Mukaila, my friend’s Maiguard (the Nigerian coinage for sentry or watchman) has just given birth to his 5th child in 4 years.
Mukaila earns N20,000 (not enough to buy a bottle of Hennessey in a Nite club) in a month and lives in a dingy makeshift corridor constructed for him by the landlord near the basement.
For all his meager earnings and bleak status in life, Mukaila can’t stop having unprotected sex with Hadiza, his 20-something-year-old, starry-eyed wife.
Mukaila actually lives for the sex, it appears.
Sex is Mukaila and Mukaila is sex.
“Oga, na Allah dey give pikin. We no dey reject am kawai”, Mukaila tells me through fits of uncontrolled laughter, each time my friend and I take him up on why he can’t stop getting his wife pregnant and zip up his pants.
There are millions of Mukailas across Nigeria who consider giving birth to children they know they cannot fend for, an act of God or “God’s blessings.”
The other day, I engaged ‘Mama Iyabo’ who sells Bole (roast plantain) down the street on family planning. Mama Iyabo has 7 kids and she isn’t letting up on the child bearing just yet.
“Oga Jude, when me and Oga old, na dis children go look us. Na children dey look mama and papa”, she said, while struggling to breastfeed her latest child, as thick white smoke engulfed her and the baby in the Saturday afternoon sunshine.
Her husband, Baba Shikirat, works as a mechanic in the suburbs. He barely earns enough to buy himself a pair of pants.
Nigerians are busy having unprotected sex and giving birth to children they can hardly fend for in a stifling economy, from Osun to Sokoto and from Lagos to Lokoja.
Which is why the latest report from the United Nations (UN) should make for sobering reading.
Nigeria now has an estimated 200 million people. By 2050, more than half of the world's population growth will be concentrated in just nine countries: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Indonesia, Egypt and the United States, according to the UN.
While the rest of the world is cutting down on fertility rates, sub-Saharan Africa and Nigeria can’t stop churning out babies by the roomful.
In 2019, the fertility rate in sub-Saharan Africa was the highest in the world at 4.6 births per woman.
The global fertility rate fell from 3.2 births per woman in 1990 to 2.5 births in 2019, with a projection to decline further to 2.2 births by 2050.
That's close to the minimum of 2.1 births needed to ensure the replacement of generations and avoid long-term population decline in the absence of migration, according to the UN.
The report also states that 27 countries or territories have experienced a reduction of at least one percent in the size of their populations since 2010 due to low levels of fertility. Not Nigeria. We just know how to give birth around here until we drop.
While deaths are outpacing new births in Belarus, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine, the baby factory in Africa is experiencing something of a boom.
The poorest countries deliver the most babies, ironically.
Undersecretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Lu Zhenim captures it succinctly when he says: “Many of the fastest growing populations are in the poorest countries, where population growth brings additional challenges in the effort to eradicate poverty, promote gender equality and improve healthcare and education.”
The tragedy with the Nigerian situation is that even the so called learned chaps, are in on the act. One lawyer once told me that as long as his sperms remain fertile, he’s not going to stop. He knows about contraception, birth control and family planning, but he tells me that these are prescriptions by white colonialists to decimate Africa’s vibrant youth population. He boasts about his fecund loins and groins at beer parties.
In my village, the more children you have, the happier and prouder your grandparents, even though you barely have enough to feed yourself and you have to work the farms from dawn to dusk to make ends meet.
Some say poverty drives the libido. But we can’t honestly believe that we are going to f** our way out of every problem. It hasn’t worked in decades, it’s not going to work now.
The projection is that by 2050, Nigeria would have gone from the seventh most populous country to the third most populous country in the world. Common logic says with poor governance and dwindling resources, our population is now a ticking time bomb.
One reason why terrorist groups are finding new recruits easy to come by in Nigeria is because there are millions of children abandoned to their fates on the streets, who are ready to blow themselves up if it came to that, just for a meal ticket.
It’s time for government, the media and NGOs to act by sensitizing people and dispensing free contraceptives. And this battle has to begin from the grassroots. The National Orientation Agency (NOA) should be at the vanguard of this campaign and there should be a law of some sort against persons who do not want to adhere to time honored family planning values.
The Mukailas and the Mama Iyabos have to be told that there is another way and that bringing children into the world without a plan is inhumane and barbaric—a throwback to the stone era. It's time to step on the brakes.