Census 2006: Why count primitively? Adeola Aderounmu

Census 2006: Why count primitively?

Adeola Aderounmu 

That census enumerators trek short or long distances to count people is a shame in the 21st century

 

The essence of this write up will be to proffer an advice to the Nigerian Nation and the authorities who don’t seem to have learnt anything from the way the world has advanced in recent years. It is a shame that Nigerian leaders waste a lot of public funds traveling to developed countries and even buying houses and properties in these countries without taking back home the good part of these well-to-do countries.  The 2006 census (whether the results are released or pending) is not how to count Nigerians. This is the 21st century and it is now possible to count exactly how many people live within a geographical boundary anywhere in the world. Even if you are not very careful, someone is looking at you right now using goggle earth, a satellite online tool that can give a view of anyplace anywhere under the sun.

 

 

To count Nigerians is not a 5-day project. It is not even a 50 days project. Counting in every country should be a daily thing based on how many births or deaths have been registered on that day. It is the work of some people to keep track of population flow. The first step is to make an attainment to the level where you can make a click on your computer and enter a database where the appropriate authority is keeping track of registration of life and death. Similarly, immigration and emigration should be noted. This means that airport authority including custom and immigration establishments and their records of flights and passengers play a crucial role.

 

 

Taken simply, what Nigeria needs in terms of knowing how many people make up Nigerians is a long term plan. It is a process that will start gradually, remain focused and eventually reach a stabile. Nigerian needs a system where her citizens are recognized by social security number (SSN) or what in some countries is known as personal numbers (PN). This number which is also indicated on your national id or passport is a tag that does not change whatever happens! Everything that affects you (good or bad) is always recorded against this SSN on a computer database. This SSN is with every public institute and some private institutes have special access too. It is not possible for a person to have double SSN because fingerprints go along with it. But that does not rule out that identities cannot be stolen but if the law catches up with the perpetrators, they always face the music. An individual’s SSN is found in Hospital Records office, Tax office, Employment office, Insurance companies, Motor Vehicle Licensing office, Bank records, Statistics bureau, and so on and so forth.

 

Where do we start from in Nigeria? The problem in Nigeria is that counting is not done with sincerity of purpose. Politicians meddle with everything that is of National Interest for selfish gains and personal reasons. This is the debacle that must be removed. A public institution like the National Population Commission (NPC) has to be re-engineered to catch up with modern realities.  The way we count ourselves must change. Personally, I will suggest a 5-10 years plan to count all Nigerians and then a daily observations of changes. This is how developed countries plan for her citizens; they monitor daily population growth and influx or out flux. Where you reside is not a factor, the point is that they know that you exist and live within a certain region in the country. If you leave the country, they know. They are also aware when you return as long as you have taken the legal approaches to do these things. In crime situations, people beat some of these checks but the essence of knowing the number of people remains.

This is my idea. A 5-10 years plan so that nobody is rushing or running to meet a deadline. There is no need to create chaos just because you want to meet a deadline. It is not necessary to count Nigerians in a hurry.

Nigeria must look into the future; make solid plans for things that work forever, not temporarily. What about the NPC registering every Nigerian at its local offices, giving out SSN and taking fingerprints? All the local office should be connected to a central computer network. State of the art technology must be in place to detect multiple fingerprints. Let us look at this scenario, a young African man sought asylum in Greece and somehow surface in Sweden for the same purpose. He was told that his fingerprint has been previously recorded on the central European asylum seekers machine! This is the stage that the world has reached.

A person need to be identified with his name, SSN, address, occupation, marital status, children (or not) and so on. A change of address should be immediately reported so that the state or local government knows who has moved in or out. People moved for many reasons; to be with family, change of job and so on. To know those who have migrated out of the country especially, the migration office or the NPC could do random check by asking individuals to return a form with fingerprint. Obviously, no 2 individuals have been reported with the same fingerprints. With time, each family would have registered their children and relatives even if they are not all educated. A 10 year period is enough to let people know that something is in progress. Nobody would rush and there would be no stampede. When a child is born, the hospital should have the means (either by the computer network) or otherwise to inform the NPC or a registration of birth. Obviously, the families of newborns know that they are obliged to get a SSN for their newborns. The NPC only need to see the baby and the information that they have received from the hospital.

