Connect with us

Feature/OPED

Why the 2023 Population Census Must be Postponed

Published

on

Mike Owhoko May Nigeria Never 9th National Assembly

By Michael Owhoko, PhD

Without prejudice to the extent of preparations, has the government genuinely evaluated the reasons for the dispute and rejection of the previous census results in Nigeria before proceeding to organise another headcount? Results of censuses conducted in 1962, 1963, 1973, 1991 and 2006 were all marred by anomalies and controversies allegedly engendered by the manipulation and falsification of figures.

Were there any lessons learnt from these disputes? So far, all contentious issues that diminished and undermined the credibility of the previous exercises, together with emerging fresh challenges, are still widespread.

Distrust induced by ethnic dominance, religious supremacy, nepotism, inappropriate political structure, dishonesty, insecurity, corruption, poverty and socio-economic uncertainty are still staring at us as monsters. The preconceived notion of increased revenue and political representation as the basis for census rather than national planning and development is another matter.

Without visible and genuine efforts at resolving these hiccups, the National Population Commission (NPC), charged with conducting the census, including collation and analysis of population data, has scheduled the 2023 population census for April, approximately a month after the 2023 general elections holding between February and March.

The National Council of State has also endorsed the exercise without a rigorous evaluation of potential exposures.

The timing is a miscalculation in the face of current realities devoid of enabling environment. The general elections and census are inflammable events that should not be scheduled close to each other.

More worrisome is the fact that nobody can predict the outcome of the 2023 general elections, which may likely spill into the census period. From the body language of youths across the country who are major victims of years of misgovernance, it may not be business as usual. So, why schedule a census under this condition?

Perhaps, if the government had painstakingly carried out a risk assessment of the timing of the elections and census within the context of Nigeria’s sociological complex configuration, both exercises would have been staggered apart by a minimum of one year. No amount of risk mitigation strategy can contain associated emotions, particularly under a government that is challenged by a trust deficit. Rather than resolve these flaws, the government is treading the same path, with an erroneous expectation of credible outcome.

In a multi-ethnic society like Nigeria, where population census is used as a basis for revenue allocation, the stakes are high, and so, citizens’ trust in the government as an unbiased umpire devoid of sectional leanings must not be in doubt.

Unfortunately, the distrust that characterised the previously failed exercises is popping up. This is evident from the recent statement of Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, when he advised NPC to “Be accurate and impartial. Declare what you capture. If the population of the state is less than 15 million, it is false and inaccurate. Do your work accurately.’’

By this declaration, Makinde has stirred up the hornet’s nest and is ready to reject any figure less than 15 million for Oyo State. In the past, the Lagos State government rejected the 2006 census while the Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze, said the exercise reduced the Igbo to a minority group, casting aspersion on the credibility of the whole exercise.

Besides, all over the world, peace is a sine qua non and a critical factor for the conduct of a successful population census. It is for this reason nations first determine its availability and, where otherwise, take appropriate measures to promote it, particularly ahead of major sensitive milestones like national headcount.

Currently, Nigeria lacks peace that is adequate to guarantee a free and fair census. Except to live in denial, the country faces unresolved multifaceted crises. Peace is not only the absence of war but also the existence of impediments to human endeavours. Human delivery capacity in Nigeria is currently at its lowest ebb.

Where is the peace when travel and movement of goods by road or rail across the country is threatened by insecurity and associated risks? Nigerians now invoke divine intervention for safe arrival at their destinations before embarking on a journey by road.

Inadequate security cover to facilitate the safe deployment of men and census materials to all nooks and crannies of the country may hinder the exercise. This also explains why NPC has not been able to demarcate enumeration areas in all the 774 local government areas in the country.

In the northern part of the country, particularly in the North East and North Central, Boko Haram, ISWAP, Fulani herdsmen, terrorists and bandits hold sway, driving fear among travellers. The southern part is also not better, as travellers hold their breath until they get to their destinations due to fear created by these groups and other criminal elements. So, how do you conduct a credible census in this situation?

Many families have been displaced from their places of abode and ancestral homes, while others take refuge in the bushes or are in Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps. Those who have not returned to their homes for fear of being killed or kidnapped have not been accounted for. Traces of these group of persons have not been established to date by relations or friends and, so, are unavailable for enumeration.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) recently admitted that insecurity affected data collection for field surveys. The Statistician-General of the Federation and CEO of NBS, Adeyemi Adeniran, disclosed this at a conference organized by the National Statistical Association in Keffi, Nasarawa State, where he said that enumerators were unable to access certain parts of the country for data collection due to insecurity.

