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Before ‘The Wretched of the Earth’ revolt soon

By Martins Oloja
24 October 2021   |   3:50 am
When we revolt it’s not for a particular culture. We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe’. ― Frantz Fanon The classic of Franz Fanon from which the dominant element in the title of this piece, ‘The Wretched of the Earth’ is taken is quite instructive. It is a 1961 book originally…

When we revolt it’s not for a particular culture. We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe’.
― Frantz Fanon

The classic of Franz Fanon from which the dominant element in the title of this piece, ‘The Wretched of the Earth’ is taken is quite instructive. It is a 1961 book originally written in French. Let’s explore it for our understanding of the message here today.

‘The Wretched of the Earth’ (French: ‘Les Damnés de la Terre’) is a 1961 book by the psychiatrist Franz Fanon, in which the author provides a psychological and psychiatric analysis of the dehumanising effects of colonisation upon the individual and the nation. The book discusses the broader social, cultural, and political implications of establishing a social movement for the decolonisation of a person and of a people. The French-language title derives from the opening lyrics of “The Internationale.”

Through critiques of nationalism and of imperialism, Fanon, a French West Indian psychiatrist and political philosopher from the French colony of Martinique presents a discussion of personal and societal mental health, a discussion of how the use of language (vocabulary) is applied to the establishment of imperialist identities, such as coloniser and colonised, to teach and psychologically mold the native and the colonist into their respective roles as slave and master and a discussion of the role of the intellectual in a revolution.

Fanon proposes that revolutionaries should seek the help of the lumpenproletariat to provide the force required to effect the expulsion of the colonists. In traditional Marxist theory, the lumpenproletariat are the lowest, most degraded stratum of the proletariat—especially criminals, vagrants and the unemployed—people who lack the class-consciousness to participate in the anticolonial revolution.

Fanon applies the term lumpenproletariat to the colonial subjects who are not involved in industrial production, especially the peasantry, because, unlike the urban proletariat (the working class), the lumpenproletariat have sufficient intellectual independence from the dominance of the colonial ruling class, readily to grasp that they can revolt against the colonial status quo and so decolonise their nation. One of the essays included in ‘The Wretched of the Earth’ is “On National Culture,” in which Fanon highlights the necessity for each generation to discover its mission and to fight for it.

You know ‘the wretched of the earth’ in this milieu called Nigeria, currently one of the poverty capitals of the world. This is, therefore, another warning signal note to all the duty bearers and the authorities in Nigeria that the next revolution heat they will feel may not come from the ranks of the followers of Nnamdi Kanu, or Sunday Igboho, or unknown gunmen or even the terrorists we call bandits. The rage next time may not be from the artistry of Omoyele Sowore’s ‘RevolutionNow’ operatives. The next revolt is not likely to be from the armoury of the experienced tormentors inside Sambisa Forest. The fire next time will come not from a particular culture but it will come in unexpectedly because ‘the wretched of the earth’ in Africa’s most populous nation will sooner than later scream, ‘we can no longer breathe.’ The oppressors in Nigeria should not ask me, for whom the bell tolls: hold your breath, it tolls for thee!

The two clear signals on the imminent fire have curiously appeared in the two capitals of Nigeria, Abuja and Lagos, one a political capital and the other commercial capital, where the oppression of the vulnerable and the oppressed ones, have become dominant. And so those who run Nigeria from these two capitals had better watch it as the dust of the aftermath of the first anniversary of the remarkable #EndSARS (20-10-2020) hasn’t settled. Here are the warning signal notes:

‘Lagos NURTW Generates N123bn Annually’
ON July 22 this year, the International Centre for Investigative Report (ICIR) revealed in a major report that the Lagos chapter of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), locally tagged, ‘agberos’ generates about N123.08bn annually, which could service the annual budgets of Nasarawa, Niger, and Yobe states put together. The data released on Thursday, July 22, showed that the money was realised through levies on passenger vehicles, motorcycles and tricycles.

According to the reliable report, other sources of income not included in the report were money levied on hawkers, articulated vehicles, and persons who visited certain markets to buy goods. The report recorded a total of 75,000 buses; 50,000 tricycles; and 37,000 motorcycles in Lagos.

It showed that on a daily basis, N3,000, N600, and N1,800 were levied on buses, motorcycles, and tricycles respectively. These levies sum up to N82.1bn for buses; N8.1bn for motorcycles; and N32.9bn for tricycles yearly; making a total of N123.078bn yearly.

Speaking on how the union could generate such money, a close associate of the NURTW who spoke to ICIR correspondent on condition of anonymity, said, “It is a highly connected and well-organised syndicate…take Idumota, for example; some ‘agberos’ work in the office, others work on the streets; some work in the morning, some are constantly on afternoon shifts…

“Some also have days that they work. Although, there is a fixed price, the rule of the game is that the ‘agberos’ charge the drivers based on the amount they charge the passengers.”

He added that in Idumota, there were over seven chairmen who get deliveries from the boys that work on the streets. “The boys have delivery targets, which is the reason they act rudely to drivers and passengers alike,” he added. He narrated further that to work with them, one must know one NURTW chairman or another renowned hoodlum on the street. The source mentioned the case of a young man who went to Badagry to get diabolic fortifications so that he could be effective on the job.

