Recently I came across this letter to the editor of the Guardian Nigeria newspaper from Beenzu Nwosu of Lagos.  I thought that I would share it with you all as an example of the thoughts of one person (obviously thought worthy of publication) on the efforts to reduce Nigeria’s population growth. If you remember, we’ve talked about Melinda Gates’ efforts to reduce the fertility rates of the poor of the world before. We’ve also discussed the fascination that some in the US have with Nigeria – there almost is a palpable fear of swarms of people from the third world in some of the reports. Anyway, with that in mind, to the letter:

“While the bombs keep going off in northern Nigeria, our government is focused on reducing the birth rate… a perceived panacea for all our national woes. To quote our President, ‘Nigerians are having too many children.’ Am I dreaming or is there something sinister about this fixation with Third World fertility while developed countries continue to experience declining births at an alarming rate.”

Yes, good to see that politicians all over the world are fixated by the important things. Just like in New Zealand where our dear leaders have decided to vote that black actually means white.

“I question the vehemence with which these population policies are forced on Africa while Western Europe battles with issues relating to a graying population… Could there be something deeper to all this rhetoric, muscle flexing and generosity from the top. What would never see the light of day in the developed world in terms of forced sterilisations and drug testing on poor, ignorant women is to a large extent considered an act of kindness. This is misguided. How long will draconian policies be forced on us without a vote from the people who own their lives? How many human rights are being trampled upon under the guise of modernity and forward-thinking?  If the government won’t think for us, then the onus is on us to look out for ourselves.”

Exactly, we don’t know half of what is going on in these third world countries regarding pressure being put on women to accept our “aid” in the form of drugs, prophylactics and sterilisation.  Stuff that we would never condone in the first world is much easier forgotten about, ignored or justified “over there” – after all, it’s for their good don’t you know? The “white man’s burden” hasn’t left, although it has been moved to the left. 

“I have a few questions for the Melinda Gates Foundation: Would you help fund our decayed primary heath care system? We have no needles, no cotton wool, there are torn mosquito nets in the wards, no running water, no medicines, no ambulance services for the poor, no…. And the list could go on and on.

Would the Melinda Gates Foundation assist in training birth attendants to handle emergencies more efficiently in remote and isolated areas with little or no access to primary healthcare centres? Going beyond, would the Foundation help train and equip our teachers at the primary level? Could we access these funds for research and development to address our salient national issues at the tertiary level? Could we have a fund to push development policies in the field of agriculture? Finally, would pumping $4.6 billion into family planning services over the coming years solve our problems?”

That isn’t nearly as sexy though – those are failed policies. The only way forward to take away the problem at its source: the people. If we don’t have any more people in these countries then there will be no more poverty, no more war and no more terrible liberal guilt for all of us. Actually, Nwosu has an answer for this point of view:

“With a drop in our population, would our hospitals equip themselves, corruption cease and we all go about happy and fulfilled? This being the case, then Niger, Mali and Mauritania should be thriving economies on the world map!”

And as we all know, back in time when Europe was much more sparsely populated, there was no hunger, disease, corruption or war. QED.

“How long are we going to sit back and watch while our future is mapped out for us by others?”

I’m pretty sure that many of the people pushing certain policies on Africa like Melinda Gates, are doing so with the best of intentions. But as I was told in third form by a particularly scary Deputy Headmaster, “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions”.  And that same road is lined with shortcut policies of death and condescension.

Marcus Roberts

Marcus Roberts was two years out of law school when he decided that practising law was no longer for him. He therefore went back to university and did his LLM while tutoring. He now teaches contract and...