Friday, May 20, 2016

Who is speaking the truth? Jammeh or Sanyang

When you have a clueless leader who put equally clueless people in positions of responsibility, you should expect the chaos and retrogression.  My computer science lecturer – yes, we had (main frame) computers then – who was fond of saying if you feed the computer junk, expect junk as output.  In short, all you get at the end of the day is GIGO meaning garbage in, garbage out.

That is what has happened to our Statistics Department now called Gambia Bureau of Statistics.  It's not the name but ultimately what a government and the country need is a reliable set of data that will help public officials and private sector operators plan and implement public- and private-sector policies better.  

The economy runs on good, reliable data.  In fact, the country runs on good reliable data.  And when all we get is Jammeh saying that there are 700,000 Senegalese in the country in one breathe and claiming that the figure is 950,000 in the other, our country is in a fix.  The former Senegalese Ambassador to The Gambia disputed Jammeh's figures outright as something he pulled out of a rabbit's hat.  There are less than 15,000 Senegalese with consular card, meaning they are registered with the Senegal Embassy. 

In comes the Statistician General - Director of Statistics -  Mr. Nyakassi Sanyang who declared that the official population figure is 1.9 million of which 100,000 are non-Gambians residing in the country.  If Yaya Jammeh is to be believed, then Mr. Sanyang has a huge task of having to locate the missing 850,000 Senegalese and also must explain where have all the Nigerians and Bissau Guinean gone; not to mention other non-Gambian residents.  

Mr. Sanyang's other headache is to convince the Bakau parliamentarian who claims that there are more than 100,000 foreigners resident in the Gambia.  He directed the head honcho of statistic to check with the Immigration "for the factual figure" according to the Daily Observer. We will let you know who comes out on top on this one. 

It turned out that another set of legislators are using a population figure of their own.  For them to stop clinging to the 1.7 million figure as the total population, they'd have to be convinced by the expert statisticians.  What Mr. Sanyang is certain of is that the 1.7 million figure did not from his department.  "I don't know where it came from" , he retorted.  But he agrees with the parliamentarian who claims that the 100,000 non-Gambian resident figure is suspect even though his department collected and published the figure.

One can continue making fun at these serious issues if the viability of The Gambia was not at stake. As intimated previously, without reliable data the country cannot and should not be expected to function as a normal country.  We are seeing that now.  Nothing works in The Gambia, practically nothing.

All of the figures that we have been referencing above are still "provisional", three years after the 2013 Population Census.  The inability of the department to present final figures is unprecedented in the 53-year history of the Population Census.  This is the first time that the flagship publication of the Statistics Department has failed to publish the final figures.  The reason is two-fold : politics and personnel.  

The Statistician General has alluded to the second but stayed mute on the first, of which he is a product of.   As part of what Information Minister Sheriff Bojang famously referred to as Yaya Jammeh's re-engineering crusade, a tribal classification and reassignment exercise of sorts have been going on for a very long time to give Jammeh the permanent electoral advantage he needs.  The reclassification exercise has been going without the knowledge of the public.  

The Kombo North Constituency is particularly affected with consequential effect to the electoral map.   As a result of this exercise, the figures are not adding up which makes data analysis an impossible task.