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The relevance of host community organizations to the growth and development of public and private institutions in Nigeria.

By Aiyamenkhue Collins Edokpolo
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The Roles of Host Community Organizations to the Growth and Development of Public/Private Institutions – Being a paper delivered by Aiyamenkhue Edokpolo at the Cultural Reception and Dinner hosted by the Benin Development Union in honour of Prof. O. G. Oshodin, Vice-Chancellor, University of Benin
on Saturday 19th October, 2013

Protocol. Mr. Chairman sir, I beg to stand on the existing protocol, please.

Introduction - The term 'host community' is a predominant feature in contemporary issues in Nigeria, especially during intense agitations between multinational companies and the indigenes or aborigines of a given community or geographical area. Sadly, 'militant' youths have advanced their communal agitations in manners that have surreptitiously turned host community organizations into a phenomenon for extortion and pecuniary exploitation of unsuspecting managers of private or public institutions. This is in my view a pathetic commentary. However, as a realist with formidable background in cultural activism, I earnestly believe that, it was high time that the phenomenon was given a more robust and all-embracing conceptualization, rather than the common-place gospel of lamentation. I shall attempt a realistic paradigm to this all important issue that could make or mar our evolving nation.

For me, Host Community Organizations refers to a conglomeration of community based organizations within the operational area (catchment area) of any public or private organization, whose objectives includes but not limited to: the pursuit of hospitality for all the stakeholders; the projection of justiceable interests in form of employment and contractual activities of her indigenes; and unflinching assurance of security to the enterprise or institution for the actualization of stated goals or mission. They are manned by a set of elected officers, who ought to be accountable to their electors.

From the foregoing, it is deducible that a host community organization will not conceive in its wildest imagination of how to sabotage a public or private establishment within its domain; rather, even in the face of stated or perceived misdemeanour against the managers of the establishment, it will peacefully seek for a visionary management that will galvanize the aspirations of the establishment's stakeholders, so that the host community interests will be well-attended to in the long run. Ideally, a host community organization is a group of patriots who wants the establishment operating in its domain to succeed on the one hand, so that the community interests will be realized simultaneously. To achieve its objectives, Public and Private establishment now have a specialized department (community relations department) to cater for issues related to their host communities, sadly, quarrels still persist in some communities because some management deliberately jettison wise counsel from their employees.

Basically, three fundamental roles are inherent in the concern of an ideal host community organization to a given establishment:

1. Hospitality
2. Projection of justiceable interests of its people

3. Security that reinforces the establishment viz-a-viz its stated goals

1. Hospitality-
Encyclopedically, the Webster's Comprehensive Dictionary defines 'hospitality' thus - “The spirit, practice or act of being hospitable.” It also defines 'hospitable' thus (adjective) “Disposed to believe in a warm manner or to entertain with generous kindness.” – Apart from being self-explanatory, the definition further reinforced the positive disposition that hospitality confers on the recipient (in this case, the establishment) by the host community organization. I make bold to say that some communities in Nigeria, Niger-Delta region especially have been labeled 'restive' because they no longer believe in hospitality and the unsung reason is the betrayal of the community's trusts in the past by the corporate bodies, who become subjects(s) to all manner of attacks by agencies of their host communities.

Most of the oil or manufacturing host communities have been subjected to all manner of desolations by the management of the companies without any recompense in terms of corporate social responsibilities, despite the environmental hazards they suffer from pollution. They (members of the host communities) thereafter resort to taking their destinies into their hands, and as soon as restiveness envelopes the area, armed security men are deployed, sadly current scenarios in volatile communities have shown that without proper Area-Boys Diplomacy, security cannot be guaranteed by anyone in a restive zone. So all developmental stakeholders must do the needful to sustain the atmosphere of peace and hospitality at all times. 'Okuomose' is a Benin linguistic maxim that underlines the roughness of crisis scenario.

2. The interest/aspirations of the host communities-

This is unarguably the driving force of any host community organization that is worth its sort, because, whether it will command loyalty or popularity from the people it seeks to represent depends largely on the mutual trusts that exists within. In fact, some host communities have on account of the solidarity they enjoy from members and the public become are relevant to political parties that earnestly seeks the votes of their people.

This role is unique in a number of ways, firstly, it underlines its constructive relations with the public/private institutions in its domain, secondly, it forms the basis of agreements and disagreements between host community groups and the establishments in their domain. It is noteworthy to state that this sacred role informed why Your's sincerely spearheaded a non-violent procession involving over two thousand Benins on the 7th of September 2009 to protest the almost forty years of systemic deprivation of Benin intelligentsias from clinching the post of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin; I did so under the banner of the Benin National Congress, being the President. Mock coffins and "chokolokobangoshe' were freely displayed to convey our undilluted resolve for an unequivocal demand that a Benin born Vice Chancellor should be appointed or that we will no longer guarantee the almost four decades of unbridled hospitality to the University. Mr. President, Late Umaru Musa Yar Adua heeded our clarion call and ensured fair play in the process that threw up Prof. O. G. Oshodin as Vice Chancellor on 30th September 2009.

