Something amusing played out as entertainment, but under harsh economic conditions in Nigeria, it was a comic relief while the event lasted. Two diametrically opposed political camps led by two prominent Nigerians from the same state sat side by side, seeing eye to eye to share their thoughts and experiences but representing different generations and perspectives. I expected a Tsunami to erupt when I heard one of the camp leaders saying, “I should be given a right of response,” referring to the likelihood of an insinuation to score a political goal by the opponent at a veritable platform.
However, the event ended like a professorial inaugural lecture where, traditionally, questions are not entertained. In such lectures, the speaker leaves his audience in suspense with their questions unasked. This scenario was played at the 2023 Annual Public Lecture and Awards of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), Kaduna State Chapter, on Saturday, December 2, 2023, at Hamdala Hotel, Kaduna.
The guest speaker of the event was Dr. Mua’zu Babangida Aliyu, Talban Minna, Sardaunan Hausa, Chief Servant, and a former two-term governor of Niger state on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. At the same time, the Special Guest of Honour of the occasion was Alhaji Mohammed Idris Malagi, a former governorship aspirant of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the same Niger state and currently the Honourable Minister of Information and National Orientation.
Whenever the stalwarts of these two major parties, APC and PDP, meet at public gatherings, especially coming from the same state, accusations and counter-accusations normally reign. In such circumstances, the audience is divided along political leanings, recharging the atmosphere. Still, the two gentlemen refused to do so, instead they chose to dwell on the issue of the moment – Demographic Transition, Ethical Resource, and Sustainable Development: Reflection on Northern Nigeria. A topic, Babangida was invited to address as a guest speaker.
Idris, a fine gentleman of the pen, a publisher, public relations guru, a successful entrepreneur, and a rare-refined politician, may have thought Babangida, who is well known for his boldness and bluntness, a seen-it-all Nigerian politician, would use the opportunity of being the guest speaker to play the Nigerian politics; but this didn’t happen. With Idris as the Minister of Information and National Orientation, one can see and feel the difference: a round peg in a round hole of the same and befitting diameter. It couldn’t be better. At least the era of false propaganda is over.
Since his appointment, Idris has toured the area and promoted the Tinubu Doctrine at various forums—the doctrine centers on four main pillars – Democracy, Diplomacy, Diaspora, and Development. The Kaduna chapter of NIPR was the first in the North. Kaduna, the most cosmopolitan city in Nigeria, is home to several elite, technocrats, businessmen, and women across Nigeria. Idris is one of the Kaduna “homeboys” and was even the chairman of NIPR at one time, and as such, the occasion was a homecoming for him and his veritable platform.
The primary motivation of the NIPR Kaduna chapter for the theme was the concern that Nigeria will be the world’s third most populous country by 2050, with a projected population of 450 million people. Available data on birth rate indicates that the northern part of the country has twice the reproductive rate compared to the South. A recent data by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, revealed that seven of every 10 children born between 2016 and 2019 were in the North.
Nigeria’s demography is among the world’s fastest-growing, youthful demography. The theme is an apt wake-up call for policymakers and development planners in this context.
NIPR Kaduna chapter chairman Haroun Malami raised the alarm when he said the theme was chosen given rising unemployment among youths, skills gap, and lack of future focus and career counseling for a sustainable impact on people and economy in the North.
There is no doubt that the speaker, Dr. Babangida, delved deep into the dynamic of demography in Nigeria when he presented a 16-page paper to the audience. It was a glorious moment for him as the Chairman, BOT, Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation to discuss burning issues affecting Northern Nigeria. Some of the challenges he identified are linked to low human capital development index and poor health facilities. Nigeria is among the world’s bottom five performers with high infant and maternal motility and life expectancy rates. Nigeria is among the bottom 10 performers in the world in child malnutrition.
There are about 20 million out-of-school children as well, with an estimated 70% living in poverty among the children in school. The picture is indeed gloomy and a severe cause for concern. The demography indicates that 75% of Nigeria’s population is youth between 18 and 35 – the age bracket for the most active and productive people whose future must be secured. They can unleash their vast, effective energies for nation-building if adequately harnessed and galvanided. Thus, the population can be a great asset instead of seeing it as a burden. How can an increase in population be turned into human capital?
A significant investment in human capital can turn a large population into a productive asset. This is done through massive and qualitative education and health services. This is why free education at all levels is not a burden to a country. It will turn people into capital assets with requisite skills to be deployed in various developmental sectors. Similarly, free health for all will guarantee a healthy and vibrant workforce necessary for transformation and overall development. In the end, large government spending on education and health is a lifetime investment for any nation.
Furthermore, investment in skill acquisition and capacity building assures sustainable development; ditto for robust research and development (R&D). However, the population dynamic and projection being thrown in the public domain could be mere fallacy or fantasy. The conspiracy theorists quickly remind us or even warn us that Nigeria’s population will not record that geometric growth. Their fears and concerns are germane when you factor in some assumptions and perspectives around the population issues.
There are many strategies to arrest the runaway population growth, ranging from pills and contraceptives voluntarily administered to numerous vaccines – known and unknown, administered through public campaigns and propaganda – a grand global agenda for population control. Big charities and foundations are injecting billions of US dollars in support of birth control pills, family planning, and population control. What is it that we don’t know and is being kept away from us?
Imagine pills administered to a teenager or at an adolescent age, and at the peak of the reproductive period, maybe in her 20s, and menopause suddenly occurs. This may not be unconnected with the past pills and vaccines administered under many guises. The damage to the reproductive cycle of the teenagers would have been irreversible. Remember the Kano vaccines altering genes controversies, litigation, and compensation. The tragedy of a mistake around drugs or vaccines or pills is akin to what is said when a physician makes a mistake – the victim is bound for the cemetery – so many experiments with people with low incomes.
In conclusion, I wish to congratulate the 2023 Kaduna NIPR AGM Award of Excellence awardees. They are: Major General JO Ochai, Honourable Munira S. Tanimu, Malam Salihu Dembos (my bosom friend), Muhammad M. Nami, Suleiman Garba, ESV Abdulsalam O. Abdulrazaq, Yusuf Y. Arrigasiyyu and Honourable Jamila M. Dahiru. They were identified and found worthy of the prestigious awards.