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1.1       Background of The Study

Not until recently, a lot of social developments in Nigeria were directed towards people in the urban areas while those in the rural areas that make up the bulk of the population were relatively neglected. Although the necessary materials for the development of these rural areas abound; naturally within their immediate environment, their lack of awareness and participation tend to impede community development.

The problem of social and political integration is, perhaps, one of the most intriguing to people of a developing society like Nigeria. No nation can achieve its goal of development without conscious efforts at integrating its people and mobilizing them to understand, appreciate and identify with the ideals of development. For a multi-ethnic and culturally diverse nation like Nigeria with very high level of illiteracy and unemployment, the need for public enlightenment and social mobilization is imperative.

Basic to any developmental process is man’s desire for a better life

and better environment. But development, as stated in the 4th National Development Plan, “does not start with goods and things; it starts with

people; their orientation, organization and discipline (4th  National Dev.

Plan”). When a society is properly oriented, organized and disciplined, it can be prosperous in natural wealth.

Casting our minds back to 1970s, particularly between 1972 and 1976, when there was the oil boom, many Nigerians neglected the rural areas and fled to the urban centers, neglected agriculture and developed greater interest in white-collar jobs. Nigerians also abandoned productive activities, shunned locally produced materials and became foreign manufacturers’ representatives. There was widespread development of Western taste, for imported materials and soon, the country became a nation of contractors with a generation of nouveau riche. This could not last for too long. The period gave Nigerians false hopes about their country’s industrial production capacity and agricultural output. The economy was trapped in oil glut which brought about hardship to the citizenry.

In 1977, General Olusegun Obasanjo, the Head of the Federal Military Government launched Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) aimed at re-orientating the nation and focusing attention on agriculture. But the implementation was soon derailed and the objectives could not be realized. But in 1979, when the civilian took over power, massive importation of food began even beyond the country’s foreign exchange capacity with the attendant consequence of increasing neglect of agricultural production and

the rural economy. This neglect had reached lamentable proportions by the time the Buhari Administration assumed national leadership in 1985.

In spite of the oil boom, the condition of the rural people never changed. They had few good roads, lacked portable water, and were exposed to various types of diseases. This greatly reduced the average Nigerian morale and capacity for hardwork. Although demoralized, Babangida Administration accepted the predicament of the times with stoic equanimity. It is in recognition of the failure of such programmes of the OFN and the Green Revolution launched by the civilian regime of Shehu Shagari that the Babangida Administration in February 1986 established the Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI). This was therefore set up primarily as an organ for bridging the perceived gap existing between the passive and active rural communities in Nigeria on the one hand and between the urban and rural communities on the other hand. This was way of enlightening the rural communities in order to give them a sense of belonging to the country; to ensure a deep rooted self-sustaining development process based on effectively mobilizing mass participation, to undertake the construction and repair of roads, to facilitate communication and distribution of agricultural production.

However, the objectives of DFRRI was not fully implemented, and realizing the significance of a coherent, thorough and clearly guided and executed programme of social mobilization and political education, political Bureau Report recommended the establishment of ‘a body to be known as the National Directorate of social mobilization and Political Education. This led to the birth of the Directorate for Mass Mobilization and Economic Recovery (MAMSER). This marked the era of a comprehensive, coherent and sustained programme of social mobilization and political education for Nigeria.

In 1993, government decided to merge the Directorate with some other similar bodies so as to pool together and consolidate all the efforts and resources of the bodies in the areas of public enlightenment, mass mobilization and value re-orientation. This was what gave birth to National Orientation Agency (NOA).

The road to rural development in Nigeria had been bumpy. There had been uneven development and a glaring inequality of opportunities between the rural and urban areas. In spite of the fact that majority of Nigerians are rural dwellers, rural areas still have little or no opportunities for education and employment. Rural Nigeria is characterized by poverty and malnutrition. Other main features of rural areas in Nigeria include population explosion,

illiteracy, and unproductive agriculture with the use of poor tools, poor communication, and low level of social participation. Also noticeable was lack of health and medical care facilities, roads, water and electricity. This situation called for a change. This change can be achieved through rural development programmes in which the involvement or participation of local people is of prime necessity if success will be achieved.

However, Oji-River local Government Area of Enugu state is made up of 7 (seven) communities that have similar conditions as described above. To alleviate these conditions, governments and non-governmental organizations have in their various capacities introduced some rural development projects. This research work, therefore, is directed at showing both by detailed essay/ library, documentary and field investigation, how people in the rural areas are working in partnership with government officials and agencies to develop themselves. It seeks to determine the reason(s) for their participation in projects of rural development. It also seeks to find out why they were not involved in some cases and how best they could be involved in both sponsored and community initiated rural development projects. It will as well, to some extent, compare the level of citizens’ participation between the two – the government sponsored and the community initiated projects.

1.2    Statement of the Problem

The vital role of community development as a virile instrument of social, economic change and transformation of society cannot be underestimated. Community development provides the necessary tools for transforming a stagant or dormant community to very active one.

The traditional community development efforts involve the various communities in Nigeria in a form of voluntary exercise in which both the young and the old members of a particular community participated actively in the traditional tasks of cleaning the Igwe’s Palace, road path and compound. The participation of the people in these tasks was then largely voluntary. This was made possible by the cohesiveness and homogeneity of the people.

