Census Crisis of 1962/63 (Causes & Consequences in Nigeria)

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The Nigeria Political Census Crisis of 1962/63 (Causes & Consequences)

A lot has been written in previous chapters on the 1962 – 1963 Census Crisis in Nigeria and this article only puts the whole problem in perspective. The census crisis was the first major political conflict to be confronted by the post-colonial Nigerian state.

Political Census Crisis of 1962/63 (Causes & Consequences)
Political Census Crisis of 1962/63 (Causes & Consequences)

The 1962 population census put the total population of the country at 45 million, out of which the south had 24 million and the north 21 million. This was the first time the population of the south would exceed that of the north. The population count created a big political problem for the Balewa government, which had to cancel it and order a re-count.

Causes of the Nigeria Crisis Crisis of 1962/63

The major causes of the census crisis were as follows:

  • The sudden increase in the population of the south over and above that of the north in the 1962 census, and this was said to be due to the inflation of the population of the Western and Eastern Regions respectively.
  • The rejection of the outcome of the 1962 census by the Northern Region and its call for a recount did not go down well with southern politicians.
  • The determination of southern politicians to stop perceived northern domination of the political system, which derived largely from the north’s huge population.
  • The refusal of Eastern and Mid-Western Regions to support a recount ofthe 1962 census.

Nature of the Nigeria Census Crisis of 1962/63

As a result of alleged irregularities and malpractice in the conduct of the 1962 census, the Federal Government rejected the results of the exercise and ordered a recount. The British official who conducted the census, Mr. T. Warren also agreed that the 30 percent increase in the population of the north was normal while the 70 percent and 100 percent jumps in the population of the Eastern and Western regions respectively had no demographic basis.

The recount in some selected areas reversed the gains of the Eastern Region, in particular, and correspondingly increased the gains of the Northern Region. The new figures were predictably rejected by the southern politicians. As a result, a new census was conducted towards the end of 1963.

The results of the third exercise released in February 1964 simply maintained the status quo with the Northern Region and Western Region being the greatest beneficiaries of the exercise.

Thus, while the Northern, Western and Mid Western regions accepted the result of the new census, the Eastern Region out-rightly rejected it. This created tension in the country particularly between Northern Nigeria and Eastern Nigeria.

Political Implications Of The Census Crisis of 1962 – 1963

The implications of the census crisis included the following:

  • The crisis created deep tension in the country and within the ruling coalition government comprising the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) and the National Convention of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC).
  • The crisis laid the foundation for the struggle for political hegemony between the Northern Region and Eastern Region, which eventually led to the military coup of January 1966.
  • It demonstrated that a census in Nigeria was not just about counting of people but about the distribution and exercise of power. As a result censuses in post-independence Nigeria have always been controversial.
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