Vanguard (Lagos)

14 February 2013

Nigeria: Anambra - Who Is Afraid of Autonomous Communities System?(II)

CONSEQUENT on this, development is permeating these areas at an accelerated pace.

Although the Federal Government pretends not to legally or constitutionally recognise these additionally created 37 local government areas, they are willy-nilly, a fait accompli!

These structures have come into being and are serving as veritable vehicles for accelerating local development in their respective areas and bringing economic and social development nearer to the people in their communities, and indeed making communities take their development in their own hands.

The State (Lagos) had recently successfully conducted local government election in the framework of these local council development areas. Eventually, indeed sooner than later, there may be no option for theFederal level but to recognise them as duly constituted local governments.

As earlier indicated, practically all the other South-East (Igbo) states (except Anambra State) have taken steps to decentralize and devolve governance and development. But the State does not seem to have internalized the lessons of experience of our short harrowing history.

Those who are old enough to know will recall that at the on-set of the series of creation of states, some well-meaning, respected and revered Igbo leaders, in all honesty and with the best of intentions for the Igbo, made representations to the Military Government authorities at the time, to prevail on these authorities NOT to split the Igbo into too numerous states.

This was ostensibly on the good-intentioned reasoning that splitting the Igbos into too numerous states would weaken them politically. As already noted, this was an honest, good intention for the Igbos at that time.

Indeed, this, in part, tends to explain why the Igbo South East was allotted less number of states than it would possibly have received, and why the former so-called minority areas today have more states than the former so-called majority areas that are now the Igbo South-East.

It is the history that, beginning with three political regions at the on-set of national political Independence in 1960, states creation (administrative decentralization) grew to four regions or states in 1963 to 12 states in 1967; to 19 states in 1976; further split into 21 states in 1987 ; into 30 states in 1991 and into the present 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja in 1996. But the Igbo South-East remained with only five states throughout these series.

The local government areas increased from 301 in 1987 to 499 in 1989, to 589 in 1991 and to 774 in 1997.

These successive creation of states and local governments were all in response to political demands and clamours for greater regional and local autonomy and for decentralization and devolution of development decision-making and responsibilities.

The administrative decentralization involved in the creation of more states and local governments was perceived as a potent strategy for spreading development throughout the country. The political, economic and social development outcomes of these processes are today all too self-evident.

Could the Igbo South-East and the Anambra State Government in particular not have learnt lessons from this - that decentralization is progress and development. Very few would argue today that the decentralisation and devolution of governance and development processes brought about by the creation of more states has not accelerated the physical and socio-economic development of the various parts of the country where such developments may not have reached without such decentralization. It is axiomatic - requires no proof - that administrative/governance decentralization stimulates and engenders development and progress.

As is well known, the Igbo society is fundamentally republican, independent and self-assuring in nature and outlook, including in its development activities. Igbo society is very effective within the framework of its community organisations, in harnessing resources (financial and human) for rapid development of their respective local communities.

Igbo communities - consisting of individual towns or villages do effectively organize, plan, finance and more cost-effectively develop/build or provide and maintain community facilities and infrastructures that the communities need: These facilities and infrastructures often range from trunk and feeder (access) roads, to educational institutions and facilities (primary schools and colleges/high schools), health facilities (hospitals, clinics, maternities, health Centres and dispensa"ries etc), water supply facilities (boreholes and communal water tanks etc).

Mr. DONATUS OKPALA, a commentator on national affairs,wrote from Lagos.

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