(By Nnamdi Ojiego)
“Politicians are desperate and they can plant loyalists in commission to fight it from within or issue statements to discredit it. We have witnessed it in other Federal Government ministries and institutions; at present, everything is being politicised against national interest. This, if allowed in the commission, may spell doom for the unity, future and progress of the nation.“
THE appointment and inauguration of Chief Eze Duruiheoma, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), as the chairman, National Population Commission (NPC), by President Goodluck Jonathan could be said to be timely.
The appointment became necessary to avoid an unnecessary lapse between the new chairman and his predecessor, Eze Festus Odimegwu who resigned his appointment recently; and to allow the commission enough time to prepare for a successful and credible census in 2016.
Nigerians from all walks of life are looking forward to a credible headcount come 2016 as previous exercises have been arguably marred with irregularities. The immediate past chairman of the commission, Odumegwu was quoted as saying that the entire census conducted in the country was fraudulent. Already, we have a case where the Census Tribunal recently ruled that 20 local government areas in Lagos were not properly counted in the 2006 exercise, thereby giving credence to Odimegwu’s assertions.
However, the issue of whether previous census figures were manipulated, fraudulent or not credible should not be part of Duruiheoma’s job. His job as stipulated by the laws of the Federation and its statutory powers is to collect, collate, analyse and disseminate population and demographic data in the country. This simply means to conduct a credible census and announce the results without anyone tampering with any of the processes.
Therefore, as Duruiheoma takes over the mantle of leadership at the NPC, it will be fair to remind him of the tasks and challenges ahead to avoid the pitfalls of his predecessors.
To start with, he should quickly identify whether there are laws that need to be amended as noted by Odimegwu. This is the hour to rectify any flaws in the system, not in 2015 or 2016.
The new chairman should be wary of the already charged political atmosphere due to fair and unfair intrigues being deployed by certain elements of the political class. Therefore, he should avoid having politicians, or anyone whose godfather is a politician, to be among his team.
Politicians are desperate and they can plant loyalists in commission to fight it from within or issue statements to discredit it. We have witnessed it in other Federal Government ministries and institutions; at present, everything is being politicised against national interest. This, if allowed in the commission, may spell doom for the unity, future and progress of the nation.
Duruiheoma should also understand that the commission does not need the support of any godfather from the South, West, East or Northern parts of the country to succeed; as no godfather will be more supportive than the Federal Government and the Nigerian masses.
Furthermore, he should avoid occasions and events designed to derail and damage the credibility of the 2016 census exercise.
Likewise, the NPC boss should be watchful of his spokespersons, aides, commissioners and representatives to avoid situations where they may make press statements or comments that will affect the credibility of the NPC or the 2016 exercise.
To achieve a successful headcount, he should take advantage of the current rapid technological advancement to conduct a free, fair and credible census for the country. Most of his predecessors didn’t have this advantage.
Nigeria needs a credible and well organised census. So preparations should start now, not tomorrow. Everyone needs to be counted from that street hawker in Ajegunle to those studious students in hostels faraway in the bushes of university towns. More attention should be focused to count those in the creeks, coastal areas, farms and deserts.
There should be no falsification of figures or intentional attempt not to creditably count some areas because of exaggerated, political or religious sentiments that may benefit the interest of only a few individuals. No nation can progress without a credible census data. Nigeria needs a credible, free and fair census data based on equity and justice.
To achieve this, all hands must be on deck. Major stakeholders such as the National Orientation Agency, the Media and the civil society groups among others should partner with the NPC to create awareness and educate the populace on the essence of the exercise and why every Nigerian irrespective of tribe, religion or social status must take part in the forthcoming census.
Finally, it is a patriotic act of reminder for Duruiheoma to see himself as a patriot, technocrat and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
• Nnamdi Ojiego, a journalist and social commentator, wrote from Lagos.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”