President Jonathan’s One Child Policy By Chido Onumah

Chido Onumah
Columnist: 
Chido Onumah

The outrage that greeted what looked like a one child policy of the Jonathan administration is understandable. Beyond the fact that the country’s population is its selling point, the theory that the level of poverty in a country is somehow related to the size of its population has proved patently untenable. But the bigger question is: how do you legislate on what happens in people’s bedroom?

The president’s emergency response to our so-called population crisis was reeled out late last month at the swearing-in of newly appointed chairman and commissioners of the National Population Commission (NPC) at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. The president said the Federal Government was considering a bill to regulate the country’s population and that the government wouldn’t wait until it became uncontrollable before facing the menace.

“Before enacting the laws controlling birth and population, however, the government would carry out enough sensitization”, the president said. “First and foremost is the personal consciousness that people should get the family they can manage. Sometimes you get to somebody’s house living in a well-furnished duplex, the husband and wife there may have two, three, four children. The man guarding them has nine children. That is the scenario you have. That means there is a segment of the population that knows that you must get a number that you can manage, but the other segment of the population doesn’t.”  

“If you are used to military barracks, you see that the officers, General this, Major General this, Brigadier this, Colonel this have three, five children but those that have no rank have eight, 12. This is the scenario. The people up, probably because of their level of education, know that they must control their population. But the people down, because of the level of exposure and education, are still not aware that you must control your population. So, first and foremost, before government comes up with regulations, guidelines or laws, Nigerians must be made to know that we cannot continue to procreate and procreate, even though we know children are God’s gifts.”

Why the president thinks the way to deal with wanton procreation is enacting a law to curb it, is what is difficult to comprehend. Expectedly, the issue has veered off the radar of national discourse. We have quickly moved to other issues. As I write, nobody, not the newly appointed chairman of the NPC, not the commissioners, not even related ministries, like health and national planning, will remember anything that was said by President Jonathan, much less act on it. But I digress.

Two weeks after President Jonathan’s quick fix to the country’s population problem, on July 11, 2012, world leaders, development partners and health and population activists met in London for a global summit on family planning. The summit, put together by the UK Government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in partnership with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and several national governments aimed to “make affordable, lifesaving contraceptive information, services and supplies available to an additional 120 million women and girls in developing countries by 2020 as well as prevent over 200,000 women dying in pregnancy and childbirth”.

Coming 18 years after the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, in Cairo, Egypt, which emphasized the right of individuals to determine freely the size of their families and highlighted the role and importance of women in the population debate, the London Summit was groundbreaking in many respects. Nigeria was represented at the summit by Dr Muhammad Ali Pate, minister of state for health. Dr. Pate said all the right things, even though it was difficult to reconcile his claims with the situation on the ground in Nigeria. Surprisingly, no reference was made to President Jonathan’s pet idea of birth and population control law.  

“We are fully committed to reducing our currently unacceptably high maternal and child mortality rates. In this context, we are committed to enhancing access to, and utilization of essential, basic life-saving interventions, including the unmet need for family planning. This will be done in an integrated manner within the framework of primary health care approach,” the minister noted. “Within the context of our desire to enhance maternal and child survival, as well as accelerate our demographic transition, we are committed to achieving the goal of a contraceptive prevalence rate of 36% by 2018.”

The minister added: “In addition to our current annual commitment of US$3 million for the procurement of reproductive health commodities, we are now committing to provide an additional US$8,350,000 annually over the next four years, making a total of US$33,400,000 over the next four years. This additional amount will be programmed within the existing projection for the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment (SURE) Programme funds for Maternal and Child Health. We will use the funds to procure the commodities through UNFPA on the platform of an already existing agreement.”

It was a bold statement, except that the SURE programme the minister alluded to has since been discarded by the government. Add to this the fact that countries like Bangladesh (with a predominantly Moslem population) and Nicaragua, the poorest country in Central America (with a predominantly Christian population) currently have about 50% and 70% contraceptive prevalence rate respectively, then you begin to understand how unserious Nigeria (currently at 14%) is about reproductive health issues.

