray and a money-cache. To say this was uncomfortable is an understatement. Before I even had time to come to terms with my discomfort, several others were dumped on top of me. By now I was permanently squeezed into a ball.
Later that day, which was a Saturday, we were all taken out, flattened and transferred to Adebayo's agbada. He took us out and as we got closer to his destination, I heard music and drumming. 'Civilisation at last' I thought. A little while later, I was a HANDKERCHIEF!!! A handkerchief, I ask you, wiping the sweat of Balogun, the juju musician's forehead. I felt like saying,' Pardon me but isn't there a mistake here? I am your national currency. You're supposed to respect me not use me as a tool for personal hygiene'. Soaked in sweat, I was then dumped in a carton with several other notes.
The next day, I was passed to Chudi, the molue conductor by one of Balogun's bandboys. He stuffed me in his pocket with tens of other grimy notes. This time I had no complaints because I was no longer a snob. At least I was dry although creased, dirty and limp. I was in Chudi's pocket a short while then I was passed on to Roli, a student as change accompanied by expletives from the conductor. I wonder why!
Roli treated me much nicer than I had been treated the two days. She thrust me into her school bag together with her books where I spent a very educative night.
Monday morning breaktime at school, I was jolted out of Roli's bag onto the floor. I lay helplessly as I watched her leave without a backward glance. Suddenly I was grabbed by Efere who noticed me on the floor but at the same time, Essien lunged at me but only managed to get a hold of my corner and he tugged hard. I felt myself tear and again thankfully, I passed out.
I woke up to find a clear, sticky plaster holding me together and I was in Efere's pocket together with two marbles who unreservedly banged into me with no consideration for my injuries. I slipped in and out of conciousness until gladly, Efere passed me onto Isa, the Mallam in exchange for some sweets.
Isa flattened me out and laid me gently under the tablecloth. I slept peacefully for most of the day until Isa passed me to Roseline Omaghomi who stopped to buy some chewing gum. Roseline! I will forever think of her with a smile on my lips and a song in my heart. She gently laid me in her wallet. At last! Finally, a wallet. Those rare things that we were told about at the Minting Maternity. It was of the softest leather and smelt of Roseline's perfume. I was facing her ID card which showed she was a banker. That was my nicest experience. It was paradise. If I had died then, I would have died a tattered but [on] a happy note.
The next day, Roseline went to pick up her car from Nwoke, the mechanic. After getting the car, we, (I was now thinking of us as inseparable) were about to leave when Peter, one of Nwoke's boys shouted, 'Madam, you no go give me anything?'. I was heartbroken when to my consternation, I was the 'something' Roseline threw to Peter. Thus ended my brief but wonderful respite with Roseline.
When she threw me, all the boys there dove to get me and in the struggle, I fell into the gutter. Peter fished me out and put me to dry on top of a car. I got dry alright as well as sunburnt. He picked me up later with his greasy hands and stuffed me into his pocket. At home the next morning, he gave me to Bidemi his daughter who was on her way to school. Bidemi decided on her way to buy some groundnuts so I was again passed to Iyabo, the groundnut seller. She immediately tried to give me to you as change, dear friend, and you turned up your nose. So now you know that it is really not my fault I look the way I do. In 6 days of existence, through 14 people, only one person treated me right. How dare you, dear friend, snub me? I ask you, here and now, do you own a wallet?
P/S This piece was inspired by the current CBN campaign against the abuse of the naira.