October 4, 2022
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Rural-urban migrations and Nigeria’s development – The Nation Newspaper

  • November 26, 2021
  • 7 min read
Rural-urban migrations and Nigeria’s development – The Nation Newspaper

Nigeria news – Nigeria's breaking news website
Poverty remains an integral component of human society down the ages. It is neither Eastern nor Western in character. However, material poverty is too notoriously difficult to define in a capsule form because it is enshrined in relativity and some amount of vagueness. This nebulous concept engenders divergent views and perceptions. Thus, for example, we have case poverty and community/mass poverty. The former is prevalent among the people living in such advanced nations as United Kingdom and the US, while Nigeria is a manifestation of the latter (mass poverty). Poverty is an encumbrance to economic stability and progress of any human group. This explains the reason why every serious government tries to wrestle the monster to the ground. However, the quality of governmental policies and/or programmes determines the success or otherwise of poverty alleviation efforts. Indeed, poverty alleviation is not a cosmetic exercise.
According to the United Nations, the world population was 7.9 billion as of October, with the US having 329.45 million people.  Over half of this global estimate live in the rural segments of our planet. The Nigerian population which was approximately 206 million in 2020, has now reached 212 million arising from an uncontrolled high birth rate. It is a fact, that Nigeria’s natural resources are being seriously depleted in the face of a population explosion that ultimately creates a socio-economic disequilibrium. This situation leads to more stresses and strains.
There is an ugly scenario of unprecedented rural-urban migrations with dire consequences. The various past administrations were not completely oblivious of the need to fight poverty arising basically from Nigerians drifting away from rural settlements. These migrations/drifts were/are due to such challenges as a gross lack of hospitals, schools, and roads among other infrastructural facilities in our villages. This is in addition recently, to involuntary migrations to urban centres as a result of kidnapping for ransom, armed robberies, and terrorism dishonestly christened, banditry. Farmers and other rural settlers left their villages for the cities with the assumption that they have reached safety. The drift continues up to now. Urban centres are considered to be spaces of socio-economic opportunities as a result of government’s over-centralisation of industrialisation among other things there.
Government needs to begin the process of de-centralising its development activities in the overall interest of peace and sustainability. Governance is primarily about change and/or continuities. Therefore, the culture of quickly discontinuing with most projects embarked upon by earlier administrations, in an uncritical manner is counterproductive in several senses. Again, the locals must be put on the front burner of operations in order to achieve sustainable economic growth and development. Up to now, there is a lacuna between the leadership and followership especially at the rural level of spatial configuration. Rural-urban development agenda must be a melting pot of endogenous and exogenous interventionist philosophies. As a matter of fact, this is a desideratum for the promotion of robust human progress.
Up to now, the Nigerian political leadership is inside a modernisation or Westernisation trap- a neo-colonial paradigmatic construct that keeps sustainable development at bay. This narrative, anchored to marginalisation and disempowerment must change. The Nigerian leadership has to confront mass poverty through the lens of a holistic approach enshrined in inclusiveness and of course, a wider vision. There is need for some integrated rural development strategies. This method of approach gains greater importance than hitherto because of the serious insecurity challenges facing the country today. Local people are supposed to be partners in progress. They are subjects not objects to be used and thereafter discarded like trash. This is how to dismantle the walls of Westernisation or ecology-unfriendliness that separate us from sustainable development. Thus, for example, the Operation Feed the nation (OFN), Green Revolution (GR), Rural Banking Scheme (RBS), and Directorate for Food, Roads, and Rural Infrastructure (DFFRI) could not achieve the set targets mainly because they were not environment-sensitive enough. This was in addition to unfettered corruption, Nigeria’s greatest enemy of the common good.
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A lot of the younger demographics who are supposed to be the socio-economic asset of a given population are now in the urban settlements. Consequently, the levels of agricultural productivity are falling rapidly with a negative impact on food security and community health. The facilities in the cities are now overstretched as backyard shacks litter almost every available space. Household and industrial wastes emitting an abominable stench and toxic gases cover large sections of Nigerian urban centres including market places. Indeed, most Nigerians especially in the urban centres, have the challenge of huge mounds of trash and odours of piles of human wastes to grapple with. The levels of environmental pollution are unspeakably high in Africa’s largest economy where sustainable sewage disposal systems are still a luxury. There is a gap between waste generation and off-taking cum recycling.  Most of the migrants from our villages become miscreants such as drug addicts and armed robbers due to material poverty including homelessness. The urban centres contrary to the general perception are not an El-Dorado. Roads, electricity, and factories are needed in the rural settlements. This is one way of transforming them into spaces of opportunities. Abject material poverty has the capacity to “push” villagers towards the already polluted cities.
Both the rural settlements and urban centres are critical to the overall growth and development of the Nigerian economy. For instance, farmers would be happy to continue to seriously engage in agriculture, once the above facilities especially motorable roads and electricity are provided. In most cases, harvested crops like yam tubers and fruits cannot be easily sold because large-scale buyers/traders hardly go to the villages with collapsed roads. Some of the vehicles that manage to reach this rural landscape often break down.
Food items such as fruits and vegetables easily get spoilt because of their highly perishable nature. The economic wastes are enormous even as many Nigerians can no longer feed their families. The farmer after all his efforts, is still desperately poor and hopeless. The recent upsurge in insecurity has worsened the situation. More and more farmers are fleeing their farmsteads and/or villages as terrorists being irresponsibly labelled bandits (as a result of smelly, primitive politics), are let loose upon the Nigerian landscape. Consequently, the levels of agricultural productivity have drastically reduced, bringing about unprecedented starvation and agonies across the country.
The federal government must tackle the above challenges bedevilling Nigeria. Top government functionaries have to serve the ordinary citizens given the robust privileges and/or remuneration each one of them enjoys. The hardships are just too much despite the richness of the country in terms of world-class human capital and natural resources. The menace of insecurity has to be addressed very quickly. Again, rural-urban programmes and policies have to be local ecology-friendly. History teaches us to avoid the danger of repeating the mistakes of the past, so as to begin to experience sustainable peace and development in all their ramifications. Similarly, the current dangerous complacency/uncommon insensitivity of the political class, is one of its minuses which has to be corrected as the clock ticks away the minutes.
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