Some years ago, Charles Oputa, aka Charly Boy (Area Fada), said that poor people give birth to more children than their rich counterparts because while the poor channel all their energy to sex, the rich channel theirs to making more money. This assertion earned him a lot of negative reactions from people. Though I found it hilarious, I still believed he made a lot of sense. From that moment, I started paying closer attention to his insinuation and found out that he wasn’t far from the truth. Today, Area Fada has been proved right.
The 2018 Nigerian Demographic and Health Survey, conducted by the National Population Commission, in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Health, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, WHO, United States Agency for International Development, Global Fund and UNFPA, has proved Charly Boy right in his insight into one of the major causes of population growth. This survey has shown that the birth rate of the rich and the well educated, as well as that of those in urban areas, is lower than that of their counterparts on the other end.
The survey states, “Fertility varies by residence and state. Women in rural areas have an average of 5.9 children compared to 4.5 children among urban women. By state, fertility ranges from 3.4 children per woman in Lagos to 7.3 children per woman in Katsina.” It further states, “Fertility also varies with education and household wealth. Women with no education have twice as many children as women with more than secondary education. Fertility decreases as the wealth of the respondent’s household increases.”
According to this survey, Lagos State has the lowest birth rate at 3.4 children per woman, followed by Akwa Ibom State at 3.6 children per woman, and then Cross River State at 3.7 births per woman. The states with high birth rates include Katsina State (7.3), Bauchi (7.2) and Jigawa (7.1). It also pointed out that women living in the poorest households have birth rate of 6.7 children per woman while those in the wealthiest homes have an average of 3.8 births per woman.
The good news supplied by this survey so far is that fertility has decreased from 6.0 children per woman in 1990 to 5.3 currently. This is a sign that the campaigns towards control of population growth may be taking effect. But then, more still needs to be done.
To manage the growth of population, attention needs to be paid to the NDHS analysis of birth rate without bias. It will be useless leaving the areas where focus should be on and start chasing shadows in the wrong places. There is a need to find out the major causes of higher birth rates in some places and among a certain class of people.
Looking at the results of this survey, it is clear that many factors contribute to population explosion in Nigeria. The summary of all those factors are career, cost of living, formal education, access to information and societal influence. To make this clearer, I’ll bring up the issues raised in the survey and try to connect them with these factors I mentioned above.
Birth Rate of the Urban and Rural Women: The first time I read that report, I asked myself why women in the rural areas, with limited access to proper healthcare, could have more births than the women in the urban area. Some people may assume that this has to do with women in the rural areas being ‘stronger’ than the ones in the urban areas (I’ve heard that a lot).
But, if you look at it critically, you will agree with me that women in the urban areas prefer to have a fewer number of children because they have careers to pursue. It is not to say that women in the rural areas don’t have careers, but theirs aren’t as stringent as that of the women in urban areas. Besides, women in rural areas can go to their places of work or businesses with their young ones, which is hard to witness in urban areas. For instance, if you go to markets and offices in rural areas, you will notice that women spread mats and make-shift beds or playpens beside them to keep their babies. Things like this are hardly seen in urban areas, even in the market. Most urban women are forced to leave their babies at home with nannies or in crèche even when they are barely 3 months old. This discourages them from having many children.
Another thing to consider here is the cost of living. It is cheaper to raise a child in the rural area than in the urban area – think of rent, school fees, medicals, feeding, and so many other bills paid only by people in urban areas. Of course, no one needs to tell these people to have the number of children they can afford to take care of.
Then, women in urban areas have more access to information than those in the rural areas. For instance, urban women know more about birth control and gender-selection than their counterparts in the rural areas. And of course, most urban women are well educated, unlike those in the rural areas that usually stop at secondary school.
Coming to societal influence factor, women in urban areas are not comfortable when they have so many children. Even medical practitioners discourage the birth of more than three children. In most cases, those that have up to four or five will be fast to tell you that they intended stopping at the third one but then, ‘mistake’ happened. This is not what is obtainable in the rural areas, where women are encouraged to continue giving birth until ‘children finish in their womb.’
Variation Based on States: There is no need stating that most women in Lagos are working mothers that have careers to build. This is contrary to most women in Katsina, who are housewives that are not allowed to come out from their husbands’ compounds during the daytime. Also, the flow of information on birth control and gender selection are freer in Lagos than in Katsina – actually the Hausas don’t seem to be much interested in the gender of their children as Igbos do. Girl child education is also encouraged in Lagos than in Katsina. For cost of living, I believe we know that things are cheaper in Northern Nigeria than in any other part (except for FCT).
Variation Based on Income: Charly Boy insinuated that the rich have no time to worry about sex because they have board meetings to attend, business plans to arrange, meetings with partners and so many others. All these, he said, cannot be seen among the poor and so they have ample time to make babies. This assertion may look exaggerated but it still holds water.
In addition to Charles Oputa’s opinion, I’ll say that most rich homes also have career women as mothers and wives. This means that they will also plan to have the number of children that will allow them to grow and develop in their careers.
Also, most women from rich homes are well educated and well informed. They easily get access to all the information they need, including medical ones. This means that they know all the safe and effective birth control methods.
As for cost of living, the richer a person is, the higher his standard of living. For example, a rich person will send his children to expensive schools, stay in expensive apartments, buy expensive cars and live an expensive lifestyle. In other words, he will prefer to have the number of children that will allow him to maintain his status quo.
The point I’m trying to make here is that there is little or no need carrying out much birth and population control awareness campaigns in urban areas when the people that need it most are in the rural areas. Also, more attention should be channelled towards those states that have the highest birth rate. There is no need for interested bodies to go to places like Lagos and Akwa Ibom states to talk to women about having the number of children they can train because they seem to already know that. Let all eyes turn towards the northern part of the country because that is where the explosion seems to be coming from.
As for poverty-induced increase in birth rate, I believe the best way to handle it is by adopting tactful policies that will encourage job creations.