30th October, 2013
By Dimeji Daniels
Democracy has never been known as a top-bottom government. It has rather thrived for years by employing a bottom-up approach in addressing critical issues that have direct impact on the social wellbeing of the populace. This simply means that it is a system of government that allows the people decide how they want to be governed, as long as it does not infringe on communal peace. This is why Abraham Lincoln tagged it the government of the people, by the people and for the people. In other words, the people, with whom power resides in a democracy, should be involved in all government processes, especially budget-making.
Failure to adhere to these non-negotiable principles of democracy has not only been the bane of Nigeria’s development, it has helped entrench corruption in all layers of government. A minister in Abuja, who has never been to my village in Ekiti, will be the one to decide year in year out what the people of my village want, without the slightest hindsight of the realities on ground in this community.
The greatest tragedy of this arrangement is that the FG-hired contractor ends up not doing the job and there is no one to hold him accountable since the intended beneficiaries of such projects were not carried along and didn’t even know what was being done for them. The 2013 budget of the Ministry of Works presented to the Senate on Wednesday December 5, 2012 lent credence to this mischievous arrangement, which has become the pot of soup for many of them. In the said budget, Ogbomoso/Oko-Ologbo/Osogbo road (Osun), Ikorodu/Imota road (Lagos), Ido Ani/Idogun/Imeri/Ayegunle road (Ondo) and Lafia/Doma road (Nassarawa) were listed as roads to be constructed in Ekiti State in 2013. Had Babafemi Ojudu, who was on the Senate Works Committee, not have a good knowledge of his state, the Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen, would sure have gotten away with this. Little wonder the Federal Government continues to fail in bringing succour to the masses of Nigeria.
The Government of Dr. Kayode Fayemi in Ekiti State has charted a different path from the commonly trod path in Nigeria which has led to nowhere but retrogression. Armed with democratic credentials, Fayemi definitely, judging from his approach to governance, knows that government cannot operate like a god, but as a partner who journeys hand-in-hand with the people in attaining peace, progress and development. This way, government does not see itself as the owner of the commonwealth, but rather as one who holds it in trust for them and through a painstaking no-holds-barred roundtable, both (the government and the governed) agree on how best to utilise these funds for the general benefit, progress and dignity-enhancing development of the people.
The above was what the Kayode Fayemi administration did in 2012 preparatory to making the 2013 budget. Each town and village at town-hall meetings across the state laid before government projects they desired in 2013. In response to these yearnings, the Fayemi administration thoughtfully created the Ministry of Rural Development and Community Empowerment to collate the various demands from the communities, undertake project evaluation and fashion out ways to make the communities the owners of these projects. The result is the grants-in-aids under which government doles out to the communities in question funds for the various projects referred to as self-help projects. Under this arrangement, the communities are totally in charge from conception to execution, including hiring contractors to execute the projects. The only part played by the Ministry of Rural Development is to ensure that standard is adhered to and that the funds are not mismanaged.
Apart from giving the various communities a sense of ownership of the projects, this bottom-up approach has also helped in creating job opportunities (as those employed as labour are from these communities) and in the process checking rural-urban migration. People in the various communities, unlike before, now see themselves as cherished stakeholders in governance.
On Wednesday, 3 July, 2013 in Oye-Ekiti, the governor presented cheques worth N300 million to 82 communities to undertake various self-help projects which include amongst others bridges, culverts, town halls, equipping of science laboratories in secondary schools, borehole, renovation and construction of schools and palaces. 95 more communities were given cheques under the second phase of the programme which held in Ikere-Ekiti in October, 2013.
The governor gave a better insight into the philosophy of the programme tagged “Ajose Eyi Yata”: “I always made the point that our government will only do development with the people and not for them. This was borne out of our belief that development is more enduring when the people take full ownership of what is done by not only suggesting what they consider most valuable to them, but also participate actively in its implementation and monitoring…One of the crucial reasons for the creation of the Ministry of Rural Development and Community Empowerment is to ensure the transformation of our rural communities in terms of infrastructure and industry in order to reduce the rural-urban drift. The development of the industrial-base of the rural communities will surely be the next phase of this programme, and we will facilitate the establishment of cottage industries in cluster communities having similar natural resources to enhance sustainable livelihoods.”
Dr. Kayode Fayemi has also announced that his government is revitalising cooperative development by partnering the Bank of Agriculture with a view to creating wealth and enhancing local socio-economic activities by providing the different cooperative societies with N300 million while the Bank of Agriculture provides another N300 million.
Besides these, the government also approved N593 million in the 2013 budget for the construction of 72 culverts, 93 kilometres of rural roads at 4km per local government, 2 bridges, 26 hand-dug wells and drilling of 40 boreholes. All these projects are in response to the demands of the people.
No less a personality than Abraham Lincoln who defined democracy as the government of the people, by the people and for the people put it thus: “The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do for themselves in their separate and individual capacities…The desirable things which the individuals of a people cannot do, or cannot well do for themselves, fall into two classes: those which have relation to wrongs, and those which have not. Each of these branch off into an infinite variety of sub-divisions. The first that in relation to wrongs embraces all crimes, misdemeanour, and non-performance of contracts. The other embraces all which, in its nature, and without wrong, requires combined action, as public roads and highways, public schools, charities, pauperism, orphanage…”
In spite of the fact that what obtains in Nigeria cannot be described as true democracy, but civil rule, the Fayemi administration has made itself the ray of hope and a good example for other states in the country to emulate.
Through this approach, the administration of Dr. Kayode Fayemi has also demonstrated that power resides always with the people and that government should be run as such. Unlike some previous administrations in Ekiti which looked down on the people, the government of Kayode Fayemi on its part is partnering them in a marriage of mutual respect in the journey to an Ekiti that all will be proud of.
•Dimeji Daniels writes from Ado in Ekiti State