The Emir of Kano, Mohammed Sanusi II, on Monday said the panacea for population growth is the education of the girl-child.
Mr Sanusi also said the best contraceptive one can offer a woman is quality education.
The former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria spoke in a panel discussion on “Nigeria in 2050: Boom or Bust”, which focused on the challenge of rising population in Nigeria.
The panel also consisted the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Kayode Fayemi; Founder of the Kukah Centre, Mathew Kukah, and the CEO of Jumia Nigeria, Juliet Anammah.
Mr Sanusi said the country’s huge population was clearly a liability that could be turned into an asset, contrary to his co-panelists who took a middle course.
He traced all the issues the country is currently grappling with pertaining to the menace of herdsmen-farmers clashes, Boko Haram, drug addiction, out-of-school children to the consequences of the country’s high population.
“The single most important mindset task to address population growth is to see the woman as a human being,” he said. “As a human being, like every other human being, that has the right to education, healthcare, protection against violence, arbitrary divorce and abuse and earning an income.
“It might sound simple, but these are at the heart of the problem because girls and women are seen as nothing, but baby factories where children can be produced from for the fathers to marry them and have more children.
“As long as that is not checked, we will continue to have the problem of population growth,” he said.
Speaking on his efforts to check the problem in Kano, Mr Sanusi said: “there was serious resistance from scholars, especially the issue of family planning”.
Although he saw no clear distinction between contraception and abortion in the Muslim jurisprudential perspective, he said there should be “empathetic conversations between our traditions on family planning issues to remove the stereotypes among conservatives”.
“When we treat population control as if it is a thing we are not supposed to do, we miss the point. It is not the responsibility of the woman to protect herself.
“Somebody has to say, if the woman has children and is given custody of the children under customary law, the husband must be made to be responsible for her maintenance and upkeep.
“That way, if the man divorces his wife with five children and the court should take away the man’s house and other property and give to the wife, that way the man will think twice about divorcing her.”
Mr Sanusi said “the bulk of the 3.5 per cent population growth in Nigeria is from the northern part of the northern, especially North-east and the North-west.”
“Population challenge is the most important developmental challenge the country is having,” he said. “If we do not have a demographic transition, we will never have an economic transition.”
“We need to have a greater nuance in looking at the country’s population demography because Nigeria is one country, but many countries in many respects,” he added.
He also faulted the efforts by the NGOs to teach women about contraceptives, saying such lessons at age 25 should be considered late.
Mr Sanusi also flayed the government, saying it cannot continue to criticise the growing population of out-of-school children when it has not built the schools and provided the teachers.
But, the Chairman of the NGF, Mr Fayemi, defended the government, particularly in the states, saying they creatively used the Paris Club refund to clear the UBE counterpart fund to be able to build more schools.
Mr Kukah also spoke of interventions from the church to create awareness on “the ills of having too many children and larger population.”