Grassroots development getting new impetus in Enugu State
By Amos Ugwu
I have heard a number of good news from Enugu State in the few months of the present administration. The latest is a plan by the state government to spend N100 million to develop human-oriented projects in each of its 17 local government council areas is yet an addition to the list of dividends of good governance that Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has begun to deliver to his people.
Local government areas are the grassroots where government can make the greatest positive impacts on the lives of the people. The importance of this third tier of government has not been fully felt in Nigeria due to the indirect flow of revenue that accrues to it from the federal level. Most of the time in most of the states of the federation, local governments have been reduced to mere salary paying units with no capacity to improve the living conditions of the people through infrastructure development.
This means the purpose for which local governments were created have hardly been achieved because adequate resources have not been put to their use to function as the closest development agents in the nation's administrative structure. The impact of infrastructure spending in local governments is greater than in the other tiers of government because it touches the lives of the people directly.
A fair distribution of democracy dividends therefore needs to happen through the local government councils. The wisdom in what the Enugu State governor plans to do in the course of implementing the 2016 budget can therefore be appreciated. A deliberate effort to touch lives in every rural community in the state is to me the correct definition of good governance.
The fact that it is going to happen notwithstanding the present revenue challenges facing the nation underscores either significantly improved efficiency in the management of government finances or a burning desire to lift the people or both. Either way, I see a new spirit in governance that is producing a win-win situation for the people of Enugu State in the months and years ahead.
The ball is now in the court of the various local government areas of the state to key into the development machinery that Ugwuanyi has kick-started in Enugu State. He has asked the people to identify their areas of needs for prompt government actions. Many times, development processes elude some communities because they cannot agree within themselves on what they want.
I hope that this shall not be the story of any community this time around when a government that is committed to its promises has given the green light well ahead of time for every community to key into the development programme. This is to me an invitation to every community to join hands with a willing government to carry out a grassroots-based infrastructure development programme in Enugu State.
I have not heard such a suiting and heartening words from government officials at federal or state levels for a long time what the governor of Enugu State told his people last week. 'It is the intention of state government to extend democracy dividends to all nooks and crannies of the state despite the economic meltdown in the country. To make this a reality, we expect your cooperation, support and prayer for this government to succeed'.
This is one governor that is moving against the general trend in the country. Most government officials are complaining about money and debt and giving excuses why development cannot happen now. Ugwuanyi is moving against the trend to make development happen despite the odds. This is the type of inspiring leadership that Nigerians all over need at this time of uncertainty. Government may not have all the money to do so much for the people, but it can judiciously apply available resources to spur development action that is otherwise unimaginable.
All governments at state and federal levels need to inspire the people this way. This is exactly what Hon. Ejike Uche Edozie, former Commissioner for Works, Abia State is calling for. He said that Ugwuanyi's laudable projects to the people of Enugu State present a challenge to other governors of the south-eastern states and Nigeria in general.
Often individuals and communities expect so much from government but not much from themselves. We all need to see ourselves as agents of development, not sitting back to complain about what we lack but moving ahead anyhow with what we have. This is exactly the example the governor of Enugu State is setting for all of us. While he can lawfully point accusing fingers for huge accumulated debts and rightly complain about fallen federal allocations, he has chosen to move ahead to maximize the opportunity in his hands.
Does the governor need the cooperation of the people in what he has set out to accomplish? Yes, he does! Beyond cooperation, he needs their involvement. Community development is a joint responsibility. Ugwuanyi is calling for his people's commitment in preserving and protecting government installations and facilities located in their areas and to take the responsibility of exposing vandals and other anti development elements.
Infrastructure development is a capacity building effort that increases the level and diversity of economic activities within the economic society. It therefore needs to be appreciated by the people, supported by them and defended as well. It therefore behooves the entire people of Enugu State to play their own role in sustaining, even reinforcing the human oriented policies that are springing forth from the government house in the coal city.
In one such statement of appreciation, the governor has been described as a symbolic oasis in a financially arid economy. He is successfully putting smiles on the faces of Enugu indigenes at a time that Nigerians generally are wearing long faces shaped by hardship, squeezed by struggle for daily survival and dented by the fear for the uncertain future. Whatever is within our power as a people to do to keep this oasis from running dry but instead to spread out, it is our duty to humanity so to do.
Ugwu a public affairs commentator writes from Enugu