Combating poverty through rural development

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By Afunugo Amaechi

 

THE unprecedented growth in urbanization and ‘modernity’ in Nigeria should not discount rural development as an effective strategy to combat poverty.

 

In the past, various governments, including, the federal came up with programmes aimed at eradicating poverty in the rural communities like Directorate for Food and Rural Infrastructure (DFFRI), local governments in the states of the federation, Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) programme and so many others aimed at expanding the frontiers of the rural communities – maximising their income generating capabilities and expanding the immediate world in which they live.

 

How far have government programmes in the past since the country was democraticised impacted on the populace?

Writing on organizsational considerations in the National communication Policy, Planning and management by Dr Tony Nnaemeka in a book, Philosophy and Dimensions of National Communication Policy (Vol 2), pointed out that “Policy, formulation and management in the developing societies face four major peculiar organizational problems, which must be squarely addressed if policy is to serve as a vital instrument of rationalized structural transformation and development of those societies.

 

These are lack of co-ordinate institutions that serve as repositories of entrepreneurial and managerial talents and knowledge, with defined roles of increasing the policy options available to government in specific sectoral and general societal fields of resource mobilization, utilization and management, lack of adequate institutional structures and framework for the co-ordination of cross-sectoral policies and their productive channeling to coherent national goals and priorities.

 

Others are the excessive bureaucratization of existing organizations, arising from over-concentration of planning, regulation and monitoring roles in single agencies or bodies – usually the traditional ministries and the institutionalisation of a non-accountable bureaucracy, whose significance in the system and performance standards are largely dictated by the size of its annual budget and, for personnel, by the number of years of employment or the socio-political values of the individual employee within an organization.

 

He noted that, “It is not clear to whom the central bureaucracies at the federal and local governments are responsible. However, governments have fallen in Nigeria on account of mismanagement, with bureaucracy remaining intact.”
As Ithiel Pool (1977), observes, “A nation is too large an organization to function with all initiatives taken at the centre. There are limitations of time and attention, as well as limitations of imagination and apathy, both by those at the centre and those at the grassroots.”

 

Writing on “Community Arenas as Model for Communication Integration” Dr Segun Oduko, in the same publication quoted former President Ibrahim Babangida who expressed concern when he said, “We should ensure that information flow from the government to the grassroots and true feeling of the grassroots must always be truly and accurately reported to enable government to formulate and pursue policies that are people oriented.”

 

Local government has been accorded its proper place by the constitution recognizing it as an effective third tier of government.
Present system of local government was created under the edict of 1976 and with it came abolition of old divisional administrative system and consequently, creation of 23 new local government councils in the state at that time. It will be noted here that present local governments in Anambra State stands at 21.

 

One may ask, what are the objectives of local government? To make local government in the whole federation more effective and dynamic instrument for national development at the grassroot level.

 

Again, policy makers believe that local government by local persons possess full knowledge of local condition. It sought to introduce a uniform system of local government throughout the federation. This is because experience has shown that decentralised but co-ordinate administration by the people in their own administration has worked out better than centralized to ensure effective participation by the people in their own administration and government. It was also intended that local government should be partly responsible for their existence by generating funds without having to depend entirely on the state or local government for financial support.

 

Other exclusive functions of the local governments included among other things, the overseeing of primary education, collection of community tax, sanitation, registration of births and deaths etc.

 

Their concurrent functions include provision of roads, drainages, health centres etc.
One of the reasons why local government was envisaged was to serve as a democratic training grounds or nurseries for the future regional, national leaders and therefore, absence of good and patriotic local government will hamper national unity and progress.

 

That is why notable individuals in the society have spoken on the need to give local government autonomy so as to help in grassroots development. There are areas needed to be fine tuned to give it much direction needed to drive socio-economic transformation of our rural communities.

 

In this connection, time has come for a dynamic local government – strategy focused that will incite rural dwellers, expand their income generating capabilities and expand the immediate world in which they live.

States, through the local government should awaken the enthusiasm of local leadership and direct the efforts of the people to the things that will benefit the communities. It will also provide internal regular consultative machinery in the state.

Sir Ivor Jennings in his book: The British Constitution said, ‘the nation requires to devote the services of its ablest members to its cause. The task of governing is too difficult to be undertaken by ignorant and vacillating minds. Western civilization will be torn down by monomaniacs if democratic states cannot rely on the efforts of the most altruistic of each generation.”

 

These points to the fact that we need key functionaries that will steer the ship of our various local government administrations in our state to drive much talked about dividends of democracy to our various communities.

Local community is together with the family, one of the most important basic forms of the society. Professor Kong sees the community as an administrative system of behavior, since all other comprehensive administrative systems higher order had developed. The majority of human beings still spend the greater part, if not the whole of their lives in single community.”
Let the second tenure of Governor Obiano be used to address issue of poverty, unemployment.

 

According to Dr Ikemefuna in his student lecture who quoted a USA Professor of Economic Journalism – Murray Seegay, who pointed out that the best way to solve poverty in Nigeria is to “first solve the problems of misgovernment.”
Seegay said that, “Good governance would help a country to stabilize, promote economic growth and reduce poverty. This is a challenge before a new democratic Nigeria.

 

Sir Ivor Jennings in his book: “The British Constitution”, argued that “government is not just a matter of giving orders and enforcing obedience. It requires the willing collaboration of all sections of the people’, moreover, he elaborated –democracy is government of the people, by the people. They must feel a personal responsibility for collective action.

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