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Nigeria: Citizen, indigene or a taxpayer?

11/21/2013

How do you treat a Nigerian living in, say, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kaduna or Jos? Is he a citizen, indigene or taxpayer? The complexity of this matter and the inability of Nigerians to think it out as well as the biases harboured by administrators have aided the muddling up of these concepts and their benefits.

 

Many years ago, a US researcher who came to South Africa to study the concept of citizenship and how Africans handle the matter. He was forced to travel down to Nigeria to examine it further if he must be sure of what Africans understood by the citizenship concept.

 

He chose to come to Port Har­court (CASS in particular, the social science institute left behind by the radical professor of political science, Claude Ake, now late). At a CASS conference, the American confessed the uniqueness of Nigeria in handling the concept and said in his search for the citizen, he rather found the indigene.

 

The American knew how much citizenship meant to an American, European, or even a South African. It is the strongest status one needed to acquire. Even in old Jerusalem, under the rule of Pontus Pilate on behalf of the Emperor of Rome, a Jew struggled to acquire citizenship rights because it conferred a lot of privileges to him.

 

His life was guaranteed and his tax meant much even to a hostile government. This is why it was dif­ficult for the Jews to kill Jesus Christ because he was a Citizen and his life was guaranteed by Rome. Only through the rule of law as exercised by the King through the Governor could the life of a citizen be taken.

 

In Nigeria today, can anyone count the number of authorities and persons that can kill a citizen and nothing would happen. Justice delayed is said to be justice denied.

 

If cases of murder have to linger from decade to decade, from judge to judge, from generation to gen­eration, has justice not only been delayed and denied but disgraced? So, how much of a citizen are we?

Basic definitions would illumi­nate the fact that a Citizen is "some­body who has the right to live in a country because he or she was born there or has been legally accepted as a permanent resident". It is more a legal thing.

 

Now, because our governments have failed severally, they began to whittle down the acreage from Citizen to indigene. They think they can treat the indigene and leave out the citizen. The indigene is someone belonging to a place: originating in and naturally living, growing, or occurring in a region or country. Now, it is obvious that the effort to satisfy the indigene has failed. The result is that Government can neither cater for the Citizen nor the indigene.

 

Now, the all-important taxpayer! The citizen, the national, the indi­gene, none can get his due in the system if the taxpayer does not exist or does not act. A taxpayer is a person or organisation (such as a company) that pays tax, is the one that generates all the revenue that the Government appropriates. Most times, we squabble over who gets what share of the cake without caring about the goose that lays the golden egg.

 

Take education for instance, when the taxpayer pays for edu­cation, he has not just paid for knowledge but he is creating a knowledge economy, he is increasing the earning power of the citizens which in turn reduces destitution, dependence on government, health bills, and crime reduction.

 

It is assumed by all manner of re­searchers tracing the correlation be­tween Education and social welfare that well educated citizens get better jobs, get better access to health, have less inclination to common crime. This reduces government spending on those sub-heads.

 

This is what a taxpayer is doing for the Government. Those who spare the tax often inherit huge bills in the future. Poor education leads to poor capacity and poor access to wealth and poor health and much destitution and crime, all leading to huge government spending on weak citizens. Ignorance would eventu­ally become an excuse in law.

 

Now, in the craze to please the indigene above the Citizen, the Tax­payer has been forgotten. He lives in another state but pays his tax, but the system regards him to be paying for a right to exists and operate his business. He is not treated as a cor­rect Citizen who has performed a huge civic duty who deserved the best and the first of amenities.

 

Instead, the state governments mistake indigeneship for nationality. They pour all the help on the indi­gene who often becomes a liability, who fails to contribute to the com­mon good. They forget that "Citi­zenship denotes the link between a person and a state. Possession of citizenship is normally associated with the right to work and live in a country and to participate in politi­cal life. A person with citizenship in a state is called a citizen of it; one who does not have citizenship in any state is said to be stateless".

 

Yet, in Nigeria, most residents of cities are stateless. They find that citizenship status does not guaran­tee access to education in the states of their residence. Their tax does not either. They have no right to job opportunities because the system will reserve all jobs below grade level 08 for the indigene, not to the citizen, not to the taxpayer.

 

The Citizen has suffered value depreciation in Nigeria. The concept of citizenship began in the early city-states of ancient Greece, although others see it as primarily a modern phenomenon dating back only a few hundred years and, for mankind that the concept of citizenship arose with the first laws. Polls meant both the political assembly of the city-state as well as the entire society.

 

No matter the view held today, the relation of a citizen and the state has not been a fixed or static rela­tion, but constantly changed within each society, and that according to one view, citizenship might "really have worked" only at select periods during certain times, such as when the Athenian politician Solon made reforms in the early Athenian state.

 

Can we say Nigeria therefore is one of those places where citizenship has expired?

Any system that wishes to sur­vive the 21st century must recognise the taxpayer as king in the set-up. It is tax, not natural resources that make modern states thrive. It is investment, savings, tax, entrepreneurship, and so on, that make a modern society. A state with indi­genes that does not pay adequate tax will soon die. States will soon discover that their indigenes may fail, their citizens may fail, and it is the taxpayer that will carry the day.


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