"You know what, if I am president, what is it? Coal? Enugu State take your coal! Oil? Niger Delta take your oil! But I have the power of taxation. If your income from coal is N1 trillion I will say pay the Federal Government 70 per cent. That is your business. If you raise N10 trillion from oil, take your money but pay 75 per cent to the Federal GovernmentĒ -Atiku, Vanguard Tuesday, December 25, 2012.
t a recent event in Enugu, Atiku floated an idea which I can only describe as dangerous, which has gone relatively undebated. However, it is an idea that should be discussed extensively so that its true nature can be exposed. It sounds like a reactionary idea from a man who believes in unitary system of government where a central government has a strangulating hold on the people and resources. It suggests that the author has resource control as one of his main reasons for seeking power and this is very revealing coming from Atiku who was once a vice president and the Northís candidate in the last PDP primary. This idea of a crippling tax, imposed by the president on the regions would be a recipe for disaster, and I can only wish it is not yet a conviction which he holds but an idea which he would quickly realise is a very bad one indeed.
The more I think about the idea, the more I see that it has all the elements that have brought Nigeria to her knees. The first question is why 70 or 75%? Why not 20%, 30%, 40%, or 50%? Has he conducted any research to see if 75% is the right rate of taxation should Nigeria wish to go that route? How does a federal government with arbitrary taxation power work in a true federation which is what Nigeria claims it wants to build? What responsibilities would the Federal government take over from the state if it retains 75% of the revenue or does he expect the states or regions to continue to deliver the current services with only 25% of the revenue? Why would a democratic government wish to consolidate power at the centre when the world is moving towards devolution and decentralisation of power? What would be his plan B, should the national assembly fail to pass the enabling Act or would he govern by dictate? I suppose, the association of Nigerian politicians with military rule have corrupted their understanding and idea of democracy.
These are questions which any true democrat would consider and explain to the people before proposing a possible policy, should he gain power, but not in Nigeria where democratic power means something different. In developed countries, a prospective candidate like Atiku would commission a research to determine the optimal percentage of revenue each tier of government should need in view of their responsibilities and would then use these facts to propose a reasonable revenue sharing formula. In fact, if I am running for election in Nigeria, I would attempt to use the same factors to sale my vision for cut in government spending which Nigeria desperately needs. Revenue sharing formula should not be plucked from the air and varied at the whims and caprices of the president depending on his greed and prejudice. This would not be democracy but autocracy. This also shows a gross misunderstanding of what the real problems of Nigeria are. It is not how to share the revenue or who gets what percentage; it is how to stop whatever percentage that accrues to a government federal or state from ending up in the bank account of politicians through corruption. Without sorting corruption, no matter the percentage of revenue any tire of government gets, it will disappear through corruption the way it has been since 1960. Nigerian government must plug the hole in the ship before deciding how many people should sail on it. Anything else is simply lunacy.
What people like Atiku with overvalued sense of entitlement in Nigeria fail to understand and acknowledge, is that the people of the region that has produced the wealth of Nigeria has been most magnanimous in attitude with the wealth in their region. Their anger has never been because they share the wealth with other parts of Nigeria. It was the share greed, arrogance, callousness, contempt and neglect which characterised the way people like Atiku treated and continue to them and their region that fuel the resentment which gave rise to their current attitude. The resources were and are still exploited with total disregard to the environmental devastation it is causing the people in the region and the government remained deaf to their cries. Even today, in spite of more money accruing to them, the whole region remain an environmental disaster area which would require a lot of resources and leadership to be put right, if it will ever. What Atiku and many like him continue to demonstrate they do not understand, is that many Nigerians who have followed the attitude of the north in Nigeria politics will not believe that Atiku, or any other ethnic warlord from his region, will advocate 75% tax rate on the regions, if the resources were in the north. In fact, it would seem to me that were a substantial quantity of oil or any other natural resources of economic value to be discovered in the north, that the likes of Atiku would find the present arrangement utterly unacceptable and might be prepared to go to war to retain resources control or declare Arewa Islamic Republic. The most openly kept secret in Nigeria is that it is the oil that keeps Nigeria one. Those who have benefited and continue to benefit most from it should show some humility, less contempt and consideration for the people who bear the cost of its exploitation.
It would be a great mistake for Nigerians not to take these utterances of Mr Atiku very seriously, coming from a man who sees himself first and foremost as a northerner. He is in the forefront for the pursuit of northern interest in Nigeria, and seems to have an obsession with becoming the president of Nigeria even though he was a vice president for eight years. I have no doubt that his idea gives insight into what the north believe is their joker for increasing effort by regions to control their resources. Atiku calls it power to tax. What he proposes to do, if he becomes president is to cede resources control to regions and then levy them crippling tax to hand over the resources to the federal government so that he continue business as usual. What a clever idea, but utterly Machiavellian, selfish, sectarian and naÔve.
