Eze Festus Odimegwu is the Chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC). That is no longer news. What is news is that he is making himself the issue at the commission by exhibiting his controversial self and that is not going to help him one bit. We recall his days as the Managing Director of Nigerian Breweries, his role in the ignominious Obasanjo's third term campaign and what that did to his blossoming career as a corporate guru.
But it appears Odimegwu has not learnt his lessons judging by his personal conduct as the boss of the all-important commission charged with the responsibility of telling us how many we are.
From pre-Independence, census figures have remained controversial. But it should not be for the simple reason that it is about the most important index for accurate national planning. Like everything Nigerian, they are politicised.
In a democracy, victory at the polls is a game of numbers. Politicians employ every trick, ingenious and deceitful, to control the figures because they know that theywill ensure political power and therefore the control of state resources.
Since assuming office, he has been telling whoever cares to listen that past census figures were manipulated. That fact is already in the public domain and need not be over flogged at this point as it is capable of raising worries as to how Odimegwu perceives his task of correcting those past wrongs in the system he inherited. We hear that his colleagues at the commission have repudiated some of his comments as not representing the position of the commission. His media appearances tend to create the impression that he came to office with a mindset that may not necessarily be in the nation's interest.
Every Nigerian, Odimegwu inclusive, is interested in accurate census figures. Those who put him in that office must have had in mind to take advantage of his much celebrated intellectual fecundity and naturally expect him to apply that strictly in a manner that will achieve the desired result which is, bringing about population figures that economic and political planners will find useful. In other words, everyone expects Odimegwu to let his output do the talking.
But from the look of things, he is going to end up disappointing everyone as he will be assessed more by what he says than by what he does, his output. The danger in this is that he may be unjustly accused of coming on board with an ethnic agenda. If he continues the way he is going, he will only have himself to blame if anyone accuses him of that.
We appeal to Odimegwu, therefore, to tread on the path of caution. Nigeria has enough controversies already to want to add a highly volatile subject like census figures to them. If he can rein in his loquacity and penchant for grandstanding, perhaps, he may get it right at the Population Commission.