The value placed on human life in Nigeria, is obviously somewhere below zero
It’s been just over a month since the Dana Air crash and hard as it is to believe, there is still no official figure of how many Nigerians died on that day. We all know that there were 153 people on board and that is only thanks to the fact that a passenger manifest exists. The number that died on ground is still unconfirmed. It’s not uncommon to see figures like “153+” or “153 passengers and ‘about 10’ on ground”.
It seemed okay at the time when the sad incident occurred, to throw estimates around. But by now, you would think that human life was important enough to treat each one as equally important.
The value placed on human life in Nigeria, is obviously somewhere below zero and that is somewhat reflected in the way successive population census operations and results have been handled and received respectively. I have been counted twice in Nigeria; first in 1991 in Benin-City and then in 2006 in Lagos and on both occasions, the controversy that trailed the results, have been both embarrassing and unending. It has become the norm for every region to claim that they are undercounted so as to eventually marginalize them.
In 2006, the Lagos State government was so sure that the census results by the National Population Commission would be wrong, that they decided to have their own state headcount running concurrently. At the end of it all, the Federal Government came up with a 7,937,932 population for Lagos; while the Lagos State Government, finished with a population of 17,553,925 for the state. I’m not a mathematician but the margin of error here and clear differential, is large enough to make even my 2-year-old niece take neither figure seriously.
It isn’t uncommon these days to hear figures like “20 million Lagosians” being thrown around, while also hearing that Lagos is the second largest city in Africa after Cairo, even though the Egyptian capital isn’t anywhere near a population of 11 million (a figure given to Lagos in a recent UN estimate). Now, examine the curious case of Lagos’ population and amplify it by 36 states, then you realize how scary Nigeria’s own situation is. I know I constantly see figures between 150 million and 180 million being put as the ‘official’ population of my dear country. The 30 million disparity is the same as the population of Ghana (who are currently screaming “Nigeria must go”) with 5 million people still left to go round.
On Tuesday, June 26, 2012, President Jonathan inaugurated a new board of the National Population Commission. At the ceremony, he said; “For us to plan properly, we must manage our population properly. Government cannot fold its arms until it becomes uncontrollable.” He went on to ask the new board to begin birth control campaigns, promising government support and funding for the project as well as a possible bill to back it up.
Interestingly, Mr. President agreed that the proposal would be controversial considering Nigeria’s religious nature. Christianity and Islam both do not agree with putting a restriction on the number of children anyone can have so it wasn’t such a surprise when several Muslim scholars and Imams as well as Christian leaders spoke up against the proposal and how it goes against their faith and the will of God. They however forgot to mention how religion would feed the 400million (yeah, another random number) Nigerians who would be around in 2050.
I remember growing up in the 90s with two distinct campaigns centered on population. There was one that encouraged family planning and another on child spacing. I remember a particular poster of a tailor and his wife with a grown up girl and a little boy smiling and looking at another family of 8 with each child looking like they came 9 months after one another. The ultimate goal was to tell people to have only as many children as they can afford and also have them in a way that they aren’t too close for your bank account’s comfort.
Without a doubt, Nigeria’s large population is one of her strengths today. But that doesn’t mean we should push it. Poverty is rife in our land and doubling our population will not help it. While I disagree completely with government telling me how many children I should have, I totally believe that family planning campaigns should resume again. People need to understand the fact that too many children do not necessarily translate to an increased income or revenue; especially not in a country where social security is non-existent.
Mr. President has charged the new board to start planning towards the census in 2016. I want to believe that Chief Festus Odimegwu will get it right this time; or at least close to right. That would be a first step to better planning for housing in the country especially for communities like Iju-Ishaga where the Dana Air plane crashed. It should also help us place better value on life in this country seeing as an unsure population trickles down to us having a disregard for human life.
But before then, it is time we all sat up and realized the importance of human life. Treating it like politics or mere statistics obviously will get us nowhere. This is not just a Jonathan issue. We are all in this together and this is one case where ignorance isn’t bliss. We continue to plan to fail if we fail to plan.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.