Wednesday was World Population day. The day for governments to raise awareness of global population issues, family planning, reproductive health and the like.
On the radio, they interviewed a few different people ranging from a female professional who said, “Family planning? I know about it but it is not something I practice.”
To a young government health worker who said, “I’m not sure enough people understand the importance of family planning. We have to work harder.”
And a woman who appeared to be struggling with the language. She said, “Eeh… this family planning of a thing is not something I will consider. I am not sure about it yet.”
She spoke about it like it was a secret government experiment and she was waiting to see if the subjects mutated before she bought into it.
For a long time, I used to think there was a divide, that the urban dwellers understood the issue and the problem was getting those in the rural areas to comply. For that, the solution was simple: send workers out into the villages to educate the people.
That was until I was talking to a Nigerian friend in grad school in the UK and she said, “Me, I want a big family so I’m having six children.”
I was amused by the way she put ‘Me’ in front of it. As if to say, the rest of you guys can figure out this whole over-population mess, but this is what I have decided for myself.
Her response reminded me of those group projects you’d get in school, and how there would always be someone in the group who would come out and assign themselves to a part independent of the rest of the group: “I don’t care what the rest of you guys do, I am doing the research for section A.”
You could call them later and invite them for a group meeting, and they would reply, “Why do I have to be there? I already know the part I’m doing, Section A.” You would try to explain to them that Section A doesn’t work unless it fits in with the rest of the project but they would already be gone.
My friend countered with, “Well, I will be able to take care of my six children.”
Of course, but is she also planning to make universities for them? Or are they going to be using infrastructure like the rest of us?
It is impossible to overlook this problem if you live in Lagos with people swarming around you everywhere you go.
I was going over the numbers, and Nigeria’s fertility rate is 5.7. That is, the average Nigerian woman will give birth to over 5 offspring. Next to us as accomplices are Mali with 6.6, Niger with 7.4, and Sudan with 4.5.
In contrast, the United States’ is 2 and the UK is 1.9. South Africa is at 2.4 and even Ghana has a rate of 3.4.
Like that group project, this won’t go well for either side. Nigeria and the others will continue to swell and grow and overflow past our borders to seek resources outside. And they, in turn, will continue to come up with more stringent ways to keep us out.
Then one day we’ll wake up and say, “Why is it so hard to get into South Africa, after all only ten years ago we were watching them on TV crying and no one wanted to go there because of apartheid. And now they think they’re too good for us?”
No, not too good. Just better organised.