The Patriot Institute of Journalism and Arts (PIJA), Lance Magazine is a public-centric independent media organisation dedicated to fighting injustice, fostering social justice and community development through the telling and retelling of the marginalised-oriented stories.
The Rebels Of The New Naira Policy
As much as it is not sane for civilians to violently revolt, it is absolute insanity for NIGERIANS to accept the new policy without instant resistance, albeit constructive. It is now time for the people's power to be seen, used and felt.
One of the central pillars of colonisation was tax. The European powers did not want Africa to be a drain on their treasuries, and they wanted the colonies to pay their way. They also wanted people to enter the cash economy. Taxation was a way of driving people into working for money.
So, it all started in Angola when the Spirit of Revolution knocked in, in the late 19th century. The Portuguese had come and they attempted to impose some administrative control. In 1902 a tax collection exercise in Bailundo, in the centre of what is now Angola, went badly wrong when local people rebelled violently, attacking tax collectors and traders (both European and African). This was the first time that Africans had rebelled against the Portuguese in Angola. Only this was not the first.
The imposition of a tax on an individual property in 1898 was the final straw for Temne and Mende chiefs who had seen a big increase in British intervention in the Protectorate in the 1890s, including stamping out slavery, seizing any land without title deeds, appointing district commissioners, and increasing levels of policing. Temne and Mende chiefs will later revolt and their revolution will be tagged the Hut Tax War.
The Hut Tax resulted in the death of some British officials and anyone suspected of collaborating.
Cardew, the British Governor of Sierra Leone noted ‘the growing political consciousness of the African and his increasing sense of his worth and autonomy.’ But in this age, it seems we are not growing yet. Our consciousness is fast asleep like the toothless serpent.
The Herero story of tax resistance goes back to 1904. The people of the South West Africa (now Namibia) the Germans played off the Herero against the Nama. But the Herero soon regretted the treaty of protection they had signed with the Germans; they were forced to pay taxes, and their land was stolen. In 1904, frustrated and betrayed, they took the Germans on, destroying some farms and killing a hundred people. The German response was out of all proportion, making what started as a tax war, a tearful genocide which reduced Herero people from 80,000 to 15,000.
“The Herero nation must leave the country. If it does not do so I shall compel them by force…Inside German territory, every Herero tribesman, armed or unarmed, with or without cattle, will be shot. No women and children will be allowed in the territory: they will be driven back to their people or fired on.”
These were the last words to the great Herero nation from the great General of the mighty German Emperor, General von Trotha.
The Germans drove the Herero into the Omaheke desert, sealing the last water holes off before erecting a fence to keep them out. Around 50,000 Hereros died. But Herero got their freedom which is the most important thing.
The Aba Women’s War in 1929 was majorly caused by taxation. And perhaps, it wouldn’t have occurred if Madame Nwayeruwa was not taxed.
The war was sparked by a dispute between Nwanyeruwa and Mark Emereuwa, who was helping to make a census of the people living in the town controlled by the Warrant, Okugo. Nwanyeruwa was of Ngwa ancestry and had been married in the town of Oloko. In Oloko, the census was related to taxation, and women in the area were worried about who would tax them, especially during the period of hyperinflation in the late 1920s. The financial crash of 1929 impeded women’s ability to trade and produce so they sought assurance from the colonial government that they would not be required to pay taxes. Faced with a halt in their political demands, the women settled that they would not pay taxes nor have their properties appraised.
On the morning of November 18, Emereuwa arrived at Nwanyereuwa’s house and approached her, since her husband Ojim had already died. He told the widow to “count her goats, sheep and people.” Since Nwanyereuwa understood this to mean, “How many of these things do you have so we can tax you based on them”, she was angry. She replied by saying “Was your widowed mother counted?,” meaning “that women don’t pay tax in traditional Igbo society.”
The two exchanged angry words, and Emeruwa grabbed Nwanyeruwa by the throat. Nwanyeruwa went to the town square to discuss the incident with other women who happened to be holding a meeting to discuss the issue of taxing women. Believing they would be taxed, based on Nwanyeruwa’s account, the Oloko women invited other women (by sending leaves of palm-oil trees) from other areas in the Bende District, as well as from Umuahia and Ngwa. They gathered nearly 10,000 women who protested at the office of Warrant Chief Okugo, demanding his resignation and calling for a trial. In the end, the 10,000 women protest led to the death of over 50,000 people and the freedom of the women not paying taxes in Igbo land. But I guess this will not be happening again as our activists are rather speechless.
This makes silence the father of gullibility while routine, the enemy of rotation. Central Bank of Nigeria embarked on the re-designing of the naira in a more disgusting way. Disgusting because it was done at a point when the country wallow in economic distress. The only goal of the CBN now should be how to grow the economy not designing and stylishly taxing. Yet, none of this had truly attracted concrete critics to demand why.
The Buhari Government has turned the ruling into a tyranny, where the opinions of others do not matter at all. And now, what we have is the new naira policy which makes life harder for Nigerians yet no one will talk except the social media rantings.
Nigeria has gotten to a point or has been driven to a point where there is no need for deliberation, no need for citizens’ reactions, no need for their say or the national assembly’s deliberations, and considerations of the cost, lives, properties and humanities before a decision is made. This goes to when the Hate Speech Bill was to be signed into law, and the Cattle Rearing Bill among others. No concern, no consultation, and no opinions of the citizens were heard. Only mindless and tacit leaders do that.
Even if autonomous rights are conferred on leaders to make policies as suggested by fraudulent 1999 constitution, they must be checked and balanced. As no one person is an island of knowledge, so is no Nigerian leader that knows it all. Emefiele may think he does and that was why he, conjoined with the direction of Buhari, redesigned naira notes and made life harder for citizens with stylish taxation. He limited the amount of money one can withdraw from banks and added a 5 to 10 per cent charge to anyone intending to withdraw above the limitation. This part of the policy is useless and needless. It is rather a means of extortion called taxation.
As much as it is not sane for civilians to violently revolt, it is absolute insanity for NIGERIANS to accept the new policy without instant resistance, albeit constructive. It is now time for the people’s power to be seen, used and felt.
The idea of democracy is to always play peaceful politics where everyone gets their share equally. But the time tyranny ricocheted in, humanity became distant and equality became a fairy tale. Tyranny changes the habiliment of the supposed peace of democracy into one garment of facade embroidered in double colours of both tyranny and democracy. Limiting the latter to the book, and the former to practical, yet in one body posing as a democratic Lord. At times, maybe in the crevice of utter frustrations, democracy strikes that demo out to turn the cracy to CRAZY, forming a formidable fortress against unholy and draconian policies. Such a thing has happened many years ago, happened in 2020 in disguise, and yes, it MAY happen again especially to drain the existence of the rebels of the new naira policy.
Edited by Bushra Ghazal
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