STATISTICS FOR NATIONAL RELEVANCE
I must thank the Governing Council and members of the Nigerian Statistical Association (NSA) for the kind invitation to the association’s 39th annual national conference and to declare it open.
Your choice of Osun as the host of your AGM is meritorious. Irrespective of the recent orchestrated campaign of calumny against our state and administration in a section of the media, we are the choice destination for meetings, conferences, conventions and sundry events by corporate bodies, associations and organisations.
This is firstly due to the fact that Osun has a great history behind it. It is the spiritual home of all Yoruba people. Ile-Ife, the fountainhead of Yoruba people, and where the legend says creation began, is less than 50 kilometres from where we are. This will probably explain why nature has extra-blessed us with a serene ambience and breath-taking natural formations.
Oluminrin Waterfall in Erin Ijesa is captivating in its sheer grandeur and compares to any in the world. The Osun Grove, as many of you are aware, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attracts devotees of the Osun deity and tourists from all over the world. There are more than 50 of such nature’s beauty in Osun.
Secondly, our state has one of, if not the lowest, crime rate in Nigeria. This is in addition to the geniality and hospitality of our people. I will implore you to explore the rich possibilities of God’s nature in Osun before returning to your posts after this conference.
The theme of your conference: ‘Statistics for Good Governance’ is very thoughtful. According to Davidian, M. and Louis, T. A, two leading scholars in your field, ‘Statistics is the science of learning from data, and of measuring, controlling, and communicating uncertainty; and it thereby provides the navigation essential for controlling the course of scientific and societal advances’. I earlier said your theme is thoughtful; let me add that it is also value laden. You see statistics as essential to ‘good governance’ but I will quickly say that without statistics, there can be no governance itself, good or bad. On a broader scale, statistics go beyond governance, it encompasses life itself, mostly in an informal way. Generally in life, whether we are educated or not, or read statistics or physics, we take mental notes of events and phenomena around us and observe patterns from which we form opinions which in turn inform our views and actions.
For instance, we know that drunk driving is dangerous and can lead to fatal accidents. We also know that snake bites can be fatal. These are pieces of knowledge derived from observable patterns in human experience. It is statistics at work. Also, a trader must mentally calculate how much she needs to sell each of the 50 oranges on her tray, against her cost price, to be able to break even, since she could not afford to hire an accountant or a statistician. In the course of her trade, she must determine and predict fairly well the best places and individuals with whom to ply her trade and the characteristics of individuals that are credit worthy or not.
Statistics is also without doubt the backbone of science and the scholastic enterprise. It is the backbone of any business endeavour and enterprise and society. However, for government, a systematisation and conscious application of statistical methods and principles is an imperative without which no government can function. It is therefore necessary to have a functional and effective statistics department.
As we speak, we are carrying out a verification of workers in the state to determine our true wage bill. Though this may be accompanied with some discomfort, it is much needed for effective management of scare resources.
Your association has made admirable efforts to bring statistics into the mainstream of government with varying degrees of success. You have also gone to great length to control and regulate the statistics vocation in Nigeria. I salute and give you kudos for this.
There are however socio-political challenges of relevance for your association. There are times when public and private officials bandy around false statistics in order to promote falsehood and fraudulent agenda. Your association should be able to set the records straight in such circumstances.
Sometimes in 1979, a great debate arose over the conduct of the presidential election of that year on what constitutes two thirds of the then 19 states of Nigeria. A legal gimmick was thrown in which made it twelve two thirds of 19 states. Only Prof Chike Obi, a mathematician, spoke and expressed strong objection that a state is a whole and indivisible; therefore, there could be no two third state. It would have been interesting and even illuminating for your body to volunteer an opinion as it would definitely have been the case in the advanced world.
Periodically, by executive fiat and shenanigan, opposition governors were being removed from office with ‘simple minority’ votes of legislators in their states, when the constitution prescribed at least two thirds majority. Your voice, as a professional association, would have come to the rescue and save our nation from a global embarrassment.
You will also recall that recently, the Federal Government and states lapsed into financial crisis. While the then Federal Government borrowed N470 billion from commercial banks to be able to pay most of its workers salaries in its last four months, states were in a quandary until the coming of President Muhammadu Buhari who extended a lifeline to them.
The official explanation from the Presidency was that thieves were daily stealing 400,000 barrels of crude oil. But there is an incongruity between this figure and the amount by which allocation to states dropped.
While 400,000 represents about 19 per cent of Nigeria’s daily oil production quota, monetary allocation to states dropped by more than 60 per cent and the nation began to haemorrhage financially and tottered towards asphyxiation. Of course, we now know what happened to the money. We led the campaign from here to expose this fraud but with dire consequences for us. Honestly, statisticians should have spoken up while this storm raged.
The challenge for your profession therefore is patriotic intervention in national life as it concerns your profession. You will through this promote good governance with statistics.
Let me wholeheartedly welcome you to Osun and wish you a fruitful and successful meeting as I declare this conference open.
I thank you all for your kind attention.