Ahead of the London Family Planning Summit, I tried to access the website of the National Population Commission (NPC) to no avail. The message that popped up each time was that the site had been taken over by “hackactivists”. A week after the summit, I returned to the site. This time around, it was up except that it contained no information about Nigeria’s commitment at the London summit. Beyond the scanty two-page National Population Policy, there was nothing to show what the country was doing in the area of reproductive health. Surprisingly, President Jonathan’s statement at the inauguration of the new leadership of the NPC was conspicuously missing.

A visit to the website of the ministry of health yielded no result. There was no mention of the London summit and no information about the pledge Dr. Pate made on behalf of the Federal Government. In the midst of this chaos, however, the real troubling aspect of Nigeria’s population programme is the clear disconnect between President Jonathan and the managers of our population policy.  

The  London summit put woman at the heart of the reproductive health agenda and highlighted the link between family planning and development. It emphasized the fact that family planning is a human right. It affirmed that access to family planning services and information is perhaps the best way to deal with the population issue. It showed that millions of women who want to delay or avoid their next pregnancy can exercise that right with modern contraceptives; that countries need to invest in families, in education for girls and boys, and reproductive health; that religion and culture should not be barriers to contraceptive security; and that the ability of women to choose when to get pregnant and how many children to have is empowering for women and essential for safe motherhood.

If the Nigerian government is interested in understanding how to deal with its imagined population crisis, it necessarily must take a few lessons from the outcome of the London Summit on Family Planning.
Onumah is coordinator of the African Centre for Media & Information Literacy
conumah@hotmail.com

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one child policy sponsored by england to finish africa

the minister of overseas aid andrew recently held summit to gain 1.5 billion pounds claim to pay for contraceptives to family plan africa. I made MY view known to him that family planning need not be with contraceptives. I pointed out to him that policy is back door ethnic cleansing by english/europe on africa. what is necessary is education and creational activities that will grow the teenagers and youths. jonathan, being one of the major stooges for england/europe, will try to impose one child policy to favour his masters. china faced with same policy is still highly populated. the children aborted, killed, and or trafficked to england/europe and now America. Human beigns are the highest capital of all nations. jonathan must be kicked out immediately.one child family children are always trouble.

one child policy sponsored by england to finish africa

the minister of overseas aid andrew recently held summit to gain 1.5 billion pounds claim to pay for contraceptives to family plan africa. I made view known to him that family planning need not be with contraceptives. I pointed out to him that that policy is back door ethnic cleansing by english/europe on africa. what is necessary is education and creational activities that will grow the teenagers and youths. jonathan, being one of the major stooges for england/europe, will try to impose one child policy to favour his masters. china faced with same policy is still highly populated. the children aborted, killed, and or trafficked to england/europe and now America. Human beigns are the highest capital of all nations. jonathan must be kicked out immediately.one child family children are always trouble.

FAMILY PLANNING AND UNCERTAINTY III

If the farmer on adventure to urban area stays for a long period, perhaps without marrying in order to cope(extreme family planning) and yet eventually forced back to the village, he would likely meet his mates far ahead in family size!
The issue is all about resource management. Now, why despite the family planning by elites, quite a number among them are stealing what would be used to cater for thousands!

FAMILY PLANNING AND UNCERTAINTY II

When I was in sec. School, we were taught that procreation of especially males is an asset to the poor farmer as he would be having more hands to produce more in his farm. Ofcourse, this is obvious even without being taught. Thus, such normally rural farmer hadly ever entertained the idea of family planning. A similar farmer who may have abandoned his rural community for the alluring glitters of the urban area, may eventually find the heat too much to bear in corrupt Nigeria! From the difficulties of securing even a labourers job, to increasing cost of living and having to cope with hostile multicultural environment he would likely find it ordious to support himself, talkless of an additional wife even without children!

