Prisoners of myths

My sister and my niece had a bit of argument on things my sister was sure I would have done to my children as part of our ‘culture’, my niece told her mother that although she has not asked me but was positive I am a different person than my sister had in mind.

So there is this believe that a newborn baby need to be bathed with palm oil and powder in order for the baby to be perfectly clean. The reason for this is that if a child is not thoroughly cleaned the first time, such a child may develop bad body odour later in life.

To my sister’s surprise, my niece was right – I did not bathe my girls in palm oil because there is no need for such – my principle is ‘when in Rome…’ actually, my girls were only cleaned with soft cloth at the hospital and they both only got proper bath at home with mild soap and water.

And they were clean, still are.

Some of the ‘must do’ that were passed down to us were due to resources available to our predecessors, times are different now, so must we.

So I asked my sister, do you still believe in money rituals? Or that the myth of money rituals continues because we live in an environment where wicked people get away with horrible crimes? This is a topic that she and I have had so much discussion on. Almost every week another half body is found somewhere with key body organs removed, lots of Nigerians especially in the SW believe this is a case of money rituals. One could wonder, how is it possible that a lifeless body can throw up cash after some powerful juju was placed on the corpse?

We are not raised to ask such question, we are only told to believe money rituals using human body is prevalent in society. Somehow people make up colourful stories about this and we ended up suspicious of one another, and the murder crime continues.

I recently read a fantastic crime novel focussing on money rituals in Nigeria that gives me hope that there are many people out there educating the public on how to look at this case of money rituals differently, Easy Motion Tourist by Leye Adenle. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in putting this money rituals myth to rest and treat people disappearing or corpses on road sides as serious murder crime that it is. Even though it is a fiction, I could see so many of the vivid pictures in my mind’s eye. 

From simple case of hygiene such as how newborn must be cleaned to a more serious issue such as money rituals – while both are myths, the reason the society remained spellbound is the believe that we must not question or approach issues differently just because that is how it has always been. Both of these started threading long ago while traveling 50miles away from home was a big adventure – I am sure ancestors will be shifting in the afterlife now if they could see we refused to move with time.

For whose benefit is Osun Economic Development Fund?

How I wish Nigerians will be assertive where issues that will directly affect their lives is brewing.

There is no shortage of new policies in Nigeria, often I wondered what politicians think of the general public, to be frank I think they think most Nigerians are not bright. Why did I say this? Well, why would anyone introduced a new policy without providing clear strategy of how proceeds will be spent to the contributors?

Osun state plans to generate internal revenue because federal government obviously has no money to distribute like in the past. This new policy is called Economic Development Levy (EDL).  This is to be levied on business owners. Most people in Osun state are business owners (worth of the business for most is another story). More than half of Nigeria population live in rural area, this is more evidenced in a place like Osun state. Rural infrastructure have been neglected for decades in Nigeria, Osun state is not exception.

To be clear I don’t think Nigeria can develop without all working adults contributing their fair share of taxes, I am in support of taxation. However, I do not think one can achieve this by imposing levies on all persons. Just walking down our streets, it is clear people have different economic strengths so imposing blanket taxes on everyone just because they have a stall of 5000k naira worth tomatoes is unfair.

The first thing that came to mind when I read the new policy was ‘can you please tell us what you intend to do with this new fund’. For years that Nigeria enjoyed high oil price, there is almost nothing to show for it in terms of infrastructural development, now that oil price has reduced significantly, (only in Nigeria) politicians want to retain all the perks, how can this be possible?

While I have loved some of Ogbeni Aregbesola’s policies, I just think this blanket cover of tax collection is a bad idea without stating clearly how and what he planned to use the fund.

In developed countries where they have managed to make significant progress in tax collections, people have lots of incentives to pay their taxes; public libraries, public parks, galleries, clean roads – all of these and others are accessible to all.

If Mama Olobi is now going to be faced with paying taxes based on the size of her stall, what is she getting in return? It will not be fair to collect money from Mama Olobi only to be told stories of civil servants salaries for example – if the state can’t afford to do some things as they used to, then maybe to let go of the excesses?

Secondly, is there going to be exceptions? How can you aim to tax every stall holders when we know that some people are clearly living from hand to mouth in our neighbourhoods?

If my 80+ year old mother who insisted on selling her worobo (petty trade) is approached to pay taxes because someone thinks she has money, (by the way her trade fund comes from my sisters and I), what is she getting in return? She has been on medication for high BP and diabetes for years, would she be eligible for subsidised meds?

Perhaps low oil price has exposed our states to reality of importance of self-sustainability, but one thing that we can all agree on is the inequitable of wealth distribution as our major problem – if all adults are now going to be approached to pay taxes, then the fund collected can not be used to service the unsustainable activities of the past, otherwise no progress in my opinion.