Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has lamented the challenge of providing basic amenities for Nigeria’s ever-increasing population.
Mr Obasanjo spoke at the public presentation of the 2020 Africa Progress Group report on Tuesday in Lagos.
“Over the last several years, as I travelled through cities and rural communities in Africa, my heart sinks with the sea of heads that fleet across my eyes in parks, marketplaces and under bridges,” said Mr Obasanjo, the chairman of the body.
“Even today as I flew over some settlements from Minna to Lagos and traversed the road from Ikeja to Victoria Island, the sheer number of persons literally oozing out from nowhere kept my mind numb and exasperated. By the year, the situation has been worsening and has filled me with a sense of foreboding.
“Three clusters of questions pop up in my mind any time the scary thoughts of the ever-increasing population kept me awake at night. The first cluster is: how are we going to feed this exploding population? Only a few days ago, the alarm was raised about imminent food crisis in Nigeria.
“Similar alarm bells have been ringing with increasing stridency all over Africa. How are we going to house them; educate them, provide them with health security and other variants of human security?
The second cluster of questions, according to Mr Obasanjo, is how to keep the keg of gunpowder of the large army of unemployed youth from exploding.
“How do we keep them from enlisting in violent extremists’ groups and in gangs of kidnappers? The third cluster of questions is: how can Africa attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2063 in a turbulent sea of exploding, not-well-managed populations?”
A November 2020 report by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) noted that at least 22 million Nigerians could face a severe food crisis between October last year and August 2021.
Mr Obasanjo said it was not enough to shroud political will in mere political rhetoric and sloganeering but translating such will into concrete, measurable actions with a visible impact on the ground.
“This is why, in this report, APG, being a group with a burning desire for Africa’s progress has established a unique measure of progress of African countries on the concrete and measurable actions on responsiveness to their growing populations.”
The report, Population As Asset Responsiveness Index (PARI), is anticipated to be a stimulus for African countries to show more responsiveness to making their populations more of an asset than a burden, according to the former president.
He added that it would be an annual measure computed from credible, published, and verifiable secondary data obtained from primary data of UN agencies on the indicators of interest including education, health, food security, housing, energy, transportation, and employment.
“The 2020 ranking should be seen as a wake-up call by African countries and basis for strategically planning for improvement in the coming years rather than basis for dejection by low-ranked countries or complacency by the high-ranked.
“Human capital development is the main key for making population an asset. The development partners and private sector can support with harnessing a demographic divided by building capacity for policy implementation into actionable intervention with clear indicators of progress to enable tracking and foster accountability,” he added.