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The Spirit of Community Service and Development of Urhoboland:

The Umiaghwa-Avwraka Experience

 

 

 

 

 

 

By

 

HRM Lucky Ochuko Ararile PSC, DSS, NDC Avwaeke I,

Ovie r' Umiaghwa-Avwraka

 

 

 

 

Being the Paper presented at the Ninth 2014 Annual Conference and General Meetings of Urhobo Historical Society (UHS), which held at the Petroleum Training Institute, Effurun, Delta State, Nigeria on Saturday, 15th November, 2014.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opening Remarks

 

Very distingished sons and daughters of Urhoboland, as I reflect on what aspects of our collective journey as a people to share with you, I was reminded of what a famous writer and philosopher once said: “The potential of the average person is like a huge ocean unsailed, a  new  continent  unexplored,  a  world  of  possibilities  waiting  to be released and channeled toward some great good.” Looking back at these past two and a half years since my installation as the Ovie of Umiaghwa-Abraka Kingdom, I can say, with some measure of confidence and pride that real greatness lies within us as a people and as a nation. I am also persuaded that at the end of today’s event, each of us,  both  as  individuals  and  kingdoms,  will  be  further  challenged  to accept  some  responsibility for the advancement and development of Urhoboland.

 

However, before I go further, I would like to crave the indulgence of the organisers to rephrase the topic to: ‘’The Spirit of Community Service and Development of Urhoboland: The Umiaghwa-Abraka Kingdom Experience’’

 

In treating this topic, I shall take an overview of:

 

a.                   Umiaghwa-Abraka Kingdom

 

b.                   The concept of community development

 

c.                    The Community Development approaches adopted by the Umiaghwa-

Abraka Kingdom

 

d.                   The Umiaghwa-Abraka Kingdom Development Model; and

 

e.                   Make my concluding remarks.


 

Background: An overview of Umiaghwa-Abraka Kingdom

 

Before September 2011, Umiaghwa-Abraka Kingdom was an integral part of the larger Abraka, one of the two clans that constitute the Ethiope East Local Government Area of Delta State, Nigeria; the other being Agbon Clan. However, the Delta State government, in its wisdom, decided vide a letter dated 20th September, 2011, with Ref. No.A.978/T3/30 signed by I.E. Atagana for Head of Personnel Management, Ethiope East Local Government Area, Isiokolo, directed the Okanoje, Chief Isaac Aboloje to set up machinery to appoint a Regency Council in Umiaghwa-Abraka Kingdom. This was sequel to a memo from the Delta State Directorate of Chieftaincy Affairs, Deputy Governor’s Office, Asaba with Ref. No. CH.425/vol./vii/83 dated 15th August, 2011 signed by the Permanent Secretary, Mrs. I.E. Bolokor. The said memo took authority from the Delta State Traditional Rulers’ Council and Chiefs Law 1998 as amended, creating two kingdoms in Abraka namely: Oruarivie and Umiaghwa respectively. The memo also directed the composition of a council for the appointment of an Ovie in Umiaghwa-Abraka Kingdom. Consequently, in a very transparent, cordial and fair elections conducted by the Council of Regents, I emerged as the preferred choice as the first Ovie (Avwaeke 1) of the Kingdom. With my coronation/presentation of staff of office by the Delta State Government on Saturday, 7th April, 2012, a great milestone was achieved in the annals of the Umiaghwa-Abraka and the stage was set for re- defining the collective destiny of my beloved people.

