Elections, like anywhere in the world are characterized by political leaders and politicians making promises upon promises, giving hope that cannot be verified or seen as being possible and Nigeria and Africa are no different. While we are still years behind other nations that are already manufacturing flying self-driving taxis, cars and vehicles that run on clean energy like electricity, our national, citizen, the social and political atmosphere are saddening, to say the least. The country is speedily approaching another election year and politicians will start giving us hope that are largely false yet we have no real information on the demographic data of people who make up our country.
How does a leader in politics or a President make promises to a nation he/she does not understand know or understand the population of their people? The last population census was in 2006 and it is expected that such exercise is done every ten years worldwide. Each time Nigeria’s population is made reference to people are quick to describe us as over 180 million people and many know that the truth in this needs some questioning. The demographic data of any country is the most important data there is to nation building; it should be the determinant for almost every key decision in governance.
I will be sharing with you on why we need to understand our national demographic data and why any decision of those in power will either be useless, less impactful or fraudulent with knowing our numbers.
The National Budget
This is the next most important legal document of government after the national constitution. It details the various programs of government, it is a to-do list for governance, and it is the working document to understand the priorities of any government. The national budget is the true reflection of a government’s ideas in figures, numbers, projects and programs. A budget, therefore, is what will determine the impact of a government on her people and there is no way to have a comprehensive impact with this document without a detailed understanding of your people. The drafting of the budget should be done based on the demographic distribution of citizens, the needs of the people must be understood, what is lacking in particular with either thousand or million people must be understood before it will be included in the national budget. Any budget that is drafted without a real data, figures and understanding of the people is simply a document to allocate money, not for good governance.
The budget is a general overview of government’s programs but the next points will give a detailed application of population demography in governance.
Housing is a major need of man and every government is expected to make provisions for their people. We have housing policies that seek to build 10,000 housing units for workers in government or otherwise. There is no way housing allocations can be made for a particular location without knowing the population of such places. Provision of housing equally comes with providing social amenities like schools, hospitals and other services that human beings need to live decently. There are dire situations where many people live in a particular environment or house way above the required standard that is conducive to habitation and comfort.
See below the World Health Organization standard for living spaces (in square metres) against the number of persons.
|Area (in sq. metres)||No. of Persons|
|11 or more||2 persons|
|9 to 10||1.5 persons|
|7 to 9||1 person|
|5 to 7||0.5 persons|
Note: Babies under 12 months are not counted and for children between 1 to 10 years, they are counted as half a unit. (World Health Organization)
Different countries use various standards, some are stricter than others but the essence of this is that when providing housing for citizens it is important to know their demographic data. The population of children and adults are important to determine the allocation and eventual construction.
I will make this as simple as possible with the daily experience of everyone. Transportation system involves the following; the number of road users, the location of citizens’ residence, size of roads and construction quality. If you are living on an estate where you have to experience delayed traffic movement because of the large influx of people then there is a problem in the planning of such transport system. If some roads get congested in the morning or evening, it means that enough efforts were not made to understand the direction of traffic flow where people are living and where they work, the population and number of people who have cars. This area and other areas involve the analysis of population data using various parameters of either age, religion, sex, income level, occupation and others that might have an effect on traffic movement.
Though our power generation issue needs to be fixed from the law that makes provision for the national grid, we still need to address how demographic data can play a role in it. The nature of sharing power among various locations due to voltage level is really embarrassing. Power usage is dependent on population and the extent of usage by each household or corporate entity. If a particular Megawatt of power is to be transmitted to a particular location, then their usage level needs to be verified and allowances made for any form of overshoot for such places. For instance, a particular place in Lekki, Lagos or Maitama, Abuja needs 500 MW after checking every building then the power generation company can make it 700MW should any household buy more electrical appliances that will take up more power.
Other Social Amenities
We have situations where a doctor is allocated to about 500 patients, a teacher to about 200 students, classrooms too small for students to get a seat for lectures, hospital spaces and beds not being enough for the sick, the police force or military not populated enough to safeguard citizens and many areas that get shortchanged due to lack of population data.
On what basis will the next round of politicians convince on what they intend to do for us in Nigeria when we don’t know the actual population of Nigerians and foreign residents. We have not even started talking about those in the diaspora and the ones that get unfortunate of being deported from countries where they are. The importance of demographic data cannot be overemphasized, they are the foundation of any development plan, national plans, regional and state plans.
With such data, we are able to plan for the future, make plans and secure the generation yet unborn.