THE UNCERTAINTY SURROUNDING FAMILY PLANNING!

To a practicing muslim like me, procreation(within marriage) is an encouraged thing. However, the question is does man have absolute control over procreation? Certainly, no. Qur'an(42:v49-v50) says that, God creates what He Wills. He either bestows to someone an all male offspring, an all female offspring , a mixture of male and female or render him barren. But, ofcourse God does His things from behind the scene. A certain rich someone may therefore possibly marry many wives and have countless sexual intercourses, visit countless doctors and yet die barren. To the believers, that's the Will of God or destiny of such a man; but, the disbelievers would associate that to anything else!

Oil, oil, oil

The way Deri and other Niger Deltans talk about oil resources from the SS, one would get the false impression that they actually manufactured the resource.

I absolutely agree with @Deri

I absoluttely agree with Deri on this one, birth control policies are long over due in Nigeria. We cannot keep on expecting oil resources from SS to sustain such massive population like ours. The elephant in the house that no one want to talk about is overpopulation in Nigeria. Let me give you the cold fact from a non politician, even if nobody steal from the oil money Nigerians will still be poor. Maybe a little better off than now but still very poor.Do you know why? The answer is that we practise consumer economy in Nigeria. we dont produce anything. And we are overpopulated. Too many mouths chasing this little crumb. When your Gardener have twice the number of kids as you do something is wrong! Very wrong.Education please.

WIFE CONTROL BEFORE BIRTH CONTROL.

If culture and religion cannot put a limit on the amount of wives a man must marry then the President must be day-dreaming.Islam allows four wives and the native tradition of many trbes allow as many wives as possible.
The first step is monogamy but is it possible? then the state must get involved in forcing AWOL and underperforming fathers to live up to thier responsibilities.Women are left alone to raise children and the government keeps mute.Anyway nothing will work without a valid ID data base,a system whereby every child born must have the biological fathers registration reflected in the childs ID.
However the likes of Gen.Buhari has vowed to resist an ID card system together with his political affiliates in the north.

The problem is how much

The problem is how much lecture can people come to term with,from a morally bankrupt leader. Or how ,many people wants to be lectured by a serial election rigging party. This president can articulate the problem all he want, weather or not people will comprehend with the solution he his trying to propagate is another issue the country as to contempt with.
With folks in my community,this government as lost the legitimacy to govern talk less of trying to compel people to to adhere to his unjust solution,welther by legislation or by him trying to inspired a moral family value. The president is not a rule model and people have come to term with it. Wake up nigerians.

Let nigerian have more than

Let nigerian have more than one child,wetin concern jonathan.some who don't have a child.let he resign if he cannot deliver.

POPULATION CONTROL?WHOSE HEADACHE?

YOUR OPENING PARAGRAPHS REMINDS ME OF FRANK O'LIZE OF OUR GOOD OLDEN DAYS NTA NEWSLINE @9 BECAUSE I DONT KNOW WHAT THE PROGRAM IS ALL ABOUT NOW....ARRANT NONESENSE!
FRANK IN THOSE DAYS DID MENTION THAT THE FARMER,MAI-GUARDI,COBBLER & THEIR LIKES ARE ALWAYS AT HOME WITH THEIR WIVES & THE MOMENT THEY ARE AROUSED......GBAMMM!!!!E DON FINISH WHILE IT IS THE CONTRARY TO THE C-IN-C.,THE GEN. THIS & BRIG. THAT,THE DANGOTES,GOVERNORS,& THEIR LIKES WHO SELDOM KNOWS WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THEIR COUNTRY LET ALONE THEIR HOMES!
SO WHILE THE LATTER GROUP ARE MAKING THIER MONIES;THE FORMER ARE THERE MANUFACTURING THE FUTURE ASSASSIN,ARMED ROBBER,KIDNAPPER,BOKO HARAM,OPC,MEND,MASSOB LEADERS!
SO WHO IS LOOSING SLEEP?