 

The Umiaghwa-Abraka Kingdom comprises a number of quarters/communities, namely: Oria, Urhuagbesa, Umeghe I and II, Agbarha, Oteri, and Okorokwu with the main headquarters at Ughelle. It also has a number of satellite settlements, viz Okuóku and Otefe. Geographically, Umiaghwa-Abraka Kingdom is midway between Sapele and Agbor towns. It has a common boundary with Eku and Kokori-Inland on the West, Orogun on the South, Oriarivie Kingdom, Obiaruku and Umuebo towns on the East and Evboesi and Oroghoro on the North. Transverse by the Ethiope River, it lies approximately between 50N Latitude and 50E Longitude. The whole land, as in other parts of Delta is flat and fertile with tropical forest. The land, however, has been deforested and replaced with rubber trees, which serve as cash crop. Apart from the fast flowing, clear water of the Ethiope River, there is the Ovwuvwe Stream, as it is locally known. The stream runs from the River  Niger, through Umuebu in former Ndokwa Local Government Area (now Ukwuani Local Government Area), through Kokori, Okpara-Inland, Orerokpe and Okha in Agbarho Clan, to join Warri River westward.

 

As you already know, our language is Urhobo; and we are predominantly agriculturists, engaging mainly in the cultivation of food and cash crops (like cassava, yams, cocoyams, rubber production, palm produce, and variety of fruits, among others), in addition to fishing and hunting.

 


Like other Urhobo people, the governance structure in Umiaghwa-Abraka Kingdom is hierarchically constituted with the Ovie-in-Council representing the highest organ of government and decision making. This is followed by the Okarorho-in-Council, which is traditionally restricted to males (i.e. elders and senior age-grade men) from the ruling houses. Other very important officials include the President-General, as the head of a group that oversees the implementation of certain decisions taken by the Ovie-in- Council and such other duties as may be assigned from time to time.

 

We equally have age-grades which are divided into two: Ivwrahwa (i.e. the junior grades) and the Ekpako (i.e. the senior grade). Women are also involved in the administration of the Kingdom. They are basically divided into two groups: Emete (made up of younger girls, who are paternally and/or maternally from the Kingdom). Thus, we have Emeteritete (young un-circumcised girls or unmarried girls) and Emetogbe (older women, who have returned to their families). This group is headed by Okpako r’emete, with a spokeswoman known as Otota r’emete. The second main group is the Eghweya (exclusively made up of only married women), which is headed by the Okpako r’eghweya and supported by the Otota r’eghweya (as spokeswoman). Ascending to the position of Okpako r’eghweya is not by chronological or biological age, but by the time/age the bride price was paid and the woman escorted to her husband’s family.

 

Let me hasten to say here that when I accepted to come home to lead my people, little did I realise the enormity of the challenges we face as a people and the huge sacrifices my people and I would be required to make as transformational change agents. To start with, there was hardly any meaningful government presence in what used to be the second sub-clan in Abraka. Clearly evident are the enormous challenges especially in the areas of infrastructural development, employment generation, youth and women empowerment, as well as poverty alleviation and economic empowerment. Sadly, too the few projects that were sited in the area have been abandoned. These include the Delta State Agricultural Procurement Agency (DAPA/Agricultural Extension Services Office), the Delta Development and Property Authority, DDPA (where a large expanse of land has been acquired, but work has jstq started), the uncompleted abattoir and the Fire Service station, all located in Oria (one of the constituent communities of the Kingdom).

 

Having provided the backdrop against which to examine community service and development efforts, permit me to briefly look at the concepts of community development and the role we have played in engendering the development of the Umiaghwa-Abraka Kingdom.

 


Community Development: A Brief Overview

 

Various scholars have been making careers of stimulating development of communities for many years. Tracking back into history, the antecedents are many. However, it was not until 1955 that some sections of the United Nations felt compelled to profer a meaningful definition. Since then, more agencies, development associations and scholars have been proposing and promoting complementary definitions, (Sanders, 1958; Ad Hoc Group, 1963; Lotz, 1970; Warren, 1978; Christenson and Robinson, 1980.); but with what Dunham (1972) refers to as “variety with ambiguity of meanings”.

 

According to  the United Nations’  definition,  community development refers to  "a process where community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to common problems." Its overarching goal is to improve various aspects of communities, while supporting all programmes and activities designed to build stronger and more resilient local communities.

