GUEST COLUMNIST BY MOHAMMED HARUNA
There was a small tremor on Tuesday last week when the United Nations declared that the world’s human population had hit 8 billion. At which hour, which minute and at which second, it did not say. It turned out that it was just a computer model projection. One expert said, “It is impossible to know precisely how many people are alive at any given moment. UN’s figures are based on models designed using census and other demographic data. It’s possible the world’s population passed 8 billion a year or two ago or will do so at some point over the next few years.”
Wow. So maybe we actually passed the milestone long ago and we did not realise it. I know some people who are happy at the news, because they do not believe that rapidly growing population is a problem. They believe population control is a Western scheme to degrade Third World nations culturally and religiously. Well, they should better think again because this human population “birthday” comes amidst much talk about climate change [witness this year’s flood all over Nigeria], melting polar ice, rising sea levels threatening to drown islands and coastal cities, environmental destruction, disappearance of species, food shortages and high food prices, energy shortages and high prices and, in some countries, aging populations. Let us not list war and internal unrest, which could be secondary fall outs of population explosion.
The good news, such as it is, is that while world population is still growing, the rate of growth has slowed down, somehow. While human population reached 7 billion in 2011 and it took 11 years for it to reach 8 billion, we are only projected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, 9.7 billion by 2050 and only reach 10.4 billion during the 2080s. Even better, we are projected to remain at that level until 2100, according to the UN. By then there would have been at least eight UN Secretary Generals after Antonio Guterres, so we will not have anyone to hold responsible if the estimates turn out to be wrong.
But here is the clincher. Population growth will not happen evenly across the planet. Eight countries, out of the more than 200 in the world today, are expected to shoulder more than half of the projected world population increase between now and 2050. Five of these eight are in Africa [Sob! Sob!], namely Nigeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC] and Tanzania. The other three are India, Pakistan and the Philippines.
What is our preparation for this explosion? Although Egypt is a serious country, given the way they dig up remains of Pharaohs and assemble them in splendid museums, I fear for it because most of its population is lined up along the Nile valley. Which could also have less water by the time Ethiopia finishes damming the Blue Nile. Ethiopia has made big economic strides in recent decades but the trouble in Tigray region is hardly a good sign for its future. DR Congo is dirt poor right now, after nearly three decades of strife since the fall of Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997. What will it do with more people, when it can’t cater for the ones it now has?
What about Nigeria? Wonder of wonders, by 2050 we will overtake USA and become the third most populous country on Earth, even after so many Nigerians have ‘japa’ to that country! We are not the only country in the population fast league. India is expected to overtake China as early as next year as the world’s most populous country. So, all the forced sterilisations that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s government did in the 1970s did nothing to slow Indians down?
We Nigerians seem to think that the world population map is a kind of Olympics medals table, and that the higher our place in it, the more glorious we are. This year, the ranks of this table are China, India, USA, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Brazil, Bangladesh, Russia and Mexico. Brazil is too busy with the struggle between Lula and Bolsonaro to catch up with us. Russians’ attention is diverted to Ukraine, while Mexicans are kept busy by drug lords. Therefore, by 2050, Nigeria would have leapfrogged on the population table above Pakistan, Indonesia and even USA to become third in the world after India and China! Right now we are the only African country in the population Big Ten but by 2050, two more African countries, Ethiopia and DR Congo, would have joined us in the Big Ten!
Only last week, National Bureau of Statistics reported that 133 million of us out of 200 million are gripped by Multi-Dimensional Poverty. At this growth rate, we may be talking about 3D poverty in Nigeria by 2050. Our GDP growth rate has been limping far behind population growth rate for many years now. Never mind what caused it. If things remain this way, then by 2050, we would be much more numerous and also much poorer on a per capita basis than we are now. There could be less food to eat, less land to farm, more crowded houses in the cities, much more congested suburbs, more congested roads and city buses, more congested classrooms, longer hospital queues and many more unemployed.
Will our power supply improve by then to electrify all our houses and work places? Otherwise, how much will petrol, kerosene, cooking gas, diesel and even firewood cost when so many people are chasing dwindling supplies? Will there be more bandits, insurgents, kidnappers, pipeline vandals, Yahoo boys and bank account scammers?
While our population is galloping at horse-race speed, the UN estimates that two-thirds of the world’s population today live in a country where birth rates cannot maintain the current population size. 61 countries are projected to experience a 1% or more population decrease by 2050. Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia and Ukraine are projected to suffer a 20% population decline each by 2050. China’s population could be halved by 2100, perhaps because the Communist Party enforced a one child per couple policy for decades. With issues like these facing us, who is talking about rift in PDP, composition of APC campaign council, one former governor’s investments are next to nothing, or even, that a party chairman is not welcome to lead his party’s campaign in a certain state?
Run-off election is unlikely
The Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] said last week that “in line with its tradition of adequately preparing for eventualities,” it has printed enough ballot papers in case there will be a run-off presidential election next year. That is, if no candidate satisfies the criteria of winning the highest number of votes as well as getting a quarter of the votes in at least 24 states.
Spokesperson of Atiku/Okowa Campaign Organisation, Kola Ologbondiyan, immediately advised INEC not to worry itself with preparing for a run-off election because his party’s ticket will win outright in the first ballot. He said, “Our campaign is confident that by every indices and data available, our candidate, Atiku Abubakar, will win the presidential election of February 25, 2023 at the first run.” He advised INEC “not to listen to diversionary narratives by apologists of the deflated APC who are ostensibly seeking ways to derail the election.”
I agree with Ologbondiyan that a run off presidential election is very unlikely. We have had six presidential elections so far in this Republic and none resulted in a run-off, though we had some re-run governorship elections in several states due to polling unit cancellations. The nearest we ever came to a run-off presidential poll in Nigeria was in 1979, when there was a dispute as to whether NPN candidate Alhaji Shehu Shagari, who got the highest votes, had satisfied the spread requirement because he got a quarter of the votes in 12 states out of 19. It led to the famous two thirds of 19 litigation, where the Supreme Court agreed with NPN Legal Adviser Chief Richard Akinjide that two thirds of 19 was not 13 but 12 2/3 and that Shagari satisfied the law because he got 2/3rds of one quarter of the 13th state in Kano.
This time around we have 36 states, so two thirds of them, neatly, is 24. I do not know who will get the highest votes, but APC is certain to obtain a quarter of the votes in 17 or 18, possibly all 19 Northern states; all six South Western states; quite likely in Edo and Delta states; and possibly in at least one or two of Ebonyi, Imo and Cross River states that it “controls.”
PDP is likely to get a quarter of the votes in most Northern states, the danger zones for it being Borno and Yobe; most likely in all six South South states; possibly in two or three South Western states and, if Labour Party’s sweep is not total, in several South Eastern states as well. The most important thing therefore is to get the highest votes. Ologbondiyan is therefore right. INEC should perish the thought of a run-off poll. The contentious part is whether Ologbondiyan’s party will win.
Founded on January 22, 1995, THISDAY is published by THISDAY NEWSPAPERS LTD., 35 Creek Road Apapa, Lagos, Nigeria with offices in 36 states of Nigeria , the Federal Capital Territory and around the world. It is Nigeria’s most authoritative news media available on all platforms for the political, business, professional and diplomatic elite and broader middle classes while serving as the meeting point of new ideas, culture and technology for the aspirationals and millennials. The newspaper is a public trust dedicated to the pursuit of truth and reason covering a range of issues from breaking news to politics, business, the markets, the arts, sports and community to the crossroads of people and society.
You can email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our contact us page.
GUEST COLUMNIST BY MOHAMMED HARUNA