African viewpoint: Should birth control be mandatory?

 
Children sit in a canoe with their mother as she navigates through waterways in the Makoko slum in Lagos, Nigeria, on 29 September 2011 The UN estimates Nigeria's population could grow from 160m to 400m by 2050

In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, Sola Odunfa in Lagos gives Nigeria's President Goodluck, the leader of Africa's most populous nation, some advice about birth control.

I have always wondered how many children a man or woman should have, and my conclusion each time has rested on the Lagos slang: "It's a matter of cash".

If you are rich you may have as many as the late Sir Olateru Olagbegi, the highly revered traditional ruler of Owo in western Nigeria, had.

His children swear that he sired 70 - unassisted. And they all are successful in their various callings.

Start Quote

The more the number of children - the more the poverty”

End Quote Yoruba proverb

On the other hand if you are a "common" man or woman, that is you do not own a house and car and you must seek an appointment before you may see your bank manager, you must limit your family size to what the political elite dictate.

Otherwise you all starve and your children end up living under the bridge.

The stark reality needs no argument.

We see it and feel it on the streets of Nigerian cities on a daily basis.

The rich and the poor hardly mix.

Children of the one are taken to school in air-conditioned, tinted-glass cars and buses.

Head start

"Common" children of the "common" man are either hawking in the morning traffic for survival or dodging that scourge of Nigerian city roads - the commercial motorcycle - on their way to school, many barefooted.

Pupils of in Ibafo, Ogun state, Nigeria, during a school break time - 2007 Not all children in Nigeria are able to go to school, many work as street traders

One already has a head-start in the race of life, although nothing will stop the exceptionally bright and lucky from catching up the others at or before the tape.

The late business mogul and later politician Moshood Abiola - of 12 June presidential election fame - makes a good example.

Start Quote

The president admitted that children were gifts from God, but then so is the hair on our head which we control by barbering”

End Quote

He was raised in poverty but in later life few of his privileged contemporaries in school matched his academic and business successes.

He remains one of the rare exceptions to the Yoruba saying of "omo bere - osi bere", that is, the more the number of children - the more the poverty.

The point is that in this age any child who must be a success in life needs formal education; and education does not come free - it is a matter of cash.

Some Nigerians say that President Goodluck Jonathan does not have "the charisma of a leader" but I say that he knows how to describe situations graphically.

'Down-to-earth logic'

This is a sample from his address at the inauguration of the National Population Commission in Abuja about a fortnight ago: "Sometimes you get to somebody's house living in a well-furnished duplex.

Start Quote

Why not bring education to everyone's reach?”

End Quote

"The husband and wife there may have two, three, four children. The mai guard [security guard] guarding them have nine children."

The president admitted that children were gifts from God, but then so is the hair on our head which we control by barbering.

Then why not control the number of children? It is down-to-earth logic, one would say.

In response to Nigeria's galloping population, the president is contemplating legally enforced birth control.

At the end of the day though, since the problem is down to education and education is a matter of cash, why not bring education to everyone's reach?

The cost to government may be less than the billions of naira stolen annually by officials and you get birth control without pain.

If you would like to comment on Sola Odunfa's column, please do so below.

 

More on This Story

Letter from Africa

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 52.

    It is hard to believe how Nigerians can even participate in any form of debate when they are yet to seriously challenge those they have elected into office over unprecedented levels of corruption that rub the people nearly a quarter of their national budget.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 51.

    Absolutely imperative that the Nigerian government institute birth control without delay, with dignity and respect for all of course.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 50.

    It's incredible the debate on birth control still wrangles on. One only needs to walk the city streets of Lagos now and compare it to what it was like walking the same city streets in the late 70s and early 80s.
    In my humble opinion birth control should be usered in without delay. It is a bitter pill to swollow agreed. The Government it is hoped will introduce free Health Care, free education!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 49.

