I was reminded of the continuing fraud that is the Nigerian population when Nigeria News and other news outlets reported the chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC), Eze Duruiheoma, declaring that approximately 198 million people are living within the boundaries of this dysfunctional state.
A little knowledge of the history of population census in Nigeria would reveal the Chairman is simply throwing figures around based on flawed statistical data. History has revealed that the Nigerian Population figure is at best a tool to ensure a section of the country continues to get the biggest pieces of the economic and political national cakes.
The first brush I had with an organized census was in 2006. Then, the President, Olusegun Obasanjo, invested a lot of money to make sure the country got it right.
Apparently, all previous attempts at counting Nigerians have been mired in controversy because the final results always skewed the result in favor of the North.
The National Orientation Agency (NOA) spent lots money on ads and roadshows educating Nigerians why they should ensure only accurate information are given to the enumerators.
The NOA went to great lengths to convince people that the figures are needed for proper planning and not for sharing of the country’s revenue.
You’d know there was something wrong the way government worked hard to convince people population census had nothing to do with revenue sharing.
The government was absolutely correct that accurate figures are needed for adequate planning. But don’t be deceived; revenue sharing is at the core of censuses in Nigeria.
It is simple really; the more people there are in a particular area, the more infrastructures would be provided there. Invariably, that means more money pushed there to build hospitals, roads, schools, and other utilities to cater for the people residing there.
Even some important political decisions are based on the population of the area. For instance, one critical variable in creating Local Governments Areas by Past administration was to consider the population of the area. That is why some states have more representatives in the country’s House of Representatives.
Politicians even use these figures to rig future elections. They simply use the population census of an area to rationalize the size of the voter’s register for the area.
Even if people don’t register to vote, they simply add phantom names to the voter’s register to reflect the population of the area. You must have got the gist about the ways population censuses are used politically by now.
In countries where things work, a national census is supposed to be carried out periodically. The universal standard is every ten years.
Before the 2006 census, the last attempt to count Nigerians accurately was in 1991. That is a whopping 15 years. But that is nothing compared to the 18 years interval between the 1973 census and the 1991 census.
Conducting a population census in Nigeria is not the problem here. It is the controversy that follows the release of the census figures.
Take the case of the 1973 census for instance. The controversy was so bad it had to be canceled just like other censuses before it. It took Nigeria 18 years from that point to muster enough political will to conduct another one.
Here is an excerpt of what the revered Obafemi Awolowo said about the 1973 census results:
“This brings me to the 1973 census result. I have examined this result from several standpoints which times does not permit me to elaborate upon here, and as a result, I have been irresistibly impelled to the conclusion that the so-called PROVISIONAL FIGURES are absolutely unreliable and should be totally rejected by the Supreme Military Council
According to the provisional figures, the population of North-East and Kano States alone is almost equal to that of the South put together. And if the utterly false trends of population growths in the States, indicated by the provisional figures, were contrived and repeated in 1983 —and one cannot now see, if the provisional figures are allowed to stand, why a repeat performance should not occur in 1983; if the same trends were repeated in 1983 by the same contrivances, then 74 per cent of all Nigerians would be living in the North, ten years from now.”
Many Nigerians North of the Niger agreed completely with the late sage. Expectedly, the military government at the time, headed by General Yakubu Gowon, and Nigerians from the North tried to ram the provisional figures down the throats of the rest of the country.
Finally, due to the relentless resistance of people like Awolowo, the Government had to cancel the provisional figures.
According to many commentators, the 1991 census organized by the regime of Ibrahim Babangida was the most scientific and accurate in the history of Nigeria.
However, that didn’t stop it courting controversy.
What Awolowo had warned back in 1973 came to haunt a people who never learn anything from their mistakes and history. Again, the issues raised in 1973 completely rubbished the figures released after the 1991 census.
A look at few cases from those figures would crystallize what the whole farce is all about.
Kano and Jigawa states used to one state until Babangida carved Jigawa out of Kano in August 1991. From the 1991 figures, the combined population of both states is about eight and a half million (8,461,968). What that means is that the old Kano state had far more people than Lagos State whose population stood at just above five and a half million (5,685,785).
It doesn’t end there. Even Kano state alone had a figure (5,632,040) that is almost at par with the population of Lagos State. How can any logical mind believe that an area that is largely desert is more populous than a coastal area with the biggest economy in the country?
The same 1991 census, acclaimed to be the best in the history of the country, had figures that showed that old Sokoto State (comprising Sokoto and Kebbi states) had more inhabitants than Lagos state. The same thing with the old Kaduna state made up Kaduna and Katsina States.
(read conclsion here)