IKA SOUTH: THE IMBROGLIO OF LEADERSHIP CHALLENGES

Compatriots, it
is in my most painful delight that I hazard to refresh your memory of the
imminence of yet another election that will usher in a new administration at
the local government level. That is, under normal situation, an election that
is supposed to parade men and women whose head and heart are loaded with
blueprints and plans lofty enough to galvanize our small local government into
a paradise in the area of concrete physical development.

It need however
to be mentioned here that great kudos be given to two illustrious sons of the
soil  Felix Morka of Agbor-Alidinma and
Okoh Edwin of Ozanogogo, for recently daring the Delta State House of Assembly
with a law suit holden at the Agbor High Court on the non-conduct of local
government election in Delta State. This is an expression of an effort by these
citizens challenging the impunity of a government institution for her conscious
and deliberate infinging violation of section 7 (sub section 1) of the 1999
constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.

Well, back to
the issue of the political macabre dance … This is a period when the sixty
eight 68 communities in the local government (with 52 in Agbor Kingdom and 16
in Abavo Kingdom) are supposed to be playing host to eminent and right-thinking
men and women in a community or townhall meetings, taking stock of the
community’s problems and challenges, and hazarding a solution or set of
solutions to these challenges as descriptively itemized by the community
dwellers themselves. This is a period when power-seeking politicians are
expected to give the people the real meaning of development strategy which in
my opinion, is a comprehensive policy document that identifies the priority
areas of the local government, the human and material resources available and
how they intend to harness the resources to bring about desirable improvements
in the life of the citizens of Ika South local government. This is a time when
a very careful and deeply thoughtful examination, diversification and
strengthening of the productive capacity of the council area is to be carried
out, that will take into consideration the tackling of inequality, real
investment in social sectors of health, roads, agriculture, education and the
institutionalization of the economic participation of marginalized groups and
persons bearing in mind that people are the real wealth of nations. This is a
period when the real, actual and factual recognition of the true position of
our council area is to be done, bearing in mind its proximity to the people and
its very symbiotic relationship with, and understanding of the local context
and communal complexities. This is a period when we should collectively as a
people embark on a local government election that should produce an administration
that will be responsive to our local demands and community needs and not the
desire, demands and needs of some pretentious, strictly insincere and
characteristically self-serving communal or partisan leaders and their
immediate family members. This is the only avenue where constitution-enabled
social democracy can thrive which we benefit all the people, not the privileged
few, which guarantees and ensures social security, gender equality and where a
sustainable use of natural resources occupies its central aspect.

We, as a people
and community, are sincerely and politically tired of the political scene in
Ika South where it is dominated and populated by personalities and not ideas,
which has so far produced for us the type of development and democratic
dividend that is currently on display and which has not been participatory by
the people, never sustainable, definitely not affordable, nor in any way
useful, especially to the clearly farmished and highly impoverished low-income
dwellers of the teeming numbers in our rural communities who are naturally
supposed to be at the receiving end of any democratic undertaking.

But today, what
do we have here? This is where the problem lies. We have a political situation
where pseudo-leaders garner huge sums of money (do we call this extortion or
obtention?) from would-be aspirants to gain their support and sponsorship at
the detriment of the community and the public. We have a situation where
leaders develop the hunger for the acquisition of real investments and choice
properties in other big towns and cities with our common wealth and exporting
siblings and kids abroad. We have a socio-political situation here where we sob
for the near-absence of infrastructural facilities like roads in the face of
verifiable situation where contracts on these roads have been awarded by
government, certificate of job completion collected through fraud and
falsehood, but the project not even started not to talk of being completed. We
are in such a sorry state!

Some people hinge
the blame on the party platform in power. They have either forgotten, refused
to know or probably have not been adequately educated on the mere fact that
there is no political party registered by INEC in Nigeria today with a clearly
defined, demonstrable and articulated manifesto 
which is a public declaration of the policy and aims of the party. What
political parties in Nigeria
have is merely an outline of objectives guiding their internal administration
and how to perpetuate and hegemonically entrench the party’s control and
dominance over others in the given political space. They leave no room for
alternatives, nor are they ready to entertain criticisms, which is a vital
ingredient that should bring out their best quality and service.

Bringing this
politically inept situation to bear in Ika South, we see a rapacious situation
of a dog-eat-dog politics, where major stakeholders and chieftains declare a
public free-for-all at Abuja, at Asaba, even at Agbor, to the detriment of
tangible development in their immediate terrain and on their people. In this
place, instead of leaders becoming agents of positive change, development,
service and empowerment, as it is seen today in Edo State, leaders here are
rulers, looters and liars and they do this completely without any sense of
remorse, self dignity, integrity, or as a call to communal duty. So then, it is
clearly a game where the winner takes all. And the winner is never the
community for whose sake the game is being played, but the self!

Is this really our
destiny as a people or is it being imposed on us in an unwholesome, unwelcome
and unnecessary manner? Why this macabre dance on our communal floor when
others are harvesting, feasting and in fact celebrating one good feat or the
other? What we boldly and shamelessly lack here is achievement that is anchored
on courage, skill, and strength drawn from collective reasoning.

But we must
reverse the situation. There is now a very high need to deploy the multiplicity
of the negative results that we have today in abundance to crusade and campaign
for a change. There is a potent need to engage the un-informed and the
under-privileged rural dwellers of how their rights are brazenly being violated
and their growth and development stunted and at best truncated by some very
selfish, disgraceful, yet satisfied and self-styled few. There is now a large
and more than enough opportunity to tell them that development as it is
currently being pursued had not responded to the yearnings, aspirations and
needs of our people and it will not do so unless the process of development is
redefined.

