So just in case you didn’t know, the Central Bank of The Gambia (CBG) has unveiled new bank notes for the country. The face of the former president Yahya Jammeh no longer graces the fronts of these notes.

You get the point. This was purely a political move to expunge the former president’s image from the national currency. This is all fine by me. Jammeh never deserved to be there in the first place. And his terrible legacy made no sense to keep him there any longer. Tyrants don’t belong there. Such is the reserved sanctuary of people like Mandela, Mother Theresa, Harriet Tubman and kindred souls.

The CBG, which never even bothered to sound off Gambians on what they thought should have been on the national money, decided on some of the country’s iconic birds. Who knew there ever existed a kinship between ornithology and economics?

But birds? Seriously? A lot of countries in the world put the faces of humans, those iconic leaders whose contributions help(ed) advance public livelihood as normally understood and whose legacies remain seared in the national memory.

If the CBG hadn’t just been only concerned about erasing Jammeh’s image and if it had really aligned its macroeconomic thinking with sprinkles of nationalism, it would have found that some of our national leaders, mostly now embalmed in history, would have been the right candidates to put on our national money. Forget birds.

Don’t misunderstand. I hold no animus towards birds. Time after time and in my forays in hinterland Africa, I tend to allocate myself a certain amount of orinthological indulgence —- marveling at the fancy delights and the wavy flights of weaver birds and at the aerial feeding capabilities of swallows and their passerine cousins means a lot to me.

But I don’t want birds anywhere near my country’s currency. They don’t add any value to it. They dont help it lend itself to some quiddity. They don’t help me comprehend the nexus between economics and history.

I would rather pick up a bank note with the image of the slain journalist Deyda Hydara. Or Edward Francis Small, the preeminent nationalist. Or ME Jallow, the prominent trade unionist. Or Sir Dawda Jawara, the first President and the founding father of the nation. Or the average woman and farmer, the sketches of simple, hardworking folks dealing with the quotidian realities of life.

Your country’s currency should be able to carry some monetary weight. It should also be able to evoke in you a wellspring of patriotic fervor.

But the governor of the CBG has thought shallow about all this. He has gone dreary. It seems he doesn’t know or care that we do have national leaders who deserve to be celebrated, and whose images should be the ones gracing the fronts of our bank notes. It is about common sense. More than that, it’s about being who you are, conscious of your identity —- and history.

By Cherno Baba Jallow

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