Community-Initiated Development And the Sub-urban Economy
Speaking on Saturday, the 22nd of December, during the 1st Owhelogbo Day Celebration at the Owhelogbo Community Town Hall.
Present were Engineer James Ighota, President General of Owhelogbo Community Development Union, Brigadier General (Pastor) Dr. Anthony Okpobrisi, Comr. (Chief) Ovuozourie Macaulay, former secretary to the Delta State Government, The Osewho of Owhe Kigndom, Bishops Edherue, John Aruakpor, Iteheri, Akpotozor, Ven. Oziwele, Chief Origho, former Head of Service and the registrar of Delta State University, Abraka. Dr. Kofi Yogi, and Mr. Paul Gbremre were also present. There were several professors and the elite of Owhelogbo community also in attendance.
Text: Genesis 11:1-7
In the text above, folks usually concentrate on the negative aspect of the people of Babel desiring to build a ziggurat that would extend into heaven. Such towers were used for idolatrous worship in ancient Mesopotamia. Their aim was contrary to God’s desire for a horizontal spread of humanity to cover the earth. The good thing, however, was that they initiated the project. They had one language and one speech. They were a community, but in addition, they had unity of purpose.
No group of people can improve on themselves and their communities without having an intense desire for development and the unified approach to achieving the set objectives. The desire to develop has to come from within. It has to be a community-generated initiative.
When a community is not ready to initiate development, it is very difficult to help them develop. When a couple is not ready to live in peace and improve on their marriage, there is hardly anything you will do to help them.
Most African nations have hardly had internally and intentionally self-initiated development projects. We seem to want to continue the way we are and even get worse. The desire to improve is not intense enough in several African communities.
We’ve had several community based development (CBD) projects that have failed woefully all round Africa.
Firstly, wrong projects were embarked upon that were not relevant to the communities.
Secondly, the cultural values of the people were not taken into consideration. You will see a lot of markets constructed by government in the South-south and Southeastern parts of Nigeria that are abandoned. Most of our village traders like to display their goods by the roadside. That’s how our village market squares are. You can approach the market from several sides. The goods sold are usually perishable items, so there is desperation to sell them. You will also notice that several rural housing schemes from Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s era till date were hardly successful. Several of them are overgrown with shrubs. Rural communities don’t like urban style of housing. They like to build in their ancestral compounds; they usually don’t like the barracks mentality.
Thirdly, since the funds were provided by government, NGOs, foreign donors, etc., there was no commitment to their sustainability in addition to the previous seasons. That’s why water projects in villages have bad tap heads that run off water throughout the day. Nobody is concerned to just change the tap head. Solar-powered street lights get spoilt in our communities that can be fixed with small sums; the communities will wait for oil companies or government to fix them.
The same goes with loans for agricultural projects. They were hardly repaid because nobody owned such monies.
In view of the foregoing, there was the need for Community Driven Development (CDD). In this case, the communities determined what they wanted, funds were made available to them, and they chose their contractors and were part of the execution of the program. Sometimes, they were made to contribute to the project.. CDD’s were more successful to some extent, compared to CBD projects.
The above developmental approaches create an entitlement mentality and a dependency mindset. Aid to Africans and poor people has been like AIDS. There were times starter packs bought for people of oil-producing communities were immediately sold to business men waiting outside with trucks to convey them back to the markets where they were bought.
YOU CAN’T HELP A PERSON BEYOND HIS DESIRE TO IMPROVE.
The suburban economy is the amalgam of economic transactions that take place in the suburban areas.
Communities like Owhelogbo have great potentials that are untapped. Some of these are listed below:
1. There is a chain of several communities linked to it. Ozoro, Abbi, Oleh, Emevor, Otor-Owhe, Abraka, Obiaruku, Ughelli, Iyede, Agbarah, Kwale are not far off. There are also several tertiary institutions in many towns around Owhelogbo.
2. There are link roads, and most of our villages have electricity, even though not too regularly. Water is not a problem in most Isoko and Urhobo communities; boreholes are cheap to sink. Land and labour are very cheap.
3. There is a lot of wealth trapped in suburban areas in Delta state, but we ignore it because of the Dutch Disease. We must wean our youths and people from the appetite for quick money. We must emphasize hard work and smart work. Our youths and women must acquire new skills to be competitive. Not all of us can be employed by the Government or in oil companies.
4. We must desist from the tendency to build big homes in rural areas that are hardly occupied. We can behave like the Ibos, who usually have a small cottage factory in their compounds in their villages where they grow family businesses.
5. Instead of burning fuel to run a generator at night, you can produce value-added goods for small-scale businesses at night to maximize the use of the generator.
6. Agricultural sector investment in suburban areas does not need too much of electricity. However, I saw gas pipelines closeby. Gas turbines can be installed to generate electricity in these communities instead of flaring the gas.
7. Our communities must ensure that our educational institutions, primary and secondary schools in our communities, are improved on by the elites of our communities. Mentoring and scholarships should be available for intelligent and brilliant students.
8. Our elites must collaborate with the security agencies and traditional institutions to ensure that our communities are safe and peaceful. Nobody wants to invest in a hostile and unsafe community, even as a native.
9. Our community development unions in several cities should identify projects in the community they want to execute. Development must be organised. Many communities are not planned. Streets must be properly marked out and areas designated for specific purposes.
10. Institutions like hospitals can be assisted to function properly. Bed-sheets, generators, wheel chairs, and doctors’ quarters can be provided by communities to make health personnel stay in the community. Many people would prefer to reside in such suburban communities and be productive in their old age if they are developed.
God Bless You.