Hitting the snake-tail would not stop it from biting. The compounding economic and social challenges keep on biting Nigerians, and we have not yet identified the roots of these issues. Untold poverty, growing inequality, acute hardships, and alarming insecurity and deprivations have been threatening the fundamental human rights of living freely and safely in Nigeria. We are already on the verge of anarchy, and it seems too little too late to do something about it, but there is a window opportunity to hit the snake on the head. I will show you how.
When the right-minded young people struggle so hard to earn a living but get nothing in return, frustration and desperation are being bred. When you have a society where passion and hard work do not pay, you will face despondency. When people realize that hard work does not work, they will switch to easy and bad ways. When money rules and when scarce resources are subjected to steep competition due to overgrowing population, desperation and insecurity proliferate.
I recently traveled for a friend’s wedding, and along the way I saw some eagerly young hawkers, selling petty things ranging from bottled water, groundnut to bread. Daily, these young folks are scorched by the sun and beaten by the rain, yet they endure. I noticed how some of them were distracted and lost into the admiration of the luxury and exotic cars that pass them by. They wish and imagine themselves living that conspicuously comfort life. This temptation makes them anxious, and on top of that their unpaid hard work makes them frustrated. When you have anxiety and frustration, you will have desperation.
Once people are desperate, they do desperate things. Would you wonder if some unscrupulous individuals approach some of these desperate young people and present them with a bad opportunity to earn some money and they accepted it? Of course, you will not. Some of them may willingly do anything as long as they will get money to live those comfortable lives they admire. Because every comfort is a function of money.
When people are exposed to persistent hardships, their mental reasoning abilities fade away, and they lose their self-value. When people live a miserable life continuously, they lose hope and give up, and this makes them not even value their own lives talk less of other people’s lives. They will feel it is better for them to leave the world anyhow than to continuously be living that woeful life.
The biggest source of these kinds of frustration and desperation are from young people who are not educated and not doing anything to earn a living. These are the dangerous and quickest source of these bad desperation, and they are the roots of all these ills. Young people that fall into this category are growing rapidly. That is why insecurity keeps growing by the day. Even yesterday one of our neighbors was kidnapped right across our estate inside Abuja, I overheard the gunshots.
The middle-class population is also facing their own frustration due to the growing responsibilities, expensive living, and dwindling income. The upper-class population is also desperate to maintain their status and protect their children from falling into those hardships. So, everyone is desperate, and this makes people willing to do anything to get the money.
Money has become the ultimate goal in Nigeria, who becomes what and who gets what is influenced by money. If you want your child to get a quality education, that depends on how much is your income. If you want to get quality healthcare, potable water, security, a means of transportation, or mortgage, that depends on your income. If you have money, you get everything, and if you do not have the money you get nothing. Even your survival is dependent on your money.
If what you get and your access to basic living standards are absolutely dependent on your money, then the money rules and everyone will do anything to get the money since everyone is their own government, they have to provide almost everything for themselves.
Insecurity, corruption, and all other vices proliferate because of too much pressure on the money. We can fix insecurity and corruption only by destroying the current system where everything is centered around money.
If there is no system that will enable people to have equal access to basic healthcare, quality education, nutrition, housing, and security irrespective of their income level, then there will never be security. The biggest and most important transformation Nigeria can achieve is by creating a system that can provide equal access to the basic life requirements without consideration of income levels of the people. There should be a system where what you get and what is accessible to you is dependent on how much you want it and how much you work for it only.
There must be a visionary transformation in health, education, transportation, security, food, and housing sectors, which will set a minimal provision for every Nigerian irrespective of their income levels. People do not have to resort to crowdsourcing of funds to pay for the hospital bill, people should not have to remove their children from the best schools just because they cannot pay for the fees, students should not drop out because they cannot pay the tuition, your life should not be threatened just because you cannot pay for your personal security, etc.
Amid scarce resources and a rapidly growing population, how can we achieve that? It is impossible to serve everyone when our resources and provisions are not enough. The population of Nigeria is so big that we need to spend extremely much to provide all the above-mentioned basic life requirements to everyone irrespective of their income levels.
Therefore, to achieve that, we must embark on population management. What is population management? It is the process of providing before adding population. Before we add 1 million population, we must first provide the resources that will give them those basic accesses. If our resources are enough to cater for an additional 10 million population, then we can grow by that exact amount, if it is not, we should not. So, population growth should be determined by the available resources.
For example, if currently, we have 10 million spaces in our primary schools and 15 million children are born today, this means that in the next six years we must add 5 million more spaces in primary schools. And that’s how we keep tracking and providing to accommodate this expansion in every sector. If we do not have the resources and we are not planning to get the resources to provide for the additional population, then we should not welcome them.
So, the government must look into the future and see what it can provide and the resources available to it, that is what determines the targeted population expansion. Our resources should determine our expansion. The government should then set a targeted population expansion for each period, and that target should be apportioned according to income classes and locations. We cannot afford to add population that we cannot take care of, because that is what adds to the desperation and put more pressure on the limited resources, thereby reducing its quality and adequacy, and causing insecurity.
For example, if your neighborhood hospital is designed for 1000 people and your community added 1000 more people, it means you need an extra hospital. If you could foresee that population growth and built the hospital ahead, then you are managing your population. Population management may not strictly means limiting the population, it suggests that you only grow based on your capacity. If your capacity is enough to cater for the population growth, you can then grow, but if your capacity is limited, you should limit the population growth.
Another element of population management is tracing the economic and well-being status of every member of the population to assess the development of their economies. With the right population management, those vulnerable young folks that are hawking on the street could be traced and supported and rescued from that danger. With the right population management, there will not be unnecessary competition and pressure on limited resources, and there will be stability and security.
All these transformations are possible only if we can change our belief about our ability as a people, if we keep thinking that these things are not possible in Nigeria, then we will never make it. In my subsequent articles, I will outline the details on how to go about these policies and how to achieve these equal accesses in every sector irrespective of income levels.
There is nothing we cannot achieve with the right vision, belief, tenacity, and right leaders. Real transformation is possible. But we must be willing to sacrifice today for tomorrow, we may not live to see the benefit of these transformations, but we owe a debt to the future generation.
We must come together and stop looking at our problems as regional or ethnic problems but as Nigerian problems. If a southerner is killed, it should matter to every Nigerian, and it should not be a southern problem, it should be a Nigerian problem. We must stop regionalizing or ethnicizing our problems, all problems are Nigerian problems. We have to set the fundamental values first and embark on fundamental transformations to hit the snake on the head.
By Dr. Ahmed Adamu
Petroleum Economist, Nile University, Abuja.