“I hold that man in the right, who is most in league with the future.” Henrik Ibsen, 1828-1906. VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ.
By Dele Sobowale
Futurism was just emerging as a special branch of study when I started compiling the VBQ in the USA in the 1960s mostly for my own benefit – until the hobby became and obsession which led to the publication of the book in 2008. Forty three years from start to finish of one book must be close to an African or global record. There was no giving up once the passion developed.
I must have read partly or fully, almost 6,000 books, articles, magazines etc including my text books from first year in university to doctorate before the publication. Responsibilities of adult life have slowed me down since then. But, even in the last eleven years close to 1000 books, magazines pamphlets etc have been gone through including some behemoths – FROM THIRD WORLD TO FIRST by Lee Kuan Yew – which is recommended reading for every young Nigerian under 50. Your lives will certainly depend on learning as much as possible from this “miracle” worker, Yew that is, as you can.
This is going to be an unusual article in many respects. First, it is the first article ever written since Uncle Sam invited me to join the SUNDAY VANGUARD in 1994 with graph and pie chart in it. Suddenly, in 199, I was sharing the same page with Alhaji Kola Animasaun, who was the reason I bought the paper before. I bought 50 copies of that first one, just in case it was the last, and sent to friends with all the joy of someone who had just won the grand prize in a lottery. Now I am “married” to Alhaji’s daughter on the same page. Like father, like daughter, you would say. For me joy everlasting.
The second thing which makes this article unusual ( I don’t want to say uncommon because an uncommon politician had just been disgraced by common people in Akwa Ibom State), is that this is the first one whose contents would be discussed with other people before publication. Even the series signalling our intention to fight for Christian Governor in Lagos was not discussed with anybody.
I just told late Archbishop Magnus Atilade “You will hear from me; so will Asiwaju”. Those, to whom the promise was made, with Obong Victor Attah as witness, expect me to redeem my pledge. In a way, the promise made to just five young journalists on the same day and another one the next day is a pledge to all Nigerians under 50 today. If the matter was not so deadly serious, I could have attempted to make it comical. The article could have been titled NOTES ON MY WAY TO THE GRAVEYARD, and it would just have been just as apt. For someone who will be 75 in May – if I get there – there is very little time left between now and getting dust shovelled on my coffin.
“If they go about solving the problem this way, how many more problems will they have created by the time they finish?”
James Baldwin, in TELL ME HOW LONG THE TRAIN’S BEEN GONE.
So, here is the promised message to the young in Nigeria telling them why they MUST get rid of all the old politicians in 2023. None of them is thinking about your future. Without exception, they only want to be Presidents, Vice Presidents, Governors, Ministers and Party Leaders – even if the old politician is your father. Take a look at the graph and the population projections below and let me explain why your “fathers” leading the country today are leading the young people into hell in 2050 – 32 years. Let nobody kid you, the future for young people under 50 in Nigeria is bleak as long as the old politicians remain in office. In fact, the ease with which they decamp from one party to the other has created a political merger – APDPC. They just move from one to the other as they please for their own selfish reasons. They don’t think about young people at all. Certainly, nothing in the 2019 Budget demonstrates concern for the future of those under 50; one quarter will be spent paying debts; i.e paying old bankers like them. Start with that.
More observations can be made about those the graph and pie chart than we can tuck into one or two articles. So, I will address the most vital now and wait for the response of Nigerian youth. We might have a continuing dialogue if they turn out to be different from their parents, including me, eighty million, mostly fools.
One, Nigeria’s population will double by 2050 to 400 million – unless drastic steps are taken to reduce population growth rate. From January to December 2019 we will add 5 million more Nigerians to the number of people needing food, shelter, potable water to drink, schools, health services, transport etc. We added almost the same number in 2016, 2017 and 2018. We are getting set to add the same number in 2020 and 2021. Obviously, nobody needs to wait until 2050 to begin to feel the pains of looming disaster. The thirty million people added or to be added during the period – 2016 to 2021 – will all be under 50. Their population exceeds that of Lagos which is estimated to be 22 million now.
“Water is life.” Thales, 640-346 BC, Greek philosopher.
It is remarkable that a fact that was established in Greece more than 2500 years ago still cannot get into the heads of Nigerian leaders even today. A Nigerian President rides ten jets (UK Prime Minister two); each gulping every year more funds for maintenance than would be required to construct 1000 boreholes to provide for millions of Fellow Nigerians. Then he goes back for their votes for second term – Obasanjo, Jonathan and Buhari – without remorse. Young people troop out to vote! Like parents; like kids!!!