With this revelation, do we need a prophet to tell us that the 2023 population census cannot be achieved?  In the absence of any hidden agenda and desperation of the government to score a political point, the NPC knows that it is difficult to achieve a reliable census figure under the current security setting, as no magic can contain insurgency in the troubled areas before the commencement of census in April 2023.

Where is the peace when the corruption of the census process is fuelled by subsisting economic, political and demographic interests? Some census officials are compromised when gathering, collating, analysing and producing data on the population.

These officials are either bribed, intimidated or coerced to inflate or allocate numbers for ethnic advantage. This has been the trend in all the censuses conducted so far in Nigeria.

Where is the peace when the credibility and capacity of the present administration under President Muhammadu Buhari to deliver on such an important project is smeared by scepticism induced by nepotism and presidential preferences, which have fragmented the country along ethnic and religious lines?  Suspicion and lack of trust among citizens have deepened more than ever before.

Where is the peace when the country’s border with the Niger Republic is opened and reinforced by the policy of issuance of visas on arrival, allegedly aimed at bloating the Fulani population in Nigeria? Illegal aliens from the Niger Republic enter the country unchecked, while others are alleged to have obtained National Identification Numbers (NINs) from the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to qualify them as citizens, thereby giving the north undue demographic advantage over the south.

Where is the peace when there is no grass root enlightenment campaign to draw attention to the exercise?  The majority of Nigerians are unaware of a scheduled census for April next year due partly to a lack of access to electricity, internet and other communication networks. How many Nigerians can confidently affirm that their households were enumerated during the last trial census conducted by NPC ahead of the main exercise? I am sure millions of Nigerians were not aware.

Where is the peace when enumerators are constrained by poor demographic maps caused by unreliable digital technology, including geographic information system (GIS), satellite and aerial photographs, cartography and geographical positioning system (GPS), resulting in an inability to capture remote areas with difficult topography?

Where is the peace when insufficient capacity building and a dearth of qualified personnel are further constraints? NPC is currently not fully equipped with enough skilled personnel, forcing it to rely on ad-hoc and temporary personnel, including members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) who are inadequately trained.

Notwithstanding the United Nation’s recommendation that a census is conducted every 10 years, Nigeria is not ready for the 2023 census. Population census is a sensitive matter that must be conducted under an atmosphere of peace to achieve a credible and desired outcome.

The 2023 population census should therefore be postponed until NPC has addressed all grey areas; otherwise, the exercise will amount to waste of time and resources, including the over N200 billion budgeted for the scheme.

Dr Mike Owhoko, Lagos-based journalist and author, can be reached at www.mikeowhoko.com

Feature/OPED

2023 Election: The Role of Media Monitoring Services

Published

on

2023 election

By Queen Nwabueze

This 2023 election season is a true test of the much-vaunted objectivity of journalists.

Journalism’s pursuit of objectivity strives to enable readers to form their OWN opinions about a story. This implies that the media (mainstream and digital) must present the facts solely before allowing the potential voters to offer them their interpretation. Again, this means that news organisations should present the facts as they are, whether or not they agree with them.

Lovely on paper, yeah? But has this really been the focus of our media since the polls for 2023 began to be conducted? No!

A well-liked TV station reporter was recently discredited for having ties to a well-liked political party (names withheld for ethical reasons).

Hold on for a moment! Let’s sketch out the perfect situation once more. In journalism, objectivity means refusing to embellish any facts or details in order to strengthen a narrative or better align a topic with a predetermined objective. Similarly, according to the profession of journalism’s neutrality standards, news should be reported in an objective, fair, and impartial way. In actuality, according to this idea, journalists should support NONE of the competing political parties and should instead just present the pertinent information to everybody.

How about disengagement? The journalist’s emotional stance is referred to as detachment. Basically, reporters MUST approach topics not only objectively but also with a cold, emotionless mentality. This tactic calls for the telling of tales in a calm, collected manner, allowing potential voters to make their own decisions apart from the influence of social or traditional media. Again, all of these principles seem sensible on paper.

You might be wondering why this article focuses so much on the Disneyland roles that the media play during elections.

Sorry, but without hammering our media, we cannot properly address the subject of “2023 Election: The Role of Media Monitoring Services.” The role of media monitoring services should reflect the fact that the media’s actions and inactions are at the centre of every aspect of elections and electioneering. That is the reality!

Election seasons do in fact coincide with times of increased media attention and reporting, with each political party seemingly desperate to take the helm of the nation, as we’ve seen in more recent years. These times of change are frequently marked by extremely competitive rhetoric, escalating tensions, occasional political bullying, and occasionally even violent confrontation and death desires.

