MANAGING POLITICAL WILL AND PUBLIC OPINION IN CENSUS TAKINGPRESENTED BY NIGERIA AT 3RD AFRICA SYMPOSIUM ON STATISTICAL DEVELOPMENT ACCRA, GHANA3-7 DECEMBER, 2007.
INTRODUCTION Census taking is very important for every country of the world as it is enumeration and taking the demographic data of all the people within a given geographical territory. For a census and its figures to be considered successful, it must posses four major attributes; Accuracy, Reliability, Acceptability and level of Utilization.
INTRODUCTION CONT’D The topic managing political will and public opinion in census taking is linked to acceptability of the census. How can we make census acceptable? Basically, this pertains to advocacy especially in a society like ours where census is seen as an instrument of political supremacy.
POLITICAL WILL • You cannot divulge government from a census, it is important to secure political commitment from the government to conduct census because apart from the pronouncement of the census, the government will be involved in the area of budgeting. • The political class has a responsibility, especially our elected representatives to be able to really educate the people, get their support to appreciate census.
POLITICAL WILL CON’TD Also, you can conduct an accurate census and it may not be acceptable, the reason being simply if the political class decides to play politics and politicize the census, they will not accept it even though you have done an accurate job and conducted an accurate process. This is because sometimes, when the results fall below the expectations of some certain people, they will reject it just because it does not meet their expectations.
PUBLIC OPINION PUBLIC OPINION • The public opinion is also critical in census taking as they can propagate negatively or positively on the census especially the media. Some people have fixed certain figures which they have already attributed to themselves and which they feel they deserve, anything that falls below that expectation, then you cannot predict what is going to happen. • If the media right from the beginning, start writing negatively on the census process or play those factors or issues that have created problems before then, that census is doomed because the credibility of the census will be at risk.
PUBLIC OPINION CONT’D • The opinion of other groups of the public such as the traditional institutions, religious groups, pressure groups, international community is equally very important in the census taking.
Census taking in Nigeria is a complex, difficult and above all controversial task. Nigeria has had several population censuses since 1866 when the first census was conducted. Political, social, ethnic, religious controversies and regional distrust stood as a strong obstacles to the wide acceptability of most of the past censuses. • A brief history of the past census operations conducted in Nigeria shows there was one in 1866, 1871 and 1896 which were restricted to Lagos island and part of the mainland, while the 1921 covered in addition to Lagos some urban colonies.
In 1931, the procedure for the conduct of the census in the southern protectorate was different from that for the northern part of the country. There was no attempt to conduct a census in 1941 because of the second world war. The 1952/53 census was the first elaborate and scientific census conducted in Nigeria. It however lacked simultaneity and probably under enumerated the population of Nigeria.
Nigeria had her independence in 1960. The first post independence census was carried out in 1962. The results were cancelled and another attempt was made in 1963. The result was also contested at the supreme court which ruled that it lacked jurisdiction over the administrative functions of the federal government. The 1973 census results was also cancelled due to massive inaccuracies associated with earlier ones. There was no attempt of census in 1981.
In November 1991, Nigeria conducted a population census. The successful conduct of the 1991 population census clearly reversed the fate of census taking in Nigeria. It provided a rich set of socio-economic and demographic data improved national development planning. The National Population Commission conducted a population and housing census in 2006 for the 2010 round of censuses.
For the 2006 census process, the National Population Commission secured political commitment of the government. The government at all levels demonstrated strong leadership along with political commitment and untiring support for the census taking. FUNDING: The federal government supported census activities by contributing18.5 billion naira, the state government contributed about 520 million naira in cash and kind. Local government councils provided fueling and logistics. Other development partners like EU, UNFPA and others contributed 19.3 billion naira.
PUBLIC ENLIGHTENMENT /ADVOCACY : To show this commitment further, the Public Enlightenment Campaign for the 2006 Population and Housing Census was launched by the former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo on the 20th April, 2004. He inaugurated the National Census Publicity Committee and directed that similar committees be inaugurated in all the states and LGAs. Media campaign was intensified in January 2006.
Like every labour census taking has its own fruits, the fruit of the collective labour on the 2006 census is the provisional result, which has been accepted by many. Like any other issue in Nigeria both negative and positive comments were made from stakeholders and the general public. Some of the Positive comments were; • This census is believed to be the best organized census ever. • The coverage level was commendable.
It was scientific and technical. • The census captured a lot of data including for the first time information on housing. Some of the negative comments were; • Some people believe that results of 2006 census were mere projections. • Males more than females ratio (105 males to 100 females) is not realistic. • Coverage level of the census exercise in some places were low. • The national growth rate of 3.2 percent is not realistic • Some states are believed to be more favoured in figures than others.
To be able to manage the political will and the public opinion, the commission embarked on massive enlightenment campaign on the importance and use of accurate census figures at the beginning of the census activities right from demarcation exercise. • The Commission further adopted a strategic approach to the 2006 census advocacy in order to ensure public support, cooperation, effective responsive and acceptability of the results. • In an effort to remove the obstacles that may hinder the successful conduct of the 2006 census. A survey called Census Awareness and Attitude Survey (CAAS) was conducted where the major attitudinal and behavioral problems responsible for inadequate cooperation and ownership of census figures in Nigeria were identified for study prior the 2006 census.
The study was the first of its kind in Nigeria, other censuses never had the benefit of a CAAS type study. The study therefore, assisted the Commission to strengthen its publicity campaign machinery for the 2006 PHC. The study was to; • Assess the level of public awareness of the conduct of 2006 Census and its preparations. • Identify the most effective media of reaching out to the general public on the 2006 Census. • Identify the range of contentious problems that might impact negatively on the smooth conduct of the 2006 Census. • Identify the major stakeholders in the 2006 Census project, their attitudes, views and fears. • Identify the range of negative attitudes, ignorance and prejudices that could impair the smooth conduct of the 2006 Census.
Furthermore in line with general practice, National Population Commission Act 1989, provides for establishment of Census tribunals in designated centres • NPC proposed to set up machinery to establish efficient and transparent 2006 Census Tribunals, where complaints or objections to census results as they relate to states, specific LGAs or localities will be heard.
CONCLUSION The National Population Commission realized and realistically too, that Census taking depends for its success; • Above all on willing cooperation of the people counted, cooperation not to refuse to be counted and cooperation not to carry out multiple counting or induce others to falsify figures by creating names and their characteristics. • A step to safeguard the integrity of the census result against the background of unscientific and unwarranted critics that may be expressed in some quarters must be taken.
CONCLUSION CONT’D • Without a strong leadership and commensurate commitment by the president, planners, program managers and others can rarely overcome the political and bureaucratic constraints that inevitably may occur. • The need for adequate commitment and ownership of census taking by all because everybody is a stakeholder and if everybody plays his own role, it will enhance not only the accuracy of the census but the acceptability of the census.