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The challenge of our exploding population

I attended the 2018 Vanguard Economic Discourse, yesterday, April 13th at the Civic Centre Centre, Lagos, and I’m glad I honored the invitation. Like the first edition, which was headlined by Prof. Charles Soludo, former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN), this year’s Discourse led by Mr. Bode Augusto, former DG of Budget was “on point”, as they say-and,like Soludo, Augusto was an excellent choice. 

For one, Mr. Augusto has a thorough understanding of Nigeria’s economic issues as well as the global economy. Secondly, he’s a blunt speaker and never minces words. Thirdly and more remarkably, he’s a one-handed Economist; not those who would proffer certain solutions on the one hand and others on the other hand.

One of the key take-outs for me is the need to address our spiraling population. And he made a good analogy right there. The UK, in 1960 when it granted Nigeria independence, was roughly 52m in population while Nigeria was about 46m. The UK was 66, 486, 704 as at Thursday April 12, 2018 and Nigeria (guesstimatedly) 185m.  While the UK, which had an even higher population then,  grew by a modest  13%,  we grew a record-breaking 450% Just negodu!

So let me simplify it for you. Way back in the 80s, my father summoned one of our uncles who he observed was breeding children like rabbits, or rather like him (my father). My parents had 10!   Having realized his mistake and considering the worsening economic conditions, my Dad graciously (he must have felt) warned my uncle against making the same mistakes the consequences of which he was then struggling with. Less than 3 hours later, people started coming to meet my father to inform him that my uncle was extremely unhappy with his “unsolicited and selfish” advice. To him, it was wicked for my father to have ten kids yet have the temerity to advice him to stop at 8! How so wicked! Chai!

Well, let me tell you the good news and the bad news: my siblings and I are all graduates and doing well in our various professions, by God’s grace. Conversely, none of my uncle’s kids was able to make it to the university. Even when my dad, the same “wicked man”, tried to intervene with some assistance, the kids were mostly unresponsive. Some of the girls had children in the house and things are generally bad for them. And now, they’ve become a huge source of social and economic pressure on us and and everyone else around that seems to them to have a Naira to spare.

Now we can extrapolate so much from the aforementioned story of my Dad and my uncle. At the rate our population is growing, the projection for 2070 is 550m (and the UK 80m). If that’s not crazy and scary, then tell me what is.  Every economic index takes its root from the population. So, as Mr. Augusto said, isn’t it foolish to believe politicians when they tell you they will provide free food, free education and free healthcare, when the gross annual income of the country at the best of times is N10 trillion? And how on earth are we going to get our economics right, if we continue to grow the number of people eating the country’s yams faster (450 times or more) than the number of yams? And someone says there’s power in a large population in obvious reference to China. For real? What power can there be in a largely uneducated and unhealthy HUGE population? 

You may now begin to contextualize Bill Gates concern about education and healthcare for the youths (over 50% of the population) in a grossly (sometimes deliberately) underdeveloped, mismanaged economy. More importantly, we need to take the gospel of Birth Control seriously. It’s no use breeding kids you don’t have the capacity (hence no intention) to look after in the strict sense of educating them, providing  healthcare and generally managing their development. Government must lead the charge here. The churches, oft (“ethically”)opposed to birth control, must reconsider their stance-and then help spread the message. We can’t afford to have a predominantly youth population that is either unemployable or we cannot provide employment for. 

This is an urgent and important matter we should bring on the country’s agenda to avoid a monumental calamity.
The challenge of our exploding population The challenge of our exploding population Reviewed by Emeka Oparah on Saturday, April 14, 2018 Rating: 5

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