My millionaire moment, By Ose Oyamendan

Ose Oyamendan

I got turned off the first presidential debates when Barrack Obama seemed to have forgotten his debating skills at his anniversary dinner with his wife. The man felt like he would rather be anywhere. Which made me feel, I’d rather be sleeping too.

But, like all good citizens I stayed up a world away to watch the second debate for a few moment before I dozed off. I staggered awake a few minutes before the end of the debate to hear the banter about the rich folks tax or what we poor folks call the millionaire’s tax. Or, as my aunty in the village who can’t wrap her tongue around the word millionaire would call it “pneumonia”.

Obama wants millionaire to be taxed more. Romney, a millionaire’s millionaire doesn’t. I’m with Obama. What do I care? I don’t even have millions in CFAs.

I love that tax. I remember MKO Abiola’s proverb that the hand of the giver is always on top of the receiver. I don’t mind my hand under the government’s since they have a lot to dish out but if it’s mano-a-mano, I love it the other way.

Anyway, the exchange got me thinking. I remember the last time I looked at my account, I was a little way away from crossing into millionaire territory. I have no clue how to do online banking so I called up my assistant and had her do it for me. She called me a few minutes later and told me the bank made an interest payment into my account a couple of days before and I was now a millionaire.

I should have known something was working for me when I got a mail from the Romney campaign a few weeks ago asking that I donate to his campaign. I thought it was a case of a wrong address. I didn’t know it was a millionaire calling on a fellow millionaire for a few dollars.

Suddenly, I realized I hate the tax code. Why must a man pay more taxes because he makes more money? Is it his fault that he works hard or has good connection that enables him loot the treasury? I started flirting with the toxic idea of voting Republican.

I called my tax accountant and lawyer. I told them I was a millionaire and considering switching parties so I can keep as much of my money as possible. Not that I don’t like paying taxes but when I researched online I found out that most millionaires hate paying taxes. To be a member of the new club, I have to live like the existing members of the club.

My lawyer whom I suspect is a millionaire called me from his new condo up the Hollywood Hills and screamed, “congrats, buddy. Don’t stress the taxes, I got a few hints for you.” Just to make sure I know how delighted he was he sang, “Money, money, money!”.

My accountant, a practical man and a doubting Thomas, decided to come see for himself. Not that I blame him though. Last tax season, I went to his office to sign my tax forms and on my way out I had to borrow twenty dollars from him because “I forgot my wallet at home”.

He started with the usual questions about family, work, the social scene and my work. But, what he really wanted to let me know was that now that my fortunes have improved he would be charging more. I was in a great mood as I think any new millionaire would be. So, I added a percentage point to what he was asking.

The man was excited and motivated. We started a listing of my assets. That took all of two minutes. We agreed that as a new millionaire I must acquire more assets. I was so pumped up by my new wealth I even included a boat in my list of purchases!

It was going so well until my assistant walked in and told me we just had a bounced check. I got my checkbook and wrote another check. She reminded me the check was in dollars and I had just reached for a Nigerian checkbook.

My accountant was no longer doubting now. His normally subdued face was actively angry. “Is this million in dollars or Nigerian money?”

“Naira,” my assistant shot back.

My accountant packed up his bag and stomped off. I was stunned. A Nigerian millionaire is the authentic millionaire. The word is millionaire, like a million naira not a million dollar!

It got worse quickly when I noticed on my next trip to Nigeria that my balance was a zero short. I went into the bank and the teller told me I was never a millionaire. I must have logged in on a glitchy day and thought I’d become millionaire. She gave that disgusted look you give to a poor man hanging around a rich man’s table.

I’m still at a loss at my loss of status. But, it was good to be a naira millionaire for a day. Now, we just have to shore up the currency.

Ose Oyamendan, journalist and filmmaker, lives in Los Angeles. He writes a weekly column for PREMIUM TIMES.

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