Vision, Prospects And The Reality Of The Community Government

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GOVERNOR
By hon. dera ahanotu, 08037048764, derahanotu@gmail.com
As a political analyst, I was curious to understand Governor Okorocha’s vision when he came up with idea of Fourth Tier or Community Government. With this at the back of my mind and further propelled by my political ambition, I chose to contest for a position in the scuttled Community Government Election, courtesy of court order.
As destiny would have it, I found myself being appointed a secretary of Community Government Council. In writing this piece, I put myself in an unfortunate position of being labeled a pro-Rochas by those who would not want to hear anything good about Owelle Rochas or anti-Rochas by some of his Excellency’s sycophants that will not tolerate even the most constructive criticism against the governor. But my journalism background compels me to a truthful and unbiased presentation of my observations.
The success of the Community Government project in spite of all the legal framework, Administrative and political hodgepodge surrounding its operations lies in the communities capturing and willfully embracing the vision of the governor on Community Development through the Community Government System.
This vision is yet to be fully understood and harnessed by the communities, the C.G.C Members themselves, the so called Executive Secretaries and even the supervising ministry (Ministry of Local Government) that is supposed to be the driving force of the Community Government. The Ministry has been unable to formulate a workable and dynamic strategy that will enhance the C.G.C performance.
The inability of the practitioners and agencies of the Community Government to key into the vision of the governor has been and will continue to be its greatest undoing.
The Community Government Programme should be seen by all as an economic Development Programme and not necessarily a political one. The idea is to unleash Local Communities Economic Potentials.
While one will not dispute the fact that Governor Okorocha may be using the community government system to build political structure and enhance political strength, the developmental benefits inherent in the system is by far too enormous to be ignored if well practiced. Rejecting the Community Government on partisan political grounds will be like throwing away a beautiful lovely baby with the dirty bath water.
Community Government is all about harnessing Local resources by Local people to bring about Local Development using the paraphernalia of government to make it more functional and effective. It is all about tapping and harnessing the potentials of Local Communities according to their peculiarities and capacities. In an address to political appointees, Governor Okorocha stated that “there is therefore the need to unlock this dormant resources and treasure of our people”. To opposers of Community Government, there is nothing wrong with offering the local communities opportunity to develop themselves. The concern for community government should be more of “HOW” questions than “WHY”.
The problem with our people is that most times, opposition is absolute and not constructive. The idea of community government if well harnessed could be a model for economic development not just for Imo State but for the nation. It should be noted that this system is not an entirely novel idea. A variant of local community development policy adopted by China less than two decades ago contributed in no small ensure to its economic development today.
However, the fact remains that the score card for the community government project of his Excellency so far cannot be said to be so good.
Although most community government council have embarked on one project or the other especially in arrears of school maintenance and renovations as directed and funded by the state government, one would not objectively say that they have done anything because these projects are state initiated, state sponsored and state controlled.
Only very few communities have been able to mobilize funds through locally harnessed sources and embarked on local economic programmes and projects such as market construction, skill acquisition for the unemployed, forming agricultural co-operatives, crime control strategies, development partnership with localized industries etc.
The problem of the poor take-off of the community government from my experience as a secretary is partly the state government and its supervising ministry on one hand and the C.G.C members themselves on the other because they do not understand what is expected of them and thus constitute a big hindrance to their capability to perform because of lack of unity of purpose and clarity of mission.
Moreover, the state government has been unable to infuse confidence in the councils as a result if unintended neglect and loopholes created in the entire administrative set up of the C.G.C. project.
The government dissolved the town unions and made traditional rulers Chairmen of the councils in order to forestall clashes and conflict of authorities between the town unions, the traditional rulers and the C.G.C’s.
Traditional rulers who understand and embrace this fact will lead and work well with the other community council members to bring meaningful development to their communities but those that view it otherwise will always constitute a stumbling block to the community council’s performance. This is the case in so many communities.
The place of Executive Secretaries in the Community Government should be reviewed. The mannerism and conduct of some of the so called Exec Secs might make one to doubt the sincerity of government over this C.G.C stuff. These exec. Secretaries appear to be the bosses in the community councils. An Exec. Sec in a community threatened the community council that she would execute the community project with or without their approval as directed by the government following a face off. This lady lived up to her threat and expended a total of six hundred and fifty thousand of community money without councils approval.
Such action and so many other acts of impunity have become the lot of some of these civil servants and it is quite discouraging to the Community Councils to have authority without power.
Another weak end of the Community Government set up is the decision of the state government not to pay salary to council members. The government may have good intention not to be seen as being wasteful but the truth is that government undermined the enormity of the task and responsibility bestowed on these men and women in appointing them as C.G.C Officials.
If the idea of Community Government is for those officials to sit down once or twice a month to just talk about where government grant to the Community should be channeled as they come, then having a sitting allowance of Five thousand naira could be justified. But if the idea of Community is about a selected group putting their heads together to fashion out ways to put their respective communities on a path to development, then the job is not that simple as it looks.
If the Truth must be told, some of these men relocated from nearby or even far away town where they do their business to come and serve their communities. Appointing these men and women has brought about change in status with its attendant social responsibilities that should not be ignored.
The Governor said that he appointed GLO’s who are capable of paying for their flight tickets and hotel reservation should he ask them to accompany him to China and America on economic trips. He did not say same of the secretaries, youth leaders, women leaders and the CLO’S. These are struggling men and women. Their appointments should not bring undue additional burden on them.
It is obvious that State Government’s resolve not to attach wages to these appointments has reduced these officials to objects of scorn and ridicule before their subject instead of the required respect needed to propel their Communities.
The Government should critically look into the issues raised and fine tune the Community Government arrangement so that the operator’s will fully key into the commendable vision of his Excellency on Community Development and make it a realizable dream.