Tinubu cannot govern without data – Ui Lecturer

There has been a welter of strong negative public opinions against the seemingly flip-flop attitude of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu over some of his planned policies targeted at addressing multi-dimensional poverty in the country. First, he mooted the idea of giving eight thousand Naira to 12 million poor households in Nigeria for a period of six months. When people queried him on how he got the list of 12 million poor people, among other sound arguments, he recoiled to his corner and changed his mind!

Consequently, not a few pundits have described his government as impulsive and impetuous. Going back to the idea of 12 million poor households, critics have kicked against this figure for various reasons. To me, one of the drawbacks against this list is that Nigeria is not a data-driven society. Can we accurately say this is the reliable population of this country? We only assume! Whereas assumption, as they say, is the lowest form of knowledge. By the grace of God, I was trained as a statistician and I am educated enough to know that data enables a society such as ours to make informed decisions, while anecdotal evidence, assumptions or abstract observations might lead to wasted resources.
With accurate data, Nigeria will be able to direct scarce resources to where they are most needed. Indeed, with reliable data, this country will be able to establish baselines, benchmarks and goals, thus, achieving greater efficiency in the husbandry of available funds. But without data, President Tinubu will be giving N5billion to the most populous state in the country, Kano with a population of 14, 253, 549 representing 7.09% and the same amount of money to the smallest state, Bayelsa with a population of 2, 394, 725 representing 1. 19%. Is that decision not so ridiculous? It is highly unscientific. I shall return to this argument shortly.

Governance is such a serious business and should not be handled with subjectivity. The much development we crave can only come through empirically-based rationality, rather than mysticism, guesswork and assumption. Solutions to our national problems are not found in short-cuts or populist quick fixes of throwing money around but in rigorous planning based on facts and figures. There is no doubting the fact that Tinubu presidency’s approach to governance looks more like an act of impulse rather than calm deliberations. The point is that this government can’t fly without data-based decisions. Just as a chick cannot fly without sprouting wings, this nation can’t develop without data-driven policy. Governing without data is like traveling without a road map. It is like fishing around the forests!

Let me return to the issue of giving or borrowing each state of the federation N5 billion. As earlier said, it is unscientific to give the same amount of money to every state of the federation without taking into consideration their population sizes. The Nigerian government announced it would distribute N185 billion to 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as a palliative to ease the economic suffering of Nigerians as a result of the elimination of fuel subsidies.
However, according to National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) Demographic Bulletin (2020), “the total population of Nigeria is 201,135,262”. The NBS says Kano state is the most populated with 14,253,549 (7.09%), followed by Lagos state with 12,772,884 (6.35%), Katsina state 9,300,382 (4.62%), Kaduna state 8,324,285 (4.14%), Bauchi state 7,540,663 (3.75%), Oyo state 7,512,855 (3.74%), the least populated is Bayelsa state with a population of 2,394,725 (1.19%).
Against this background, the rational question is why should the smallest state (Bayelsa) get the same amount of money with states like Kano, Lagos and Oyo? If Bayelsa is getting N5billion, a state like Oyo should be getting N15billion on account of its population. The point I am making here is that peculiarities of each state, in terms of population should be taken into consideration in sharing resources. This One-size-fits-all mentality is absolutely irrelevant here. Equity, fairness and justice should be the basis on which resources should be distributed. There is still room for redress in subsequent resources allocation.

Perhaps this is where the call for restructuring of the country is relevant. It is injurious and unjust for a small state to take the same share with the big states. This is a proposition that is too plain to be contested. Nigeria needs to be restructured. Each region must be allowed to develop at its own pace. It is not reasonable to allow certain parts of the federation to slow down the rest of the country all in the name of developing the nation at the same time and level.
More importantly, President Tinubu should be reminded that the poverty level in the country is becoming unbearable. People are grumbling in rising decibels. There is a lot of simmering heat beneath the surface.
Now that the cabinet is in place, government must hit the ground running with immediate effect.
Government must not wait until people are forced to protest. Hunger in the land is palpable. No stone should be left unturned in searching for the solutions to the multi-dimensional poverty in the land. Nigeria must not be allowed to fail.

Alaba is a Reader (Associate Professor), Dept of Statistics, University of Ibadan.

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