Yemi Kale, the immediate past Statistician-General of the Federation (SGF) says he stubbornly stuck to his guns to publish facts despite political interference.
He noted that he was “very stubborn” in ensuring that accurate data was being published not minding political attacks and involvement.
Kale who doubled as the Chief Executive Officer of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), said this during an interview with Arise TV, where he spoke on political reactions to the unemployment data published under his watch.
The renowned economist said he never really settled down in the office as he expected he could be sacked at any time.
He said that was the price he was prepared to pay for trying to do the job properly.
Kale said his “extreme stubbornness” made him shun the political attacks and opinions as he ensured that the right methodology was adopted in arriving at such data.
“I’m extremely stubborn which a few of my friends have said is a requirement for the job, but on a serious note. When I started this job, I remember mentioning to my key staff that if I must do this job, I must be ready to be fired at a moment’s notice,” he said.
“I’m serving my country and I will serve it correctly and I’m ready to lose my job for doing the right things. I am not ready to keep my job for doing the wrong things. Once I convinced myself that that’s the way it was going to go.
“I didn’t particularly care about any political attacks or any opinions that were not ideal. What I did was to ensure that we followed the correct methodology.
“But in terms in terms of political interference, I don’t think it’s is new to Nigeria, I remember even in the U.S. the former president Trump will always agree with good data and he’ll say the ones he didn’t believe to have been correct. I wasn’t fazed by different comments made by different people that did not agree with our work. We are not supposed to publish data that is agreed upon by anybody.
“We are supposed to publish data that is correct and accurate in line with what comes out on the field and that’s exactly what we focused on. But I think the most important thing was ensuring that my mind was focused on the mandate of the office which was to produce reliable, accurate data.”
Kale assumed office in 2011, and was reappointed in 2016.
He is the first chief executive in the agency's history to serve two terms as statistician General, serving under the governments of Presidents Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari.
In December 2018, Garba Shehu, special assistant to Buhari on media and publicity, and Kale disagreed over methods of tracking job creation and unemployment numbers in Nigeria.
Shehu said Kale, who doubled as the CEO of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), told the Federal Executive Council that the NBS concentrated on white-collar jobs when preparing its report on employment.
But the NBS chief on Twitter said he made no such submissions to anybody at any time.
Shehu had said, “The NBS chief had addressed the federal cabinet and he made the admission that they had concentrated analysis over time on white collar jobs that they had not taken cognisance of job creation in areas of agriculture,” Shehu said.
“The rice farmers association of Nigeria made the open claim and nobody has challenged them up to the time that we speak that they had created 12 million new jobs.
"When he finished addressing the federal cabinet last week, the government asked the DG of the NBS, go out there and tell Nigerian public, you are just telling us now that Kebbi and Ebonyi are reporting the lowest unemployment rate in the country on account of agriculture.”
“So, I think the data collected on the bases of which some of the judgement has been passed that is misleading.
“The data has been unfair to this administration; they had ignored job creation in the area of agriculture. If you are talking about job losses, no, we have created at least 12 million new jobs in the area of agriculture.”
But Kale in his reaction on Twitter said,
“Assuming what you claim was said was actually said then I make it very clear that neither the statistician-general nor NBS ever made any such admission at any time to anybody.
“The unemployment computations does take into account all sectors, age groups, and both rural and urban areas.”