The Legitimacy Of Taxation

The late sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo during his outstanding tenure as the Premier of the Western Region of Nigeria in the 1950s attempted unsuccessfully to take the issue of Taxation out of partisan politics. Sadly, he did not achieve this objective in persuading a recalcitrant opposition fixated on the need to win the next election.

It is to the credit of Chief Awolowo that in spite of this debilitation, he stuck to the sensible position of using taxes as the principal instrument to finance development.

This came at a cost. For the electoral base of the party in government, The Action Group was constantly eroded. Nevertheless, the verdict of the history of what he achieved will always be resoundingly positive. We must learn from this. For this is how a statesman, as opposed to a rabble-rousing political agitator, behaves.

Such was the eventual public acceptance of the need to collect taxes in order to finance development, that rioting broke out in the Western Region when in 1961, the regional government attempted to cut taxes as an electoral calculus.

This backfired big time, for the populace had become sophisticated enough to see the intrinsic link between the payment of taxes and access to health and education facilities as well as the development of the physical and social infrastructure.

The administration headed by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu inaugurated in Lagos State in 1999 sensibly followed this framework by asking the widespread acceptance applause.

There is frankly no alternative to this position. The irresponsibility of the military in eroding the tax base must be condemned. The military has seized power illegitimately used devices much as this to gain legitimacy.

The country has paid a harsh price for this in terms of sustainable development. It has also led to rising and alarming levels of poverty.

In the State of Osun for example, a daily contribution of about N120 for every taxable adult will translate into roughly about N5 billion a month.

The economic benefits of this are mouthwatering. It will translate into better pay for teachers, greater access to health facilities and the development of a self-sustaining commercial base.

This is why every sensible adult must support the payment of taxes as a way of elevating living standards as well as achieving sustainable development.