As we approach the general elections, the airwaves are congested. Media, both the mainstream and social media are awash with promises by politicians to fix everything. From education to security, healthcare, infrastructure, economy among others. But, amid these political ramblings, it is surprising that nobody is talking about an underlying factor in our underdevelopment as a nation. The rate of Nigeria’s population growth.
With the population assumed to be around 200 million, Nigeria’s population is growing at an alarming rate. Just over 10 years ago, the country’s population was hovering around 140 million. Within that space of time, close to a whopping 60 million people have been added to the population of Nigeria. This should be a cause for concern for everyone.
Many researches have established a strong relationship between deep-rooted structural problems in our society and our population. Millions of people are unemployed, more live in abject poverty. Conditions in the education, health and the economic sectors are bad. Part of the repercussion of these problems presents itself as the huge security threat the country is currently facing.
Having a high population growth rate may not be a problem in itself. But, when a population grows without being accompanied by equal human and economic development, problems arise. And this is the situation in which we find ourselves.
The ironic thing is, sometimes even government officials themselves blame overpopulation for their own policy failures.
Let us look at some facts about our population in relation to some critical sectors of society.
For instance, classrooms are occupied beyond capacity in our public schools. Many students leave secondary school each year seeking admission into the university, yet only a few are admitted. Nigeria with the size of its population has only about 170 universities and a carrying capacity of just over 600,000.
In the health sector, the country has a doctor to patient ratio of 1:4000, that is 1 doctor for every 4000 patients. More than the recommended standard of 1:600 by the WHO. In most cases, the hospitals where these few doctors work, lack the facilities to ensure quality healthcare provision for these numbers.
Also, roads, power, water, and other infrastructural facilities are under immense pressure. It is projected that Nigeria will run into a serious infrastructural problem by the year 2050. This is because the country’s population is expected to hit 397 million amid low infrastructural development.
The major challenge according to analysts, is how the country can increase its capital expenditure to meet-up with infrastructural needs. Most especially in the face of endemic corruption and a shortage in oil revenue.
I believe solutions to these problems should go beyond just the provision of more health, education and other infrastructural facilities. Rather it is time for those vying for public offices today, to look at the underlying factor responsible for these problems.
Will it be too much to ask our candidates, what their policy will be to manage the rate at which our population is growing?
It is certainly not. However, we live in a society that is still deeply conservative. Where a topic like this can be very sensitive. Notwithstanding, our incoming set of leaders, especially in the legislature, must be ready to shake off the societal dirt. A speck of dirt that has prevented us from making the necessary progress for too long.
As things stand, the level of progress we make depend more on how far individual citizens, groups, and organizations are ready to push for the right policies.