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Census in Nigeria: The Politics and the Imperative of Depoliticization

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image of African and Asian Studies
For more content, see Journal of Asian and African Studies.

This paper demonstrates that the persistent (mis)management of census is a key variable in the pattern of political instability and diminishing capacity that have defined the Nigerian State since it attained relative political independence in 1960. With roots in the highly exploitative and manipulative colonial enterprise, the crises of census in Nigeria continue to be sustained in contemporary times by the inherited contradictions that define the nation's political economy. Thus every past census in Nigeria has been a victim of intense elite contestation for power and resources, and therefore rather than enhance the planning and development process of the country, has further impaired it. The paper argues that any census, the scheduled 2005 edition inclusive, conducted in the context of extant hotly-disputed and largely illegitimate State structure, will not be able to accomplish its set objectives; with the decision by the Nigerian State to deny rather than come to terms with Nigerians' primary forms of identity, ethnic and religious, set to further erode rather than enhance the integrity of the exercise. It concludes that census will stop being inverted in its role in Nigeria only when the governance structure becomes wholly decentralized, the federating units become truly so, and census as an exercise becomes wholly de-politicized.


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