For the government of any society to develop and successfully discharge its statutory responsibility of providing social amenities and infrastructure, every strata of that society, peopled by diverse groups and playing different roles must be ready to sacrifice and perform their constitutional duties to make this a reality, towards bringing about general development and good of such society.
While it is pertinent for any Government that worth its salt to fulfill the social contract which in most cases amounts to seeing to the comfort of the citizens, it is equally essential for every responsible citizen to contribute his/her quota where applicable, in order to attain the kind of development, which would guarantee the sort of life and standard of living which reflects the legitimate aspiration of the whole.
This apparently is the mindset of the present administration in Ogun State under Governor Dapo Abiodun who during his swearing-in ceremony declared that “Our vision summarizes the kernel of our agenda: to give Ogun State focused and qualitative governance and to create the enabling environment for a public-private sector partnership, which is fundamental to the creation of an enduring economic development and individual prosperity of the people of Ogun……… eliminate leakages and ensure efficient and judicious use of the common wealth”.
Moving forward, he proclaimed the “building our future together” mantra as a vision upon which governance would be propelled. With this, the Governor simply captured the importance of collective responsibility and task which arguably underscores the best template upon which mutual disposition and committed partnership could be engendered between government and the governed with respect to economic growth and development.
Put differently, the Governor is rightly predicting the success of his efforts at developing the state and bringing the dividend of democracy to the people, on the anticipation that citizens would match their expectations with responsible behavior, so that their desired goals could be achieved, since it is generally believed that “a tree cannot make a forest” and that “no one can clap with just one hand”.
This position tallies with the thinking of John Donne, an English Poet and Scholar who said in one of his writings that “No man is an island, entire of its own; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…..” Simply put, it means for the head to stand and perform its role effectively there must be the neck, just as the neck alone cannot stand without the head. When one plants, the other must water for the expected yield to be achieved.
In every democratic setting, members of the public have every right to demand from the government, the provision of some amenities which make living more bearable. Such demand in this clime include free health care services, education, good road network, electricity to mention just but few. The legitimacy of all this longing however becomes not just possible but also reasonable, only when citizens do not neglect their own roles and responsibilities to the state. Failure to do this simply equates to demanding impossibilities from the government.
A patriotic citizen is expected to vote without fail, buy locally produced goods, support the army, keep surroundings clean, be proud of his/her state or society, celebrate the diversity of his/her state, pay and correctly too, taxes as and when due and engage in activities that would fly the flag of his/her state high at all times.
In all of these, payment of taxes is one major component that not only ensures the government’s ability to play its roles to the citizens; it is also the strongest basis upon which people justify their demand for accountability. In other words, people who pay taxes find more legitimacy and morals in placing demands on the government, and even the government feels more accountable to the people than when they get revenue through what some scholars describe as the renter economy. Therefore, it goes without saying that a sustainable tax system is the bedrock of a reliable revenue generation process remains the single most important means by which the government meets its commitment to the people.
Though, there are other sources through which the government gets revenue to execute policies and programmes, none of them is as certain as regular payment of taxes as other sources are mainly dependent on factors which often, are beyond the control of anyone. Prices of oil in the global market for instance, have a great impact on revenue sharing to states in the Nigerian federation, which fluctuates unpredictably, depending on a lot of factors globally. Other natural phenomena including drought, war and pandemics such as COVID 19 which the world is still grappling are living examples that may affect other sources of revenue and other force majeure with their potentials for political, social or economic instability, both nationally and internationally.
When revenue generation from other sources becomes low for whatever reason, that from taxes always come to the rescue to prevent failure on the part of government to meet up with its expectations such as fulfillment of electoral promises, provision of social services, payment of salaries, creation of enabling environment for business to thrive, ensuring security, law and order, protecting the nation’s territorial integrity and other interests both locally and internationally.
In Ogun State, it is the desire of the government to provide good governance and improve the standard of living of the citizenry. A careful look at the modest achievements recorded by the Governor Dapo Abiodun-led administration barely one year in office lends credence to this.
In just one year, the government had been able to attend to some basic needs of the members of the public in such a way that they are already feeling the dividend of democracy and having a better standard of living in the area of Security, Infrastructure, Transportation, Health, Education, Youth empowerment, among others.
The government was able to achieve a peaceful and secured environment that attracts and retain investments and some roads were selected for rehabilitation and construction based on community and linkage to strategic locations like industrial areas, farms/agro-allied enterprises, educational institutions, hospitals and those that linked bother communities to enhance economic development of the state and bring about relief to the large number of people that use these roads on daily basis for both private and commercial purposes.
To promote the people’s business activities, as many businesses depend on electricity supply, the government took a number of strategic steps to improve power supply by establishing a Power and Energy Board and commencement of Power Audit that will determine the power needs and improve provision of power supply in phases. The Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) were also supported with direct intervention funds.
The Education and Health sectors were not left behind in these developments, many schools and hospitals were renovated, reconstructed and fully equipped across the three senatorial districts of the state for the use of the citizens. Youth employment/empowerment and efforts towards enhancing provision of food received greater attention among other areas.
Through the ISEYA agenda, i.e., “I”, Infrastructure, “S”, Social Welfare and Wellbeing (Job creation, women empowerment, and development), “E” Education, “Y”, for Youth Development, and “A”, Agriculture, the Ogun State Government is poised to bring about unsurpassed transformation to the state.
All of these achievements would at best, have been wishful thinking without the support and cooperation of the people and other stakeholders. They have demonstrated their willingness to be responsible and committed partners by paying their taxes correctly and regularly too. This much the Governor appreciated as he stated in his May 29 2020 address to the people that “Our citizens of the gateway state, this has been the journey so far in the last one year. This is the foundation of our building our future together agenda, Let me assure you that the next one year and beyond will witness the building on these well laid foundations and a more bountiful yield for us as a State and people. We have come this far together and we have seen what we can achieve by walking together. And, we can even achieve more by coming together. This is Ogun State. This is our common patrimony. This is our heritage”.
Without doubt, payment of taxes regularly and correctly has a direct link to bringing the dream of government to manifestation. However, refusal to pay tax may just represent a major hindrance in this regard. It is therefore imperative for the citizens to continually embrace the culture of tax payment, so that the government can reach out to everyone, and guarantee the legitimate improvement to the living standards, which after all is the very essence of the social contract. As patriotic citizens therefore, it is our constitutional duties and responsibilities to ensure that our taxes are paid voluntarily, we don’t anybody to force or coerce us to do this. This is why the Ogun State Board of Internal Revenue was established with a mission to help taxpayers discharge their obligations by providing efficient top quality service and applying the tax laws with integrity and fairness to all regardless of their socio-economic status. The doors of the Board are widely open to render services, be it artisans, market women/men, transporters, self-employed, small and medium scale and big industrialists too.
An American author and Political activist, Hellen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much” just like an American Footballer, Vince Lombardi who also said, “individual commitment to a group effort: That is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work”. To build Ogun State Future Together to an enviable height, to ensure that it becomes better, more beautiful and a positive reference in terms of quality living, it is the responsibility of ALL OF US TO BE COMMITTED TO PAYING TAXES REGULARLY.
When we do this, we are imbibing the culture of tax compliance, it is only then that we can make legitimate demands from the government not only in terms of providing for our needs but also with respect to accountability and transparency. And it is only then that the government would be in a good position to provide amenities that would help to redistribute wealth and bridge the sharp gap between the rich and the poor and ultimately, make living more abundant for all and sundry.
Ogunlami, is an Information Officer, Ogun State Board of Internal Revenue.