 

The Community Development Challenge report, which was produced by a working party comprising leading UK organisations in the field corroborates this position, when it states that community development is simply “a set of values and practices, which plays a special role in overcoming poverty and disadvantage, knitting society together at grass roots and deepening democracy”. Its key purpose is to build communities based on justice, equality and mutual respect.

 

As many scholars and experts argue, community development involves changing the relationships between ordinary people and people in positions of power, so that everyone can take part in the issues that affect their lives. They further maintain that this process of change “starts from the principle that within any community, there is a wealth of knowledge and experience which, if used in creative ways, can be channeled into collective action to achieve the communities' desired goals”.

 

The implication of this is that community development seeks to work alongside people in communities in order to build relationships with key people and organisations as they seek to identify common concerns. It creates opportunities to empower individuals and groups of people by providing them with the skills they need to act together, effect change as well as to strengthen social inclusion and equality, in ways that are mutually beneficial.

It was with this understanding that I set to work with my people, since my installation as the Avwaeke I. However, I appreciate the fact that Community development practitioners have, over many years, developed a range of approaches for working within local communities and in particular with disadvantaged people. Each of these approaches have been influenced by structural analyses as to the causes of these


disadvantages and poverty; especially with regards to inequalities in the distribution of wealth, income, land etc. and in particular to political power and the need to mobilise people power to affect social change.

 

 

Community Development approaches adopted by the Umiaghwa-Abraka Kingdom Numerous overlapping approaches to sustainable development of our communities were recognised and adopted.  While some  focus  on  the  processes,  others  are concerned with the development outcomes/ objectives. These include the following:

 

Ø  Community capacity building, which focuses on helping communities obtain, strengthen, and maintain the ability to set and achieve their own development objectives.

Ø  Social capital formation; focusing on benefits derived from the cooperation between individuals and groups.

Ø  Non-violent direct action, which assists a group of people take action to reveal an existing problem, highlight an alternative, or demonstrate a possible solution to a social issue which is not being addressed through traditional societal institutions (governments, religious organizations or established trade unions) are not addressing to the satisfaction of the direct action participants.

Ø  Sustainable development, which seeks to achieve, in a balanced manner, economic development, social development and environmental protection outcomes

Ø  Asset-based community development methodology that seeks to uncover and use the strengths within communities as a means for sustainable development

Ø  Community-based participatory research that equitably involves community members, organisational representatives, and researchers in all aspects of the research process and in which all partners contribute expertise and share decision making and ownership, which aims to integrate this knowledge with community development outcomes

Ø  Community organising approach that generally assumes that social change necessarily involves conflict and social struggle in order to generate collective power for the powerless; as well as the

Ø  Participatory planning, including community-based planning (CBP); which involves the entire community in the strategic and management processes of community-level planning processes.

 

Umiaghwa-Abraka Kingdom Development Model: Progress so far

 

I recognise that the Umiaghwa-Abraka people, themselves, are the key agents of change that are required to transform this kingdom into the place of our dreams. My central mandate, therefore, is to provide the structure and enabling environment for my people to envision this future, discover the right balance in our collective search for innovative  changes  as  well  as  increase  their  capacity  for  taking  control  of  our sustainable growth and development. I do not take this responsibility lightly; and I know that as long as we continue to receive the support needed to sustain our dream, my Kingdom will emerge as a major player in the overall development of our beloved Urhoboland in particular and Nigeria in general.

