The recently released 2006 census figures have elicited controversial comments and debates that are generally based on sentiments and parochial considerations. Instead of providing concrete and statistical evidence, the arguments have been narrowed to Lagos versus Kano, not minding the fact that the exercise is for national planning and development. Most of the arguments, laden with emotional undertones, expectedly could not address the salient points.
Lagos and Kano are, interestingly, unique states in Nigeria that host more people from different parts of the country than others. The politics of that notorious indigenship does not play prominent role in these two cities as is the case in some states. It is in Lagos state that non-indigenes are appointed to sensitive political offices as the case of the recent appointment of an Igboman as commissioner of economic planning and yet some of them are either exported or on their own return to their original states to contest elections. It may be unfair to mention names of public figures and elected officers who are not from Kano and even foreigners but are recognized and accepted as indigenes of the state. Through the dynamic administration of the humble and godly governor of the state, Ibrahim Shekarau, non-indigenes have been offered political appointments and a good number were recruited into the state civil service. There are large concentrations of non-indigenes in some localities in the state so much so that you wonder if you are not in some of the southern states.
These two commercial centres do not breed the unfortunate son-of-the soil syndrome, where so-called indigenes carry arms against the so-called settlers, except for the notorious and jobless area boys and vagabonds who unleash their rein of terror against defenceless citizens for ulterior motives just as Niger-Delta militants have turned their reverine areas to Kidnappers’ haven for extortion of foreigners and Nigerians alike.
Interestingly in the last three years, neither of the two states has witnessed any political upheaval that may have warranted mass exodus of people because of the dynamic leadership of the two peace-loving governors, Ahmed Tinubu and Ibrahim Shekarau. I say this because it was within these periods that campaigns, test-trial and real census exercises were conducted by the National Population Commission.
Now to the debate: While Lagos before the exercise engaged in extensive media campaigns with intimidating messages as if it would turn to a ghost town, Kano officials were involved in grassroots sensitization campaign to the nook and crannies of the state on the census exercise; while Lagosians are mostly monogamous with single wife and few children, the majority of Kanonians are polygamous with many wives and large number of children; with the modern trend that has seen to late marriages amongst Lagosians and by extension southerners, Kano like other Northern states promotes early marriage amongst the sexes to guard against promiscuity; because of its small landmass and higher costs of living, Lagos is invaded by influx of workers everyday who reside in towns from neighboring states (like Iju Ajuwon, Alagbado, Alakuko, Sango Ota, Ibadan etc), workers in Kano reside within its vast landmass and due to affordable costs of accommodations; while some districts in Lagos are strictly commercial and industrial with restrictions on residential (e.g parts of Apapa, Ikeja and Victoria Island that are usually deserted on weekend), such districts in Kano have permissible and safe residential outlets; while between the last figure of 1991 Lagos has ceded its former status as the nation’s capital which depleted its workforce and consequently improved the population of residents of Abuja from 371,674 in 1991 to 1,405,201 in 2006, Kano has remained intact and no state was created out of it since the 1991 Census; while it is glaring that the population density in Lagos is due to its limited land space, the density in Kano may not be prominent because of its spacious savannah comparable to a density of the same number of people in a small hall and a big stadium.
Decoding the above facts is a clear response to the seeming antagonistic reactions on the census figures as regards Kano’s population vis-a-vis that of Lagos State. Another incomprehensive argument parroted is the use of the word “ARID” to refer to the North when it is a common knowledge that the region is blessed with fertile land and abundant resources. There is also a reference made to the creation of Jigawa from Kano State as if Jigawa was not in existence before the 1991 Census. Jigawa’s population in the 1991 Census was 2,875,525 people.
While some states in the Southern part of the country also cried foul over the result of the exercise, it is essential to note that censuses the world over, are the results of the number of people counted or who allow themselves to be counted and not necessarily the number of people existing. Many communities refused or protested against being counted due to their convictions. The Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) and some clerics advised their people against submitting themselves to the enumerators due to perceived and alleged marginalization. There were cases of kidnaps and attacks against some of the census officials during the exercise mostly in the South-East and the South-South areas.
Knowing the antecedents of similar exercises in the past, in its determination to avoid struggle for supremacy by the use of the census figure, the National Population Commission had excluded religion and ethnicity from the census questionnaire because sectional groups might have used them to declare their numerical superiority and argue for more revenue from the federation account and political representation. Unfortunately many do not realize that the basis for higher allocation from the federation account is not only about population which is insignificant when compared to other indices used to compute the disbursement like derivation principle. Other factors apart from equality, landmass and population density include the efforts of states in boosting their internally generated revenue (IGR), hospital beds and school enrolments. In the proposed revenue allocation formula it includes road networks, inland waterways, amongst others.
By the way, assuming most of the critics were from the other side of the country, could they have discredited the exercise? We cannot, as individuals, be wiser than our elected representatives, credible groups and experts that have so far endorsed the 2006 Census figures. The exercise which was conducted with the deployment and application of latest technologies under the supervision of foreign observers and donor agencies has received the blessing of the Federal Executive Council, National Council of States and lately it was officially received by the National Assembly.
My argument in this piece, however, is not to justify the desirability or otherwise of astronomical rise in the nation’s population against the slow pace of economic development. It is to disabuse the mind of commentators who take delight in discrediting the figure on the basis of their sectional alliance. I believe instead of states relying on manipulation of indices to attract more revenue from the centre, they should use their human resources in internal revenue generation through diversification of their economy to massive investments in productive and agricultural sectors. A population is worthless if it does not contribute to economic growth and standard of living as it may breed a populace that is risk to the society.
Since population is considered for planning and the possibility of its usage for an increase in revenue allocation, we should concentrate our debate and comments on the need for states to stop discriminations against the so-called non-indigenes/settlers in scholarship, recruitment, service delivery and aspiration for top public offices. From whatever backgrounds, Nigerians should have the freedom and pride to call their places of abode other than their states of origin true HOMES. That is what happens in developed countries where our citizens even changed their nationality to receive equal rights in their adopted countries. Let us promote that principle in our argument and face the reality instead debating on sectional lines.
This article by Yushau A. Shuaib was originally published in Economic Confidential February, Leadership February 1, Businessday February 2, Weekly Trust February 3, The Guardian February 4, Sunday Tribune February 4, Sunday Trust February 4, New Nigerian February 5, Daily Champion February 6, Daily Independent February 7, Thisday February 18, 2007