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Socialist Democracy May 2006

 

Socialist Democracy

May 2006

 

CAN POPULATION CENSUS BRING SUCCOUR TO THE MASSES?

By Bashiru Idris

After the expiration of the 7 day head-count exercise (including 2-day extension) that commenced on March 21, 2005 the chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC), Chief Samuila Makama scored the commission 95% pass mark. Not a few Nigerians would disagree with this self-assessment. The entire exercise was marred with various irregularities and logistic problems that eventually made nonsense of the 19 billion naira project, as so many areas were left out.

The first two days of the exercise, for instance, were used to pay training allowances to the enumerators while census materials were hoarded by NPC officials in some states during the exercise. In Benue state, for instance, the assistant comptroller of Ogbadibo Local Council was reportedly arrested by the police allegedly for hoarding and sales of five cartons of form 01 for one million naira (Guardian newspaper 27 Marsh, 2006). After the entire travesty, most of the enumerators whose allowances were not paid withheld the forms and materials used to conduct the exercise.

The first nationwide census was conducted in 1952-53 and put the total population figure of Nigerians at 31.6 million. This was followed by another one in 1962 which was however cancelled after allegations of over-counting and misconducts in many areas. This necessitated the 1963 head-count that put the population at 55.6 million. Of course, there were a lot of criticism with regards to corruption and other misdemeanours during the exercise; it was accepted by the government at the end of the day

After the civil war of 1967-70 during the military regime of General Yakubu Gowon, an attempt was made to hold another census in 1973, but the results were cancelled in the face of reported controversies and conflicts all over the nation. The 1991 census under the administration of Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida military junta which put the population at 120 million was not also without controversies, but the results were imposed by military fiat.

Government's reason for census is hinged on planning for development vis-�-vis provision of social services like healthcare, good road, safety and security, job creation, etc. Nigerians, especially the poor masses, were therefore mobilized after a series of enlightenment campaigns on the so-called benefits of the population census. This informed total compliance of a 7-day stay at home despite the economic hardship, especially on daily income earners. The question we need to ask at this juncture is that: will this census guarantee a better living standard for the masses of this country? Certainly No!

Under the current socio-political dispensation of neo-liberalism, no improvement will ever come the way of the poor masses. Every plan of the government is hinged on privatisation and commercialisation of all social services and profit for the very rich and multinational corporations at the expense of the poor. Just like the previous census and the moribund 2003 ID project, the 2006 census will not bring any positive thing to the poor. It is going to be business as usual.

The present anti-poor, pro-rich economic programme of the Obasanjo led government under the trademark of economic reform is a pointer to the fact that there is not going to be any succor for the masses as every sector of our economy has been bought by the indigenous and foreign capitalists whose major motive is to maximize profit. For instance in education sector, the school fees are getting skyrocketed day-in-day-out, the health sector is comatose, the electricity is epileptic where it is available despite the billion of naira we read on the pages of newspapers to have been spent on it, unemployment figure continues to soar everyday, government and the owners of privatised public parastatals and companies, and even private enterprises retrench daily to maximize their profit. All this has made Nigerian masses continue to suffer in midst of abundance.

WAY FORWARD

This last census will not indicate a check list of what needs to be done to benefit ordinary working people, on the contrary each of the rotten competing factions within the ruling class will simply attempt to manipulate the results for their own interests.

. The truth of the matter is that the present regime has no capacity to implement any pro-masses' programme. For any census to bring positive result, the present regime and its anti-poor policies must be kicked out and be replaced with a pro-masses government that will use our collective human and material resources to implement policies and programmes that will be different from the prevailing dispensation.

 

Socialist Democracy May 2006