    I remember in the '80s and early '90s there was a program on birth control. Which helped to educate couples and parents on the need to limit the size of their "wards". To help people reduce their poverty level contributed by large family sizes then you need to have a constant educational program.You cannot just enforce a law on people you should preach it to them. Nobody wants to be poor.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 48.

    well my view,is that goodluck what ever should think some thing better instead of killng our children ,first how many children does the senator have,not to talk of himself.he should focuse on solvning the boko haram he introduce first.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 47.

    The anecdote of the 'me guar'd with 9 children reminds me of one of those beggers I used to see at a location in Lagos. The first time I saw her there, she was alone. Whithin a year she was with a baby. She added a baby about every year. Besides culture, the biggest obstacle to birth control is iliteracy. Funding education has low priority on the scheme of politicians.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 46.

    It is not an issue of birth control and pills.Where do you think the politicians will get to steal money from? Funds that are for eradication of poverty and education funds is the way for there enrichment.And the rich need cheap labour in their business and homes.Only the individual will have to choose what he wants in life.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 45.

    The is truth that Nigeria needs to engage in rapid Family Planning programs, I think the best program is the Community Based Family Planning program to control their population.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 44.

    YES, YES YES YES AND YES.... I SHOULDNT BE A DISCUSSION.. JUST A PLANE YES

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 43.

    This issue has always been greeted with superficial consideration. I would strongly say that a "shot-gun" approach will not solve this problem. The government should take necessary steps in eradicating poverty in the country and also help to educate the younger generation.

    We need to see this as a systemic issue and applying suitable resources to reduce this problem of overpopulation.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 42.

    Family planning in Africa is a debate that has been going on for many decades now. That said, if the government in Nigeria hopes to implement birth control, then it will need to bring education to the people. In fact, in the 70's, experts tried to implement family planning in the village of Igbogbo, Nigeria, and it succeeded but it was never replicated to scale. See Prof. Alfred Opubor's research.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 41.

    Nigerians should be educated on birth control. Especially does in rural area in particular.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 40.

    What! please let nature take its course. Imagine that you were prevented from being born, through birth control? The problem is sipmle-distribution of worlth

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 39.

    Here is a thought....stop having children until you can feed the ones you have (never mind yourself). In other words, get your priorities lined up properly. Start with education, learn and stop listening to the 'old' village voo doo.

    3 out of every ten children do not celebrate their tenth birthday - thats horrible - stop having them until you know how to think...as if that will happen.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 38.

    You can only talk of restricting birth when you have got the basics right. The birth rate may be very high but consider the infant mortality rate. Some three out of every ten children do not celebrate their tenth birthday. Get that right and sort out the mess in education and healthcare. Then you will realise that the average Nigerian will not spent his whole adult life having children!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 37.

    Education, infrastructure, basic state institutions, jobs, basic healthcare, law and order. Every other issue is a misguided distraction - and would look after itself, anyway, once the basics are in place.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 36.

    #35 Chukwudozie Duru
    __________

    It is a vicious circle. Bringing children into this environment is selfish. Having them suffer as a future security system is wrong. If people were educated, life could change but the way it stands now it looks like the same old.....

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 35.

    Nigeria problem is not population, our greatest problem is corruption.
    It is true that those who are educated tend to have less children than those without and can take care of them better than those without. The problem is that in a country were child mortality is high, there is no social security system to take care of people and govt does not pay pension, children're seen as social security

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 34.

    Should birth control be mandatory....absolutely, beginning with the so called men!

    If not, educate them, ignorance is a terrible legacy. Idiots one & all.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 33.

    It's geting political now charite, please discontinue this thread moderator, we are discussing population and solutions, it's even worse in so called Igboland where until a son is born they have not had children, it's not uncommon to see a woman with twelve children. Enter any Nigerian city it's Okada galore. They don't stay on at school to be educated, it's always the woman's fault.

 

Page 1 of 3

 

More Africa stories

RSS

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.