The Tyranny Of Statistics

November 9, 2011
1 min read

A few related points have concentrated my mind about statistics in the past two weeks. Last week, I used statistics from CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido, to tell painful truths about the Nigerian condition. Statistics quoted by Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko, frighteningly came into focus at our Editorial Board last week and I decided to lean on them this week. Imagine my delight to discover statistics from Transparency International (TI), quoted by THE GUARDIAN newspaper of Saturday, November 5th, 2011. Yes, our civil service evolved over the years, from backbone of administration, to a cesspool of corruption. But we could not put tidy sums to the annual civil service graft culture. Thanks to TI, now we know; in its annual Bribe Payers Index, Nigerian civil servants took bribes worth over $3b (N450b), in just the last one year alone! Phew!!!

If one drives around Abuja and sees various houses said to be owned by Nigerian civil servants, you won’t be surprised. Or who can forget, for example, a civil servant ‘man-of-God’, who died in a plane crash a few years back; much-lamented for his ‘pious modesty’, until the bitter fight to divide his loot exposed how much the chap stole from the Nigerian pot? And what about the controversial Amos Adamu, who privatized Nigerian sports, until his inferiority complex and insatiable greed, made him fall for a sting operation, which gave a whiff of his life of corrupt opulence? Such a background makes statistics so tyrannically painful for the Nigerian people. Corruption ensures that requisite resources cannot be put into vital sectors of national life, such as education. Consequently, the young vote with their feet in search of opportunities around the world. According to Mimiko, by 2008/2009, there were 14, 380 Nigerian students in England, costing us 336, 600, 000 Pounds annually (N84. 15B). Their tickets alone, cost an estimated N4.17B per annum.  

But there is a more tyrannical use of statistics in the Nigerian public space and the roots were planted firmly from the mid-1980s. The introduction of Structural Adjustment Policies (SAP) became a defining shift of paradigm of the development process in Nigerian history: out with compassion; enter a merciless culture! Against the background of a nationwide debate, Nigerians opposed policies associated with the Bretton Woods institutions. But Babangida was determined to implement them nevertheless. So they tyrannize us with statistical manipulation, including the barefaced lies about the Coca-cola bottle ‘theory’ of the cost of Nigerian prices of petroleum products. From that foundation of manipulative use of statistics, the Nigerian ruling elite has been unable to come clean ever since. When Obasanjo came to power and decided to implement SAP by other name, the same lies through statistics were the preferred method of dealing with the Nigerian people. And now Jonathan Goodluck ‘transformation’ regime is tyrannizing its way to painful increases of petroleum products prices, using dubious statistics too! Wherever we turn, we suffer the tyranny of statistics!

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