What constitutes the development of a community? Perspective By Dann Jacobs

The story was told of how a community in old Abakaliki (present Ebonyi State) wrote to their white colonial administrator to come and bring them development.

This was the original misconception of what development is that has not been corrected up till today: the suggestion that it has to be brought from somewhere and installed in another place.

Our leaders are still going abroad to look for development in the form of foreign investment. The same mistake made by the Abakaliki people.

But development is like the pumpkin leaf that produces the water with which it is cooked. This is the simple truth and common sense we must adopt and accept for development to come. Development is a self-help and self-reliant process.

The white colonial ‘master’ in the case of the Abakaliki community laughed the people to scorn. He did not come until they contributed money and paid for his travel. They also provided for his comfort as well as the table and chair he would sit on to work. That was the beginning of their so-called development. He came with nothing in the form of the development they had in mind. Rather, they would eventually build a house for him to serve as his residence and office. Servants from the community would serve him and minister to all his needs.

Who then was developing who? To start with, they needed a leader who would mobilize their resources and apply them to the needs of the community. This was available in the community anyway. All resources for development were available there. The people are till today suspicious of the motives of the white man which they cannot be in the case of local leadership. This suspicion is a barrier to development till today.

The white man noticed that in developing the community he needed first the peace and the security of his life. He set up a court to try miscreants. He appointed strong men as court messengers to arrest bad people. He opened cells where they were detained and kept away from normal people who were good. He garrisoned his house to prevent attacks and being killed, himself. That was the beginning of development in the community. But that was not the end.

Development, however is a means to an end, an end of comfort for all without exception. Well, you can talk of comfort for some, but not for all. That is a hopelessly foolish utopia, in today’s world. Comfort and happiness for all equated with the long-expected God’s Kingdom that is to come when nobody knows.

We can safely come to the conclusion that the achievement of universal peace, comfort and happiness is the ultimate end of development. Yet everybody loses sight of that and regards development as an end in itself. How to go about it, is another question. It looks like a spiritual, superhuman target.

The barriers to development in present- day world are so formidable that it is considered impossible to achieve, even though the white world has made considerable forays into it. But the challenges are still great. Therefore we face the fear of buying what seems patently useless and inapplicable. Even so they are selling whatever we ask for.

The next problem is development as a concept in a foreign language (English) which we don’t all understand. How many of us do admit that the worst thing that happened to us is the English language we use? Of course, we are not agreed on what development means in English. Most people have not attempted its definition among those who are leading our development drive. How can anyone achieve development without knowing what the word means, or by thinking that it has to be imposed from abroad. Development in the English dictionary means “growth that is gradual; the process of producing or creating something new or more advanced. For an area it means new industries where jobs are created. None of these equates with the development of a country or community to my mind. Unfortunately, those peoples and countries who are supposed to possess the development that we need do not see it that way. They do not agree that they have it. We ourselves are going for what is obviously a mirage. Where they do agree to give it, they give it reluctantly, asking sometimes to be paid what we cannot afford. They enslave us with it for ever. They even sell us dummies that help to ruin us. They have never defined development correctly for themselves which is why they have urban congestion, economic meltdown and mysterious diseases such as cancer etc. Thus, rich countries may assist us. They cannot develop us.

The attempt I make in this article is to say that development is still possible, provided it is understood for what it is. The way to it is also to be mapped out properly and followed without deviation. I underlined peace and security as the first step to development. In the simplest terms, peace and security are only achievable through misconduct and punishment. But misconduct can be controlled through liberty and freedom. There are basic freedoms that are inalienable and without which people will be disgruntled and rebel against any authority, no matter how benevolent. After all man rebels against the righteous God.. The freedom that we want badly in Nigeria that is denied and which is causing all the insecurity in the land is freedom of association. Boko Haram, MASSOB, Niger Delta, OPC, MOSOP, etc want freedom of association that will enable them withdraw from the Nigerian country if they so wish. They are saying there’s no point forcing people to belong, to later contend with their resistance against that force. We are talking of development and the conditions that will lead to it. If we want it, we must guarantee liberty and freedom to all the people. The next is freedom of speech. What this means is the freedom to use Igbo as official language in Igbo land, Yoruba in Yoruba land and Hausa in Hausa land, etc. If this is not done, any talk about freedom of speech is nonsense in Nigeria.

The huge debt we owe to organization and administration must be paid if development has to be achieved. How is this possible if we have to persist in the use of a foreign language (English) which is too heavy and complicated for the people? Decidedly a foreign language is incapable of conveying the volume and quality of communication needed in a country. It cannot explain the complexities of official communication in any country or nation. There is no developed country that uses a foreign official language wholesale as we do.

Our development demands a language revolution that will overthrow the English language. This is enough to say no to colonial legacies. To develop, we need to break up administratively and organizationally into nation-states based on the ethnic languages that people speak in various geographical and cultural areas. It is only by doing this that we can introduce much-needed efficiency in the administration of the current Nigerian geo-political space which will lead to the type of development we want. It will also mobilize   the remaining dormant energies of the land. Fundamentally, we need to understand what we are saying to one another to do this. This will redefine the so-called oneness of Nigeria to mean the negotiated cooperation or collaboration of its language-based administrative components, aimed at the rapid deployment of resources lying dormant in them that are unreachable to the over-centralized federal government. This brings to mind, Gov. Okorocha’s 4th tier or community government councils in Imo State. The tiers of government have not ended with the 4th. They don’t stop at the 4th.

