LETTER TO MR PRESIDENT - 1

It was Gordon Brown, the former prime minister of Britain, in his last official address to the nation on his last day in office that said, ‘Only those who have occupied the office of the prime minister will realize that there is a huge capacity in the office for common good.’ Mr. President, you may not have realized this, but your office has an enormous capacity to do well for common good, and this could be an opportunity to transform a shoeless feet, that you said once had, to a feet covered with gold dust. Mr. President, you have advisers most of whom have their agenda, not because they are selfish; but because that is what experts do.alt

Take for instance your economic team, what are they bringing to the table? Apart from Dangote, none of them is creating enough wealth, only commissions; these are hardly enough for the amount of mouths, i.e. Nigerians, Mr. President has to feed. They, including Dangote, only prey on the oil receipts for themselves and are do not pay their fair share for common good. This country will remain in the doldrums unless the crazy level of inequality is addressed. Without self delusion, my El President, no foreign investor will risk his money in Nigeria unless there is a tax structure that mitigates social equality, which impacts on the security of the investor’s funds.

What makes Nigeria unique is its geographical location, which has brought diverse people together to this box called Nigeria; the oil and numerous resources are only a bonus. I cannot agree more with the former military dictator Babangida, that providence must have brought these diverse people together to form Nigeria. The challenges many Nigerians face, however, except those who are already benefiting from the skewed opportunities in Nigeria, make them want a breakup of the country. If you ask them, what they believe is a breakup either on religion, sectional or tribal line. Some powerful people are behind this mad thinking, which is not ingenious; what is fueling it is the ready recruitment for ground soldiers, which is made possible by the crazy level of social inequality in Nigeria.

Who will blame them? It is not much of the country resources being mismanaged, which is a small thing; but a bigger issue of lack of opportunities that consigned many people to a life of hopelessness. Since the Industrial Revolution, the world has had two extreme systems of wealth distribution – socialism and capitalism. Both have been tried in recent history, with some in-between; the world, however, will continue to evolve. So far, capitalism, or some variants of it, has proved to be a better management of a country’s resources. That being said, the wealth of the nation still has to be shared. And what better way for social equilibrium in capitalism to share national wealth for common good, than a sound tax structure that compels the rich to pay a fair share.

Society’s instrument for the common good is government, but it has to be funded for the good of all. Funding of government programs can only be effected through tax, which everybody pays. That, I think, is where Nigeria’s multifarious problems lie. In the past till now, we still focus on government spending, which in all honesty, has been very embarrassing, to say the least. No Nigerian, including disappointingly the so called economists, is thinking about government the funding of the public treasury in the real sense. Oil has given the government, not the generality of people, a false sense of security, which is why many people are dying to get into politics where the oil wealth is squandered.

Since Mesopotamia, the cradle of modern government and civilization, tax has been the mechanism for growth and equity; this was some 50,000 years ago. Tax brings a sense of belonging – patriotism. Why then do we forget something so basic, and continue to forge ahead trying to reinvent the wheel? Greed, ignorance and the fear of the future are what come to a logical mind. Logically, those who appropriate the resources of the country for self believe that Nigeria, as a unit, will not survive – reason why they steal without thinking. This group is antisocial and does not contribute to the survival of Nigeria; unfortunately, they dominate the politics of this great country for now.

That they steal, what belongs to all, is opportunism; but for denying the government tax of what is now illegally theirs is contributive to the destruction of the survival of society – double jeopardy. That is a big problem. Mr. President, we need to get back to brass tags. For not having a sound tax structure that determines the survival of Nigeria, we are walking in a mined field. It should not matter whether the wealth is stolen or rightly earned. In capitalism, the resources of the country are handed over to a few for effective management – privatization, commercialization, and now to the politicians. However, unless there is a tax structure that plows the profit therein for common good, we will continue to generate a crazy level of inequality that threatens the security of even the rich and the country.

In Nigeria today, for lack of proper tax structure, the money to fill the potholes on our roads is in our pockets, which also includes the rich. What everybody forgets, particularly the rich, is that the government will continue to spend – come-what-may; and who is likely to get his money easily back if not the rich. The process would at least better the state of society. If you look at countries in Europe that have economic problems presently, they are those with weak tax structures. Tax is what will solve Nigeria’s multifarious problems – corruption, security, unity, economy, value of the naira, power, roads, rail, education, hospitals, water, etc. Tax is apolitical, nonreligious, neither tribal nor sectional, but an instrument for government effectiveness and the survival of the country.

Mr. President, we also know that your advisers are paid; these are experts, but like I said earlier they have their own agenda. I am extremely disappointed with the kind of economists we have in this country; they should all be jailed and that includes those who are not saying anything different. They tell us that the government has no business in business. No sir, government is the business, only it has no business running it. Only government has the financial muscle to fund giant infrastructure for common good, maybe not a smart idea to manage them. For example, the Chinese government creates rival companies and charges the managers to compete against each other even globally. When private companies went burst, it was government that bailed them out, even in the U.S.

So Mr. President, if you want to defuse the Boko Haram bombs; silence the guns in the Niger Delta; clears the dungeons of kidnappers; create an enabling environment for growth; attract foreign investors; strengthen the naira; fill the potholes on our roads; roll out the trains; fortify education, health delivery and constant power supply, you will need to come to the gold mine. That gold mine is our pockets, but it has to be a robust structure that will guarantee that the rich also pay their fair share. It has to be seen as an instrument that threatens the survival of the nation as well as its societies. Your transformation agenda will come to naught without a tax reform that addresses social inequality. Trust me on this, Mr. President, if you announce tomorrow that you intend to send a genuine Tax Bill to the National Assembly, I bet that the mere pronouncement would shrink the recruitment grounds for sedition.

Besides, you have nothing to lose Mr. President, maybe more to gain; you could walk away with gold dust covered feet for all time.

This is a concerned citizen, and not a paid adviser. God-bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

Mr. Samuel Akinyele Caulcrick,

Lagos.