By Zakari Abubakar
It is evident that whenever there is an upsurge in criminal activities in parts of northern Nigeria, a perennial debate usually rears its head among those interested in the root causes of the problem. This is understandable. Without identifying the cause of a problem, its solution may not be in the offing. Like virtually every year, this debate is also gaining traction in this early part of 2022.
Admittedly, this view adds to the existing number of discussions on this topic. Those who are following the debates are not unaware that there are a group of people who link the rise in criminal activities in the north and the rate of excruciating poverty among its people, mainly to the large number of children born in virtually every family in the region. This group of people base their argument SOLELY on the superficial and generalised assumption that people with a large number of children, more often, engage in irresponsible parenting.
Another reason why this group of people see an individual with a large number of children as a potential source of criminality and economic stagnation is that Nigerian authorities have for long been finding it difficult to provide social services such as education, electricity and other life essentials to these growing number of citizens which leads to more people becoming poor. This is where I find their argument too simplistic. Because the same authorities are providing these services to themselves, their families or their cronies.
Going back to their first argument, it is glaringly verifiable that for every individual with many children who fail to cater for them, hundreds, if not thousands, bore many children and saw to their responsible upbringing. This example is on the level of individuals. There are many more such examples on the societal level. For instance, several countries and regions of the world have nearly the same population as northern Nigeria or are more populous but are not facing the same challenges.
Those societies have considered such a phenomenon as a gift and therefore utilise it positively. To buttress this point, the five most populous countries in 2021, according to sources, are China, India, the United States, Indonesia, and Pakistan. Although these countries may be facing their security and economic challenges, the standard of living in those societies is by far more robust than what is obtainable in northern Nigeria.
To cite a specific example: about 90% of China’s population is Han Chinese. They are over a billion people, yet, there is no accusation from the rest of the population in that country or the Hans themselves that the Hans are a potential source of poverty or criminality. Similarly, the most populous state in India is Uttar Pradesh, with over 200 million inhabitants. But go to India. How does Uttar Pradesh fare compared to the rest of Indian territories in terms of economic prosperity?
No one is disputing that northern Nigeria is recently replete with a high rate of criminality occasioned by poverty among its growing population. But to solely link this problem with the region’s birth rate is to accord the topic attention that is less than it badly desires. For example, what about the other seemingly systemic problems that have to do with governance and political leadership?
One may say, why do people resort to adding problems for themselves by producing more children since the government failed to sustain their needs? Then I would say, instead of blaming those who fail to provide those essentials (though they are providing them for themselves and their families), we resort to blaming the poor, despite his effort to always get himself out of the effects of poor/bad political leadership?
Elsewhere, other regions of the world are complaining of a decline in their population. Thus, they outsource other remedies for their problems, like encouraging men and women to engage in economic activities. Therefore, no matter how small, we should demand accountability from our political leaders and seek other possible options that are more viable than resorting to birth control, which has its implication on man’s overall health.
Zakari Abubakar is with the Department of Physical and Health Education, Aminu Saleh College of Education, Azare. He can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.