By Agba Jalingo
Yesterday, my governor, Senator Ben Ayade cried AGAIN while launching the anti-taxation agency in Calabar. The agency is meant to ensure low income earners do not pay taxes in Cross River state. His tears actually touched a soft chord in the minds of many people across the country and several of them have circulated the video back to me. One person who is not even in Cross River state said, their earlier scheduled meeting started with the video where governor Ayade was crying and most people in the meeting also started crying along with the governor whom they concluded is a lover of the poor and this is very impressive.
But if tears were a true measure of our pain, even Hitler’s drops would be preserved in the alabaster bottle. That is the irony and the double edged nature of that readily available liquid. Once emotions are evoked, in no direction essentially, tears can start flowing and oftentimes, the person whose tears flow down the cheeks, doesn’t even know why they flow until composure is regained.
So tears are not necessarily an expression of concern, rather, tears can fittingly be described as the defecation of pent up emotions which could also be spontaneous. Tears could also be a pontilitous attempt at hood winking the unsuspecting public into collective amnesia, particularly for politicians.
The later is where I will categorize the incessant tears of our governor, Senator Ben Ayade and I will tell you why.
Apart from the poorly substantiated tales of his crying for the poor before his coming into politics, yesterday was the fourth time governor Ayade will be crying in public. But guess what, each time he cried, nothing followed!
Before you get hoodwinked by yesterday’s tears, let me take you down memory lane.
17 January 2017, Governor Ayade announced the abolition of all forms of taxation for low-income earners in Cross River state. The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor and Senior Special Assistant Media, Mr. Christian Ita, in a press statement said those affected by the tax exemption are people earning below N50, 000 monthly, taxi, tricycle, wheel barrows, and motor cycle operators as well as petty traders and hoteliers.
He said Governor Ben Ayade, who gave the order after signing the 2017 appropriation bill of N707 billion, had reiterated the need to provide some economic reliefs to low income earners in the state with regards to taxes.
Ayade, after signing the budget had warned that: “I am sounding the last warning that henceforth I don’t want to hear anyone who earns less than N50, 000 a month being taxed in any form in the state….In the same vein, I don’t want to see a hotel that is struggling to survive with challenges of diesels being chased by government officials over taxes. I have warned anybody, who is still collecting money from these people to stop forthwith…I have seen poverty in my personal life and I know what that small N2, 000 means to them.
“It is clear to emphasise here that at this point, no nation, no state and no administrative authority can tax her people to prosperity…God has given us an elevated platform of authority to use our intellects and support them and not to suppress them. Why would government put a burden on people earning less than a N1, 000 a day with wife and children, shopping in the same market with the rich, who earn over N300, 000 monthly? I would rather tax my intellect to prosperity than taxing my people because we have sufficient education, exposure and experience, which we need to bring to bear for the prosperity of our people, which is why they elected us.”
That was in 2017. YES 2017!!!. Very characteristic of Ayade. He cried after that. Three years after, more than 70 percent of businesses operating in Calabar have left because of multiple taxation.
Yesterday, he repeated almost the same words he spewed in 2017 verbatim and cried again and the gullible are already crying along with him.
That is not all!
In August 2016, Governor Ayade visited Bakassi and cried after seeing the conditions that some returnees lived in. He made an instant donation of N3million. He was accompanied by a representative of the Mayor of Dortmund, Fuss Friedrich whom he said will build free houses for the returnees. He had introduced the man who followed him as the Mayor but it turned out he was “lying.”
Again in March 2017, during the courtesy visit of the National Commissioner of the National Commission for Migrants, Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons, Hajia Sadiya Farouk in the government house, Governor Ayade cried over the status of the Bakassi returnees. He wept and vowed to do everything he can to resettle the people of Bakassi and called on government not to neglect them. I don’t know whether the people of Bakassi have been resettled after that crying.
April 10, 2018, Governor Ayade also broke down in tears at the conference room of the government house when he asked his aide on Religious Affairs, Rev. Fr. Bob Etta to pray while signing the NGN1.3 trillion budget of Kinetic Crystallization into law. He cried also because he said the budget was going to de-couple the State from federal allocation and lift the poor out of poverty.
But shortly after that, CrossRiverWatch news editor, Jonathan Ugbal and three others were arrested for allegedly photographing two commissioners including the immediate past Attorney General of the State, that were sleeping during that exercise. Till date, even the hard copy of the budget is not available to the public not to talk of the promises inside.
My ten kobo advise to my governor is that the poor can never be freed from poverty by exempting them from taking responsibility. Taxation is not a burden. It is a civic duty for the collective good of the society. Taxes should be reduced, rebates given and made convenient for even the poorest of the citizens to pay with intermittent holidays. Taxes should not be a burden but they should also not be taken away. They are our right and civic duty. Taxes are Biblical. Taxes are a way of ensuring that every citizen of age and ability takes responsibility for the collective upkeep of the society and also ensure government is accountable. Every government that wants to abolish taxes is tilting towards a lack of accountability.
In a state where the total monthly IGR is less than N1billion and federal allocation is one of the lowest amidst crashing oil prices, abolition of taxes is not magnanimity. It is naivety. Don’t come here and tell me about those thrash called I-Money and G-Money and OPM.
Finally, I agree wholely that crying is not a sign of weakness. We all cry. I cry too. Even our Lord Jesus cried. But what the governor needed to do yesterday was not another round of crying or a regurgitation of same things he has been saying since 2017 as if he was saying something new, he rather needs to ensure that his aides take him more seriously and respect his orders and commands and directives. If they had done that, poor people would have long had some respite from the tax masters over 3 years ago and our cry cry baby in Peregrino House would have rested his face towel, at least…
Agba Jalingo is the Publisher of Cross River Watch
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