Lagos, community development and participatory democracy
As expressed in the community development global guidelines, community development is intended to fashion conditions of economic and social growth for the entire community with its dynamic involvement and total probable dependence upon the community’s scheme.
Since community development opens up communities and gives the people a fresh breath of air, it thus becomes imperative for all strata of governments across the country to promote necessary collaborative efforts and strategies for effective community-oriented development initiatives.
This explains why the Lagos state government anchors its development drive on community-centred initiatives with a view to ensuring even and accelerated development in all parts of the State.
In doing this, the state government opts for the integrated approach to community development. This involves a partnership between the government and the people of the various local communities across the state. It involves embarking on projects on a self-help basis in a community with the government providing the necessary assistance monetarily, technically and administratively.
The approach mainly involves the people providing initiatives, material and manpower while the government provides financial assistance and managers to complement the efforts of the community. Through this, communities could easily access education, technology, health care, security among others.
It needs to be stressed that the role of Community Development Association (CDA) in community development in the state is quite crucial. CDA members are an integral part of their various communities. This puts them in an advantageous position in terms of understanding the problem or developmental challenge in their domains. This, thus, helps to ensure self-reliant as community members become armed with knowledge as they work together to identify the needs of the community. CDAs, no doubt, ensure effectiveness and efficiency in the delivery of development in the communities.
In Lagos State, the government’s partnership with CDAs has become a veritable vehicle for socio-economic development and communal integration. The fact that no development can take place in any society without peace and harmony further underscores the need for this virile partnership with the CDAs since they are actually closer to the various communities than elected and non-elected government officials.
Currently, in Lagos State, conscious efforts are being made by the appropriate government agencies to encourage more communal spirit as it is being exemplified by the current administration in the state.
Before now, Lagos only boasts of 2,500 CDAs, but this has since increased to 3,935. This is largely due to the support being given the various CDAs by the state government. Not only does the government give the CDAs grants, but it also encourages them to supervise government projects and infrastructure within their neighbourhood.
Most of these communities have also embarked on many self-help projects ranging from construction of community halls, installation of street lights, transformers, the building of police posts, drainage and health centres construction as a way of complementing the efforts of both State and Local Governments to engender growth and development.
On a yearly basis, in line with the United Nations Initiative, the state government usually set aside a day as Community Day to recognize the developmental contributions of the various CDAs in the state.
This year’s celebration commenced with weeklong activities which include health walk for the CDA members to promote fitness and good health, visit and donation to social institutions to identify with the less privileged in our communities. The grand finale took place at the Police College, Ikeja. Over the years, the annual event has become a way of promoting the culture of healthy rivalry among the various CDAs with all of them striving to emerge and be recognized as the best CDA.
At this year’s event, the state governor, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu urged communities’ leaders to monitor the state’s project in their various communities. “Everything we are putting in place to make Lagos a 21st Century Economy is for the community and that is why communities must monitor state projects around them to ensure that these projects meet the required standards. The CDAs and the CDC are engines of growth in the communities and they must play their roles by ensuring they see community-based government projects as theirs”, he said.
He also disclosed that his administration will soon commence grassroots projects that will engender rapid developments in the communities; as such Councilors have been directed to submit reports on vital projects that would be of immense benefits to residents of their communities.
He assured that work will commence on the projects by the Year 2020 after the Lagos State House of Assembly would have approved the budget and the community-based projects are identified and selected.
The high point of the event was the presentation of three brand new buses to Progressive Estate CDA, Egbe Idimu; Lekki Alawun, CDA, Lekki and Idowu Dabiri CDA, Eti-Osa which emerged as the first, second and third most outstanding CDAs respectively. In addition to this, the sum of N500, 000 (five hundred thousand naira only) was given out as cash prizes to ten other CDAs.
It is; thus, right to affirm that the state government has evolved a systematic strategy of accelerating development in Lagos communities. The beauty of democracy is in the ability of the elected representatives of the people to be able to meet the needs of the people. It is a two-way thing. The people voted in their representatives, who in turn endeavour to meet the aspirations of the people.
Therefore, it is important that the government and the people continue to operate on the same page since the aspirations and desires of the two are intertwined. This is why the Lagos state government engages the people on a regular basis.
In addition to its intrinsic democratic value, this people-oriented approach to governance is an instrumental driver of democratic and socio-economic change and a fundamental way to empower the citizens. By emphasizing a locally-led and issue-driven approach to governance, the Lagos State government underscores the importance the state government attaches to citizen-centred activism-driven by real community needs and desires. This, indeed, is a powerful transformative force.
However, it must be emphasized that as the government strives to offer the various communities the exclusive attention they duly deserve, they, in turn, must not rest on their oars in contributing their quota to the development of the State as well as taking ownership of all government projects within their domain by ensuring their preservation. It is only in doing this that the State would continue to witness accelerated growth and development.
Olufuwa is Director, Public Affairs, Lagos State Ministry of Local Govt. & Community Affairs
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