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My Tax; My Vote; My Rights! Angry Nigerians And Sick Failed Nation

2 March 2010

By Abdullah Musa

Humans have anger as character trait. We are naturally stoked to anger either in defense of self, values, and dear ones; or even in defense of vanity or prejudice. Anger however creates a momentary blindness of the senses. The acts stemming out of anger can be catastrophic, to the victim as well as the victor.

We are angrier with respects to the idea of the self: my tribe, my religion, my area; and even my girl friend! (A property of some sort in certain cultures) I was cajoled into anger by the conduct of certain private school operators: they sent back my child on the first day of resumption of school: their reason being that I did not pay the new term’s school fees while the child was on vacation.

Following the line of my reasoning above, I got angry because my sense of dignity was shattered when my child was humiliated with a sack from school because his father did not pay school fees ‘when they were not due’! I know, from the operators’ point of view, it was pay before service.

It is not of interest to the reader what course of action I took: whether the case is now at Supreme Court awaiting judgment or not. Of interest is the fact that the primary anger against private school operators metamorphosed into secondary anger against the government that collects and eats our taxes.

Black men and women cannot claim any credit for the installation of Western- type of State and its governance system in their areas. The system was imposed as a result of the colonial, and resource exploitation relationships. That system introduced public schooling in order to produce those literate enough to run the bureaucracy necessary for modern governance. I am able to communicate with the reader in English language due to the influence of such publicly-funded education.

The public treasury was funded from taxes: both on citizens and on the cash crops that were sold in international markets. Later, crude oil achieved the dominance it has now over the funding of all the activities of Nigeria’s three-tiers of governments.

However, I, like numerous other citizens, have lost the benefits of being good citizens like our fathers enjoyed. My education, up to university level, was not a burden on my father. In real fact, while in the university, my then state government was paying me allowances for three meals a day; plus a hefty chunk to finance my clothing and other needs.

Today, if you cannot pay for your child, the colossal university registration fee, then he or she must simply accept that university education is beyond their reach. Going from Kano to Kaduna, enroute to Minna recently, I saw the level of the dilapidation of the road network. As usual, as a citizen, you cannot ask why you are left to your own designs on things over which you have no control.

Many Nigerians have lost their lives either due to accidents on pothole-ridden roads, or were slain by hired assassins, or killed by armed robbers; or are simply victims of elite politics- as is the case with the recurring religious and tribal conflicts. In all the aforementioned, neither the payment of tax, nor the casting of vote, will ensure for me a fairly equitable wellbeing.

Nigerians believe that politicians can and do come to power whether they are voted into office or not. Political parties do not easily lose elections; what it means is that they are Lords unto the society they govern, because the security apparatus is rigged against the citizens: they should quell any disturbance no matter the source of its provocation; and in many cases, Courts are simply mazes, into which election petitions lose their steam and zeal; and ultimately fizzle out!

Tax payers should really have a say as to the use of their taxes. If they do not, then the tax collector is simply a robber. Even where the State relies on oil, like Nigeria, and many other oil-producing countries, the resource ought to be a collective commonwealth, rather than the exclusive preserve of the few in power.

It is not idealism to hold elected officials accountable for the use of resources. If they are not accountable, then they definitely are thieves. Nigerians are however so much divided by ethnicity and religion, such that the marauding political, and sometimes military class, succeed in getting them to fight each other, while the society of robbers eat their loot unmolested.

My quandary: my vote does not guarantee me good governance; my tax does not ensure for me public services, in the form of public education, infrastructure, and security. So brothers and sisters, what should I do?




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