The people, for
whom this democracy came and who today constitute the larger majority in the
demographic expression of Ika South need to be told and loudly too, that
development is freedom and that it should and will be sustainable only where
the needs of the present takes into full consideration those of the future.
They need to be informed that people whose lives are spoiled, harmed and
destroyed by poverty, ill-health and illiteracy are not and cannot in any
meaningful way or sense be free to lead the lives that they value since they
practically have no choice to make.

We are obviously
and very certainly tired of the rape of political practice here as demonstrated
over the years in unkept promises, poor and empty leadership, bad fellowership,
very poor or no strategy for development, lack of capable and effective local
and state institutions, that is froth with bureaucracy, lack of focus on
sectors that will improve the condition of living of citizens, rapacious level
of corruption, undeveloped, irresponsible and parasitic private sector, very
weak civil society, emasculated and highly weakened labour and student unions,
and poor execution of policies and programmes.

No
right-thinking person will celebrate the catalogue of failure of policies,
strategies and programmes listed above as it is found in Ika South because it
has not in any way created an avenue for good politics, purpose and priorities.

While we have to
painfully and correctly state that though what is to be done to change the
development process and situation in transforming Ika South is clearly known to
the pseudo-leaders of today, what is lacking in them however, is the will, the
strategy and the execution capacity to make this happen. This is why the
situation we currently find ourselves is definitely not our destiny. And it
cannot be our rightful destiny because we cannot afford to continue with this
“business as usual” approach based on alien-crafted development paradigms. If
we do, Ika South will remain among the poorest local councils and group of
communities of the world.

To this end, a
critical examination of the fourth schedule of the constitution of the Federal
Republic of Nigeria (Enforcements and Procedures 1999) reveal that the proper
implementation of all the functions of the local government council as
enshrined in the said section could be done to the letter if the affected
communities are allowed to participate squarely in the choice of who becomes
the chairman of the local government council in addition to the choice of the
councilors who will eventually represent the ward/community as against the
current practice where one person or group of persons unilaterally import a
stooge from the Diaspora and impose such “alien” on the people via unilateral
might against the will and the rights of the people.

When the
communities are given the chance to make their choice of representatives, it
will:

(a)                  Promote ideas, policies and
actions that will lead to overall transformation of our local council.

(b)                 Develop the capacity for
strategic thinking, formulation, implantation, accurate implementation and
evaluation;

(c)                  The adoption of a well
formulated and articulated strategy to marshal and allocate scarce resources to
ensure unique and viable changes in the environment and to help create a sense
of politics, purpose and priority in our rural communities.

(d)                 Promote people-centered and
sustainable development with special focus on good governance, service and
empowerment.

(e)                  Collaborate with individuals
(peasants, artisans and professionals) organization networks, coalitions and
movements that will help in achieving set objectives and ensure good and
result-oriented performance.

Bearing in mind that Ika
South is a non-oil enclave, the development strategy needed here has to be a
people-oriented programme, to be driven essentially by the combined efforts of
the affected communities, organized private sector, NGOs, foreign donors and
the government which is here represented by the local council, which is to
provide the enabling structural environment. This means that we have to device
a sector-wide strategy and plans for agriculture, education, health, etc and
this must be indigenous, not imported. Furthermore, such strategy must be owned
by the people, to be harnessed and implemented deservedly by the best of the
human capital that Ika South can produce today, especially at this time when an
administration is needed to perform this developmental feat which requires great
skill, courage and strength.

The essence of this
alternative strategy is not only to redefine governance by making the people to
be supreme in the decision-making process, but to emphasize the importance of
community power as a dynamic approach to urban development and planning. This
will be achieved by the administration in reaching out to the various
communities within the council area for first hand information and total
description of their felt needs through workshops, seminars and town hall
meetings. During such meetings, suggestions and recommendations made there from
will form the bedrock for proper budgeting which will be implemented tacitly in
conjunction with the local communities who will in turn play the role of,
on-the-spot supervisors through specially formed Community Technical Committee
(CTC). This will:

(a)                  Ensure the building of the
systemic capacity of the respective communities to make their own future in the
area of development;

(b)                 Reward the people’s efforts and
collective intelligence;

(c)                  Reduce drastically the level
of official corruption and project postponement, reviewal and abandonment.

(d)                 Lead to the creation of
effective system in the local communities through the distribution and
application of intelligence, ability and effort.

This, being the
case, a self-styled leader can no longer impose any caricature of a chairman on
us as a people without a development blueprint for implementation drawn from
and agreed to by us. We have for too long been subjected to council administration
by experimentation with nothing on ground to show for it. We now need an
administration that will strongly recognize the fundamental fact that the
potentials of our people in Ika South are limitless and cannot be measured by
the opinion of other people outside our respective communities.

Collectively, we
posses the ability to achieve, develop, accomplish, produce, and create
anything that our mind can conceive, especially by unraveling and unfolding the
mysteries surrounding the Ika South of our dream from the shackles of
underdevelopment and retrogression.

Since all the
people we have earlier given our mandates for legislative and executive
positions have clearly left us more impoverished and grossly disappointed, we
have no other option than going back to the political drawing board to raise a
new crop of players on the platform with new ideas via a new approach to
achieve our desired result. We can achieve this feat through the championing of
a community development model by proactively stamping out ignorance, apathy and
cynicism from our people and harnessing the strength in unity through the
successful blending of the traditional, communal, academic, and theoretical
knowledge of all persons in the local government with the practical realities
on ground, in an all-inclusive government where every meaningful Ika Southerner
will have a role to play on the platform of openness, fairness, and
unimpeachable integrity. This will ensure that we do not continue to suffer
lack in the midst of the superfluity of abundance.

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Okoh Edwin, a
geographer, writes from Ozanogogo in Delta
State.   

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