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Beyond the resignation of Festus Odimegwu

29 October 2013, 09:24 Onyiorah Chiduluemije Paschal

There is no doubt that the resignation of the chairman of the National Population Commission, Eze Festus Odimegwu, would gladden the hearts of his critics, especially those of them from the far Northern part of Nigeria who had been having sleepless night over his courageous, persistent and candid assertion that never in the history of Nigeria have we had a census exercise that can truly be adjudged to be representative of the actual population of the entity called Nigeria.

In fact, to quote his actual words: “No census has been credible in Nigeria since 1816. Even the one conducted in 2006 is not credible. I have the records and evidence produced by scholars and professors of repute; this is not my report. If the current laws are not amended, the planned 2016 census will not succeed.”

Consequently, no sooner did Odimegwu articulate this home truth than those who are the beneficiaries of the existing demographics in the country arising from the past farcical census exercises, resorted to attacking his person and even calling for his head - rather than addressing the issues he simply raised in the interest of the general public.

The first in the list of critics to blurt out his vituperation in this regard was the unrepentant Northern hegemonist of Kano state, Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwanso, who while briefing news men on the essence of his recently reported closed door meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan faulted the appointment of Chief Eze Festus Odimegwu as the Chairman of the National Population Commission by the former.

In fact, it makes sense for us to just hear him out: “I also raised the issue of the Chairman of the National Population Commission headed by one Festus Odimegwu. We are not happy about that appointment, and think that it was a mistake. He had only one thing in alcoholic industry all his life. And my guess is that he’s taking a lot of his product and that is why we feel that his appointment is a mistake because he cannot be the Chairman of NPC and at the same time attack what his predecessors have done”.

Needless to say that following this baseless impression, the occasionally lily-livered President Jonathan had reportedly issued a query to Eze Festus Odimegwu. And to say that this is one outstandingly outrageous and irrational decision ever taken by President Goodluck Jonathan since his ascendancy to the Presidency may just be an understatement.

Not surprisingly, afterwards, Kwankwanso’s diatribe was immediately supplemented with a barrage of criticisms and unbridled show of pure venom emanating from other far Northern arm chair critics who hurled their tantrums from left, right and the center in a similar manner all the first and second eleven players of Arewa Media team debuted with their own litany of fierce polemics all against the person of Eze Festus Odimegwu. Expectedly, not even the umbrella group of their conservative elders – the Arewa Consultative Forum – was left out of the fray and/or in the burgeoning campaign of calumnies directed against the courageous Odimegwu.

In short, that all demanded for the outright removal of this great man of candour – Chief Eze Festus Odimegwu – is just an indication of their usually strong aversion to hearing the home truth as it affects them. In all, nevertheless, it is quite unfortunate that in their unwarranted but malicious attacks on the person of Odimegwu, none of these cavilers (mainly drawn from the Hausa-Fulani group) was able to point at one take-home truth or prove to Nigerians that this courageous NPC boss, the great Eze Odimegwu, got his facts and the logic of his contentions wrong  over the issues of the manipulation of past census exercises to the great advantage of the Northern Nigeria and certain states of the region - in particular - where the people are found to be predominantly of the Hausa-Fulani stock.

Curiously, not even Samaila Makama, the erstwhile NPC boss and the immediate predecessor of Eze Festus Odimegwu has been able to rebut the indicting records of falsification of the 2006 census figures and neither will anyone be wrong to hold the opinion that he did a relatively below-expectation job as an NPC boss judging by the cancellations of a number of the same 2006 census figures and the attendant expose of the disinformation dished out to the Nigerian populace under his supervision – all emanating from the judgments of the various census tribunals spread across the length and breadth of the country.

Incidentally, as an axiomatic evidence that Chief Eze Festus Odimegwu could not have been economical with the truth about 2006 census farce, the census tribunal in Lagos state recently pooh-poohed the same 2006 census figures in the state with an order directed to the NPC for a repeat exercise in the affected areas of the state.