Since the media is the main driver of these dynamics, political candidates and campaign offices should use media monitoring services, if only to uncover information that is hidden from plain view and has the potential to prevent voters from receiving enough information to make informed voting decisions.

You may track your candidacy, your opponents, public media conversation, and even detractors in real-time across all media in Nigeria, including print, online, broadcast, and social. P+ Measurement Services is one such media monitoring service.

Largely as a result of Walter Lippmann’s work, the concept of objectivity in journalism as we know it now exists. After the excesses of yellow journalism, Lippmann urged impartiality in journalism. The yellows of the period, he said, had served their role, but the populace needed to hear the truth, not a “romanticized version of it.”

Not to cry anymore over already spilled milk, but this article strongly suggests that you hire expert media monitors to join your campaign organization and conduct your listening on your behalf. Do not employ individuals who are unqualified to watch your media.

You may have noticed that the electorate now lives online in this era of online media—your own potential voters! Where are they getting their political message from? If it’s in your favour, are you certain?

Since internet media has become so crucial, it is not advisable to quickly enter and leave.

Who is keeping watch of the media for you? Are they qualified?

Online media has significantly altered how individuals consume political messages. These advances have also resulted in certain unfavourable occurrences, such as a significant rise in material that is unreliable, context-free, and biased against you and your political party.

For instance, a number of studies have shown P+ Measurement Services that your critics are using newly forming social and tribal divisions to preach to your adherents. What will you do next, then? If your party is sincerely committed to winning the 2023 elections, we advise you to use media monitoring services to provide you with accurate information.

PPlus’ approach is straightforward. To manage the perceptions that shape your reality across the media, they engage in 24/7 media fact-checking, media monitoring, and traction using international standard listening and intelligence tools/metrics; they then report back to you with the crucial findings/feedback and hand you the precise places you need to influence.

Queen Nwabueze is a Media and Content Strategist based in Lagos

Continue Reading

Feature/OPED

Nigerians are Multidimensionally Happy…

Published

on

multidimensionally happy

By Prince Charles Dickson PhD

How do you show you’re happy?

If you’re a cat, you purr. If you’re a dog, you wag your tail, and if you’re a rabbit, you bust out your best binky moves. You read that right — binky. When rabbits are happy, they do this crazy kind of move called a binky. Each bunny has its own binky style, but it’s a kind of jumping, mid-air twist with a kick and a little hop or two on the landing. Some bunnies’ binkies can reach almost three feet in the air!

If you watch a bunny binky, you can’t help but be happy too.

So, back to that first question: How do you show your happiness? Sure, there are tough days, but there are also wonderful days when everything seems to go your way. You wake up to your favourite breakfast, ace the test, and find an extra naira in your pocket.

There are days when God blesses you with a chance to help a friend or the opportunity to learn something new about Him. And there are so-so days that are still amazing because you get to share them with Him.

So, how do you let the world know life is good? Smile, sing, whistle, or dance — whatever says “happy” to you.

Just be sure to thank the One who gave you all those reasons to be happy.

So, how do Nigerians show they are happy? A nation that the latest Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) report on Nigeria, released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) this November, shows the country has a higher incidence of poor people but less intensity of deprivation, even though the report measured more indicators of poverty than in the past.

How do people considering 15 indicators, instead of the 10 indicators in the past 2 surveys, with at least 133 million, 63% of the country’s population, suffering from multidimensional poverty see happiness?

Furthermore, the 2022 MPI noted that the extent of the deprivations that these 113 million poor people suffer is an average of 40.9%. With these kinds of statistics, what’s there to be happy about?

Nigerians are happy, we are still high up there in the index of happy people, and I add very happy people. People were kidnapped, robbed, and flooded, week in, week out. And yet thanksgiving services with dances of all types and executions follow suit. We are happy jare…forget all that multidimensional English!

We remain a proud people, joyous in nature, never put down by ‘little’ setbacks like stealing leaders. Visit a state where workers were owed seven months’ salaries on a Saturday, you see women and girls adorned in expensive glittering ‘aso-ebis’. Thousands were spent on event planners/transport/comperes and more.

We are happy people, we love to party and forget that ‘MPI’ thing, and we have continued in our happy nature unabated. We are happy that Ghana lost her match to Portugal because they denied us that spot to be at the Mundial.

We attend ‘suna’ (naming ceremonies) and’ igba nkwo’ (traditional weddings), and ‘oku’ (funeral parties) of the same leaders we accuse of looting us dry. It gives us loads of joy and happiness, you get free food and booze and a fight if you are at the right party.