 

 

In essence, what I am trying to say here is that with time, all Nigerians will be registered. NPC should exist in every community or Local councils. Their operations must be completely computerized with appropriate backup. The registration of death should also be taken into account as much as that of births. How many foreigners live among us can also be noted. Foreigners should also have SSN that can be coded so that once they appear on the system, it becomes obvious that they are for foreigners and the exact country they come from appears. The nature of their businesses in Nigeria is also reveal by the same SSN.

 

Many of the things that I have suggested here are based on my experience in Europe, Sweden especially. I have lived in Sweden for more than 5 years and if you want to know anything about me, all you need to do is to go to the Tax office in Stockholm and give them my Personal Number. Even telling them my name gives similar results. They will tell you my entire life history since the first time that I registered that I am living in Sweden. You don’t need any special authority to find any information about me!

 

 

It is unnecessary and a waste of time and resources to count people before, during and after elections. We should be able to click on the NPC database in the next 10 years and say there are maybe 150 million people in Nigeria. We should be able to say things like, 2,000 foreigners live in Ketu and that 300, 000 Nigerians have immigrated to Europe in the last 24 months, for example.

 

 

It is not modern to make the journeys to count people in their homes when you can make the click on a secured PC. It sound like some of the events of biblical era and it is extremely a primitive concept. Even then, lacking the resources to do logical simple counts still called for a re-think in a country that considers itself the “sleeping” giant of Africa. Enumerators only need to click the mice of their desktops with a cup of coffee or tea by their side to find out the latest entry on the database network and a second click to give the total of how many people live in Nigeria. If Nigeria is also truly the heartbeat of Africa as been advertised on CNN, then we need to set the pace. Surely, Nigeria is filled with rot which explains why we can hardly do anything right yet, it is a shame. Using various intellectuals minds, the plagues that afflict Nigerians have been over flogged by Nigerian media houses using editorials and contributions. Nobody is listening and the politicians will never be interested in making things work right. This is a worrying amusement. The talk of sanity within public establishments is seen as foolishness by many especially those who have lost hope in how the Nigerian system works. Good ideas don’t see the light of the day because no one is planning for a hundred years to come. The failure of the past leaders has robbed on our collective intelligence and the persistent foolhardiness of the old brigades in governance will almost invariably robbed the future generation of looking forward to greatness as a nation. We continue to look out because only a few people have harnessed Nigerians wealth to selfish gains. It will be a huge shame and disappointment if the 2006 census is a platform to continue in our cycle of idiocy. A non-violent positive change in the near future will be succour.

 

Adeola Aderounmu

Sweden

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Nigerians In The Diaspora, By Kunle Sanyaolu..July 2006

