Inside Politics: By T U N D E R A H M A N, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
What should we feel about the loquacious Chairman of the National Population Commission Festus Odimegwu who is being attacked left, right and centre for his brutally frank but politically-incorrect statement on past censuses in the country? My view? Pity and intense surprise. Pity that Odimegwu has not learnt his lesson. His earlier uninformed and unabashed support for the Third Term agenda of former President Obasanjo had landed him in trouble with his employers at the Nigerian Breweries and virtually ended his job as NB’s managing director. Surprise because he ought to know how sensitive his present job as NPC boss and the task ahead of him are and be guided appropriately.
As NPC boss responsible for conducting the 2016 population census, Odimegwu has a sensitive job on his hand. And this is understandably so because in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society like ours, conducting population census is an exercise often greeted by all the mutual suspicion and mistrust you can think of. Coming from one of those loosely welded federating units, Odimegwu as NPC chairman ought to be very careful in what he says and how he says it. But not the garrulous NPC boss, whom I dare say is his own worst enemy! He said Nigeria has not had any credible census since 1816. This he blamed on the distortion and falsification of figures for selfish and political reasons. According to him, population forgery was done in every state, every locality and every region because politicians want to manipulate it so that they can use it during the electioneering season. The 2006 census figures, he said, were cooked up to favour the North.
Those effusions have expectedly been met with sharp reactions. His commissioners at NPC disowned his statement and warned him over “unhealthy and image-denting comments” capable of causing a crisis and forcing NPC to derail from delivering on its mandate. Then, Kano State Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, ever so eager to demonstrate he is one of the main defenders of the North, took up the gauntlet. He claimed Odimegwu might have been under the influence of alcohol when he rubbished the figures of the 2006 census. But not a few knew Odimegwu was saying the truth, just that it was not in his place as the new NPC henchman to so say. Now, the Census Tribunal ruling in the case instituted by the Lagos State Government in respect of the 2006 population census has vindicated Odimegwu. The tribunal last week nullified the contentious 9,113, 605 population figure allotted Lagos in the 2006 Census.