We are happy people, the only people who, after being used, abused, disused, and misused, are tortured with the flamboyance and ostentatious living, and all we do is admire them and cling to hope—after all, ‘my turn will soon come’.

Happy people: very few countries can live the way we do, weeks without light because the power transformer is bad, yet you pay bills. Fuel stations have no commodity, yet opposite those stations, young men sell the same fuel at hyper-black prices for a product we are blessed in quantum with.

We are sad people when the thief who is looting is from the other side, but when it’s from our town, we use the phrase “he is helping our people”. And because stealing is everywhere, we all are happy.

‘Multidimensional my foot, tell that to the birds–we bribe the police and accuse them of taking bribes. We don’t really pay electricity tariffs, yet we say ‘there’s no light’, when actually it’s a case of Aso Rock owing PHCN, PHCN owes gas company, that one owes staff, the staff is in debt of school fees, rent and utility. We are happy people!

Maybe if the report had said we multidimensionally grumble, no arguments. Maybe we complain most, that’s true, yes maybe we are amongst nations with the most problems. But how do you know Nigerians are happy…

People who pay in recruitment scams in the police, immigration, army, civil service etc, are happy people.

A nation that has bribes for admission scams or money for marks in school scams. Rent without house agent frauds. Pension fraud, electoral fraud, where girls date six guys simultaneously and men date five women, including their secretary, wife’s best friend and driver’s wife and nothing happens…cannot be multidimensionally poor.

How many suicides can be traced to spirited men that were tired of the system and called it quits–the fact is we kill to be happy because, in Nigeria, happiness is it. We steal to be happy because that’s the real deal. We want to be happy not because we are sad but because we want a status quo.

We want change but don’t want to change and are weary of change; a Nigerian adage says an erect penis has no conscience. Nigerians are not multidimensionally poor; when an accountant general would steal enough money to pay all the nation’s university teachers’ salaries, there is no real arrest, no outrage. We are happy, if we really are poor, it is not because we are poor, it is because we are multidimensionally happy and not pained enough to do things differently.

How do you know a Nigerian is happy; he runs kitikata on the same spot and blames everyone but himself, so, as long as the thief is from his hood, he is happy, as long as his neighbour also does not have electricity, as long as his enemies, real or imaginary are suffering some fate he is exempted from, as long as he is winning a football game he was ill-prepared for, as long as he gets a job he least deserves and more; he is happy, when will that change—only time will tell.

Continue Reading

Feature/OPED

Itsekiri And Ijaws’ Creation of Hyper-Modern Path to Peace Via Football Tournament

Published

on

Itsekiri

By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

Benikrukru Community field, Gbaramtu kingdom, Warri South West Local Government Area, Delta State, the kickoff venue of the Ijaw/Itsekiri peace and unity football competition initiated by Chief Sheriff Mulade, Ibe-sorimawei of Gbaramatu kingdom and National Coordinator/CEO, Centre for Peace & Environmental Justice (CEPEJ), was on Wednesday, November 16, 2022, filled to capacity and moderately dotted with imposing banner conspicuously positioned with screaming but familiar inscriptions that emphasise on the importance of peace and unity to humanity.

The ambience at the venue was refreshing as merrily dressed guests strolled in. Community members of Ijaw and Itsekiri origins were relaxed in their sitting positions. They were entertained to the rhythms from the stable of Ijaw and Itsekiri traditional dancing maestros.

Their humble and friendly dispositions complimented each other and made it very easy for non-indigenes to be at ease in their presence, even as that was the maiden visit to the community.

Aside from having in attendance former Super Eagles players, Christian Obodo and Sam Sodje, among others, the event was also graced by courageous Niger Deltans, who have met resistance from their own government in the past but refused to give up in their quest to build a better Niger Delta region and Nigeria by extension.

But of all that I observed, the gathering acknowledged what has been on the mind of Nigerians.

Fundamentally, it frontally demonstrated a strong conviction that non-discrimination, justice and fairness are the foundation for peace, unity, stability and economic prosperity of any nation. From the love that existed among the two ethnic groups on that day, at that time and in that place, it was obvious that building a nation where all citizens of the country shall not be discriminated against on the basis of ethnicity, sex, language, religion, political or other opinions, birth or other status is possible.

Essentially also, from the way the two teams entered the field with a stride of confidence and fair play, the competition provided Ijaw/Itsekiri with an opportunity for introspection by the two ethnic groups on the journey so far. Some gave the ‘union’ kudos for the tremendous progress it has made in forging unity and peace and riding the area of hatred and hostility, while others felt that the new challenge before the two ethnic nationalities is to transform into a strong economic bloc in order to position for the challenges of the 21st century as it patterns Niger Delta region.