Nigerians In The Diaspora
By Kunle Sanyaolu July 31 2006

Great ideas are never in short supply in this country.
Nigeria is a God-blessed country. Rather, implementation has been our bane. Most often, we tend to reduce great ideas to tatters, in the course of implementing them. The idea behind Nigerians in the Diaspora, a euphemism for Nigerians living outside the country, particularly in Europe and
America, is impeccable. It would be wonderful if the country can device means to tap from their experience, their expertise and even their wealth. Nigerians in the Diaspora are rubbing mind and shoulders daily with modern technology. Their host society is organized and a lot more predictable. The scholarly among them are enjoying their studies because these are daily conducted in serene and amiable environment. Back here in the country, it is not uncommon for students on campus library to suddenly abandon their books and scamper for safety in response to sporadic gunshots that could be coming from anywhere or targeted at anyone. In marking the Nigeria in the Diaspora day in
Abuja during the week, Foreign Affairs Minister, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala observed that remittances by Nigerians in the Diaspora are in the region of $4 billion yearly. This is a staggering sum that could boost the economy of any developing country, if properly applied.
Many families in
Nigeria benefit directly from remittances from abroad. Some old people whose children or breadwinners are in the Diaspora in fact live on such remittances. Economists believe the foreign currency sent in invariably strengthens the local currency. Obviously, such a gain is largely eroded by the import-dependence and penchant for foreign goods characterized in the local economy. All the same, the money coming in cannot be quantified in its usefulness. Ironically, the recipients in
Nigeria always wish the naira value to be low, so they can cash more naira for given dollars or pounds. All of us should be concerned about how these remittances can be harnessed for real growth. Additionally, how can we tap the expertise and invaluable experience acquired by Nigerians in the Diaspora, for direct benefit to the country? So far, most Nigerians that manage to have a steady or not-so-steady job abroad are unwilling to return home. Yes, they could be considered second-class citizens, in society so race-conscious. But many of them have concluded that their second class status is better than their first class status in
Nigeria. When they come home, it is usually briefly, due to cost consideration among others. But their satisfaction with the arrangement is buttressed by the praise they receive from family friends and kinsmen who freely express how healthy and good looking the Nigerians abroad are. Many of them actually believe they could not have been so healthy and good looking had they remained in
Nigeria.
By giving thoughts and activities in honour of Nigerians in the Diaspora, the Federal Government has acknowledged their contribution, or their potential, to the development of the country. These are people who went with nothing and end up establishing themselves in all spheres of life and entrepreneur. They become very useful citizens to their host country, and they reciprocate by loving the country, their community and serving them wholeheartedly. Their regret is that their service and loyalty ought to be rendered first and foremost to their native country. But alas, they had no such opportunity. Indeed they had no expertise until they traveled abroad. But it is their father-land. They can’t give it up. Even some Nigerians who excel in sports and decide to assume foreign nationality still have roots at home. And they remit money regularly. It is not always a success story for Nigerians in the Diaspora. Some of them have become only slightly better than destitute, as a result of constant harassment by the host, coupled with inability to get decent jobs. Many in this category have no genuine international passports. If they do, their visa has expired. But they cannot contemplate going home with empty hand. What would they even do at home? They ran from home in the first place. They can only return home with a lot of cash to satisfy the expectation of their people. To these people, life in the Diaspora is not so kind. They have to be extra mindful of where they go, when and who they associate with. In particular, they have to consciously steer clear of mischief lest the authorities send them home with the next available flight. These Nigerians have their experience and expertise too. And
Nigeria can very well benefit from them if the approach is correct. According to reports, one thinking behind the
Nigeria in the Diaspora Day is to bring the private sector, universities, the government and the Nigerians in the Diaspora to work in partnership to convert Nigerians’ intellectual talent into a competitive advantage, comparable with the achievement of more developed societies.
But the idea of redesigning the out-of-use Federal Secretariat in
Lagos as a residential complex for Nigerians in the Diaspora does not jell with the overall plan for them. President Olusegun Obasanjo envisaged that the secretariat, as residential quarters will provide accommodation for them. That presupposes that accommodation is a problem for intending Nigerian returnees. Accommodation certainly is one of the problems but not a major one. Nigerians in the Diaspora left relatives and kinsmen before their departure. They kept contact with them all through their years of sojourn. And these home based relatives are always too happy to receive their sons and daughters on return. Besides, many Nigerians in the Diaspora have built fine houses in the native country over the years, to which they could always retire.
In addition, the country cannot get the best from Nigerians in the Diaspora when these are secluded in reserved or prime areas of the country. They probably will end up feeling extraordinary or with much higher class and taste than other Nigerians. But l doubt if they would feel comfortable in such designated accommodation. For one, such an arrangement reduces the difference between home and abroad that otherwise they would have, since they will still end up seeing themselves as Nigerians abroad. Also, massing them up in the Federal secretariat exposes them to security risk. Armed robbers of nowadays go for cash, and where this is in hard currency, the target becomes more attractive. Finally, the Federal government assumes that Nigerians in the Diaspora, if they come home, will like to stay in
Lagos. Again, this may be far from the truth as no survey or research work has so indicated. If anything, the hustling and bustling, chaos, regular breaches of peace and the aggressive nature of
Lagos are directly antithetical to the serene, orderly, courteous and organized societies abroad that the Nigerians had become used to.
For coming up with the idea of foraging a partnership with Nigerians in the Diaspora, the Federal Government deserves praise. But they should guard against the idea going the way of Image
Nigeria and other lofty ideas killed by wrong implementation. Thousands of other Nigerians had opportunity to travel abroad for greener pastures; or to stay there, having achieved the silver lining. But they chose to stay back or return to
Nigeria to contribute their quota directly. These Nigerians are unsung, yet their contribution is unquantifiable. Care must be taken not to alienate them. If things work at home, most Nigerians abroad would rather choose to be home than abroad. Government needs to make things work. Supply of electricity remains a sore point, coupled with bad roads, unemployment, degrading environment, diseases, inadequate housing and poor health delivery. All these have culminated into poverty for the masses. Having tasted the immense difference between this condition and that prevalent in Europe and America, Nigerians in the Diaspora naturally would prefer abroad, from where their contribution home will always be minimal, while their host country enjoys the most of them.
 

