Ado Doguwa

Nigeria seems to have lurched into a season of absurdities and wherever one turns there seems to be a pinch of the absurd waiting to prick. Children have recently been in the thick of the absurdities. The killing of five-year-old Hanifa Abubakar by the killer proprietor of the private school she was attending has sent shockwaves across the country. As Nigeria continues to cascade into insecurity, children have been given some of the toughest rows to hoe and just how backbreaking it is proving to be. Inexplicably, the Giant of Africa continues to harvest death for its children.

It is against this grim background that Mr. Alhassan Ali Doguwa, the Majority Leader of Nigeria`s House of Representatives recently welcomed his 28th child. When this fact was brought to the hearing of the house, Mr. Doguwa confirmed it and went further to say that he was hoping to reach 30 children by 2023. He jokingly added that he was hoping families that have at least 30 children can be allocated polling units in the next election.

The last time Nigeria had a population and housing census was in 2006.Sixteen years later, whether or not Nigeria should have another census is generating heated debates. The politics of Nigeria`s populations is always a delicate one. The contention has always been fiercest around the figures. But all contenders agree that by the 2006 Census, Nigeria`s population is at least 200 million. The number is humongous but it befits the Giant of Africa and the most populous black country on earth.

However, all over the world, the politics of population and population control have always provided sticking points for raucous debates. This is because experts know that there is inexorable link between population growth and the quality of life the citizens of any country are able to enjoy at any given time.

In the light of this, one can understand why China, the world`s most populous country, was so alarmed by its population growth and projections that it set in motion some of the world`s strictest population control measures. Although its one-child policy which mandated families to have only one child between 1980 and 2016 has now come back to haunt it, there was some method to the madness, as a spiraling population posed a sprawling threat in many ways.

While there is no conclusive proof that Nigeria`s population is the country`s most pressing problem, there is no doubt that it is part of the problem especially as the country confronts a growing crisis of insecurity, poverty and abysmal human development. It begs the question whether Nigerians should be encouraged to have more or less children. It also brings into light the roles of public officials in not only convincing Nigerians about what is best for the country at every point in time but in showing the best examples themselves.

All over the world, there is now a well-touted link between population growth and poverty. Allegations have been long rife that in Nigeria`s North, the marital permissiveness that allows a man to marry more than one wife is a boost for the game of numbers which translates into tangible benefits when resources are to be allocated and during elections.

Thus, among many Nigerians, there is only very little doubt that there is a deliberate effort in the offing to outnumber other regions of the country. Mr. Doguwa alluded to that much when he suggested albeit jokingly that families of up to 30 persons should be given their own polling units. The question of population is a pressing one especially as it appears that Nigeria`s increasingly treacherous political terrain panders to the dynamics of population growth.

The problem is that it is much more complicated. One of the reasons Nigeria is so unwieldy is the fact that its rising population which is projected to rise in the coming years is not offset by commensurate development which will engender an uptick in the standard of living. The net effect is a devastating swell in the number of Nigerians who are living below the poverty line.

Children are always a good thing but a country that aspires to maintain sustainable growth is a country that must plan for everything including its population growth. Efforts should always be made to ensure that the population growth is healthy at any given point in time and does not become a burden to the country.

It is all part of the planning process and it must necessarily form part of public service especially on the part of those who put themselves out to serve the public. Mr. Doguwa may have the means to look after his family but it is doubtful that many of his constituents who may wish to have as many kids following his example will have the means to provide for as many children. This has become an especially grave problem in the North where 80% of the 10.5 children who are out of school hail from.

Without proper planning, children become a burden as much as a blessing.

Kene Obiezu,