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Nigeria’s Population: Blessing Or Problem?

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The recent report on the world’s population increase to eight billion with Nigeria being the sixth most populous nation has renewed the concern about the nation’s soaring population and the need to manage it.  Based on Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nation’s data, Nigeria’s population is now 218,227,744, an equivalent of 2.64 per cent of the total world population. Discussing the development on national radio on Wednesday, the analysts dwelt more on the negative sides of Nigeria’s population which may not be unknown to many people. Key among the points they raised was that the huge population weighs heavily on the limited infrastructure in the country. They cited the public schools where equipment, hostels and other facilities originally meant for may be 30 people are today being used by about a hundred students or more; the roads that are constantly in a state of disrepair because of over usage, depletion of natural resources, poor access to health care and education, high rate of unemployment, high poverty rate, insecurity, overcrowding, environmental issues, among others.
As a matter of fact, these are challenges associated with poor management of population. That is why some people have posited that a large population is not a problem, that what is a problem is how it is managed or mismanaged as economic resource.  China’s experience has laid credence to this assertion.  Are we not marvelled at how China, a country of over one billion people, the most populous country in the world, has used the huge population to her advantage?According to a published white paper of the Government of China, captioned, “ China’s Population and Development in the 21st Century, faced with the challenge of huge population, weak economic foundation with relatively inadequate resources per capita”, the Chinese government formulated and implemented a population policy which conforms to China’s reality and has greatly contributed to the stabilisation of the national and the world population and to the promotion of human development and progress. The Chinese government is willing to continue its efforts together with the international community to practically solve the problem of population and development”
Of course, China has her own drawbacks, particularly on the issues of human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of association and all that. Her Communist system of government is not to be envied. But as per being able to manage and maximise her population, we must give it to her. The country is today dominating different industries. Many countries are trooping to China for the production of virtually everything because of the inexpensive manpower. Reports have it that China is the leading exporter of textiles and clothes in the world, taking advantage of her huge population. Other countries like Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea have also skillfully and productively managed their dense populations. The question then is what is Nigeria doing with her huge population? What is the government’s plan on putting the nation’s human capital into profitable use? Who says the success story of China and these other countries cannot be the case of Nigeria if the nation manages her population and other resources well? About 53.7 percent of Nigeria’s population are youth, ready to be empowered so as to contribute immensely to sustainable development and growth of the country. How is the nation turning this huge youthful population to economic assets?
Records from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) have it that 13.9 million Nigerian youths are unemployed. This huge number of vibrant, talented young men and women are viable tools for the insecurity bedevilling the nation. What is a better way of profitably engaging them than through technological training and support for the ones so disposed. This way, these young men and women can be turned into technicians, craftsmen, artisans and tradesmen who will contribute to national development through development of local fabrications, machines and tools for industrial use. One thinks it is high time the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, the Ministry of Science and Technology and other relevant bodies harnessed all these raw talents and nurtured them for the good of the country. It is also important that attention be paid to the technical colleges in the country to ensure that the main goal of technical institutions, which is, to provide career-oriented training was not jettisoned. According to the Nigerian national policy on education, technical education should be concerned with qualitative technological human resources development directed towards a national pool of skilled and self-reliant craftsmen, technicians and technologists in technical and vocational education fields.  The fact is that the curriculum, government policies, embezzlement of education development funds, corruption and other challenges faced by these technical colleges have impeded the actualisation of the objectives. What measures are being taken to make things right?
It is good that entrepreneurship is now taught as a compulsory subject in some higher institutions in the country. It should not end in theory. Let the syllabus be drawn in such a way that the students will go for several months of industrial training that will enable them to stand on their own upon graduation instead of searching for unavailable white-collar jobs. But a suitable environment must be created for small and medium scale businesses to thrive. Power supply should no more be epileptic, energy security should prevail and the diesel and PMS affordable. Then it will almost be a magic for the small businesses to survive.  The need for the development of the agricultural sector to help in providing food, employment and other resources for the country has long been canvassed. As usual the government would always claim that huge investments are being made in the sector with little or nothing to show for it. The Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi, has not failed to use any given opportunity to remind us that Nigeria is sitting on a total land area of 910,770km2 (351,650sq. miles) and that the vast agricultural lands in the country, particularly in North is lying waste, promising just like many other political aspirants before him, to turn these arable lands to gold, if elected.
Painfully, the years of insecurity across the country have forced many farmers to desert their farms and seek other means of survival. Hundreds of them are languishing in Internally Displaced Peoples’ (IDP) camps. It is therefore imperative that in order to maximise the benefits of the population of Nigeria, leaders at the three tiers of government must effectively manage the population and nation’s resources. All the contestants across party lines should come up with concrete plans of how to solve the corruption problem in Nigeria, plan to revive our refineries so that local production of energy commodities can resume, plan to resuscitate the moribund cotton and textile industries, develop the education sector, tackle insecurity and other issues bedevilling the agriculture sector.  Nigerians want their would-be leaders to go beyond the usual rhetoric and seemingly impossible promises to tell the citizens how they will turn the huge Nigeria’s human capital to a great economic strength. There is no doubt that when the majority of our young ones are gainfully engaged, the rate of insecurity, kidnapping and other forms of crime associated with the youth in the country will be reduced and the country will be better. As an expert said, “ a large population of unskilled, economically unproductive, unhealthy, and poorly educated young people is a burden to society.” The sooner this was tackled the better.

