Babs AjayiFriday, December 23, 2005
Toronto, Ontario, Canada



here are too many grotesque situations and even stranger wonders in Nigeria. Nigeria is the only nation in the world where the population in the desert region far outstrips the population in the coastal area. Stranger than fiction, the population density in the Northern Region is so huge there are more people in the cities of Kano, Kaduna, Maiduguri, Sokoto, Zaria, Katsina, Minna than there are in Lagos, Ibadan, Benin, Warri, Sapele, Enugu, Onitsha, Asaba and Calabar!

Geographers across the world are beginning to wonder how Nigeria has become a special case (and a shameful one at that) that has defied their theories which suggest more people concentrate more in the coastal region which has so much opportunities for trade, transportation, industry, proximity to resources, particularly from the riches of the seas and oceans. There are more cities around the world with huge populations and situated on the coasts than there are cities in the desert and rapidly choking hinterlands. The cities of Barcelona, Malaga, Valencia, London, Glasgow, Liverpool, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Stockholm, Oslo, Petersburg, Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Auckland, Christchurch and several other coastal cities that dot New Zealand , Vancouver, Victoria, New York, Washington, DC, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Toronto, Seattle and several other coastal cities in North America.

People congregate heavily in areas where there are resources and opportunities and not in areas where there is a dearth of virtually everything, where hunger, poverty, the lack of water and rain and where there is no work. Except of course, laziness is also a reason that account for human congregation and habitation, which would be unusual. There are just too many inconsistencies in Nigeria and this is one ambiguity that has its roots in wealth, economic and resource allocation.

The revenue allocation formula in Nigeria is tilted heavily in favour of population rather than contribution; it confers advantage to number rather than to input, it is the population of a state, its number that enables it to corner a larger share of the nation's resources. The same population determines the number of local government a state can have, rather than the volume of economic activities, the industrial growth, the socio-economic growth of that state. Nigeria just defy every logic, every rational logic that has served and continue to serve mankind and provide basis for growth, development and advancement has been reversed and made to look inadequate in Nigeria by the nation's special and unique approach to things, strange way of doing things and uncouth resolve to cut corners, to cheat others, to serve self and to deny others what rightfully belonged to them.

The coastal land in Nigeria is made up of 853 Kilometers. The arid north is about 35% of the land with rapid desertification with no end in sight. The coastal region of 853 kilometers has been attracting and will continue to attract large population and drifts for decades to come, which will result in even higher population and density. The continued and unabated desertification signals rapid moves and relocation by people who can no longer sustain themselves nor find any means of survival. But sadly this has not affected population in the Northern part of Nigeria; rather there has been a steady rise in the population of the North. It is reported that the North (Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri) make up 33% of Nigeria's population while the South West (Yoruba) accounts for 21%, the East (Igbo) is 18%, the South-South (Ijaw and Ibibio) is 13.5% and the Plateau Region (Tivs) is 2.5%. There is no doubt these figures are inaccurate and deliberately misrepresented for economic, political and revenue reasons. It is uniquely Nigerian that the nation's population increases from hundred of thousands to millions as you travel up-north to the desert from the coastal and forest region, an award winning master stroke that leaves everyone twitching and nodding.

With the North gifted and allocated 33% of the nation's population, it becomes easy to then allot an equally dignified 15 states to it and make the Caliphate happy. The oil rich and coastal region only got Rivers, Cross River, Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, and Delta, a total of 5 states, all because they do not have political power. In Nigeria nothing is shared right and done based on facts and correctness; it has to be narrowed down to bread and butter and what powerful individuals stand to benefit and their political expediency/survival a la Oloye Olusola Saraki, the Turaki of Ilorin. But strangely when you compare Kano State (11,500,000) and Oyo State (10,400,000) using 1987 population estimates, you begin to see the cattle-heads figures when you realize that Oyo recorded primary school enrolment of 2,070,362 and 1,982,525 in 1983-84 and 1984-85 school years to Kano State's 752,278 and 762,593 during the same period.

Secondary school enrolment during the periods 1982-83 and 1983-84 were 557,295 and 571,227 for Oyo State and 113,129 and 74,701 for Kano State (http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/nigeria/ng_appen.html#table2). Of course you will expect Kano to record primary school enrollment close enough to that of Oyo if indeed it has any population near or even imaginarily close to 11.5 million. The scandal assumes a monumental dimension when you bring Sokoto State into the picture, simple and pure deceit is glaring.

