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A new political cycle commenced May 29 in the country and especially in four of the five states that make up the South East geopolitical zone. High expectations follow the new and returning governors for the period up to May 2023. After four cycles of administrative changes, citizens want to see development in its purest form in the region. They experienced some of that in the past under administrations with even fewer resources and rightfully expected that it should happen in the area given global developments.
Development is the focus of citizens in the South East. OkwudibaNnoli and the scholars on development posit that development is about the capacity of a people to tackle and overcome the challenges that the political, social and economic conditions throw at them. It is not about the number of different gadgets available but the amount of real problem-solving deploying indigenous resources, most notably human capital.
The new era comes with many features. The first is the evolving political configuration. Officially, the political structure of the region equates that of others with authority levels at State, Local Government and Wards. In reality, there are many other layers of real authority with the capacity for citizen mobilisation and engagement. They also could be deployed for positives or negatives.
The land of self-help has many towns unions, with spurs all over the country and beyond, as the active power at the grassroots. Disenchantment with poor representation and performance of governments has led in the social media age to the emergence of several groups, all aiming at the development of the motherland. They number anywhere from 20 to 50.
Each of the many groups on social media takes their roles seriously as advocacy platforms and offer rosy pictures of what they can do for AlaIgbo. Except that many do not go beyond WhatsApp. Their middle-class members wax eloquent on the platform but often lack the prescience and courage to take the advocacy beyond those platforms. The more important consideration for the groups given the challenges ahead is the fact of similarity in mission. They need to differentiate and pursue distinct but complementary roles and services that would bring about the desired accelerated development. Luckily, abiding recognition and respect for Ohanaeze as the “apex socio-cultural organisation” means that body could and should find the capacity to coordinate all the groups.
The advocacy groups are useful, but their presence points to future challenges if not organised and harnessed. The power structure in the South East recognises town unions. Communities elect them and embed them in their social and political organisation. Not so the social media formations, some of whom are getting a footing in terra firma. They need to define areas of strength, focus and influence. They should be doing specifics and be more relevant.
There should be a renewed focus on the two tiers of government, local and state to make them more accountable to citizens and communities. The primary focus would be the state governments. What would they do? How would they drive grassroots development? What frameworks would they adopt?
We suggest adoption and implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals at state and local government levels in the South East states. The SDGs are robust, scalable and applicable to the structure and development patterns of the South East. It has provision for the incorporation of voluntary associations and development-focused bodies such as our towns unions and community development associations. The SDG Secretariat encourages partnerships and commitments to specific initiatives around the 17 goals. Groups would select which SDG and corresponding targets towards which their initiative is working.
Nigeria has done the routine of establishing an SDG implementation team headed by a Senior Special Assistant to the President. There is a Presidential Council on the SDGs as well as an Inter-ministerial committee on the SDGs. All Ministries Departments and Agencies of government have SDG focal points. States and local governments have keyed in. For some, it is a formality. There is also a private sector advisory group on the SDGs and a development partners forum that UNDP anchors.
There are funds and incentives, as well. The Conditional Grants Scheme is part of Nigeria’s implementation of the SDGs. It incentivises governments to set aside – 50% for State Governments and 20% Local Governments- from the cost of SDG-related projects in their annual budgets. The FG should reimburse.
Chukwuma Soludo’s description of our people as a global race earned plaudits and adoption across Igboland. Now is the time to begin to adopt and implement global paradigms for development. Let’s apply the SDGs as a collective to enable holistic development, promote accountability and engage our energies productively across the board. We shall continue next week.