FEATURE ARTICLE

Temple Chima UbochiFriday, March 2, 2007
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ubochit@yahoo.com
Bonn, Germany

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2006 CENSUS: THE POLITICAL IMPERATIVE


he furore that greeted the released of 2006 Census figures is yet to die down, if at all it will. A lot has been said and written about the exercise but I still want to add to the discourse in my little way.


I did my National Youth Service with the National Population Commission, Lagos State in the late 1980s and nearly took appointment there but saw the place too dried and rigid for me. So I have a little insight on the workings of the commission then, although, a lot of water might have passed under the bridge by now.

Censuses in Nigeria tend to be controversial. Why?

The reason for this is ethnicity.

Why do we fan ethnic sentiments? Why do we have ethnic fingerprints in all we do?

The resources of the State (Nigeria) is limited and can’t go equally round coupled with corruptions at high and low levels, people tend to utilise every opportunity to acquire more for their ethnic area at the expense of other ethnic groups. The elites of every ethnic group tend to play ethnic card for their selfish interests claiming to be fighting for their people while in earnest, they have only parochial and personal interests.

The ruling class fan the embers of ethnicity in their intra-class struggles in order to outsmart one another for political and economic spoils.

Census influences economic and political powers. There is the perception that size equals power. In Nigeria, it does, at least to the extent that the federal government uses population figures to calculate how much money to allocate to each of the 36 states. The North controls about 55% of Nigeria’s total revenue, but, 90% of Nigeria’s revenue actually comes from the oil in the South. Injustice!

Why it is that ethnicity is one of the greatest problems in Nigeria, after all, almost all the countries in the world are made of people of diverse ethnic background and origin and most have managed to co-exist peacefully?

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Nigeria is an artificial creation by the British colonial masters for their own conveniences. Nigeria did not evolve naturally. The Brits lumped people that had nothing in common hitherto, together.

Everywhere the British went, they left behind political problems of unimaginable proportion. They are one of the worst human beings to deal with, because, a typical British person is criminally minded and what we are seeing in Nigeria in terms of crimes is only a microcosm of the British way of life, only that the respect and fear of their laws made most of them to hold back their criminal tendencies.

Britain is lucky to have a functional and independent judiciary that enforces their laws to the letters otherwise they would have been the most crime committing country in the world.

During the colonial days, northern Nigeria was unproductive and unprofitable to run while southern Nigeria was just like money making machine spinning out raw materials for the British industries. The Brits wanted the northern territories for size and had to offset what they lost over there through what they gained from the south. So they joined all of us together in 1914 for their administrative and economic conveniences.

Lord Luggard gave us the name Nigeria and his wife composed our first national anthem ( Nigeria we hail thee).

In 1960, they granted us political but not economic independence. The northerners were then against the independence, they wanted the Brits to hold forth as long as possible, because, they were afraid that the south way up more than them in all ramifications, might dominate them politically, economically and otherwise. Most of them then were illiterates while the south was churning out fine brains here and there.

In order to assuage the northern fears, the Brits gave them power of “fictitious” number, because, he that has number in democratic settings has the power. The Brits manipulated the census prior to independence to favour the Northerners. That was the beginning of staged-managed census in Nigeria. The ghost of what the Brits did then in Nigeria is still haunting us till this day. What a shame!

Since then, successive censuses in Nigeria have been marred by irregularities as the north does everything to maintain their suspicious power of number.

In order to achieve this, cattle, camels and horses turns into human beings overnight (maybe, start walking on only two legs, who knows?) so as to help increase their numerical strength vis-à-vis superiority.

There is always an attempt to make it appear that the North is larger in population than the South, which a person like me will never accept. It is just an attempt to continue their numerical domination based on questionable censuses.

Census is the basis through which government allocates her scarce resources.

Nigeria spends lots of money conducting censuses. But after the exercise, few armchair enumerators will stay in an office and cook up figures as they want, making the efforts of the real enumerators and the whole exercise a colossal waste.

Every census conducted in Nigeria was manipulated and I think Nigeria's population is more than they want us to believe. For example, the Korma people of old Gongola State were just discovered in the 1980s and successive censuses before then never took them into account upon that they have existed as a people for hundreds of years.

The NPC even said that they counted only 85% of Nigerians. That leaves 15%, not evenly distributed across states, uncounted. That means that, in some states those uncounted could be as high as 20 or 30%.

In Lagos, I learnt that most of the destitute were left uncounted. The Oba of Lagos and few citizens of the state organized to have as many of them as possible counted. But, I learnt the number was a drop in the bucket compared to the over 300,000 on Lagos Island alone and when the homeless from other parts of the state are added, the figure could be as high as 4 million. It will be interesting to know how many names were listed as “without any known address” in that state.

Yet, the destitute, uncounted, constitute part of the population of Lagos State, putting pressure on social services.

Another point is that most of the enumerators never go to remote and difficult terrains; they just put up numbers based on their imaginations. These enumerators also don’t have the patience of going to houses twice, when on their first call, they met nobody at home. What they do is to imagine how many people they think are in those households, without giving a damn about the consequences of their actions.

The other area of surprise is that the census figures show that males are more than females in Nigeria, a strange thing even on global basis because women are more than men every other place except Nigeria. No body knows how they come about these figures.

According to the 1991 Census, the northern states had 52.7% of the population; in 2006, they purportedly have 53.4% while the south declined in actual and percentage terms by comparison. Yet, there are other variables such as the number of housing units in each state; the number of enrolled school children, the distribution of electricity metres which can be used to determine the relative sizes of populations.

Several of these points attest to the fact that Lagos and South-West states as well as the South- East states have been grossly undercounted.