Some people accused us of introducing spiritual or fetish dimensions into a mere academic exercise, I replied them in a press statement thus - "if your mother is the chief cook in your father's house, and for forty years you are deprived of midwifing the pot of soup, and you are happy about it, you may seek a Psychiatrist or Psychologist's attention." On the other hand, three years before that procession, our group had written articles to the Federal Government on the need for a comprehensive golly erosion control measures; as well as sustainable infrastructural master-plan for the ivory tower.

If an establishment is short changed of its statutory allocation of resources by government or 'headquarter', ideal host community groups would see to it that the issue is addressed because the growth and development of the establishment will engender the host communities and the inhabitants' progress. Growth and development in this context is mutually inclusive, because the well-being or otherwise of any establishment will reflect in the lives of its host communities.

Managers of host community organizations are by this role accountable to their constituents in that it formed the basis of energies or strength or fallback positions; if a group does not draw its strength from its constituents, it exists in the air or serves the parochial interests of ghost-benefactors.

Security. The Webster' dictionary defined security thus "the state of being secure; specifically, freedom from danger, risk, care, poverty, or apprehension". Security of any public and private institution is an indefatigable concern for stakeholders who trully believes in the its wellbeing; and the complex nature of security of life and property is such that cannot be guaranteed by any Government partly because of the rising wave of organized crimes all over the world. It is sancrosant therefore, that Government at all levels initiate policies that will reinforce the patriotic commitment of host community organizations and indegenes so that they will give their very best for the well being of public and private institutions in their domain, including protection from vandalism and sabotage. For instance, it is a noble reference that so many years ago, indigenes of Egba community in Uhumwonde Local Government Area resisted the vandalization of the Egba Grammar School during a statewide student protest because of the philanthropic spirit of Elder Iyayi Efionayi, a well known philanthropist in Benin. The host community organization of the school, as it where, had sensitized the people of the area that securing the properties will be a demonstration of gratitude to the major donor.

A good management of human and capital resources will definitely attract tremendous goodwill from its internal and external stakeholders, to the extent that professional detractors can hardly penetrate the sacred bond of mutual appreciation between the institution and the host community. Universities in Nigeria are gradually nosediving into centers for all manners of negative dispositions, including the entronement of a negative reward system; for instance what is wrong in the acknowledgement of vidionary leadership, like the one Prof. Oshodin led management team has entrone in the great Uniben in the last four years? We all know how the ipstate of infrastructure and human capital of the University of Benin, with profound respect to ex-Vice Chancellors who made meaniful impacts, it was not as edifiying as we find it today; as a trained public administrator, I know of a truth that without motivation, no workforce will produce optimal result, and all of these count for Prof. O.G. Oshodin. Staff and students sings his pauses, and the man still maintains uncommon humility, such is an epitome of prolific administration.

My take of an ivory tower is that, it ought to be a centre of excellence in terms of service, be it teaching, administration, research and counseling of would-be-leaders-of-tomorrow. To the extent, that state and non-state actors would consciously draw inspiration from it. In the good old days, Government allocates as much as seventy percent of committees and political appointments to academicians and ex-academicians, but all that are gradually fading away, at the detriment of a functional and sustainable reward system, which ought to be handed to incoming generations naturally. Our political leaders should not loose sight of some despicable trends in Nigeria public institutions, because, until we fix our institions, our country will continue to circumnavigate within the prism of socio-economic and political illusions.

In conclusion, the strategic partnership that has been formed by the Benin National Congress and the Benin Development Union towards the growth and development of public and private institutions in Edo State is an uncommon host community strategy. This is so because a realistic appreciation of Nigeria's governments (Local, State and Federal) portrays or underlines a scale of monumental ineptitude to advance and protect the interest of the host communities.

As a self-help systematic paradigm, host community organizations must re-appraise the organic ideals or essentials that gave birth to the existence of their organizations in the first place. So, I am saying that it was high time that community based organizations evolved a common front in the pursuit of their struggles and interests.

Honourable Matthew A. Iduoriyekemwen, an epitome of community-based crusader dearly comes to mind when hosting A MAN WHO IS DEARLY IN THE HEARTS OF HIS PEOPLE LIKE PROF. O. G. OSHODIN (VC, UNIBEN) because of his landmark achievements as a dmember, Edo State House of Assembly and as a member in the board of Niger Delta Development Commission. May I also felicitate with Hon. Matthew Iduoriyekemwen on his new project for President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan's reelection project - Network for Goodluck (N4G). It is noteworthy to state that with the enthronement of a proper reward system in Edo land, people like Matthew Iduoriyekemwen, Dr. Solomon Edebiri MON, Gen. Charles Omoregie and Dr. Osagie Obayuwana will be rewarded nationally on account of their unique contributions for the growth and development of public and private institutions in Nigeria.

Thanks for the attention, may God bless you all. Oba gha t' okpere, ise