People who had contributed immensely to the growth and development of their nation have their portraits on their currency. There are Nigerians who contributed to the growth and development of the country. Herbert Macaulay, a nationalist regarded as the father of ‘Nigerian Nationalism,’ was the popular figure on the #1 coin used in the ’90s. Nigeria’s first Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa’s image is on the #5 note. Arochukwu-born educator Alvan Ikoku is seen on the red-colored #10 note. One of Nigeria’s military head of state, killed in a coup, General Murtala Muhammad, asides from having one of the busiest airports in Nigeria (Ikeja Airport) named after him, he was featured on the green #20 note. The next domination, #50 symbolizes the ethnic groups in Nigeria. The next three denominations have notable and popular Nigerian heroes on them; Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello, and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe were on the #100, #200, and #500 notes respectively. The highest denomination at present, the #1000 note, featured two faces you might have hardly heard of, Mallam Aliyu Mai-Bornu and Dr. Clement Isong.

If Nigerians are to mention the names on the Nigerian denomination, I guess a larger percentage will fail on the #1000 note which is the highest denomination their hustles could fetch. The one thousand naira note was brought into circulation on October 12, 2005, by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and it features two of its former governors. The Central Bank of Nigeria is the Central bank and apex monetary authority of Nigeria. It was established in 1958 and commenced operations on July 1, 1959. On the #1000 note, the portrait of Mallam Aliyu Mai-Bornu comes before that of Clement Isong as the former also preceded the later as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Below are things to know about the two great Nigerians:


ALHAJI ALIYU Mai-Bornu was a Nigerian economist and the first indigenous governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. He was born in 1919 in the town of Yola to parents of Kanuri heritage and died on the 23rd of February 1970.

At first, Mai-Bornu was not allowed to go to school by his father who was a councilor in the Lamido Native Authority. He was later given the chance as he attended Yola Elementary School, Yola. He proceeded to the Yola Middle School and was also admitted to Kaduna College in 1938. He graduated in 1942 as an English language teacher.

He taught in both of his Alma mater, Yola Middle School (1942-1946) and Kaduna College (1946-1952), where he joined the Northern Teachers Association. On his return to Yola in 1952, he was made the Yola Middle School’s deputy headmaster. He also spent five months as a House Tutor at the Veterinary School in Vom. Mallam Aliyu Mai-Bornu earned a government scholarship to travel abroad and studied Economics at Bristol University in the United Kingdom, graduating in 1957.

Mai-Bornu served as Administrative Officer with the Northern Nigeria Public Service (1957-1959) shortly after he returned from the UK. He started his career at the Central Bank of Nigeria when it started operations in 1959. He was an assistant secretary at first. He then rapidly rose through the ranks to become deputy secretary and then secretary. In 1962, he became the first Nigerian to be appointed deputy CBN governor. He was appointed the first indigenous governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria in 1963 while his tenure lasted until 1967.

Mai-Bornu was at a time the Director and General Manager of the Nigerian Tobacco Company (1967-1979). He served on the Board of Directors of the company until his death on the 23rd of February, 1970. His successful career and landmark achieved got his portrait into the Nigerian #1000 note.


Clement Nyong Isong was a Nigerian banker and politician. He was born on the 20th of April 1920 in Eket, Akwa Ibom state and died on 29th of May 2000. Isong succeeded Mallam Aliyu Mai-Bornu as the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (1967-1975). He was also elected governor of Cross River State (1979-1983) in Nigeria’s Second Republic.

Isong had his education at the University College, Ibadan and later proceeded to Iowa Wesleyan College, USA. He also attended Mount Pleasant, Iowa and the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, where he obtained a Ph.D. in Economics.

He started his career as an Economics lecturer with the University of Ibadan before joining the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as secretary and later became director of research. Isong also worked with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as an adviser in the African Department.

He was appointed the governor of CBN by the then military ruler General Yakubu Gowon in August 1967. He was in this office till 1975. Isong was in charge during the Nigerian Civil war (July 1967 – January 1970) and during the subsequent oil boom.

After his retirement from the CBN, Isong ventured into politics and was elected the first civilian Governor of Cross River State from 1979 to 1983 on the platform of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). He was, however, opposed in the 1983 elections by Senate President Joseph Wayas, who was the leader of the NPN party’s “Lagos Group” that supported Senator Donald Etiebet as governor who later succeeded Dr. Isong.

In 1982, Dr. Clement Isong was honored with Nigeria’s national honor of Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFR) as a result of his contribution to the growth and development of Nigeria.

Isong married Nne Clementine and their union was blessed with six children namely Ekaette Etuk, Clement Isong Jr, Umo Isong (deceased), Eno Obi, Inyong Isong and Ubong Isong.

Clement Isong died in May 2002 at age 80. His outstanding and remarkable success in his career earned him a spot alongside Alhaji Aliyu Mai-Bornu on the #1000 note.

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