By: Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

Nigerians As Defeathered Chickens?

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In a graphic demonstration of the fickleness of the human mind, Joseph Stalin (1878-1953), former leader of the defunct USSR, plucked off the feathers of a chicken and dropped bits of wheat towards it as he walked around his compound. The profusely haemorrhaging chicken followed Stalin everywhere, pecking on the wheat. Likening this coldhearted scenario to political engagement, Stalin said thus: “This is how easy it is to govern stupid people; they will follow you no matter how much pain you cause them as long as you throw them a little worthless treat once in a while”. This illustration speaks volubly to political leadership in Nigeria.
Chickens are easily frightened hence, in American parlance, lily-livered persons are referred to as “chickens”, and the act of withdrawing from a competition or likely brawl is referred to as “chickening out”. A defeathered chicken loses its bird essence; when bleeding, running becomes traumatic; with open pores, its susceptibility to disease is very high, thus accentuating its vulnerability. A defeathered chicken is therefore in a precarious state of being. For all intents and purposes, Nigerians have been defeathered since the abrogation of the Independence Constitution of 1960 and promulgation of Unification Decree of 1966. The Waterways Bill that is being surreptitiously pushed in the National Assembly will nail the coffin of Nigerians if it is passed into law.
Nigerians were “fully feathered flying fowls” under the Independence Constitution, which vested natural resources on the subnational governments; it was such that Nigeria recorded many “firsts” at the continental and global arenas. However, Nigerians were defeathered by the Unification Decree of 1966 and finally nailed by the Petroleum Decree of 1969, which divested the federating units and citizens of the right to their natural resources in favor of the Federal Government. These ill-informed acts of dictatorial lawgiving commenced Nigeria’s slip and slide down a slippery economic slope that slithered the nation into the current state of disarticulated private sector, consumer—nation status, dreadfully devalued currency, runaway inflation, ever-elongating unemployment line and the mocking moniker of poverty capital of the world—a scornful sobriquet that has erased the letters “g” and “i” from the erstwhile appellation “Giant” of Africa thereby turning Nigeria into “Ant” of Africa.
Recently, a sitting governor was quoted as saying that “Nigerians don’t have the capacity to unite because they are burdened by poverty. We have taken away from them their dignity, their self-esteem, their pride and self-worth so that they cannot even organise…We [the elite] unite; (the citizens are) already in hell”. This is a candid admission of elite class culpability regarding the deplorable economic state of affairs in Nigeria. In other words, this statement declares that it is the elite that have brought so much hardship in Nigerians. The truth remains that acrimonies amongst the elite are orchestrated to mislead the public. In reality, they are united in looting the nation’s wealth. They have weaponised poverty and kept the citizens weak, confused and, therefore, malleable.
Nigerians are profusely bleeding and perceptibly pained chickens; borrowing the words of Stalin, they have, arguably, become stupid people who have consistently followed their political leaders irrespective of how much pain is inflicted on them through public policies that serve only the purpose of the elites. A micro-minority lives in obscene opulence while the overwhelming majority languish in penury. The stupidity of Nigerians derives from their allowing themselves to be deceived into believing that ethnicity and religion are the dividing lines in the Nigerian socioeconomic space. Another strategy for defeathering Nigerians is the indigenisation/privatisation of government stake-holding in the economy, which was carefully crafted crookedly to benefit elites in the final analysis.
Given the above, Nigerians sadly continue to follow their Stalin-hearted leaders as they shamelessly shilly-shally across political party lines completely devoid of any philosophy or ideology other than the “I, me, mine” ethos that characterise political participation in Nigeria. Late Patrice Lumumba (1925-1961), once lamented that the problem with Africans is that they complain about bad leadership but when the opportunity comes for election, they still elect the same group of people. Also, Madibo Keita (1915-1977) averred that “when the citizens of a nation deem their most accomplished thieves as the most electable…theft becomes their national creed”. The full weight of these statements is still with us in Nigeria.
The first quarter of 2023 is around the corner. Sadly, at every level of government, pardoned convicts, “idiots” and “tribesmen” (in the Greek tradition) are jostling for public office without patriotic vision or record of service to the community. Rather, they are drumming up primordial sentiments and the tragedy is that hungry and unemployed people blindly support a dumb, numb and reckless elite class that is responsible for the pillage and wastage of Nigeria’s wealth; an elite fixated with maintaining the status quo to sustain their flamboyance, profligacy and obscene opulence.
In a rather surprising twist, President Buhari advised Nigerians to be introspective in the choice they make in the forthcoming elections; he emphasised that Nigerians should choose wisely. This implies being conscious of the fact that to elect a dishonest person is to put the treasures, future and posterity of the nation in jeopardy.
Finally, a Tik Tok video clip credited to Jolaosho Olaitan Ake presents a rather interesting scenario that is relevant to our chicken metaphor. The clip shows a little boy holding a sack that contains grains being chased around an enclosed compound by about fifty chickens. Crying and holding fast to the sack, the boy tried very hard to outrun the chickens but the chickens persisted until the boy dropped the sack and they settled down to a feast. It is my fervent prayer that before February 25, 2023, the millions of defeathered but enfranchised Nigerians have regrown their feathers and that they are resolute enough to teach the Joseph Stalins of Nigeria a political lesson that will positively change the narrative of Nigerian history.