Business as usual with with clueless brainless jonathan

The stupid president still does not know how to solve basic problems not to talk of a complicated problem like the nigerian project.

The fool is always looking at how to cure the symptoms, but never the sickness! Just look at the N1trn he budgeted for security. If the fool had budgeted that colossal amount for job creation, BH would have been history by now!

But that's GEJ for you, always hitting the nail on the ass!

Resource Diversification is the Answer

The government should concentrate on resource diversification.

Conduct of a reliable censors first!

Nigeria needs a free and fair conduct of the population censors before deciding to control the population. We cannot put the cat before the horse. JEG is a scientist and needs to know better. Nigeria does not have any accurate censors as of today. We do not have any reliable ID system neither do we have any incorruptible immigration control in place We also do not have any socially dynamic welfare system for legitimate children that are already born. Parents are currently at their own wits deciding on procreating instincts. A good government would always know that the future of any country depends on the kinds of offspring that are bore forth by the citizens. In essence, population control will have to start with proper birth registration, child and youth development programs.

chinese idea and indirect rule?

Watch president Jonathan....May be the Chinese government, entising African countries including Nigeria with interest-free loans, is already influencing Jonathan with THE CHINESE LAW OF ONE CHILD PER FAMILY. I only hope that this president doesn't sell Nigeria to Chinese imperialism before we know it.

EMPTY HEADS

NGOZI OKWONJO-IWEALA SAID THAT SUBSIDY IS TAKING A BIG CHUNK OF OUR NATIONAL RESOURCES SO LETS REMOVE IT. HER HAVARD TRAINNING DID NOT LET HER ASK WHY WE HAVE THE SUBSIDY, IT IS LETS REMOVE IT. SHE COULD NOT SEE HOW REMOVAL OF SUBSIDY WILL FURTHER DEVALUE THE NAIRA BY CAUSING PRICES TO RISE ACROSS THE BOARD AND HOW THIS WILL BE A VICIOUS CYCLE. NOW "DR" JONATHAN HAS IDENTIFIED CORRECTLY THE CAUSE OF THE POPULATION "CRISIS" AS LACK OF EDUCATION, BUT WHAT HE WANTS TO DO IS NOT GIVE THE PEOPLE EDUCATION BUT MAKE LAWS. EMPTY HEADS WITH FANCY ACADEMIC TITLES.

Stop embezzlement and give good quality education; the only way

Mr presido, understand that the issue is that of lack of quality educatn & not simply campaign. How you will be able to inform someone with poor educatn to control birth. The bottom line is that our public schools are ill-equipped to educate. You pointed out that those at the top know that there is the need to have a family size that one can manage. In our public schools as many as 150 or more children sit in one class (most on the floor), no books + several other problems ravaging the system. How can products of such system understand the need to plan family.Don't jump to point that we're too many for the Govt to provide for, for you know that till today, devlpd and developing nations alike (e.g. U.S., China, India etc) are providing free good educatn, at pri & sec levels, even to foreigners.So pls stop stealing and wasting our money on worthless expenditures (e.g. first ladies forum) so that Nigerians can have quality educatn to understand the need to plan families.

The only way you can continue

The only way you can continue to be an inept head of state and still have all western governments pat you on the back is if you 'ape' all western financial institutions agenda for africa in general: Borrow enough to keep your country indebted to them for life, mortgate all your assets in the name of globalization, keep whateve's left of the countries resources in the hands of a corrupt few and peg the population growth of the african Nations. (Bretton woods policy for keeping Afican Nations in check, Robert Malthus, one of their members originally proposed.)

birth control policies are long over due

The policy is long over due-everybody is now depending on the oil resources of the SS to survive-150m is too much for 9ja--OBJ introduced birth control policies before he handed over to shagari-including austerity measures--which saw nigerians embrace the wearing of ankara instead of lace-But the same OBJ came back the from jail with disigner lace and brocade-

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