Taxing Nigerians to death? (2)
(Published in The Nation, August 1, 2020)
Muhammadu Sanusi II, the 14th Emir of Kano and former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), once apologised to Nigerians for having run the apex bank with clearly unworkable monetary policies. The brilliant man became an Emir, interacted with the people and the core of the society for him to see our folly and attain to the consciousness of the unworkability of our applied policies. Instead of learning from the Emir, and thank him profusely for his patriotism and forthrightness, he was deposed; and our politicians continue to run the country in the usual manner.
In a flawed society, with truncated leadership recruitment mechanism, development becomes a mere fantasy that dies with the fantasist. Here, we run our economy, using theories, principles and patterns developed in other climes with nothing in common with our socio-cultural peculiarities. Corruption and stealing of the collective patrimony have become a cultural narrative and a threat to our national cohesion even as power-grab in various shades has cast a dark shadow on dear fatherland. Added to these is the absence of ‘home-grown’, error-tight and reliable statistics to support the process of rigorous and efficient accountability with a view to making Nigerians attain unto their optimum capacity. All this is because they have taken ‘Fellow Nigerians’ for granted for too long! Is it any wonder that Nigeria’s socio-political fortune is haemorrhaging with unrivalled affinity for social instability and chaos while her national economy is menstruating with attendant uncertainty and belated anxiety?
Well, I doubt if Nigerians have any problem with the country’s current debt status. After all, nations are run with debts. There are, however, those who would argue that the way Nigeria keeps piling up debts as if she is amassing wealth, with practically no realistic modalities in place for repayment, not to speak of what becomes the fate of incoming generations, is not close to being good enough. In a country, where ‘public service’ has become ‘pocket service’, are those debts tied to projects with clear outcomes or merely sunk into projects that will at the end of the day become elephant projects – murky legacies and uncertainties; a butt of jokes? If a vision refers to “the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom”, isn’t it a disgrace that Nigeria, a country with the largest number of private jets in Africa, equally has the largest number of poor people in the world? For heaven’s sake, why have governments across board become experts at negotiating with ‘AK-47 bandits’ even as people are dying with such frequency in peace time?
Again, where is Peugeot Automobile Nigeria (PAN)? Where are Hagemeyer, Berec, Bata, Kingsway, and the like? Since their eviction from ‘Big Brother Nigeria’, governments have come and governments have gone. Yet, none among our leaders has deemed it fit to revisit that troubling chapter of our history with a view to righting past wrongs. No innovation and no policies that are indigenous to us or represents what is going on. Go through the list of countries that are billed to experience ‘hunger pandemic’ and one will ‘ appreciate ’ why the world’s ’39th unhappiest country’ is so ‘blest.’ Isn’t it troubling that, when one looks back and says this is a trouble to avoid, the trouble remains there?
Given her delicate context and history, Nigeria’s leaders should be sombre and put on their thinking caps for the purpose of figuring out how to deal with the accolades of poverty and anger that are currently decorating Nigeria’s socioeconomic landscape. For a serious government, the evaluation processes and feedback from the masses – the real people for whom these policies are allegedly made – must be there. For a fact, lack of accountability makes government to become reckless with the taxpayers’ money. Of course, that is why it is always possible for the government to come and start initiating projects, not necessarily what the people want, but just for the sake of it. All in the name of projects, humongous amounts of money are just pumped into fictitious projects, with nothing to show for it at the end of the day! The truth about the grand deception is that it is money, no longer sound character and competence, that serves as a platform for winning elections!
According to Tunde Bakare, “a man who is leading without people following him is only taking a stroll.” As COVID-19 nightmare continues, this is not the time to turn away from the real issues of national concerns. Mouthing platitudes and infectious rhetoric when the people are suffering will be a poor way of courageously confronting the crisis of the moment as well as pragmatically assessing the deplorable socio-economic conditions and realities of the people. When taxes are demanded and paid, the citizens must hold on to something: a token, a sense of having been served by the agency collecting their money in form of taxes. But, when a government lacks the fine details of “cash” in the people’s “pockets and food in their belly”, then, governance becomes a dilemma, not a promise; nothing other than refurbished feudalism!
To this end, our strategies must provide a good specimen of victory over the bad news called COVID-19. So, instead of being part of a dirge that will further leave Nigerians dry and empty, the country must invest in opportunities. Enough of dancing around pretty ideas that are so sweet on paper but so hard to attract sympathy from by the people. When the people are sure that the government is thinking for them, and it’s actually thinking about them, the assurance and the confidence in the people to, even, galvanize their energy and everything towards success will be easily attained. But, if all that the government is saying is that we should fasten our belt and look forward to a bleaker future, then, we beckon to social anomie. We can no longer pretend: for Nigeria to develop, we must have, and imbibe a separate, indigenous, and totally Nigerian culture of socio-political development. Until those areas are taken care of, we will only continue to dream dreams! Until somebody comes up with institutional platforms and a realistic approach that will seek to strengthen the basic needs of the people, we will only continue to live with a false belief and an unfounded hope as nothing will work.
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria.
*KOMOLAFE writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State.