By Bayo Fasunwon
Have you heard the saying that data is life? In our modern day of addiction to internet to the detriment of building neighbourliness and intimacy with our loved ones, our minds would quickly run to the vouchers we load on our phones which we use for either phone calls, messages or internet connection. Often times, one has seen many people go jittery, drive themselves into a frenzy, feel naked and isolated just because they do not have ‘megabytes’ or ‘card’ and most times because their phones have been forcefully ‘borrowed’. When one sees this, the question that comes to my mind remains ‘how were we living in Nigeria, gather information and relate with one another before mobile phones became a household ‘utensil’?
So, in Nigeria today, and possibly in the world, anyone without a phone is often perceived as a walking dead and a person that becomes isolated even by those close by, because the latter are always glued to their phones. And when there is no ‘data’ to navigate the world, gist and share stories of no value, depression slips in and various psychological disorders start their manifestations. To this generation, ‘data’ on phones is life, and that makes them a true citizen of the world. That is not the focus of this article today, but we may return to this disturbing hysteria at other times.
In order to understand today’s concept, we should contact the various dictionaries that abound. These have defined DATA as ‘facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis’; and as information, especially facts or numbers, collected to be examined and considered and used to help with making decisions. In other words, these are information deliberately collected and stored for study and decision making. It is very vital to understand that data are not collected for show or boasting.
Rather, they are meant for study, analysis, explanation and then the ultimate end – decision making. By implication therefore, wrong data, falsified data and or uncollected data would ultimately result into wrong interpretation of phenomena as well as result in wrong decisions which would then engender resentments, chaos and possibly anarchy.However, it should also be clearly stated that the deliberate disregard and misuse of correct data would also result into anarchy at the end of the day.
When it comes to data gathering in Nigeria, there are many laughable scenarios. In the first instance, there is the lack of data gathering. For example, how many babies were born in Nigeria in 2022? How many of these babies survived the first three months? How many people died in Nigeria in the month of May? What were the major causes of death, and the mean age of the deceased? We complain of unemployment, but how many Nigerians got employed this year, and how do we know the true numbers of the unemployed as different from the jobless? If we leave Nigeria alone, how many of these data can we access at the 774 local governments in Nigeria? What is the commonest life-threatening disease in any local government as at now? The second scenario is the ‘cooking’ of data.
A person sits in his office in Abuja, and determines the cost of living of the average Nigerian and the Consumer Price Index, without going to the market to verify. For example, how many are we in Nigeria, or even in your local government. We speculate that we are about 250million, and decisions are made based on these speculations.
Without knowing the age distribution of our population, we make decisions on healthcare, subsidy, economy, politics and social care. Let us ask our dear men in power if they can tell us how many barrels of crude oil we produce per day’ how many we export, and how many are truly released for domestic processing. And to think that we make National, State and Local Government Budgets on ‘manufactured’ or ‘distorted’ national income.
No wonder the nation is a walking dead. For example, the country’s inflation rate is set to 22.79%, but it is obvious by market prices that the country’s inflation rate is close to 35%. It is the cooking of data that resulted in the ambiguous 35million litres per day PMS consumption and of various nonexistent pipelines and litres of crude oil derivatives that impoverished Nigeria through phony claims on fuel subsidy.
The third scenario with Data in Nigeria is the lack of synergy between various data collecting agencies. The Banks seek for information through BVN, the FRSC have the same data on their system; the various mobile service providers collect same data’ the Passport of the NIS collect the same data, the Voters’ registration office takes you through the same stress and pain to collect the same data and NIMC do same and yet there is no synergy. Yours truly was taken aback that you have to go through the same time-wasting process of registering new sim when you are using a registered sim from the same service provider.
The purpose of these data collected by these various bodies is first and foremost for identification towards ensuring the security of lives and property. But is that the case? Fraudsters do not even hide their numbers when they make calls to scam people. Also, ransom seekers do not also hide theirs. It is unfortunate to realise that despite reporting and publishing the numbers of these evil doers, they carry on their nefarious activities as they are never traced and arrested.
Various changes have accompanied plate numbers of vehicles, but it has become of no use because beyond identification, there are no tracking through data use to help in the time of need. So, despite the proliferation of data collection in Nigeria, the purpose of such horrendous task is defeated. So many lives have been lost due to the no use and lack of synergy with these data.
There are so many researches conducted in Nigeria; so many findings and data are generated; but left to rot on the shelves. The various levels of government hardly interact with research institutes or tertiary institutions to request and utilize most of these data and findings for national development. Unfortunately, and sadly too, the government of Nigeria at all levels have seen tertiary institutions as a place to harbor, keep and engage the youth for four years, and thus reduce their hunger for change.
Universities are now being created like kindergarten centres and are thus being abused because their purpose is not known. Various levels of government have not challenged these tertiary institutions by giving them national problems to solve. So, one is not surprised when the Federal and State Governments maltreat ASUU and allows them to go on strikes often and for a long period of time. They do not use their outputs, and that is why Nigeria does the masquerade dance of going back and forth, and still remaining on the same spot for years.
Nigeria leaders are mostly data phobic. They pride themselves in policies that harvest data, but are afraid to use them. Without the good use of data, the nation dies. Let us remember and accept that DATA IS LIFE.