However, with the growing complexity of our society and community, with increase in population and urbanization, coupled with the high task of people for modern basic and social amenities and infrastructural facilities, community development activity witnessed a significant change in diversion and became more complex in process, form and scope.

Thus bringing to the fore the recognition and acceptance of the fact that meaningful development would only take place when the rural communities are well mobilized for community action. This could only be

effectively carried out when the people are actively motivated and mobilized.

Coming down to the discourse, arguments and debates have continued on academic, government and various circles on the persistence of instability and on the poor or stunted growth of rural communities in Nigeria. However, there is no denying the fact that, the rural communities make over 60% population of Nigeria and as such, remains a crucial sector in shaping the country’s future especially now with the current programme of vision 20-20-20 which is aimed at making Nigeria to among the world first twenty (20) developed economy by the year 2020.

On this note, it is not debatable that the idea of mobilizing the people for any meaningful citizens’ participation in community development would be short-lived except we actually make the people feel and contribute immensely to governments policies and programmes in and around them.

This research work addresses this problem asking questions as:

1.     Is the level of citizens’ participation related to the level of community development?

2.     Is community development a function of awareness on the part o the community people?

3.     Could the level of literacy, influence the attitude of rural dwellers in community development?

1.3       Objectives of the Study

Community development and rural transformation was remained a burning issue in development effort, and would remain so for the simple fact that in developing economies like ours, majority and usually the overwhelming majority of the people live and find their livelihood in the local communities. Community development is now top priority of governments in many developed and developing countries. As a result of this, many scholars are asking the question if government alone should not be let to provide for the transformation of local communities using the strategy of development plans and forget about citizens mobilization and participation in the development process, whereas some others especially in developing countries like Nigeria are in support of the need for collective or cooperative efforts in the socio-economic and political transformation of local communities through adequate mobilization and participation of the people. According to Omornyi, E. O. (2001: 6), citizens’ participation in community development increases project efficiency, promoting projects effectiveness, helping to build the capacity of beneficiaries as well as enhancing and empowering the members of the community. The idea of citizen participation according to them is deeply rooted in the meaning of community development which enjoins that, whatever is done to improve

the welfare of a people must seek to elicit the enthusiasm and wholehearted involvement of such a people.

Having discovered as stated above that there is need for collective or cooperative efforts in the socio-economic and political transformation of rural communities through mass mobilization and citizens participation, the broad objective of the study therefore, hinged on ascertaining the essence of effective mobilization and participation of the people in community development, where as the specific objectives of the study are to:-

(A)     Find out the function of awareness on the part of the people in community development;

(B)      Examine the level of citizens participation as related to the level of community development;

(C)      Identify how effective the government using available forum of community mobilization, has been able to sensitize the people in Oji-River Local Government Area and others to participate in community development processes; and finally

(D)     Make recommendations to our readers based on the findings arising from this research work on how best to enhance development.

1.4       Significance of the Study

One of the justifications for studying citizens participation in community development is that, no nation can achieve its goal of development without a conscious effort aimed at integrating its people and mobilizing them to understand, appreciate and identify the ideals of development. This is because of the fact that, one major issue that continued to occur on the agenda for rapid and genuine development in Nigeria in resent times is how to secure the participation and mobilization of the people in the development process. This is because of the interesting belief that no genuine or viable and self-sustaining development can ever be, without the involvement of the people. Nowadays, the top-down approach to development which ignores the needs, aspirations, rights and inputs of the local people is not only old fashioned but is also increasingly becoming unacceptable. Consequently, it is crucial to ensure in the course of designing development programmes, the active involvement and contributions of the entire people who should be educated to share responsibility along with the benefit of development

The involvement of the local people in development processes is being advocated for, based on the fact that people are more equipped with the indigenous knowledge of their environment in terms of all the existing

traditional resources in the area which are viewed as vital ingredient of sustainable development. Thus, participation and mobilization is the only means through which the people’s democratic culture, which often results in genuine and sustainable development, can be effectively explored.

Another important of the study is that, it draws our attention to the condition of the rural dwellers. In Oji-River Local Government Area, over eighty percent (80%) of her population lives in the rural area. This study therefore, raises issues such as those without electricity, good drinking water, good roads, good medical services, and education opportunities, etc.

Most importantly the research work provided us with information on how to sustain community development projects as well as its contribution to increased efficiency and effectiveness of administration of rural communities in Oji-River Local Government Area.

It also adds to the existing literatures in citizens participation and mobilization in community development.

1.5    Scope and Limitation of The Study

The scope of the study is restricted to Oji – River Local Government Area. With exception of Oji Urban by virtue as the Council’s headquarters is

more or less urbanized, five communities that made up Oji –River Local Government Area were studied.

In carrying out this research, the researcher is limited by a number of factors such as non-availability of adequate information in the communities under study as a result of low level of awareness.

It is also note worthy that the researcher is restricted from more extensive research on the subject as a result of financial constraints, i.e., he has no enough funds to finance more extensive research, but however, his lean pocket is stretched in order to set the job well done.

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