A passenger, Emmanuel Francis, expressed concerns over the activities of NURTW members. He urged the Federal Government to regulate their activities. When contacted by ICIR, a spokesperson for the Lagos Internal Revenue Service, (LIRS) Monsurat Amasa, said she could not comment on the amount the NURTW generates, but added that as a part of the informal sector, the body pays taxes to the government.

‘The Abuja Multiple Taxation On The Poor’
MEANWHILE, the same investigative report organ also revealed ‘how payment of multiple taxes has been frustrating ‘okada’ riders in Abuja’, Nigeria’s capital. Part of the fact file:

‘DANIEL Chogwu, 33, had moved to the Federal Capital City, Abuja from Kogi State in 2014 in search of a paying job with his high school certificate. Unable to earn a pay after being owed three months’ salary working as a security guard for a firm in Abuja, he started looking for his next best option.

Several of his friends who were commercial motorcyclists advised him to try Okada riding temporarily till he finds a better job. Fast forward to 2020, Daniel works from 5a.m. to 6p.m., six days in a week as a full-time commercial motorcyclist plying the Nyanya – Mararaba axis. On a good day, he says he makes about ₦2,000 daily but on some other days, he comes home with as low as ₦800. Because of his meagre earnings from the “Okada” business, he spends frugally.

But no matter how small his daily income is, he is charged an average of ₦250 on taxes weekly, which he pays to the Abuja Municipal Area Council, AMAC.

If he fails to pay the levy of ₦50 daily before 2p.m., his motorcycle would be confiscated and he would have to pay ₦1,500 to get it back. “Since I started this business in 2014, I’ve been buying tickets and paying one tax or another but I don’t know why we are paying because it has not benefited me in any way. All they [the tax collectors] are after is to collect money from us, sometimes with support from the police, and they would seize our motorcycles if we don’t pay,” he said angrily (ICIR)

Daniel’s experience is not different from the plight of commercial motorcyclists operating in satellite towns and rural areas in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) whose motorcycling taxi business is stifled as a result of paying multiple taxes and levies enforced by transport unions and government agencies. This is happening in Nigeria’s capital where a policy on social protection policy at a perilous time such as this is being implemented.

Nigeria is generally believed to be the second-largest market for commercial motorcycling in Africa, providing an alternative means of employment for the 231,544 unemployed residents of the FCT according to a 2018 data published by National Bureau of Statistics, NBS. But this group of workers pays more in tax than their counterparts who earn better income.

Specifically, for authenticity of this intelligence, the ICIR operative visited five locations in Nyanya where tax agents of the Abuja Municipal Area Council, AMAC operate. As early as 8:00am, they are out issuing ticket and collecting daily levies from commercial motorcyclists. Mopol Junction, Redeemed Junction and Nyanya market are some of the popular routes commercial motorcyclists within Nyanya axis ply daily and tax agent are stationed at various spots to collect the stipulated ₦50 every weekday from Monday to Friday. Though the activities of motorcyclists are not allowed within Abuja’s city centre, they operate within the suburbs providing an alternative means of transport for ease of movement in areas where they are unrestricted. Curiously checks have also revealed that at Nyanya Phase 4, policemen usually accompany the officials of AMAC to collect taxes from commercial motorcyclists plying the route. In Lugbe, the trend is the same except that there are three different bodies that collect levies from commercial motorcyclists namely Motorcycle Transport Union of Nigeria (MTUN), Amalgamated Commercial Motorcycle and Tricycle, Owners, Repairers and Riders Association of Nigeria (ACOMORAN) and Federal Capital Territory Authority, FCTA.

The levy ticket for “Okada” riders in Lugbe is accompanied with a printed receipt to acknowledge payment made by a commercial motorcyclist usually from Monday to Saturday every week. In his early 50s, James Madaki, also captured in the scoop, is a tickets agent who rarely smiles while working for AMAC’s motorcycle revenue collection office in Nyanya. He struggles to wake up by 5a.m daily and drags himself to the road; his job is to sell tickets to motorcyclists on AMAC’s behalf for a commission. James is not on the payroll of AMAC; if he does not go to the road to sell tickets then he will be broke. For every ticket he sells he earns a commission of ₦10, he acknowledges that this amount is small but it is better than being idle. If he hits the road very early, he could smile home with ₦1,200 for the day, which he says doesn’t happen often. “I always wake up very early so I can sell these tickets and get my money for the day. This job is very demanding because I have to be on the lookout for “Okada” riders and persuade them to buy from me so I can eat and government can eat,” he said.

However, the National Tax Policy recommends that tax establishments shall ensure that primary tax functions, which include assessment and collection of taxes, are only carried out by career tax administrators who are public servants and not by ad-hoc consultants or agents. There are different groups all collecting taxes and even when the police arrest a motorcyclist there is no group that will speak out for the person and they are all printing receipts to collect taxes. And when these motorcyclists default on paying the tax the police and agents will violently make life difficult for the riders.

••• Discussion of the next revolt of ‘the wretched of the earth’ the government and politicians have been exploiting, continues next week…

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