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Our consequential bereavement

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By Josef Omorotionmwan
REACTING to our recent article titled “No hiding place for tax defaulters”, one of our avid readers wonders why our governments handle tax defaulters with kid gloves.

He submits that the payment of tax should be more than a duty; rather, it should be elevated to the level of a right of every citizen, such that if a person is denied the right to pay tax, he should go to court to enforce the right.

Listen to him: “In more civilized societies, only mad men and minors do not pay tax. This perhaps explains why those governments take seriously the burden of curing their mad ones so that they can quickly fall back into the tax bracket. Failure to remit withheld taxes to government should be lifted to the criminal level of outright embezzlement, where it rightly belongs. Our tax laws will benefit from appropriate amendments so that default in tax payment should be visited with commensurate jail terms while delayed withheld taxes should be remitted with high interest.”

The self-acclaimed biggest party in Africa is roaring about looking for whom to destroy. At one time or another, it has exported its troubles to Anambra, Plateau, Oyo, Rivers, and lately, to Edo, Adamawa and Imo states – to name just a few.

In order to avoid swimming in murky waters, some clever State Governors have learnt to quickly build loose alliances with the big bull in marriages of convenience or cooperation by coercion. We remember Anambra State under Governor Peter Obi and the current Ondo State under Governor Olusegun Mimiko.

Wittingly or unwittingly, the bully has invariably ended up shooting itself on the foot in these states. In the immediate past elections, the big bull short-changed itself by totally surrendering to the cooperation arrangement; where the big bull and its candidates are always the worse for it. In Anambra and Ondo states Biggie abandoned its candidates midstream! As we speak, those candidates are still licking their wounds.

They will soon accuse us of crying more than the bereaved. But this is still our country and to that extent, we are all bereaved. Call it consequential bereavement, if you wish. Why should we not feel concerned about an emerging trend in which every state that is not within the control of the big bull must operate parallel Houses of Assembly?

Why should we not be concerned if after an election, every party returns home to set up its own Assembly as we have in Rivers and Edo states today – APC Assemblies with overwhelming majorities and PDP Assemblies with microscopic minorities of two or three members; APC Speakers and PDP Speakers; APC with authentic maces and PDP with fake maces? Does this situation not portend enough danger to make every Nigerian feel a sense of bereavement?

In the particular case of Edo State, who really impeached Festus Ebea? APC legislators in that State may have missed the point when they put on themselves the unnecessary burden of being the ones who impeached Ebea. They failed to listen enough to Richard Nixon (1913 – 1994), the 37th President of the United States of America, who in his MEMOIRS warned people to desist from volunteering answers to unsolicited information. For Nixon, people invariably fall into trouble when they begin to answer questions that are not asked.

Essentially, Ebea impeached himself. In every legislature in this country, the position of Deputy Speaker is for the majority party. When Ebea was in the APC, he was the Deputy Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly. The moment he left the APC, he removed himself from the position.

The APC members missed it when they started obtaining signatures to impeach a man who had already impeached himself. Of course, in an attempt to answer unasked questions, they fell into the trouble of whether or not they met the two-thirds majority requirement.

Ebea may claim that he has not formally resigned from the APC. He can tell that to the marines! Which resignation can be more than the fact that he is the Speaker of the “PDP Assembly”? In fact, were INEC to show itself as not demonstrably an arm of the PDP, the only favour it could do to Ebea at this point would be to hold him in contempt — belonging to two political parties at the same time?

Why should we feign lack of bereavement when we see the big bull trying to muzzle the Imo State government into unnecessary submissions, all preparatory to “capturing the State”, come 2015? Why should the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria be dissipating its energy in the futile debate of the alleged attempt to issue ID cards to Northern elements resident in Imo State, even when the Imo State Government has consistently denied the allegation? And nobody wants to listen to the Imo State officials that the Northerners are the ones who want to get ID cards for themselves.

The ID cards issue has many parallels in history. If you stay in your hallowed chambers or in your air-conditioned offices in faraway Abuja and pontificate over what people are doing to save lives, you will never understand the import except you have been in a similar situation. Some of us have seen it.

The Nigerian Civil War caught us in Lagos. The Hausa soldiers were searching out “Nyamiris” (Ibos) to kill. Some unscrupulous Yoruba elements attempted to take advantage of the situation to get rid of us and create opportunities for themselves. They dubbed those of us from a greater part of then Midwest Region Nyamiris.

We recall quite vividly that Col. S.O. Ogbemudia, as he was then, Col. Ayaru and late Pa Longe of Mandilas were the ones who came to our rescue. They organised ID cards for us, which we in turn cloned and distributed to some of our Ibo friends. The cards saved our lives without vitiating our citizenship of Nigeria! If ID cards were useful then, why would they be useless now?

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