Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Our best days may be behind us...

There has been a lot of talk about the world population hitting 7 billion people recently. This has been a source of concern for those who worried about the future of mankind.

In the case of Nigeria, this even more urgent, the last head count says there are 167,912,561 people in Nigeria. The population is increasing at a rate of 5.6 million people per annum. Now to any sensible person, that is a lot of people to add every year.

This wouldn't be so bad, but in the case of Nigeria, this can not be viewed as a outstanding success. Due to Nigeria's failure to hold up any tangible, positive achievement to show the rest of the world. Nigerians are left desperately clasping at straws like saying "Nigeria is the giant of Africa", and "oil". This is rather sad and pathetic to my mind. The oil within Nigeria, has nothing to do with Nigerians manufacturing it, it was there before anyone even knew what oil was, it was (good) fortune that it lay within what is now called Nigeria.

As for the population, children are a good thing. But like any other good thing, you can get too much of it. Nigerians tend to smirk that theirs is one of the largest populations in the world. Why the smirk? Are they the only ones who know how to reproduce? I think not. Is Nigeria the size of Russia, with millions of square miles of fertile and, the answer is again no. Do Nigerians love their children more than anyone else in the world, definitely not. Is there a need for such a large population, given that technology is reducing the need for man power? There is no need for such a large population.

In other parts of the world, controlled population growth goes hand in hand with an ordered society, one where it's citizens are happy to live. In Nigeria population growth is not controlled and this government like all previous governments doesn't regard this as an issue. With a country that is losing significant amounts of agricultural land due to desertification in the north, and soil erosion in the south, along with subsistence farming . The destruction of the environment by the poor to survive (ie collection of firewood etc), accompanied by governments who don't and can't meet their needs, doesn't make for a happy future. With dwindling agricultural land, unsustainable agricultural policies, it seems Nigeria may never again be in the position to feed itself. This accompanied by a lack of an industrial base, or technological base, means future generations will become poorer. Even if the country were to fall apart. The Sahelian region would be least likely to cope with rapid population growth, desertification and climate change, the best they can hope for is to spoil for a war with it's southern neighbour(s), as they have nothing to lose.

Political leadership at the centre (Abuja) is at best weak, and  prone to gimmicks, and is myopic in nature. The population at large is hostage to a cocktail of increasing ethnic chauvinism, religious misinterpretation, cultural resistance, intolerance, rampant corruption and mismanagement, which do not make for a bright future. The country has escaped to date, due to the unimaginative solution of exploiting the mineral resources (namely oil and gas deposits), but these are finite and non-renewable, and once exhausted there is nothing in place to generate significant income.

By the year 2020, Nigeria would have surpassed 200 million people. This is more than the population of the whole of Southern Africa (the SADC  region (Southern Africa development community)  on a fraction of the surface area. The UN (United Nations) estimates that by the year 2050, Nigeria will be the fourth most populous country in the world. (that is a disaster).

To make things even more tricky, how can you urge people to have less children? Even the educated have large families, I've several aunts and uncles who have more than their fair share of degrees and have an average of eight children per family. So if the middle class won't listen, what hope do you have to persuade the poor? In other parts of the world, this is a natural benefit of increasing education, but Nigeria bucks the trend.

Another point to consider, is that Nigerians are satisfied with low standards. Those educated southerners in Nigeria are proud that they have the highest literacy rates in Nigeria, with the south-west with 73.6 per cent, the south-south with 71.9%, and the south-east with 74.1%, the north central has 54.9%, and the other northern regions ie north-west 33.9% and north-east 33.8%.

These figures are taken from

Compare that to Kerala state in Southern India, they have 100% literacy amongst female children, (it goes without saying that for boys it's also 100%), and population growth not just in Kerala but throughout Southern India has reached replacement levels.  You can see with this comparison, that there is still a lot of work to do in Nigeria on this front. At it's very best around 26% are uneducated, in the worst case 67% are illiterate.

With future generations facing increasing poverty, conflicts over land and resources will be more common. The best, the educated class can hope for is to escape Nigeria and take up residence, in some other land where the government had the foresight to plan for the future needs of the host population. Nigeria is not blessed like other African nations like DR Congo (Democratic republic of Congo), with large areas of unsettled fertile land with relatively small populations, the crunch time is fast approaching, so there is less room to manoeuvre. It is not by mistake that Nigeria is third world.

Nigeria will soon become synonymous with not just corruption, but how badly can one destroy a country so completely. Other countries will look and say, "well at least we are not as bad as you!" This is all rather tragic because it is avoidable, with some consistent effort.

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