Are there too many of us in Nigeria? YES
Is our infrastructure in a horridly poor state? YES
Is there an urgent need to improve our education and healthcare system? YES
Do we need to develop our private sector and scale the SME space that will help with job creation? YES
Can the government afford to take care of the close to 200 million of us? YES, they probably can but for some reason, doesn’t seem to be their priority.
So why are we still having too many kids?
Across the developed world, birth rates are declining as women are focusing more on their careers which means birthing of children are being delayed or completely being ignored. Certain governments are now offering incentives for women to have children as their economies now have an ageing population. With over 70% of its youth under the age of 35, Africa is said to be the continent with the youngest population. Over 50% of these youth are unemployed which includes the educated ones with an undergraduate degree and the ones that have no form of education. For a country like Nigeria that doesn’t provide a social security net for its citizens, the price of an erection needs to be quantified.
Indeed, an erection is a natural occurrence that happens for men at a certain age regardless of race, sexual preference or socio economic status. If a man is not ready to procreate there are preventative measures he can take to avoid this; the easiest and safest being wearing a condom. It then boggles the mind why some men, particularly those at the lower socio economic ladder don’t seem to be taking these precautions and tend to have more kids than they can care for even though family planning messages have been going viral for years. Women are not exempt from this narrative and should also be held to the same high standard. It’s her body after all that has to go through the excruciating process of child bearing and often ends up carrying the responsibility of caring for all the children if the man simply decides to walk away.
There is this game of trial and error that couples play when there is a particular gender being sought; in the quest of seeking equilibrium, they have more kids than they originally planned. There is this other issue of parents seeing children as portfolio of investments, which insures them against the financial realities of old age. For example, if they have 6 and 4 of them turn out well then they are guaranteed a 66% return on their investments automatically making the children a pension fund. Some parents don’t even wait till they are old to start cashing in, as soon as the child is able to walk up to people and beg for alms, whatever he earns is what the family uses for their upkeep. And lest I forget our accepted culture of infidelity where its “ok” to deviate from your partner and engage in coitus with multiple partners and ever so often, the output is an increase to our population.
Children are definitely a gift and a source of joy to have around. However they cost money and one must be financially prepared before bringing them into the world. They need basics like food, clothes, shelter quality healthcare and education including love, attention and guidance from their parents. In today’s dire global economy where incomes rarely increase at the same rate as inflation, it takes 18 years to see one child from kindergarten to university now do the math for an additional 2.
So when those at the bottom of the pyramid keep birthing children like its some sort of competitive sport, you can’t help but be frantic about the anarchic situation being created. Obviously being born to poor parents doesn’t automatically set you on a path of destruction, but in a society like ours, it does put you in a disadvantaged position. They lack access to the basic needs and will have to struggle extra harder to fit into any semblance of comfort. Without proper guidance and tools to equip them for the future, they present a societal burden to their community and country at large.
Lately, there has been an upsurge in robberies taking place on certain routes in Lagos. Traffic already limits the number of activities one can actually get done in a day. Hence if you are fortunate to be driven, it will be a great time to catch up on work on your laptop, read that magazine on your tablet or respond to those emails on your phone. Unfortunately this is not the case as using any of these devices is almost akin to asking for trouble. There are miscreants lurking around who can either knock on your window and politely ask you to hand over your devices at the wave of a weapon or forcefully smash your windows and help themselves to your valuables.
These criminals are not ghosts, they are mostly young boys too that have attained a certain age but without the right mindset and direction, they have chosen to live a life of notoriety. There are lots of other things these boys can do to add value to themselves and earn an honest wage but they are more interested in the fast money life. The bigger concern is they also become tools in the hands of politicians and terror cells to cause havoc as the need arises.
Healthy population growth is always a good thing for any country as amongst other things it gives them access to a steady stream of labour force that will propel its economic activities. Uncontrolled population explosion on the other hand can be catastrophic particularly in a country where a huge percentage of its youth population is not productively engaged. The rural to urban migration also means there will be more pressure on the infrastructure of big cities and without adequate planning and upgrades, the rot and decay becomes even more evident.
The debate on youth unemployment, job creation and skill building is at an utmost high. Almost every government, development agency and NGO is losing sleep looking for solutions to curb this problem. They understand that when all these young people are left idle, there is a high probability of perpetuating this cycle of poverty. The private sector, especially in the start-up space is doing its part in getting youths off the street and engaging them in practical activity. They are developing different work-study programs that give opportunities to unskilled youths to learn a trade and earn income in the process; though laudable, it is not enough. Our government needs to stop paying lip service and pretending to be oblivious to the youth bulge and proactively enact incentivizing policies discouraging people from having too many kids.
The rainy season is in full swing in Nigeria and the term “weather for two” tends to be used more frequently. As you keep each other warm during this period, be sure to remember two very important words: School Fees!!