By: Jason Osai
Osai is a university lecturer.

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Opinion

Nigeria In Need Of Pragmatic Radicalism

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The development of any place results from the conscious and deliberate efforts of the citizenry. This definitely results from a number of conceived and sustained programmes of development that are well articulated which could lead to some form of economic, social, or cultural evolution that squares up with contemporary and rational ideals and settings. Nigeria, the self acclaimed giant of Africa at this stage of her life is in dire need of conspicuous positive growth. This being the case, the need to bring into focus the concept of pragmatic radicalism and egocentric rascality. Permit me to consider succinctly and appropriately each of the above concepts so as to bring out their bearings on national development positively or negatively.
Pragmatism: According to the New Lexicon Websters Dictionary, is a doctrine which tests truths by its practical consequences. While radicalism is the state or quality of being radical especially in politics, the doctrine or practices of radical, especially political radicals. Pragmatic radicalism, therefore, speaks in relation to public figures or political gladiators and the workability of ideals which will obviously have sane bearings tangentially on the contemporary realities as it relates to the standard of the citizenry while not being oblivious of the developments in the wider world. Series of actions, ideals and fundamental principles which promote the wellbeing of the country are adroitly and specifically considered. Such well adduced and contrived concepts must meet up with the world standard and acceptance. In the light of the above concepts, let me consider some seemingly pragmatic radicals who shaped the world.
Martin Luther; a notable radical in the 15th century protestant revolt carved a niche for himself. Precisely, in 1517 and unexpectedly, Martin Luther an Augustinian Monk and professor of sacred science worried and worked-up by some of the church’s fund-raising tactics poured forth his concern in 95 theses which he nailed to the door of court church at Wittenberg. Soon, these 95 theses were put in vernacular such that it floated around Europe and from soul to soul. Pretty soon, they were flaunting themselves in the farthermost reaches of Europe. What Luther had expected to be a conventional academic disputation surged over Europe in a torrential and far flung controversy. As it gathered force and momentum, it poured into the sea of an outright insurrection, sweeping with it not only the clergy but the laity as well and cleaving Christendom into a Protestant and Catholic spheres. Martin Luther championed the first massive movement in human accounts to have been fought with armament of the printed word. Again, it was Martin Luther who gave his followers the first satisfactory Bible. Prior to now, the Bible was only in the purview and the privilege of the so called ecclesiastical few who could interpret any how that suits them. Thanks to the radical stints of Martin Luther. What about Martin Luther King Junior, a black in USA who stood vehemently for equal rights for both whites and blacks? A pragmatic radical who fought and foresaw the day when one will not be judged by the colour of the skin but by the content of the mind. His action culminated into the first African-American President, Barack Obama, years later. Another port of call is the man Fidel Castro of Cuba. A real pragmatic radical who though the son of a high ranking man saw the need for growth of all especially the under privileged. He changed the status-quo and installed a system that promoted growth in the country along equal lines. Today, Cuba is noted for her multiplicity of medical doctors and technicians. Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain, the pragmatic radical that harnessed the world against the seemingly madness of Adolphus Hitler during the 2nd world war. Ordinarily, Britain was no match to Germany then but for the pragmatic dexterity of Winston Churchill. Napoleon Bonarparte of France, a man who nearly conquered the world but for the harsh winter in Russia that year. A man who propounded the philosophy that impossibility is only found in the dictionary of fools; also that there are no failures in the world, only men and women who do not know how to succeed.
Back home in Nigeria, let us consider some pragmatic radicals such as Pa Imoudu of Labour Movement, Dr. Nnandi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Prof. Dora Akunyili etc. Pa Imoudu happened to be a serious indefatigable labour union leader who fought and stood firm for the Nigerian Labour Union Movement. Hence, evolved the modern labour movement in Nigeria.
Dr. Nnandi Azikiwe, a radical politician who combined Journalism with politics to confront the colonial authority for the emancipation of Nigerian state. Zik as he was popularly called worked in concert with some others to wrestle Nigerian independence from Great Britain. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, another notable pragmatic radical of the Yoruba stalk can hardly be forgotten in the development of the western states and Nigeria. The pragmatic prowess of Awolowo brought the western states to the forefront of development in education and industry. Today, the western states are the most advanced in education. Thanks to the pragmatic resourcefulness of Pa Awolowo. Prof. Dora Akunyili, another notable pragmatic radical stamped her stand in the annals of time in Nigeria. As a Professor of Pharmacology, stood her ground in righting the wrongs in the pharmaceutical industry or sphere in the country during her time as NAFDAC boss. Not only that, she made sure that goods produced in the country and those imported into the country were subjected to serious quality control scrutiny to meet the required standard. With her stand for standard goods in Nigeria, there is serious improvement in goods produced in the country. Nigeria gradually ceases to be the dumping ground for sub-standard goods. Patriotism gradually becomes the household word in the country. Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the senior advocate for the masses as he was fondly called, cannot be discountenanced when one is chroniclining pragmatic radicals in Nigeria. This was a man who stood firm against successive administrations in Nigeria be it Military or Civilian. His resoluteness against ill-conceived and unpopular policies of government often made their viability short-lived and driven into oblivion. Nigeria is in need of these sort of men. A man that did not fear any form of incarceration provided he achieved what he foresaw would benefit humanity. Chief Gani Fawehinmi shunned all forms of political bigotry and egocentricism. May his great soul rest in peace. Egocentricism and Rascality: These essentially are negative traits that will definitely impede and stultify general growth against personal growth.
Sadam Hussein, an eccentric and egocentric rascal who was obsessed with his delusive rascal views, almost plunged the entire world into the 3rd world war in 1991. The invasion of Kuwait by Irag, despite the UN contrary views on the action. The impunity and delusion of this leader brought untold hardship to the people and the entire world especially people within the vicinity of Iraq and Kuwait.

