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Nigeria’s Population Control: Matters Arising

By Anthony Ademiluyi

Population control is as old as man. Empires such as the Ancient Greek, Roman, Persian, Egyptian etc used various methods to checkmate their population.

In the 1798, an English cleric and scholar, Thomas Robert Malthus published a widely read essay on his theory of population. He raised an alarm that the population will grow exponentially while the food supply will be linear. He posited that man would suffer undue hardship if the population was not kept in check. He discussed two major ways to keep the population in check: the preventive and positive. The preventive check was when marriage is postponed and the positive is the use of famine, disease and warfare to stem the tide in the explosive population growth. His critics contend that he was proven wrong as science and technological advancements didn’t make his prediction of doom come to pass. A critical question to ask though is whether he was entirely wrong when you take into consideration the fact that Nigeria, a country he never visited is currently sitting on a demographic time bomb if care isn’t taken.

The nation’s current population as at this year is slightly over two hundred million and by 2030, there is a projection that it will hit 264 million and will cross the three hundred million threshold by 2036. According to the Borgen project, it will be over a billion by 2100.

The issue of population control is a very delicate and controversial issue in the country due to its religious and cultural beliefs which negate any attempt to control the population. The two dominant religions: Christianity and Islam forbid it in its entirety opining that children are gifts from God and he will always provide for their needs. Also, children are seen as a pension plan for the parents’ old age since the government hardly caters for the welfare of the Nigerian aged people.

There have been attempts by the government to control the population especially under the Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida regime which advocated for the maximum of four children.

All efforts have ended up in a fiasco as the religious and cultural beliefs have an extremely stronghold on the generality of the populace.

While I identify as a nominal Christian, I believe that even religion and culture should evolve in order to adapt to the dynamics of the fast changing times. Once upon a time all Roman-Catholic masses were held only in Latin. Today, it is done in all the languages of the globe. In the pre-colonial Nigeria, twins were killed in the parts comprising the entire South-East and Calabar. After the altruistic missionary activities of the Scottish Mary Slessor, the practice stopped for good till this day.

I think our religious and cultural leaders should be progressive enough to evolve with the fast paced times. The idea that children should be a source of economic security is anachronistic especially for those who live in the cities. There are hardly farms in the cities and parents work long hours in companies that they have no stake in – so there is nothing to pass on to their offspring. The offspring won’t help them out with the office work. Even those who reside in the countryside and have farms, the farming methods have become highly mechanized so the impact of more hands there – the children will be extremely minimal.

Let us face it and be honest, Nigeria is a failed state and there is no government backed buffer to support the needy and the vulnerable members of the society. There is no 911 to call when you are distressed. How many Nigerians know the names of their elected and appointed political representatives? They only interact once in four years when the latter doles out some miserable wad of naira notes and other perishable foodstuff which is exhausted in less than fourty-eight hours and then they are back to square one.

The cost of raising a child well in Nigeria is astronomically here because of bad governance. In a few states like Lagos for example, primary and secondary school education is free but the quality leaves much to be desired. The difference between a child educated in a public school and private school is as wide as the chasm between Heaven and Hell. Most public school graduates can hardly string few sentences in the English language. As a small time employer of labour, I am writing from my personal experiences. The cost of most good private schools – there are private schools and private schools is so high that it is often out of the reach of the middle class. The most expensive school in the country is Grange located in Ikeja. It’s about 4.5 million naira a year – the equivalent of about $15,000 per annum. Can a struggling, honest couple send eight kids to that school or a school that charges about $10,000 annually? In a country where the minimum wage is a mere 30,000 naira which many state governors are threatening not to pay, giving a child quality education will remain a mere pipe dream.

Let’s be realistic: Most Nigerians are too timid to do what it takes to bring about the much desired change and have been waiting for the imaginary messiah to come since the military struck and wrecked the governance of the country. Things will get worse as days roll by. The corruption wouldn’t stop anytime soon as well as the excruciating effects of the anti-policies by the government. The realistic thing to do in this ugly circumstances is to cut one’s coat according to one’s cloth in ensuring that you have the number of children you can conveniently cater for. Even the Bible says ‘A good man should leave an inheritance for his children’s children.’ Honestly, I don’t know where this idea of children being a source of economic security emanated from?

The children didn’t ask to be born in the first place and so I think it is cruel and selfish to bring them into this world to come and suffer. Nigerians should be thinking of creating inter-generational wealth and not heap their economic burdens on their innocent children.

It is high time that the clerics and religious leaders close ranks with the flock they lead and forge a common front for parents to have the number of children they can conveniently cater for otherwise we would be sitting on a time bomb that will consume us all.

A word is enough for the wise!
Tony Ademiluyi writes from Lagos and edits www.africanbard.com

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