Troublers of Nigeria: A Different View

In the first article, I said the Association of Nigerian Troublers has many “unusual” members in its fold. A certain reader did not like my expanded list, which included most Nigerians. This person engaged me in a debate about the “real troublers”, and made me pledge to write another article addressing his views. This is it!

The Pareto Principle, famously called “the 80/20 rule”, makes an interesting point—20% of input causes 80% of output. This principle asserts that a larger fraction of problems or solutions is caused by a much smaller set of factors. Management pundits use this to advise that people should “major on the major, and minor on the minor”. This principle is applicable in understanding Nigeria’s troubles.

When properly observed, it is obvious that a few persons are responsible for the bulk of the country’s troubles. Whatever wrong activity the majority of Nigerians may engage in, has minimal effects compared to the actions of the elites. Imagine the persons who stole monies meant for equipping the military. This singular act is likely responsible for the deaths of many soldiers and civilians, the destruction of properties worth billions of naira, and the loss of some parts of Nigeria’s territory to Boko Haram. Is there any “crime” of non-elites that can match this effect?

One of the supposed “troubles” mentioned in the first article, is the limitation of Nigeria’s tax base due to the failure of many Nigerians to pay tax. This accusation does not even consider the extenuating circumstances at work in Nigeria, a country where millions of people live in extreme poverty. Due to the government’s failure to provide many of the basic amenities for a somewhat comfortable living, Nigerians have to provide many of their needs by themselves. In essence, most Nigerians are forced to run their own personal governments, further eroding their already pauperized income. Is it fair to indict these Nigerians for not paying tax to the “general” government? Would this not amount to double taxation since they already pay to their “personal” government?

Even if we were to discount double taxation, this group of Nigerians do not even have the income for fair taxation. Their income barely meets their needs. Imagine asking a person who earns ₦5,000 per month to pay tax. What is there to deduct? It is obvious that many Nigerians do not pay tax because they are too poor to afford paying any tax. If the corrupt politicians and elite business interests had used public funds to grow the economy, more Nigerians would have had “taxable incomes”, and so be able to pay fair taxes. Once again, we see that the minority are the real troublers. Even a supposed offence of the majority is directly caused by the actions of the minority. The total accruable revenue from the poor majority is less than the taxes evaded and the sums stolen from the government’s purse by the influential minority.

Another issue addressed by the first article is the proclivity of Nigerians for foreign products. This indictment is as wrong as the others are. Nigerians are not the only people who buy Western and Asian products. Why criticize Nigerians for legally buying what they like? The foreign exchange required to buy shoes is nothing compared to what the elite spends on jets, costly wines, and flamboyant foreign trips. If the billions of dollars looted from the Nigerian economy were repatriated, would there not be enough foreign exchange to satisfy the tastes of Nigerians?

From the standpoint of quality, Nigerians cannot be blamed for wanting foreign products. A combination of poor regulation, lack of expertise and dismal government interest has resulted in low-quality Nigerian products. If the thieving elite had invested in local industries, local expertise would have improved. Countries like China and the US support their local industries through financial aid and market regulation. The Nigerian government fails to give this support to local industries; yet, Nigerians are being shamed for preferring high-quality foreign products.

The troublers of Nigeria are the well-connected elites at the realms of power. They are the ones wrecking this country. No person should blame Nigeria’s poor majority. Whatever this latter group does is too minimal to have any meaningful effect. If the minority stop troubling Nigeria, this country will be better.

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PS. This is a recap of the points raised by the aforementioned debater in response to my earlier article. Someone needs to warn me about helping opponents polish their swords.

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