They go all the way to the family level where we must go to for census enumeration and compilation of voters’ registers – to show how important they are. In other words, there are community, town, village, kindred, family governments. They exist and must be recognized and put in the scheme of things. Otherwise governance will still be unable to reach deep down to where it must and should be felt for development to happen. In the steps and stages to development, imparting of knowledge and skills to the populace is next in importance, using the people’s language. We cannot develop with schools placing insurmountable language hurdles for people going there. In our system, you cannot learn anything unless you first learn a foreign language (English). Why must that be? Why can’t we use our mother- tongues? Is it in order to be English people or to learn better? The result is that this system produces a lot of failures. The foreign language hurdle falls, the learners fall; the system falls. Take the subject Biology. What is it? First you must know what that foreign word means before you can learn any thing about Biology. It takes weeks or months to internalize what Biology means. Whereas if it is worded in you mother-tongue you would understand it the same day, in one lesson. The question is why can’t we use our language? Why must we use English? Is it to be indivisible or to be one Nigeria? A lot of things have been compromised with that stupid policy. Security, integrity, sovereignty, natural intelligence, involvement of the majority,Look at the cost!  See the waste of time in a court where English is used. Yet the Judge is Igbo; the court clerk is Igbo, the litigants Igbo, the lawyers Igbo. When a person is educated or imparted the with knowledge and skill, the aim is to enable the person discover his/her inert talents and to know the resources at his/her disposal which he/she can convert into objects of comfort, pleasure and happiness for both himself and all associates in his/her environment. This again is development. Only such a person can sustain and improve an environment. But if a person is not prepared to accept and dwell in an environment, the environment will only decay and the person will also die out of not being able to use the resources available to him. He goes about neglecting and destroying them. Everything perishes.

You will at this stage begin to wonder, what of roads, bridges, houses the so called infrastructure, cars, airplanes, sea-going vessels and all such things which give a place the outlook of development? Others are hospitals, industries, computer, nice clothes, shoes, water, electricity, etc. All what human hands can provide for comfort, these constitute development. They are innumerable. How can we get there, have much money to buy things and well-paid jobs to boost our ego. Name it, the spiritual level is also subject to development that can give us comfort, pleasure and happiness. How can we achieve that spiritual development?

These are all products of collective or group efforts of developed minds and bodies. It is when people grow on the wrong mentalities and become individualists in unworkable togetherness that they will never know what they are capable of doing. This is incurable in the case of Nigeria where people are practically islands of progress. The progress of the world is based on solidarities. Money must trickle or roll down to the individuals in the families. How will that be achieved? First we must remove the fear that poor people could be so empowered that they can overthrow the government and seize economic and political power. This fear is what is making the common good unthinkable. It all requires a leader (President or Governor) who is liberal and is ready to allow equal opportunity to all. The system must operate in such a way that when the annual budget is being compiled, the communities must bring up their needs, instead of imposing needs on them from the top. If top of their priority needs is water, the local sources of that must be identified, local manpower resources towards meeting that need must also be utilized. Local capital may also be mobilized for it to ensure local involvement in solving that problem.

Who does what? The notion that government has to provide everything is unworkable. It makes people onlookers rather than collaboration and participants in the development of their areas. People must constitute economic solidarities in the form of cooperatives. That sense of working together and cooperation is the much needed mentality that makes a community to develop at all.

Resource management

The resources one can reckon with in a community are – land resources, manpower resources, financial resources, administration and management, educational/training facilities. For a community to develop the resources at its disposal and in its immediate environ, they must not only be identified they must be used to the maximum. On land resources, you will hear some saying they don’t have much of land resource because people have build up the available space with houses, roads and other amenities. However there is always land everywhere that can be managed to develop the community.

It should be central government policy that everybody must work with something whether or not the person is paid. It is at the community or neigbourhood level that the people would be compelled to be busy and it is there that some reward can be found for those who are doing something. Those who will choose to be idle can be sanctioned from there. But the aim is to compel all to work.

The government must provide bulk money/fund from where communities can pay for land leased for projects.

All communities should be surveyed and planned, so that people do not build indiscriminately on places where roads and drainages should pass. One urgent need for planning is to ensure that all communities have public cemeteries. The practice whereby private homes and compounds are turned into burial grounds will one day backfire and leave no space for future burials in some compounds. When all homes are littered with graves, homes will be scaring to both children and adults. Spaces will not be found for expansion. There are sadists who own lands they cannot or don’t want to use. These lands must be leased from them and put into national, community or public use. Some occupy more space than they need for a home. To keep lands fallow when there is dire need for them enables a few people hold everybody else to ransom. That was what informed the land use decree which worsened the scarcity of available land space. This is because land was acquired by force from their owners who put formidable obstacles to frustrate the acquisition of lands for development purposes. It led to a virtual war between government and land owners – big or small.


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