 

v  Establishment of Local Institutions to support development

 

Experts have maintained that no meaningful development can take place without the establishment of local institutions with capacity to serve as critical development enablers. Consequently, immediately after my installation, necessary machinery was set in motion to facilitate the identification and establishment of community-based structures to support the functions of the Kingdom. These include the following:

 

1.       Land Sales & Town Planning Committee: with the mandate to:

a.         Open Land Register to record/document all land transactions

b.       Facilitate all land sales and town planning activities

c.        Ensure that all buildings conform to agreed plans

d.       Prepare all deeds for all lands

e.       Determine development percentages/contributions

 

2.       Land Allocation & Use Committee: composed of 2 of the oldest chiefs from each ruling house with specific mandate to:

a.       Identify lands to be allocated for public and private uses

b.       Determine the size to be given

c.        Determine adequate compensations for families

 

3.       Kingdom  Project  Monitoring  Committee  (KPMC):  chaired  by  the  President General

a.       To  monitor  all  projects  in  the  kingdom  to  ensure  that  they  meet specifications

b.       Design  an  Effective  Monitoring  Plan  (EMP)  to  guide  development activities

c.        Recommend appropriate remedial actions/corrective measures as may be appropriate

 

4.       Umiaghwa-Abraka Week Committee: with the mandate to organise the Annual Umiaghwa-Abraka Anniversary Celebration

 

v  Umiaghwa-Abraka Youth Empowerment Programme

 

As one of our major focus groups, my kingdom takes youth empowerment seriously. To us, it is not just a programme, but an intensive process of attitudinal, structural and cultural adjustments, which increases their potentials and ability to make strategic decisions and implement changes in their own lives and those of others within the Kingdom and our great nation. In the words of the former US President, Robert F.


Kennedy, this world, and I dare say, our Umiaghwa-Abraka Kingdom “demands the qualities of youth; not a time of life, but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease”.

 

In focusing on youths, I am mindful of the hundreds of my youths who are marred by poverty, inadequate marketable skills, limited income generating opportunities and gender discrimination, among other problems. But I am also optimistic about the huge possibilities that investment on youths will create. For me, this investment is not only a social obligation, but also rewarding in economic sense. This calls for all stakeholders to make a concerted effort to plan, implement, monitor, evaluate and strengthen the capacity of our youths to compete.

 

o Desegregated data on youths

 

My expectations for our youths are boldly optimistic. I believe that together, we can make significant progress, as we maximise all available opportunities to acquire relevant skills and expertise needed to build our great future. To provide the right platform for articulating youths’ concerns and designing appropriate intervention programmes that address their felt needs, we recently undertook a Documentation, Demobilisation, Registration, Re-insertion and Re-integration (DDRRR) programme. The programme, which took place in the Kingdom in November, 2012 was coordinated by the CGS International Limited and Consultant on Amnesty led by its Coordinator, Dr. Ferdinand Ikwang. The overarching goal of this exercise was to collate and produce usable, desegregated data on youths within the kingdom to guide informed decisions and strategic actions targeted at their empowerment and development as credible agents of social transformation.

Over 2000 community youths participated out of which 1952 were registered and pre- classified according to their preferred vocational choices as follows: Trading (517/26.4%), Welding and Fabrication (200/10.3%), Fashion Designing (169/9%), Mechanical Engineering (136/7%), Electrical/Electronics (95/5%), ICT/Computer Training (74/4%), Hair Dressing (71/4%), Building construction (59/3%), Agriculture (54/3%), Catering (39/2%), Decoration (33/2%), and Driving (10/1%). These represent a total of 1,217 (62.4%), with the remaining 735 (37.6%) opting for educational sponsorship (348/18%), military training (27/1.4%) and other professional schemes.

In addition to these youth-targeted programmes, data on non-farm micro-enterprises by women and married female youths was also collated. As shown in the preceding paragraph, 517 (26.4%) of the youths are interested in trading sub-sector, while over 300 adult women are currently engaged in various non-farm small businesses/trading.