Obasanjo and the Path of Honour

Aderounmu Adeola Omotayo

 

Obasanjo did Nigerians and the entire world proud when he willingly relinquished power to democratic government in 1979. Before he was bungled into prison by the tropical military gangster of Abacha, Obasanjo enjoyed the international status that he earned by this honourable exploit. Interestingly he got his second term under a democratic government 20 years later. Many have described him as a lucky man making the ride from prison to Aso rock in 1999. In 2003, he showed the political will in the “animal called man” and won a third term opportunity to govern the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This tenure will come to an end by the special grace of God in 2007 when Obasanjo will hand over the reign of power to a newly elected president.

 

 

For anyone to suggest a fourth term for Obasanjo (or third term as an elected president) is unfounded and senseless. The constitution does not yet allowed it and it seems right not to amend it for such a purpose. This idea or concept should not have emanated at all no matter how messianic Obasanjo appears to be. God always speak to Obasanjo and he must depend on this special celestial gift at this moment of his life to discern the way forward in his life. The way forward cannot be another 2 or 6 years in the same office. It also cannot be listening to the voice of the devil or political gladiators.

 

 

Bill Clinton was a fine president. With all his fine qualities and age on his side then, Americans did not amend the constitution to allow him a third-term. They will not do so for George Bush when his present term runs out. On what special precedents would Obasanjo deserve this privilege? Why has he kept quiet since this unwarranted path to dishonour gathered momentum? Before now, Obasanjo has said that he would not think of another term. In my opinion, the idea of another term started in Obasanjo’s imagination and then his speeches at home and abroad, vowing not to run for another term in office. Perhaps what he has done and deliberately too, is to test the waters and see who fell for this idea by becoming willing propagators. On the other hand, the just concluded “National Conference” made some gullible disciples based on this self-destructive jingle called third-term.

 

 

If some people or groups are now apostles of Obasanjo’s continued stayed in power and they are raising funds or making money for this purpose, then Obasanjo must know that this is the first chapter of a dishonourable end. Even though the larger part of the Nigerian society prefers to “siddon look”, it is on record that their endless vigils in churches or mosques always play out eventually and then Nigerians just continue with their lives. Nigeria and Nigerians have outlived the likes of Babangida and Abacha. Obasanjo will not be different if the gods have decided to make him deaf at this crucial moment of his life. He has 2 years more to do whatever God has sent him to do and he should do that in earnest. But first, he needs to do away with detractors and focus on proper governance. Obasanjo is already committing a sin because he knows the right thing and he has refused to do it. When he does, maybe he will hear the voice of God again.

 

 

In my opinion, the right thing for Obasanjo to do is to make an open and sincere declaration or broadcast to quench this third-term bid once and for all. He should dissociate himself from individuals and groups spreading this concept so that they are brought to shame. Then he should concentrate on the remaining days of his presidency and pursue his reforms to a point where a new president in 2007 will find it illogical to depart from a course to economic revamping, social justice, eradication of corruption and better life for all Nigerians. However, at some points in our existence, one of the things we may come to exercise or enjoy is called freewill. Being in a very powerful and influential position, Obasanjo may decide to wedge his influence and gun for a third term. Everything is possible in Nigeria and the constitution may be hastily “doctored” in his favour. In the end, the truth that everyone soon discover is that power remains transient and change is constant.

 

 

Whatever happens, it is just wise that Nigerians keep their dreams and hopes of greater tomorrow alive. This is a blessed country and to think that we cannot find a new and better president in 2007 to manage our affairs is one of the most unfounded and baseless thoughts that emerged recently. Nigerians don’t need anyone to appoint to them a successor in 2007; the people are willing to vote again as they did in 1993! As an optimist, I believe that Nigerians will vote for a positive change and would invariably do away with sycophants as much as a free and fair poll will allow. In the meantime, keen political observers will be ready in 2007 to make a quick comparison of deliverance of successful political dispensation in Nigeria taking into full consideration the progresses that have been made in countries like South Africa and Ghana. Zimbabwe will not be an example for measuring political progress.

 

Aderounmu AO

aderounmu@gmail.com