If we use water, food and primary school enrolment as the variables to measure the nation’s preparedness to provide for its people, we can already discern the things which the Federal, States and Local Governments have left undone. To the best of my knowledge, no state government or the federal government launched any water scheme since 2007 to expand water supply to cover at least fifty million additional drinkers.
The result is already known in most urban areas. “Mairuwa” (water vendors) now stand between the people and death from thirst and disease. Let each young person reading this try and imagine what will happen in 2050 when twice as many people will be needing water. Water crisis already exists; but it is cleverly disguised. Water disaster will occur long before 2050. Yet, in 2019, neither Buhari, nor Atiku, nor the new challengers for power mentioned what could lead to the early death of millions of young people by 2030.
They were busy trading insults. They could afford to ignore the problem. First, they all have water to use all the time. Second, like me, they will soon go. The young people will be left with empty water buckets and the catastrophe which inadequate supply of water will bring. There is nothing in the 2019 Budget which the old politicians are now discussing for more water provision. So, if the young and their kids don’t want to die of thirst in 2030, they better come together to make sure that Buhari and Atiku are the last old men to run for the presidency and win. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” These guys live in the past. Young people need leaders who are expected to live for thirty-two years or more – not those like me knocking at death’s door.
What is true of water is also true of food. Most young Nigerians are feeding from the crumbs which fall off the tables at Aso Rock, Governors’ Mansions, Senate Presidents, Speakers and National Leaders of political parties who impose candidates – wives, sons-in-law, daughters etc. The more violent of the young, called “Party stalwarts”, are contented with lives without a future as thugs hired to disrupt elections, snatch ballot boxes etc – for real chicken feed. Their cynical old employers end up with billions; some of the young end up in unmarked graves in the cemetery un-mourned even by the politicians.
Nothing in the 2019 Budget says anything about increasing food production this year to provide for the additional 5 million mouths wanting to be fed. No provisions were made in 2016 to 2018; and most likely none will be made in 2020 and 2021. But, at least N1 billion will be made available every year to feed, free of charge, the over-fed who manage to enter Aso Restaurant. Money for thousands of boreholes is literally swallowed in the Rock.
To be continued…..
After spending almost three years deceiving Nigerians about how much rice we produce, the Minister of Agriculture discovered last year that Nigerians depend on Thailand for rice imported through Cotonou port. If Mr Audu Ogbeh had been Minister in China or India he would be answering the question: are we growing sufficient food to feed the five million more Nigerians arriving this year? But, the Nigerian President, and his family are well-fed. One son got so overfed he went riding an expensive motorcycle at suicide speed. Most Nigerians his age on that day probably had one miserable meal. The President does not ask the Minister the right question. The Minister who already knows the dreadful answer makes no disclosures. The stark reality is that most young Nigerians are seriously under-nourished because their old political leaders are overfed.
Inevitably, as food supply lags behind population growth as shown in that graph, two consequences are inescapable. First, the prices of food will continue to escalate out of hand – thereby increasing all the problems associated with malnutrition. Among these is growth retardation – including brain retardation. In plain language, the young in Nigeria will breed more idiots! Bearing in mind that Professor Wole Soyinka rightly called my generation the “Wasted Generation”, unless the young adults who can form formidable political parties start early, we might leave absolute morons as grandchildren. Double waste!!
The pie charts partly explain why the future is totally bleak unless those who will be alive then seize power from us. Let me briefly interpret it for those who might not on their own understand its implications.
In 1963, with a population of 55 million people, four out of five people lived in rural areas mostly growing food – including chickens grown in every household. So, roughly, four people were working in the rural communities to feed themselves and to feed every person residing in urban area. Today, on account of rural to urban drift, one person in the rural settlement feeds himself and supports one person in the towns and cities. A few years after 2050, four people will be resident in the metropolitan areas waiting for one person in the village to feed himself and send four of them food.
That is the tragedy that Nigeria faces in the future unless there is a revolutionary change soon – as soon as 2023 in fact. There is no way 80 million people working in the rural farms will feed 320 million urban dwellers unless there is a dramatic revolution in farming methods. None of the presidential candidates had sufficient foresight to address this problem in all its ramifications. Yet, the future of Nigeria depends seriously on how in the next 32 years find solutions to the problems which 400 million people will bring to society.
Just imagine twice as many people at Oshodi bus stop or on your street…