By: Tanen Celestine

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Opinion

16 Days Of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence

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November 25 marked the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which ends on International Human Rights Day, December 10.
As the U.S. Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a leader, and a woman, gender equality and women’s empowerment are causes that are near and dear to me. They are also priorities for the U.S. government at home and around the world.
President Joseph Biden has made gender equity and equality a cornerstone of his administration, with a first-ever national strategy to advance the rights and empowerment of women and girls.
The Department of State has an office dedicated to Global Women’s Issues and the United States globally contributes over $200million annually towards gender equity and equality programming.
In Nigeria, the U.S. Mission works to promote environments that support women’s economic success, to address challenges that hold women back, and to empower Nigerian women to do the same. Nations that have gender parity have greater economic and developmental growth, less conflict, and higher rates of literacy than those that do not.
Fundamentally, we see it as our duty – and that of everyone who seeks a just and equitable society – to ensure women and girls have opportunities not just to participate but also to lead in all aspects of life.
As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said earlier this year at our International Women’s Day gala, “Women for so long have been excluded and now we are slowly righting the wrongs of history.” The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s five-year plan, initiated in 2020, highlights gender inclusion as a cross-cutting issue required to achieve Nigeria’s development objectives. The strategy prioritises narrowing gender gaps and equalising access to health care, agriculture, education, economic empowerment, political participation, and peacebuilding.
Equitable treatment of women is something we can all agree on, and it is the underlying requirement for addressing gender-based violence (GBV). Last year, USAID promoted an integrated, comprehensive package of community interventions, including health and counselling services, to prevent and respond to GBV.
To decrease social tolerance for GBV, our partner Breakthrough Action – Nigeria (BA-N) delivered integrated messaging on GBV through mass media, community structures, and religious channels. BA-N also strengthened community volunteers’ skills to identify and refer GBV survivors to USAID-supported services, such as primary health facilities.
Simultaneously, activities such as the Integrated Health Program supported the Federal Ministry of Women’s Affairs to select national GBV indicators to increase GBV reporting across sectors. USAID supported the Federal Ministry of Health to adopt World Health Organization post-GBV clinical care guidelines.
United with the Nigerian government, the private sector, and civil society, we were able to simplify the most complex concepts of GBV, and thereby shape Nigeria’s National Strategic Health Development Plan II to better address this vital issue.
As Africa’s largest democracy, Nigeria sets the tone for the rest of the continent. Nigeria has done so much to advance women’s issues, including the passage of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act and the implementation of the National Gender Policy.
However, there are still many structural inequalities that impede women’s access to economic resources and opportunities and that hinder women’s full participation in society. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Index, Nigeria ranks 78th out of 156 countries in terms of economic opportunities for women.
Nigerian women’s full participation in public life is fundamental both to reducing their vulnerability to GBV and to sustaining Nigeria’s vibrant democracy. Yet, women and girls often face high barriers in electoral politics, governance, and peacebuilding.
Nigeria’s representation of women in state and national government stands at only four percent in elective office and 16percent in appointed positions. Women not only lack a platform, but their viewpoints are also excluded from the decision-making process.
The upcoming 2023 elections present a critical opportunity to include more women in leadership positions in government. Throughout this election season, Mission Nigeria will be working with local organisations specifically to reduce violence against women in politics and during the elections.
Together, we will work to strengthen the capacity of women’s groups to advocate for laws and policies that provide better protections for women. In return, we hope more women will run for office, join a campaign, or serve in the next administration.
Recognising the challenges women face, the United States will continue to support Nigerian women to realise greater productivity, economic diversification, and income equality. We will continue to push for full implementation and enforcement cooperation of laws and regulations already enacted, with emphasis on criminal accountability for those complicit in violations of the law.
And we will continue our long-standing partnership with the Nigerian government, the private sector, and civil society, to each do our part to build a more gender-inclusive society, where women and girls are not only safe from gender-based violence but can reach their full potential.

By: Mary Beth Leonard
Leonard, US ambassador to Nigeria, wrote from Abuja.

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