"Facts speak louder than statistics"
- Mr. Justice Streatfield (1950)
In the war of words, "the first casualty is the truth," for when the numbers are pliable and shaded to accomplish a specific purpose, then observers and stakeholders must not look to the other side.
The recent article written by Nasir Ahmed El Rufai headlined: ANAMBRA'S BUDGET OF MISPLACED PRIORITIES, would have still made its point without conjuring half-baked statistics on Anambra State. But the writer could not hold back the temptation of justifying his point of view without hard numbers to make it credible and acceptable. The point must be clearly made that all Nigerians in our diverse country have the constitutional rights to express their views through articles, press releases and speeches but they are not entitled to misrepresenting facts.
The point here is not to defend Governor Peter obi, for he has the resources, infrastructures and capable hands that can do that for him. But when facts about Anambra State are misconstrued and misplaced, those of us that cherish Anambra State and appreciate the facts will not be left with any other alternative but to speak out.
Nasir El Rufai, in his most recent article on Peter Obi and Anambra State, did not provide us with credible references or scholarly sources that validate the statistics he utilized. However, it was not difficult to find out his source which is National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The only problem was that he did not completely use all the numbers; some numbers he chose to skip and others he made malleable.
It will be logical to give a brief explanation of the role played by NBS in the country’s economic landscape. It is the country's statistical agency that was set up by Federal government of Nigeria to collect micro/macro-economic data of the country. NBS collects and documents indices on inflation, economic growth, food and commodity prices, with regards to changes in the market place, in the effort of determining the wellbeing of the nation.
Governor Obi (left) Mallam El Rufai (right)
Dr. Yemi Kale is the Statistician General of the Federation and Chief Executive of NBS. “NBS came into being with the merger of the Federal Office of Statistics (FOS) and the National Data Bank (NDB). The creation was part of the implementation of the Statistical Master Plan (SMP), a program document of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN).” These statistics collected by NBS are used by policy makers and bureaucrats for making economic and financial decisions.
The merger of these entities took place to give the nation an elite “statistical agency for all the three tiers of Government. NBS is expected to coordinate statistical operations of the National Statistical System in the production of official statistics for all Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), State Statistical Agencies (SSAs) and Local Government Councils (LGCs).” NBS may not be perfect but it is progressively getting better.
When Mallam El Rufai wrote: “Unemployment rate in Anambra is among the highest in the South-east zone, at 21.3 percent, it is higher than the national average of 21.1 percent." But According to NBS, Anambra state unemployment value stood at 12.2% and currently, Anambra State has the lowest poverty rate in Nigeria.
The question that is begging for an answer is where did El Rufai find his data? Is it from same National NBS or somewhere else?
His article on Anambra State was quite interesting but misleading, not because of what he wrote but for things he chose to omit and for the numbers he utilized to make his point. One thing he failed to do was to differentiate between the governor and Anambra state, for he interchangeably made Governor Peter Obi and Anambra State appears as one entity. A governor is the chief executive officer of state and a politician; therefore the citizens of the state should be respected.
One could constructively criticize the governor’s administration without the people of the state feeling belittle or insulted. By going out of his way to make Anambra State appear worst than it actuality is, reveals that the article is not being logical and serves an alternative agenda.
The below paragraph reinforces the point and drives home the idea that El Rufai is castigating the people of Anambra state with pliant statistics:
"The incidence of poverty in the state is very high – actually disappointing. The South-east has a food poor incidence of 41.0 percent of which 60.9 percent is absolutely poor, while 66.5 percent is relatively poor and 56.8 percent live under a dollar a day. Anambra has a poverty index of 22.8 per cent, the third highest in the zone, and shares the sixth lowest position in Nigeria with Rivers State which also has 22.8 percent. About 47.6 percent of the state’s population is core poor, 45.0 percent is moderately poor and only 7.4 percent of the state’s population is classified as none poor. Income inequality as measured by changes in Gini co-efficient between 2003 and 2010 increased slightly by 7.6 percent against 18.1 percent for Ebonyi and Enugu States 7.5 per cent increase."
According to NBS, absolutely poverty for the South-east is 58.7 percent not 60.9 per cent as El Rufai suggested in the article.
“Anambra is the eighth most populated state in the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the second most densely populated state in Nigeria after Lagos State” and not ninth as the article claimed.
Anambra State is by no means the poorest state in Nigeria, another indication of a thriving business activity was buttressed by the large percentage of mobile phones access in the state. Technology Times reported in 2011 that "among the states in Nigeria, Anambra has the highest percentage of people with access to mobile phones at 95.1 per cent and nearly 60 per cent of them own the devices" according to the survey report by NBS indicating that “at least 9 in every 10 persons who reside in the state are likely to have access to a mobile phone.”
On Anambra State resources, El Rufai wrote that "Anambra State is not much endowed with mineral resources and the few known to exist are not exploited."
But that is not the case; “Anambra is rich in natural gas, crude oil, bauxite, ceramic and has an almost 100 percent arable soil.”
“In 2006, a foundation laying ceremony for the first Nigerian private refinery, Orient Petroleum Refinery (OPR) was made in the Nsugbe-Umuleri area. The Orient Petroleum Resource Ltd, (OPRL) owners of OPR, was licensed in June 2002, by the Federal Government to construct a private refinery with a 55,000 bc/d capacity. Furthermore, Anambra state is a state that has many other resources in terms of agro-based activities like fishery and farming, as well as land cultivated for pasturing and animal husbandry.”
The article should have concentrated more on its preamble which was to dissect the respective allocations of resources to different sectors of the economy instead of stretching itself too thin and running a fast one with the numbers.
Nasir Ahmed El Rufai is an intellectual but on writing on Anambra State, his intellectuality was eclipsed with a noticeable and unremarkable omission of vital statistics.
Emeka Chiakwelu, Analyst and Principal Policy Strategist at Afripol Organization.