An Unfolding Demographic Nightmare

March 23, 2019
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Once again, this column draws attention to a ticking time-bomb in Nigeria: the absolute and exponential demographic shift in favour of young people in this country. When Shakespeare famously noted that youth is a stuff that will not endure, he probably had Nigerian youths in mind. But it is obvious that the nation will hear from them before they are consigned to the rubbish heap of evaporated generations.

Please close your eyes, take a deep breath and imagine you are returning to your ancestral homestead after a twenty-year internal deportation. Your parents had long passed and you are like a flaneur indulging in posthumous gallivanting. At the village square, you are likely to be confronted by a horde of youths staring you down in sullen and insolent disregard. You are on your own for all they care.

Nothing has changed in the village square in twenty years. It is a bucolic museum frozen for humanity. The only thing that has changed is the human presence. The youths were not there before. They were not born. But why were they there in such numbers? It was not the annual egungun festival which was always a site of orgiastic communion where future matrimonial deals are sealed. That one had long lost its shine and allure to the political economy of rural decline.

They are there because new egunguns have taken over the country, awon irunmole and ajegudujera. Let us leave it at that. The masquerade without a mask is the father of the masquerade that wears a mask, as somebody famously noted in The Bulletin from the Land of Living Ghosts. Ever since the man called Malthus, the discipline of Economics has always preoccupied itself with how nations must grow their economy before they grow their population. When populations expand well ahead of economic growth and development, that is a recipe for social and political disaster.

That is the point we have reached in the nation and it is responsible for some of the most horrendous crimes against humanity that the world has seen in recent times. Ritual cleansing, kidnapping, garroting, hordes of armed militias spreading murder and mayhem, political assassinations all reminiscent of organized society gone haywire have become the order of the day.

The pamphlet titled A Modest Proposal, by Jonathan Swift, the great British satirist, advocates the selling off of children of the Irish poor to the British rich for food as a grim response to population explosions which disturb and distort the eco-balance of society. There are tremulous echoes of this in the rise of extreme rightwing violence in the west, the hordes of African refugees perishing in the desert and high seas and of course the criminal neglect of their people by many African rulers.

But serious nations and their notable economists have always concentrated on how to achieve the maximum wellbeing of the maximum number of people irrespective of ideology or religious beliefs. This is what unites the Nordic countries with Finland, UAE, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, USA and Canada. Nigeria is yet to ennoble its own philosophers and economists of national growth and development in social harmony. Meanwhile, the time bomb ticks on relentlessly.

Dear readers, when what you are about to read was first published in this column about six years ago, it was like a light-hearted joke. But it has since become a grim and horrific reality. Nigerian youths have since then become even more gainfully unemployed by lending their might and muscle to kidnapping, contract killing, arson, vote-rigging, ballot-snatching, raping and armed robbery.

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