Continued from last week
IN developed countries, death from preventible diseases is rare. In underdeveloped countries, it is very common. And so it is in Nigeria. In Lagos which enjoys the highest standard of living in the country, about 44 per cent of the deaths recorded annually up to 1967 were due to preventible diseases like pneumonia, malaria, dysentry, diarrhoea, tetanus, malnutrition, tuberculosis, and measles. According to the late Dr. G. A. Ademola, 5,000 people died in Lagos in 1966 and 1967 “from diseases which are easily preventible through immunization, the use of prophylactic drugs, and general improvement in health education and environmental sanitation.” Since 1967, the position in Nigeria as compared with that in developed countries, remains bad and intolerable.
In recent times, about 35 per cent of deaths recorded in hospitals in Lagos and Ibadan is due to preventible causes! This figure, which by our underdeveloped standards, is low, does not take account of cases treated by Nigerian Herbalists who are now much more popular than in 1967. As a matter of fact, authoritative sources in University Teaching Hospitals in Ibadan and Ife disclose respectively that 70 per cent and 90 per cent of those who came to these institutions for treatment suffer from preventible diseases.
Dr. A. Omololu once set out the basic food requirements of a Nigerian manual worker and, included in the list is a daily intake of between 3,000 to 3,500 calories. And Leibenstein, a famous development economist who has done considerable research on the subject, has this to say.
But of greater interest for our purposes is that a 21 per cent increase in total calorie intake results in an almost 50 per cent rise in output.
Now, the daily calorie intake of a worker in Nigeria is estimated to be 1,700 — that is, 1,300 below the minimum in advance countries; and 1,800 below the ideal recommended for Nigeria.
Other characteristics of underdevelopment must be mentioned.
- excessive and widespread underemployment of the rural population, and
- deficiency in technology, capital, and technical and managerial know-how.
From the foregoing, the characteristics of an underdeveloped economy can be summarized into three kinds of underdevelopment as follows:
- underdevelopment of the mind, arising from ignorance, illiteracy, deficiency in technology and in technical and managerial know-how.
- underdevelopment of the body, arising from disease, bad and inadequate food, bad water, bad housing, meagre clothing, and filthy environment; and
- underdevelopment of agriculture, and excessive and widespread underdevelopment of the rural population arising from underdevelopment of the mind and body, and from lack of savings and capital formation.
Again, from all that has been said thus far, it can be deducted that the common badges of a developed economy anywhere in the world are the development in mind and body of the vast majority of the citizens of such a country, and the pursuit of modern agriculture.
It should be crystal clear that when we speak of economic underdevelopment, we are in effect speaking of the underdevelopment of man. In other words, when we acknowledge and declare that Nigeria is one of the most underdeveloped countries of the world, we are in effect admitting the obvious and proclaiming the truth that, Ni- gerians are, in body and mind, among the most underdeveloped human beings in the world, that our agricultural practices are low and primitive, and that the vast majority of our people, especially in the rural areas, are excessively underemployed and living at or below subsistence level.
Furthermore there are three important points which are worthy of note. In the first place, all men have innate talents or talent ability.
What those talents are and how many they are, we do not know until all men and women, boys and girls are given equal opportunity to develop. It will be neither just nor equitable to give opportunity to a person with four talents to develop them to the full, while a man with eight has no opportunity to develop any of his own, or has opportunity to develop only two of those eight. When this kind of discrimination in the provision of opportunity occurs, the individual discriminated against is unable to contribute to socio-economic development according to his ability, and his share from the social pool is proportionately diminished.
In the second place, even when all the talents have been developed to the fullest limits possible, each one must be given equal opportunity to contribute to socio-economic development. Since his share of the total development will depend on his contribution, it will be unjust and inequitable to deny one this opportunity and provide it for another.
In the third place, when all talents in society are not fully developed, it is not the individuals that are adversely affected alone who suffer; the society as a whole also suffers. For, as we have said, the economic, social and political development of society itself is absolutely a function of the aggregate efforts of the entire members of the society.
The conclusion to which all these considerations must lead all patriots and right thinking persons is that the solutions to the problems of our country’s economic underdevelopment lie in the full development and full employment of every Nigerian — man or woman, child or adolescent.
No economic revolution has ever succeeded or will ever succeed, whether such revolution is green or otherwise, which does not give the prime of place to the full development of man.
To be continued