Yet, despite this clear cases of indictment on the part of Makama-led leadership of the NPC by our census tribunals here and there, critics of Eze Festus Odimegwu still want all of us – Nigerians – to believe them that the latter’s aforementioned submission is totally bereft of the truth borne out of good sense of responsibility worthy of a patriotic citizen.

Now come to think of it, if the likes of Rabiu Kwankwanso and/or even President Goodluck Ebelemi Jonathan (who allegedly issued query to Odimegwu for no known reasonable cause) were not just being unnecessarily spiteful and political, why would Sanusi Lamido Sanusi – the Central Bank Governor – be spared from answering the same query for the “offence” of exposing the rot in the banking sector, a bold move people are wont to claim, rightly or wrongly, that its absence during the tenure of Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo, as it were, amounts to one grey area of his leadership deficit, especially having an inkling of the mess or even knowing much about it but still refusing to take the path of honor as was to be done subsequently by Sanusi Lamido Sanusi?

Honestly, one wonders where lies that difference between Sanusi’s expose in the banking sector and that of Chief Eze Festus Odimegwu’s version in the area of our national demographics or National Population(?). At the risk of sounding extreme, this in part accounts for why there can hardly be complete lack of the truth in the submission of some persons that the present leadership in the country at times tends to be flummoxed or wobbling towards cluelessness as can be attested to by its reported reaction to the necessary and timely expose which Festus Odimegwu has commendably brought to the front burner, preparatory to the gathering items of each regional agenda for the forthcoming national conference.

Besides, let us even dwell on one example of the vexed issue which the guts-exuding activities of Odimegwu have thrown into the public domain and thus making it possible for the vast majority of Nigerians to hear it – perhaps for first time in their lives. To begin with, it is arguable that it is only in Nigeria that the population of people living in the desert areas is held to be greater than that of those inhabiting the savanna areas.

Anyway, this is an issue for another day. But just a number of weeks ago, the Northern chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria decided to take the lid off the matter when its public Relation Officer – Sunday Oibe – publicly expressed his shock pertaining to how the population of Lagos state which used to be far greater than that of old Kano state that consisted of the present Kano and Jigawa states put together, has all of a sudden ceased to grow or, better still, declined so abysmally that the population of the new Kano state of today (which no longer carries within its fold the Jigawa state population consequent upon state creation) is now claimed  and cited to be far greater than that of the old and same Lagos state (despite the ceaseless or incessant influx of Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike into the latter state). Indeed, wonders shall never cease!

It is again a pity that those who have never wished Nigeria well from the outset (despite their grandstanding in professing “one Nigeria” or their usual pretensions to loving Nigeria more than their grand fathers and great-grand fathers ) have succeeded in necessitating the resignation of Festus Odimegwu.

But then, whether these elements who benefit a lot from our current national demographics and who prefer having the country run in an anti-clock wise are from the North or the South, within or outside the National Population Commission, or even within or outside the presidency, the truth of the matter about census in Nigeria  is that it is one area that will definitely compel ethnic nationalities and even religious bodies in the country to be at daggers drawn in due course, if care is not taken, especially given the ample opportunities that would soon be provided by President Goodluck  Jonathan’s proposed national conference.

Nevertheless, it is important to bring to the knowledge of the promoters of our current national demographic figures that the mere exit of Festus Odimegwu as the Chairman of the National Population Commission is not in any way a means to the end of the clamor for the conduct of a credible census by the NPC that will in turn aid relevant government and private organizations in proper planning and execution of people-oriented programs and to ascertain the actual population of Christians, Muslims and/or the traditionalists as well as in knowing the real population of the Igbo, the Yoruba, the Hausa, the Ijaw and others occupying the geographical entity called Nigeria.

To this extent, therefore, it is instructive for people who hearts are gladdened over the resignation of the NPC boss to know that the myriads of demographic challenges that are still staring us in the face obviously go beyond the exit of Mazi Eze Festus Odimegwu.


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