To build a family called Nigeria
Egbon Tola Adeniyi and I have come a long way. I have been exposed to his writings since the 1970s and he has been part of the shaping of my intellect since then. His writings, in flawless prose, were and are still a delight to me and his numerous readers.
He is also a journalist of the old order to whom the essence of the profession is the development of the country and people and to act as the conscience of the nation.
He belongs to the generation of fearless and courageous journalists who confronted evil with the power of the pen, not minding the consequences. May his tribe never diminish in the land.
In this book, he has collected his thoughts, spanning nearly six decades and frozen them for a wider readership. He has thus been able to connect the past with the present. He has made the past available to young readers just as he has been able to refresh the memory of the older generation.
This occasion therefore affords me the opportunity to address two burning national issues.
The first is our burgeoning human population. According the United Nations, our population of 186 million has been growing at the phenomenal rate of 2.6 per cent.
In 2050, this will rise to 433 million, making us the third most populous nation behind China and India, surpassing United States and Brazil.
Population is not a problem in itself, but the quality. Providing food, housing, security, jobs, education, healthcare and municipal services to a largely dependent and non-productive population is a nightmare and a ticking time bomb.
This is thus a clarion call to governments, organisations, families and especially women to be conscious of this fact. It is absolutely necessary to raise awareness on this dynamics and bring the families, especially women, to embrace planning and have the number of children their income can adequately support.
If we take a holistic look at an economy, the summary is that a nation is as rich or poor based on family incomes. A nation is thus rich if families have surplus from their incomes, after expenses. Where there is shortfall in family incomes, government subsidy is the remedy or there will be chaos.
However, the surplus of family incomes ought to translate to government riches. But when the families have deficit, government becomes poor, which in turn, reinforces families’ poverty. This is the vicious cycle of poverty that poor nations are trapped in.
We will break out of this cycle only by conscious effort to get the families have the numbers that keep them in surplus, instead of deficit.
Secondly, we must avoid going to war in this country.
Nigeria’s federalism is perfectly imperfect and far from the ideal. From the inheritance elite at independence to the current leaders at all levels, we have not done much to improve on what the retreating colonialists left behind and relationship between the peoples that make up Nigeria has not been the best.
This calls for introspection and concerted efforts to make federalism work well through dialogue and other civil means. However, we have seen the escalation of the rhetoric of hate, incitement and acts of murderous brigandage in recent times.
Call for separation, oppression, injustice, acts of genocide, mindless exploitation of other people’s resources, reckless pursuit of one’s interest, not minding the consequences on others, unmitigated greed of the elite and resort to scorched earth policies are dangerous developments that push inexorably towards separatism and armed conflict.
We have seen ethnic supremacists sabre-rattling and fanning the embers of discord, instead of addressing the factors that generated tensions. But the lesson of history is that violence will lead to more violence until we have the balance of terror and then violence acquires a life of its own, well beyond the control of those who started it.
War anywhere is bad business and no side comes out of it smelling like roses. We luckily survived the civil war. We have been able to contain insurgencies and militancy and prevent them from snowballing into national conflagration. We should not push our luck too far. Other countries in our situation are not that fortunate.
We see the devastations of war in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon (and closer home) in Liberia and Sierra Leone. While some like Liberia and Sierra Leone are fortunate to put the war behind them, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and Iraq have found it difficult to stop their own wars. Lebanon lost its Paradise and Pearl of the Middle East status to United Arab Emirates.
We should therefore all work towards peace and make our federalism a great one.
Rauf Aregbesola, delivered this paper at Tola Adeniyi’s presentation of his book in the belly of vultures in Lagos.
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