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Is Nigeria’s population the biggest in Africa?Opinion

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To the above poser, politicians who are using falsified figures to milk Nigeria will answer in the affirmative. But the contrary is the case if authentic census figures could be obtained. Nigeria population is not the biggest in Africa because there is no acceptable reference point to that effect. All the censuses conducted in Nigeria since independence have been controversial. The pre-colonial census of 1959 was even worse. The fraudulent colonial census figures bequeathed to Nigeria have remained the basis for population projections. How then do we accept the figures being paraded as reliable when the base is unreliable?

I am taking a swipe on Nigeria’s population because the impression has been created, wrongly, that Nigeria’s population is burgeoning at over 200 million. The protagonists of this misrepresentation are even projecting that by 2050 or thereabout, Nigeria’s population would swell to over 300 million; and that Nigeria could overtake the United States of America to join the club of the China, India and other South-east Asia nations with ballooned population. Consequence, external clandestine moves aimed at reducing world population, as reported in social media as a fallout of COVID-19 target Nigeria and indeed, Africa.

When in 2007, the National Population Commission (NPC) released the figures of the national census it conducted in 2006; I questioned the basis for giving the north higher population figures than the south. The NPC had in that census given Kano State 9.38 million ahead of Lagos it gave 9.01 million people. By extension, the entire Northern Nigeria was given 75 million people while the entire south was assigned 65 million people. Nigeria’s total population according to the 2006 census was put at 140 million. What is in contention is the distribution, which till date has not been resolved. The figures corroborated the grand falsehood that the north is more populated than the south, when there is no evidence to prove that.

According to the false thesis, the dry north of Nigeria is more populated than the wet more industrialised south. This is a geographical paradox. Northern Nigeria is arid with severe underdevelopment quagmire when compared with the south that is more habitable and developed. As I have always said, it is only in Nigeria that this paradox holds. Worldwide, deserts and semi-arid regions like Northern Nigeria are known to be sparsely populated.

Human development in the desert has not changed this geographical fact. If it had, the Middle East and the Gulf Region would have become densely populated. But they’re not. They haven’t outstripped Southeast Asia in population density despite the lower level of wealth and development therein. What it means is that population would continue to concentrate away from the desert and semi-arid regions.

The truth is development couldn’t upturn the fact in favour of the desert. But even at that, as I said earlier, it is not yet known that the Gulf region, with its abundant oil wealth and state-of-the-art development is now more densely populated than Southeast Asia with no oil wealth and lesser development. What we are faced in Nigeria is a historic fraud perpetrated by Nigeria’s erstwhile colonial overlords who deliberately falsified Nigeria’s pre-amalgamation census of 1912 in favour of the north.

Godson Offoaro, had in his article titled Is the North still more populated than the South, published in the Sun of February 21, 2011 identified one Mr. Harold Smith, an octogenarian former British colonial administrator as confessing to the fraud. Mr. Smith was reported to have said in an interview that “The British were very scared of handing over to the more enlightened incommodious south. Despite seeing vast land with no humans but cattle in the north, we still gave the north 32 million”.

How else could one sow a seed of discord and injustice for posterity to bear in a country? It’s this type of conspiracy that has remained the bane of Nigeria’s unity, which would be hard to forge when a section of the country are made to remain perpetually subjugated with little or no say in government.

The population fraud reverberates each time there is an issue that has to do with population since it is the basis for sharing the country’s mismanaged national cake. According to INEC, the Northwest zone has the largest number of voters with over 18.9 million, followed by the Southwest zone with 14.2 million and then Northeast zone with 10 million. South-south zone is fourth with 8.9 million and North-central zone 7.6 million. Southeast zone came last with 7 million. How can that be?

It’s clear that the figures followed the same old pattern of population distribution falsehood. The implication is that the North is accorded more political advantage in all things. That, exactly, is what the fraud was meant to achieve. It was a political fraud designed to ensure that the north swayed over the south at all times.

Fortunately, the fraud didn’t extend to human capacity otherwise the north would have lorded it over the south in every ramification. It hasn’t been so because you can’t build something on nothing. One glaring example is in the area of education, particularly, university admission. We all know that the bulk of admission seekers into the universities are from the south. State admission quotas in the southern states are over-filled annually.

The reverse is the case in the North. Hardly does any state in the north fill its admission quota into the public universities talk less of having surplus, yet. they’re the most densely populated part of the country. The falsified population figures awarded the north don’t turn around to manufacture students. There are no students to fill the north’s quota. Whereas the impression has been created since 1912 that the population of Northern Nigeria has been on a steady increase, the schools in the same region are empty.

Primary and secondary school enrollment is one undeniable indicator of population dynamics. Where the population is growing, there would be increase in school enrollment at all levels. On the other hand, where the population is on the decline, it reflects in poor school enrollment. I have experience in Japan where nursery/primary schools were being closed because of declining population of children. WAEC, NECO, JAMB and all the universities in the country are there to prove the point I’m making from their records. Why does the north’s large population only show up in political matters and not in education?

But despite the obvious lack of verifiable evidence to prove the purported concentration of population in the arid north, the Federal Government (which has been dominated by the same north), doesn’t seem to bother to put the records straight. It has continued to base decisions on falsehood. For example, it has embarked on an irrational project to establish universities in states that don’t have federal universities, including those in the north that can’t fill their quota in the existing universities. Where will they get students to fill their quota in the new universities? Where are the young people, the students to fill the admission quotas? Are the young people hidden? Are they barred from going to school? They should come out to occupy the space reserved for them in the universities? It’s all falsehood, fraud and deception that have kept the country down on its knees.

The British colonial overlords who deliberately falsified the population figures to suite their purpose sowed an eternal seed of injustice that has contributed in no small measure in undeveloping Nigeria and leaving her in an embarrassing state. Five decades of insincerity, deception and falsehood have seen the country move from being a child of promise at independence in 1960 to prodigality. The country is a laughing stock. Among other things, by working with false population figures, no progress is made even when a disproportionate chunk of resources is directed into sustaining the bogey population in the north.

It would be foolhardy for the Federal Government to continue to act as if all is well with the country. The colonial era is gone with history. There are modern ways of conducting accurate population census using satellite and computer based techniques that would give reliable data. The earlier something is done to obtain the true population figure of the country the better for all of us.

The Federal Government should muster the political will to conduct a reliable census for the country. That census should give each region its true population without recourse to a fraud that was deliberately made to disunite us. George Orwell said, “The more a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.”

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