Home column - Friday Voting right suppression vs taxation in Lagos, By Isaac N Obasi

Voting right suppression vs taxation in Lagos, By Isaac N Obasi


One wonders if the likes of M.C. Oluomo, Bayo Onanuga and their other accomplices who championed the suppression of the voting rights of non-indigenes in Lagos have ever heard of the age-long phrase in American political history which says no taxation without representation. This phrase triggered off other related phrases such as no voting no taxation, or no tuition without representation. Whether they have heard any of these phrases or not, they should be reminded that the usual voter suppression in Lagos which has been going on discreetly over the years but got unabashedly pronounced in the last two electoral cycles, would trigger off an unexpected conscientious type of resistance in the form of refusal to pay taxes by non-indigenes. 

In one of such provocations aimed at the suppression of voting rights of non-indigenes, a prominent traditional ruler descended so low and threw civility and honour into the lagoon when he threatened that those who refused to vote his preferred candidate then would be thrown into the lagoon (Daily Post, April 6, 2015, via https://dailypost.ng/2015/04/06/anyone-that-does-not-vote-ambode-will-be-thrown-into-lagoon-oba-of-lagos-warns-igbos/). Again, during the last quarter of 2022, one notoriously loquacious person by name Femi Fani-Kayode followed this misguided elderly utterance and said “our next President is Bola Ahmed Tinubu. If you like it, clap for yourself. If you do not like it, please go to Apapa and jump in the lagoon” (Peoples Gazette October 8, 2022, via https://gazettengr.com/jump-into-lagos-lagoon-if-you-dont-like-tinubu-as-president-femi-fani-kayode/). This was of course stated in his usual and ungodly arrogant manner. You keep wondering if these type of individuals are not doing incalculable damage finesse known among our cultured Yoruba brothers and sisters.  

Although the idea that no taxation without representation, has long been resolved in modern day democracies, its resolution came through greater democratisation of rights that allowed hitherto denied voting rights to certain groups in society (for instance blacks, women, etc) to exercise such denied rights and thereafter participate in the political process. But the phrase has given birth to other phrases that people now use to confront tyrannical governments and their institutions. For example, the idea that no voting no taxation or no tuition without representation, are reminders that citizens’ rights should not be denied without just cause (such as in the public interest), which in any case has to be seen to be transparently so.  

No voting right, no taxation as a phrase, therefore, is much alive. Ordinarily, an act of refusal to pay taxes is a punishable offence, but if you violently stop people from voting against their wish, that should also be a punishable offence. In this case, one illegal act would beget another, which means that suppression of voting right would beget refusal to pay tax. Consequently, the All Progressive Congress (APC) led-government in Lagos State should know that there is a limit to state-sanctioned or sponsored lawlessness (via intimidation, violence, and voter suppression), during elections and its concomitant rape of democracy. 

In the same way that an American politician, James Otis, made the popular statement in 1765 that taxation without representation is tyranny, so we say today that denial of voting right is tyranny and it should trigger off a repudiation of taxation obligation by affected citizens. This follows that the denial of voting right in Lagos is tantamount to triggering off a repudiation of taxation obligation. If one cannot vote and be represented vicariously, then one has a right to repudiate conscientiously a taxation obligation regardless of what the law says. Let those who make and enforce the law show the way first, and if NOT, it is simply the case of one illegality begetting another illegality. The state should take the blame in this circumstance. No one or group should be taken for granted in our modern democratic age by power-hungry politicians and their hooligans. Enough is enough. By the way, is this the type of governance culture one should expect in Abuja if things go their way? 

Every government has a constitutional duty to protect all citizens residing within their domain. It is a criminal act for any state to sponsor hooligans to attack people because of elections. It is even more criminal for Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to overlook such criminal acts in some states by going ahead to declare election results as if nothing happened. Yet in some other states where less violence occurred, the same INEC cancelled results. This is the height of hypocrisy. It goes to show that there was high level criminal conspiracy to thwart the will of the people in the presidential election of 25 February 2023. It did not matter how other elections went during the same day. What was of interest to them most, was to achieve this goal of announcing a preferred presidential candidate at all cost. The same criminal manipulation of results occurred in the governorship elections in places they considered strategic to their interest. This illegality must stop.   

Prof. Isaac N. Obasi can be reached via [email protected].

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