Mr Atiku thinks that this is a brilliant idea which he believes is the way forward for Nigeria. He does not seem to factor in opposition and resistance by the regions. In fact, he does not think that the people of the region may not see it as a good idea. Maybe, because he would send in the army as usual to crush all oppositions with their helicopter gun ship and shot at every moving thing in the region policy. If not, he would not have espoused it in Enugu another evidence of his arrogance. It shows how serious he takes the idea. He plans to be president in 2015 even though the current vice president is from the north, and his party has not nominated him. He speaks and behaves as if the presidency of Nigeria is his birth right. He has not demonstrated the humility expected of a leader in a democracy and does not think that the unresolved allegations of corruption against him would be a hindrance. Remember, he was vice president during Obasanjoís term and was part of the rot until his boss got frightened of his ambition to replace him. He is yet to clear his name of all the allegations of corruption against him, yet he sees himself as the next president of Nigeria. What arrogance and contempt for Nigerians. So far Atiku and Obasanjo both own universities, and Nigerian education system has been suffering from policies they implemented while in offices. No wonder he wants to control 75% of the resources in Nigeria if he is president.
So far, Atiku seems far too sectarian in attitude, utterances and world view to be a president of a budding secular democracy like Nigeria which is tethering on the edge of anarchy. He sees himself first and foremost as a Champion of the north and has demonstrated that he is in politics to pursue the interest of the north and that the presidency of Nigeria is just a means to an end. If not, why would he propose a crippling tax rate for the regions in attempt to continue to consolidate power at the centre, the one thing that is most responsible for the institutionalised and endemic corruption in Nigeria. It is this excessive power of patronage by the government because of the amount of resources it controls that is contributing in no small measure, to the prevalence of corruption in Nigeria and this will not be helped by Atikuís brilliant idea. Atiku belongs to a generation of Nigerians who institutionalised corruption and benefited from it, and his generation should no longer play leadership role in the country if Nigeria is serious about development as a country.
Nigerians like Atiku can remain involved in politics if they choose. It is their constitutional right, but Nigerians must be sensitised on the reasons why such people should no longer hold public offices, appealing as they may seem because of their wealth; if Nigeria will ever develop. He has had opportunities to lead and serve, and Nigerians have seen what he can do when in power; at the Customs and Exercise and as vice president of Nigeria. He and his generation must now give way for a new vision. They all should emulate Ibrahim Babangida and retire from active politics. As a matter of fact, Nigerians should not vote for any party that fields candidates that have been involved in Nigeria affairs in suspicious circumstance. In fact, anybody that has been involved in Nigeria politics like Atiku should not be elected into offices in 2015 and this must be the Nigerian revolution. This is the message Nigerians should send to the political parties. This is the time to apply democratic pressure to the political parties so that they can formulate their policies to satisfy what the people may vote for. If Nigerians make it clear that they are not ready to vote for any old, corrupt but not tired politicians, the political parties will take note and Nigeria revolution might begin. The Atikuís generation must now retire to give Nigeria a chance to survive.
For a stable federation to evolve out of the present Nigeria, resource control must be a constitutionally settled matter, and the president must have no power to tax the regions arbitrarily; as Atiku has stated he intends to do: if he becomes the president of Nigeria. This would be a very dangerous and unreasonable use of power. Many people would find it difficult to understand why a Nigerian president, who champions the cause of the north, should have the power to levy oil producing states, which bear the burden of oil exploration 75% of their revenues as tax; without outlining the services it would provide for the states. This idea clearly exposes the mentality that is still prevalent amongst a generation of politicians from the north I: e that they are in politics to achieve the control of resources in Nigeria so that they can continue the status quo. It is a view that has had its time and now should no longer be relevant in the new Nigeria.
Nigerians should be vigilant and understand the philosophy and intentions of those who seek power in Nigeria. People, who think like Atiku, should have no business ruling Nigeria ever again. His ideas are dangerous, sectarian, outrageous and reactionary. This is a man who became a millionaire by working in the Customs and exercise. Nigeria needs a new generation of leaders and not those whose leadership, actions and inactions, helped to create the problems in the first place. Nigeria needs leaders who will come up with ingenuous was to create wealth, find and revive alternative revenue sources for Nigeria and enable the regions to become economically independent by establishing true democracy and freedom which would enable the people to unleash their creativity. Nigeria needs a leader who would once again make the north self-sufficient in produce like groundnuts, west, in cocoa and east, in palm oil. Nigeria needs a leader who will stop the current dependency on oil and ensure accountability that will enable Nigeria mange whatever small resources it has effectively. Even if in the event that the people of Niger Delta gains 100% resource control, they will not drink the oil. They will need people who will help them to explore and market it and will still need to buy, groundnuts, cocoa and palm oil. No man is an island. Oil can destroy a country in other ways apart from the way it has destroyed Nigeria. It turned Kuwait into a country with one of the world highest rate of obesity, heart problems and unmotivated young people. Kuwait depends on foreigners for almost everything. At the moment, Atiku has said one thing clearly, he is not the Messiah. The search must continue.