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The 18 million mouth gap in Nigeria

Wither Nigeria in another 50 years?

By Dele Sobowale

In every community, there is a class of people profoundly dangerous to the rest. I don’t mean criminals. For them [criminals] we have punitive sanctions. I mean the leaders. Invariably, the most dangerous people seek powerSaul Bellow, US Nobel Prize Winner 1976.

BUHARI’s obsession with becoming President, which was eventually  rewarded with success in 2015 on account of the efforts of people like me has taught me a lesson which I should have learnt earlier. When some one becomes fanatical about acquiring power people should beware. The result is almost always tragic. The test of honesty is money; the test of integrity is power. The Buhari we thought we knew was a fellow with utmost integrity who will neither condone corruption nor indiscipline. The Buhari we have is a President not only comfortable with corruption but one who has raised indiscipline to high rank. Allied to that is a government which apparently is run without regard to who the government is set up to serve.

Four Ministers went to America to attend an Investors’ Forum organized to allow poor nations like Nigeria to showcase their attractiveness to investors. Three of them after collecting estacode failed to show up at the event. Buhari has not sacked the slackers. That is the Buhari we now have. More on that later.

“Governments are best classified by considering who are the “somebodies” they are in fact endeavouring to satisfy.”

Alfred North Whitehead, 1861-1947.

When the President committed the blunder of talking about 180 million Nigerians and 60 per cent under the age of 30, he made two grave errors which already have dire consequences for Nigeria now, but will prove to be catastrophic in the future. With the current population estimated at 198 million, not only are the Federal and state governments not planning to take care of 18 million Nigerians, the missing persons are actually all those below the age of 20 – the so called last youths.

When Buhari, apparently without embarrassment, mentioned about kids out of school now, he had inadvertently pointed to a growing illiterate population in a world where other nations are advertising their educated work force to attract investments. Who would want to commit his long term investment to a nation whose young people are uneducated and lacking in correct work attitude? Buhari and his defenders, like-minded individuals, have missed the point. Not that it will stop brainless supporters from praise-singing, but let me draw everybody’s attention to an on-going drama based on the falsehood that this particular government peddles about its achievements to those who cannot think deeply.

Ask the Minister for Agriculture about our effort to become self-sufficient in rice production and you will probably be told that Nigeria is eighty per cent self-sufficient. If the estimate of our achievement is based on 180 million Nigerians when it is actually 198 million, it should be obvious to anybody with a good grasp of primary school arithmetic that a gap already exists. For lack of another name, let me call it “The 18 Million Mouth Gap.”

Furthermore, the population is not static. Nigerian rice farmers are not called upon to provide for a stable population but a growing one. The population is growing at three per cent per annum as a matter of fact. Even if the population is 180 million, it would mean having to expand our rice output to include 5.4 million people in the next year; at 198 million the additional mouths to feed become 5.94 million. Failure to supply the additional demand for rice results in one of two outcomes. Either people starve or they consume imported rice or both. To some extent, the two repercussions are being felt nationwide. Nigerians are starving and more imported rice is being consumed.

The evidence that Nigerians are consuming more smuggled rice was provided by the alarms raised by the Nigeria Customs Service about the increasing volume of rice landed in the Republic if Benin – far in excess of their needs. Even a dunce knows that Nigeria is the destination for the vast majority of the rice imported into neighboring countries.

So, while Buhari’s government deceives itself and attempts to delude Nigerians regarding its achievements on rice production, the truth is being revealed everyday with the shiploads of smuggled rice entering Nigeria to feed a larger population than the Nigerian President is aware of. Unfortunately, the problem does not end there – except in the imagination of the incompetent officials of the Buhari administration.

By this time next year, six million more Nigerians will show up to eat rice and other food items and needing social services. Ask the Ministers of Agriculture, Education, Health, Housing, Power, Water Resources, the IGP etc to tell you what plans they have to provide for the army that will inevitably arrive and they probably cannot tell you.

That is the sort of government presided over by Buhari and it is the sort of government that will ruin Nigeria eventually – unless we get rid of it before it gets rid of us.


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