To assist readers in appreciating this current journey to sustainable peace by the two ethnic groups via football tournament, it is important to underline that the district of Warri in Delta State, going by reports, has been the scene of ethnic and territorial conflicts between the Itsekeri and the Ijaws since March 1997, when ethnic violence broke out between the Ijaws and the Itsekeris following a government decision to relocate the headquarters of the Warri south local government council from an Ijaw community to a community belonging to the Itsekeris.

Though the hostility was overtly arrested and brought under control, covertly, it has remained a zone where fierce war has been raging between ethnic and social forces in Nigeria over the ownership and control of oil resources. And as a direct result, a long dark shadow has been cast on efforts to improve the well-being and economic development of the region’s individuals, peoples, and communities.

Without a doubt, the Ijaw/Itsekiri hostility is not only telling evidence of the numerous problems facing the people of the Niger Delta region, but largely an expose of unwillingness by the government over the years to address problems which possess the potent capability to affect the stability of Niger Delta as a region.

The above claim, in my view, becomes more telling after listening to Mulade, who spoke on the sidelines in the kick-off match, where he stated that ‘’The essence of this tournament is to try and reduce the hostility among us. Some years ago, we had some misunderstandings. That led to what is known as the Warri crisis. So, what we are doing is building the relationship. So, for you to join us is to support this celebration of peaceful co-existence.”

Certainly, there are grains of truth in the above position. The tournament has not only brought out something different and fundamentally new that will help shape the relationship between the two ethnic groups. Rather, it has assisted in providing health and vitality of peaceful co-existence, rededicating commitment to peace, promoting unity and intensifying harmonious development of the Niger Delta region.

The facts are there and speak for it.

On Monday, November 7, 2022, it was reported that the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse III, while playing host to Chief Mulade Sheriff and members of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) who paid him a courtesy visit in his palace, gave his endorsement and royal blessings to the peace and unity football event. The Olu applauded Chief Comrade Sheriff Mulade for initiating such a laudable programme and promised to liaise with Mr Amaju Pinnick to bring his wealth of experience in football management to support the process.

In a similar style, members of the LOC, on November 11, 2022, were received by Oboro Gbaraun II, Aketekpe, Agadagba of Gbaramatu Kingdom in his palace at Oporoza, the traditional headquarters of the kingdom.

In his response, the monarch appreciated the organizer’s initiative and implored him to continue preaching and spreading the need for peaceful coexistence because peace is not negotiable. He also enlightened the LOC team on the importance of peace to attract development to Delta, particularly Warri and its environs. He encouraged the untiring contribution of the LOC towards uniting Ijaw/Itsekiri, the importance of which is crucial to harnessing the dividend of development and opportunities to our people.

While this piece celebrates the feat, there are, however, accompanying beliefs in my views that the Ijaws are a truly peaceful set of people.

The first such example is a recent statement by an Ogbe Ijoh-based political pressure group, the Independent GrassRoots Liberators (IGL), where the group, among other comments, pleaded with the Senator Ifeanyi Okowa’s led Delta State Government to immediately settle the communal disputes between Ogbe-Ijoh, Ijaw ethnic nationality of Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta state and Aladja, an Urhobo community in Udu Local Government Area of the state, adding that they want to live in unity as they have been living before. “We don’t want to be killing ourselves anymore,” they said.

The second has to do with the recent comment credited to Pere of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Oboro-Gbaraun II, Aketekpe, Agadagba, at his palace in Oporoza, the ancestral headquarters of Gbaramatu Kingdom while he played host to Mr Ali Muhammad Zarah, Managing Director, Nigeria Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), on Sunday, November 13, 2022.

The first-class monarch, according to media reports, said; “This is Gbaramatu Kingdom, and we are very peaceful people. If you come closer to the people, you will know the kind of people we have here. Some people can castigate our names or tarnish our image, but we are not like that. We know who we are.”

Waxing philosophically, the Monarch said, “We want to say, if the children are happy, definitely the father is happy too. Recently, I told some senators that instead of staying in Abuja and speculating about what is happening in the Niger Delta region, they should take a trip to the region for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation. If they come, they will know how the people are, but staying far from them, you cannot know how they really are. So I am very happy for people like you visiting our Kingdom.”

As the author of this piece, while I commend the efforts of the tournament organisers, the piece, on its part, thinks that there is a lesson government must draw from the above words of the revered traditional monarch.

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy) at Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He can be reached via jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374

Continue Reading
%d bloggers like this: