I know that at a growth rate of 3.2 percent per annum (going by recent United Nations’ estimate) any responsible government of a country would be uneasy. Looking at recent comments at certain levels, the Nigerian government seems mindful of this. Despite this, how come it seems shy about an all out programme to stem this unfavourable situation? Who is afraid of intensive marketing efforts aimed at Nigerians to curb a glaring trend towards population explosion? – Andy Mufunanya
I am not in government to know if someone is afraid, or not, of initiating an intensive programme aimed at marketing the essence of curbing this obvious tendency of Nigerians to “multiply and fill the earth”, even at a time this trend is gradually constituting a potent threat to the future of the nation’s economy. Vis dėlto, the ‘body language’ of those in government foretells awareness about this unsavory situation, but cautious about intensive propagation to Nigerians about the country’s huge population having some advantages, but if not properly controlled and planned for becoming a problem. You may recall that recently President Goodluck Jonathan made a declaration about the National Population Commission (NPC) being given additional highly sensitive responsibilities – Issuance of national identity cards and making Nigerians adhere to birth control for population reduction.
Population growth rate is defined as the average annual percent change in the population, resulting from a surplus (or deficit) of births over deaths and the balance of migrants entering and leaving a country. The rate may be positive or negative. Going by 2012 growth rate estimate of the United Nations (UN) which you rightly stated, about five million people are added to Nigeria’s population on a yearly basis – Depicting a doubling of the population every 22 years. Bear in mind that the UN estimates that by 2050, Nigeria will be the fourth most populous country in the world. It also estimated a population of 166 million for Nigeria in 2011. NPC has it that going by the same growth rate (3.2 per cent per annum), the country’s population moved from 160 million in 2006 į 170 million in 2013. In view of the current socio-economic trend in Nigeria, this is no good news at all.
The rapid population growth here is linked to unemployment (29.3 per cent in 2011), involving a large ‘chunk’ of the country’s youths who comprise about 65 per cent of the population, when job opportunities are fewer than the number seeking them. I see a situation where a larger proportion of available resources is consumed, and not invested to generate growth. With the fear that the nation’s economy has not been growing in the same proportion with its population, and without reeling out the obvious unfavourable implications of population explosion here due to space constraints, all well meaning Nigerians should be concerned about the unrestrained growth in the country’s population especially now that we see decline in the scope and performance of infrastructure in the country.
Even where the government tends to be ‘pussy footing’ over marketing issues required in curbing the looming Nigeria’s population explosion, due to an inclination of not compounding matters confronting it presently – Ongoing public ‘bashing’ of the presidency over non-fulfillment of raised hopes on plans to revive the economy; fighting infrastructural decay; curbing corruption, among others – It does not augur well to keep postponing the ‘evil day’. Likely public criticisms (based on skewed religious motives) of any suggestions towards legislating or introducing any national programme aimed at birth control must be well catered for. Nigerians should be properly educated in view of what the country is likely going to be faced with if (in the words of Jeffrey Sachs, a former special adviser to the United Nations’ secretary general) “its population balloons to 730 million by 2100”.
Taking a cue from the outcome of 1988 federal government of Nigeria’s (under the military presidency of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida) National Population Policy targets, the present dispensation should take ‘the bull by the horn’ and face this looming disaster to evolve a national social marketing programme which encompasses these: Appreciation of the difficulties connected with changing traditional and internalized attitudes, and behaviour of Nigerians; changing peoples’ habits and beliefs through long and consistent education; family planning (birth control); uplifting the roles of counselors; and general improvement of the health sector.
With effective social marketing programmes Nigerians can be spurred to come together to save their country from glaring detrimental effects of this situation. Let it not be a fight for the government alone. The people must brace up for whatever related policies the government may introduce. Marketing will certainly diffuse the consequences of religious and superstitious beliefs, going by the acclamation of Nigerians being the most religious people on earth. The Bible’s reference to population (Genesis 1:28, 15:5, ir 21:18) had to do with descendants and not number of offspring per household. The Quran (į 6:151 ir 2:223) stressed parents’ responsibility for the well being of their children and preparedness for procreation at the appropriate time to fulfil parental responsibilities. Both holy books do not state the number of children families should have per household. The government must desist from placing the issue of population explosion on a ‘second burner’, and refrain from giving an impression of anxiety in facing the issue. The time to act is now.