The Punch Newspaper of January 10, 2007 wrote this:

“Kano and Lagos states have retained their positions as Nigeria’s most densely populated States.

They have 9,383,682 and 9,013,534 residents respectively. The 1991 provisional census results put the population of Lagos at 5,685,781 and Kano 5,632,040. Trailing them in the results of the 2006 National Housing and Population Census is Kaduna State, which has 6,066,562 people. …….Abia, Edo and Plateau states whose populations are 2,833,999, 3,218,332 and 3,178,712 respectively, have the least annual growth rates of 2.4 per cent”.

Every thing here seems interesting. It is unbelievable that NPC Chairman – Sama´ila Makama - and his men at the Commission think that Nigerians are fools and can force any cooked-up figure down our throats and still get away with it.

How can they explain that Rivers State is almost as populated as Abia and Imo States combined?

Rivers state has 5,185,400 people while Imo has 3,934,899 people and Abia State has 2,833,999 people. Do the adding, you will see that Abia and Imo States combined is only slightly more than Rivers States.

The only justification for this may be that, the fishes, crabs and periwinkles in the rivers and seas of Rivers State was also included as human beings and residents of that state. That will be the only reason for Rivers State having almost the same population as Abia and Imo States combined.

The South-Eastern Nigeria and Lagos state respectively were highly short-changed because their figures were deflated while the figures of the Northern Nigeria were inflated.

There was a calculated attempt to reduce a formal majority to inconsequential minority. The result with particular reference to the South East was programmed to systematically turn an erstwhile majority into a minority. What used to be known as the old Eastern Region are now Igbos that are second in number in every community in Nigeria are suddenly the least populated in the country.

For Lagos, it was unrealistic to say that after counting 4.9 million houses, that Lagos would be credited with a population of 9 million persons. It was unreasonable to believe that an average of two persons lived in the houses in Lagos.

Considering the fact that Jigawa State was carved out of Kano State, what the result shows is that the former Kano State is now 13 million people.

Even if you say Lagos is 9 million, Kano with about the same population has 36 members in the House of Representatives, but Lagos has 24, so something must change. Lagos representation must increase at the national level.

In 1991, the population of Lagos State was estimated at 5,685 million while that of Kano was estimated to be 5,632. Since then, Kano has experienced up to ten serious cases of civil disturbances. In each case, the orgy of violence resulted in thousands of Southerners fleeing the state for good. Because the southern inhabitants deserted Kano in droves, the state has become increasingly de-industrialised with manufacturing activities at various parts of the state devastated. Most of the workers laid off left Kano for Lagos, Kaduna and Abuja. The question that arises is: Does it make sense that Lagos which is the first choice of job seekers nationwide and which has never experienced the sort of social upheavals forcing people out of Kano could have grown less than Kano State?

Even when Jigawa was part of Kano State, Lagos State had a higher population than Kano. So how come it appears there is such a gap of about 4 million?

The 2006 Census was conceived to deceive, conceal and confuse. Important demographic information was missing and this made the census deficient. It is fraudulent not to include “State of Origin” in the questionnaire because in Nigeria quota system and catchments area is used in the allocation and distribution of resources and amenities and in admission into higher institutions of learning.

>From the census, we needed to know how many people from Abia or Sokoto states live in Kaduna, Osun, and Akwa Ibom States etc. There are about 4 to 5 million Ndigbo living in Lagos.

It is unbelievable that it is only in Nigeria that you have population growing bigger in the desert area than in the vegetation areas. It defies all geographical permutations all over the world. It is repulsive to believe the more you approach the desert area, the higher the population. It is un-natural.

The figure allotted to Lagos is inconceivable. The state government conducted a parallel head-count during the National Census and they recorded 17,553,924 as against 9,013,534 allocated to the state by NPC. What a difference?

A breakdown of this figure of 17,5million shows that the number of males in the state is 9,115,041 and that of females 8, 437,90.

The United Nations Population Fund, (UNFPA) put the population of Lagos city at 10,9 million in 1996 and gave the state 13,4 million in 2000, projecting it would rise to become the world’s third most populous city with 24,6 million by 2015.

The five South-Eastern States through their governors described the 2006 Census as a further marginalization of Ndigbo.

The breakdown of the census figure shows that South-East constitute the least populated part of the country with a population said to total 16,381,729, while the North-West is the most populated zone with a figure of 35,786,944 ( a desert area?).

My grandmother will not believe this even in her grave!

According to the Census, the third and fourth most populous states in Nigeria are Kaduna and Katsina with 6.07 million and 5.79 million people respectively.

Take a look at Abia State’s figure. There are at least 1.7 million household in Aba town alone and each household must have an average of two to three persons and Aba is just a town in the state. How come that when you add the figure of Aba town to that of other towns and villages in Abia State, the State is allotted a mere 2.8 million? Abia State can’t be less than 5 million in population.

NPC and those armchair enumerators should go back to the drawing board.

Akwa Ibom State government is considering rejecting the result allotted to her by the NPC, because, they can’t be given a figure of 3.9 million with an annual growth of 3.4% when the 1991 census figure for the state was 2.4 million.

The implication is that those states with “high population” will continue to enjoy higher revenue. Whereas those states like Lagos that actually has high population will continue to lose revenue in terms of allocation and development efforts in the state will suffer. The state is catering for more people than the allocation it gets.

Finally, the 2006 census is historical and will be remembered as another failed opportunity where the government of the day chose to play ostrich by deliberately planning to fail; it is such a shame because, so much was invested and so much could have been accomplished; but we have blown that chance again.

May God save and help Nigeria, a country which tells itself lies.