Sokoto is a desert with a population of 9 million people (by the same 1987 population estimate, but Sokoto State only recorded primary school enrollment of 717,898 and 724,625 in 1984-85 and 1985-86 as against 650,937 and 662,380 in Lagos State with a population of 4.1 million! Secondary School enrollment during the period 1982-83 and 1983-84 for Sokoto State were 45,630 and 74,615 pupils and 225,195 and 232,657 pupils for Lagos State. So where is the population hidden away in Sokoto, Kano, Katsina, Borno, and other Northern States? All these lies make planning almost impossible and development difficult to plan. I do not think most of the power hungry people out there care about development and growth, so long as nothing stand in the way of pumping the crude oil and tapping the gas, it is go-on and keep moving - all roads lead to the banks and the turenshi is banished.

This make-belief situation makes me wonder why some Northern senators could recently claim they (the North) have superior voter number on their side. This is fluke and merely imaginary, it is only as true as a dream in strange land. These Northern senators only exposed their ignorance and clearly showed the world what they have always relied upon and lay claim to - the numeric population figure, a figure that is fraudulent, dubious and baseless. The savannah grassland does not boast millions of inhabitants and neither do the desert and the wasteland in the far North. Only a wild count of man and animals plus beasts can throw up the figures the Northern states have always laid claim to, and it is illusionary and makes no sense at all.

The National Population Commission of Nigeria (NPC) put Nigeria's population in 1991 (during the corrupt regime and manipulative years of Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida) at 89.9 million (http://www.population.gov.ng/charts/population_table_of_sex_and_state.htm). Some of the figures from NPC are: Sokoto State - 4,470,176 (more populated than coastal and naturally rich Cross River!), Kano State - 5,810,470, Bauchi State- 4,351,007, Jigawa State- 2,875,525 (outstripped Delta with its coastal resources, minerals and high birth rates!), Enugu State - 3,154,380, Cross River - 1,911,297, Oyo State - 3,452,720, Akwa Ibom State - 2,409,613, (almost half of Bauchi State despite its abundance of resources, high birth rate, rich agriculture and oil and gas!), Borno State - 2,536,003 (more populated than Cross River State despite Borno's rapid loss of land to desertification), Ogun State - 2,333,726, and Abia State - 2,338,487.

To justify its stranger than fiction and hugely unreliable figures, the NPC included a few paragraphs to buttress its number and justify the density of the desert. One of the sections was titled "The Very Densely Populated Areas". It says the very densely populated areas are:

  1. the core oil palm belt areas of Akwa Ibom, Abia, Imo, Anambra and Enugu States
  2. parts of the cocoa producing areas of Oyo, Ogun and Ondo States along with the non- swampy areas of Lagos State ;
  3. Okene district of Kogi State ;
  4. Southern Tivland in Benue State ;
  5. the Kano groundnut growing areas;
  6. the Jos Plateau;
  7. the Katsina home districts of Tsagoro, Malamawa and Magajin Gari; and
  8. the Sokoto home districts of Hama Ali, Dingyadi, Gumbi and Bodinga.

The unfortunate side of the above is that Akwa Ibom, Abia, Imo, Anambra, Enugu, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo and Lagos States have nothing to show for their inclusion in the list of "The Very Densely Populated Areas". The Kano groundnut growing area included is a myth more than a reality, and remained transfixed in the imagination of the oligarchy as it no longer exist. Every opportunity to justify lies is never allowed to slip and that is our greatest undoing.

The population of a nation is vital to its plans and central to its development plan and its ability to get things done, make things work, project for the future and determine its needs and prospects. We shall remain a nation that projects, estimate, gestimate and remain underdeveloped. This is one of the major challenges facing President Obasanjo. He has the responsibility to make sure that the next census is reliable, acceptable and accurate. The census should have taken place last November and December 2004 but was rescheduled to March 2006. The census must obtain data covering religion, ethnic group, age group, sex, education, employment/unemployment, and other data that will benefit national planners and statisticians for future developmental plan.