On 1973 Provisional census


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On 1973 Provisional Census




Obafemi Awolowo

THIS brings me to the 1973 census result.
I have examined this result from several standpoints
which times does not permit me to elaborate upon here,
and as a result, I have been irresistibly impelled to
the conclusion that the so-called PROVISIONAL FIGURES
are absolutely unreliable and should be totally
rejected by the Supreme Military Council.
In the first place, based on UNESCOs estimate in its
Statistical Yearbook 1972, at 2.5 per cent growth
rate, our estimated population for 1973 should be
59.63 million. The 79.76 million population, which we
are now trying to bestow upon ourselves is, therefore,
20.40 million more than the estimate based on the
UNESCO projection. By comparison, the U.N. and UNESCO
estimates gave us 46.324 million in 1963 as against
55.670 million. In 1963, therefore, we exceeded the
UNESCO estimate only by 9.34 million; whereas in 1973
we exceeded the U.N. and UNESCO estimate by 20.40
It follows that, if the 1963 figures are nearest the
truth, then the 1973 figures are furthest from the
In the second place, during the intercensal periods of
1931 to 1953 and 1953 to 1963, the trend in
inter-regional population movements showed that the
South was gaining steadily at the expense of the
In 1931, the population of the North was 58 per cent
of the total for the country, in 1953 it was 55 per
cent; and in 1963 it was 54 per cent.
I hasten to add that it does not even require
arithmetical calculations such as these to demonstrate
that the South has, populationwise since 1931, been
gaining steadily at the expense of the North: the
trend is visible for everyone in Nigeria to see.
And having regard to the existing economic and social
circumstances of the country, this trend is not only
natural and normal, but also necessary and welcome.
The 1973 PROVISIONAL census figures have, however,
shown a complete and sharp reversal of this normal
trend. During the intercensal period of 1963 to 1973,
the North has moved from 54 per cent of total
population to 65 per cent. Unless it can be
established that there was gross undercounting of the
North in 1963 as compared with the rest of the
country, which from all available evidence was
certainly not the case, what the 1973 provisional
result necessarily implies, therefore, among other
things, is that many more Southerners had moved to the
North between 1963 and 1973 than the other way round.
This is obviously not the case. On the contrary, as we
all know, population movement from the North to the
South was greater and more massive in the last ten
years than ever before.
In the third place, the average population growth rate
for Africa as a whole is 2.7 per cent, whilst the
growth rates in West African countries range between
1.9 per cent and 3 per cent.
The 1973 provisional census result for Nigeria,
however, indicates that the range of growth rates in
our 12 states is between0.62 per cent in the Western
State and 7.04 per cent in the North-Eastern State.
This just cannot be true. And for anyone seriously to
suggest that it can in the face of the visible,
tangible relative factors for population growth in the
different States in the country, is to deny ordinary
commonsense to the Nigerian populace, and to inflict
grievous wounds both on our body politic and on the
feelings of thinking Nigerian citizens.
In the fourth place, the provisional figures have
revived, with greater vividness and starker reality,
the erstwhile fear of permanent domination of one
group of Nigerians by another.
According to the provisional figures, the population
of North-East and Kano States alone is almost equal to
that of the South put together. And if the utterly
false trends of population growths in the States,
indicated by the provisional figures, were contrived
and repeated in 1983 - and one cannot now see, if the
provisional figures are allowed to stand, why a repeat
performance should not occur in 1983; if the same
trends were repeated in 1983 by the same contrivances,
then 74 per cent of all Nigerians would be living in
the North, ten years from now!
The fear and dreadful forebodings which the
provisional figures struck into the minds of many
Nigerians have been further heightened, on reflection,
by the steady erosion of the powers of the States in
favour of the Federal Government. A close analysis of
the situation will reveal that the country is already
sliding back to a unitary form of Government behind an
imposing facade of federalism. And as we all know,
under a unitary form of Government, by whatever name
called and no matter how many ineffective States there
are in the country, whichever party controls the
Central Government controls all, and dominates all.


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