 


o    Youths’ Internal Governance Structure

 

Trend analysis of involvement and participation in leadership and decision making showed that youths were mostly marginalised and their involvement seen only as beneficiaries of programmes/services rather than as active participants in the development process. One of my immediate actions after my installation was  to correct this anomaly and to increase my youths’ capacity to contribute meaningfully to our development. Consequently, in an election process, which was essentially consultative, participatory and inclusive (in terms of the involvement of key stakeholders) and devoid of rancour and violence, a new Youths’ Executive body, was put in place. I am really proud to note that all elected officials of the body are graduates, as this was the minimum criteria set for eligibility to contest any office.

 

o    Youths’ Training for increased capacity

 

With the formal composition of a youth body and the election of its officers, series of focus group discussion (FGDs) sessions were organised to jointly examine the root causes of their low participation in decision-making. Their responses suggested that they lack adequate leadership and management skills, some organisational regulatory barriers and impediments, which have combined to frustrate their efforts as well as low resources to implement youth programmes. As a result of these findings, the first in the series of human capacity development (HCD) -2-day training programme- was held in Oria from December 7-8, 2012. A total of 65 youths (both male and female) drawn from the various communities within the Kingdom actively participated in the training deployed by Strategic Leadership Edge Consulting and Training Limited, Lagos. Practical aspect of this training included the field visits to the community-based projects of Delta State Economic Reintegration Programmes (DESERP) that are established and managed by youths: Fish Feed Production Centre (Okuokoko), Fish Farms (Ugboroke, Uvwie LGA), and the Pig Farm (Ugbuwangue, Warri-South LGA). The purpose of this visit was to positively challenge my youths to look inward by learning from their counterparts in other areas. I am most delighted to note that since that visit, my youths have gathered internal resources to kick-start fish farms. I am optimistic that with increased access to micro-credits, they will be able to expand this project to include more fish ponds, fish feed processing mill as well as set up other identified enterprises like poultry, piggery and soap, candle and powder making centres.

 

 

v  Engendering Development & Pilot Micro-Credits Scheme

 

The prevailing social-economic environment of the youth mainly favours the participation and development of the male youths. For example the female youths are mainly involved in domestic/reproductive work like collecting firewood and water, cooking and caring for the children and the sick, all activities which confine them in homes and do not expose them to outside opportunities that would enhance their


participation in productive household/community management and leadership development. To enhance their capacity to increase family earnings and contribute to sustainable development, we kick-started a small-scale pilot community-based micro- credits scheme for women. Its purpose is to provide needed support through credit financing, savings mobilisation and capacity building.

So far, 100 women have been given a token N20, 000 each to jump-start/expand small businesses, with the others waiting anxiously for financial support, which they may not get, if we are unable to access additional funds to support the internally-generated ones. It is on the basis of this, therefore, that I express the hope that our community women will be included in and allowed to leverage on the on-going  micro-credit scheme of the State government, which has positively affected peoples’ lives in other parts of Delta State.

 

v Cassava Out-Growers Programme

 

Cassava production and general farming activities have remained the prominent sources of livelihood involving men, women and youths and accounts for more than 40% of incomes in the Umiaghwa-Abraka Kingdom. However, as available data suggests, over 50% of the cassava harvested is wasted by production and post-harvest inefficiencies’, while the remaining is consumed domestically as food in very limited ways. Also, it has been noted that cassava production is yet to be commercially oriented.

 

The reasons for this are not far-fetched. For the men, women and youths involved, high cost of fertilisers, lack of capital/credit, improved varieties, and technical know- how, land tenure system, and high cost of labour have all combined to make commercial production nearly impossible.

v  10- hectare Pilot Cassava Project at Urhuagbesa

 

The overall goal of this programme is to diversify and strengthen local economies by supporting micro- and small-scale agro-processing activities, with cassava as the driver of sustainable development. It is also our hope that this pilot project will create awareness among our local farmers on new ways of cultivating cassava to increase yields, acquire new techniques on weed control, fertiliser application, and to leverage on post-harvest processing and marketing outlets to sustain production. Going forward, we plan to extend knowledge gained in the cultivation of other cash crops.

 


v  Cassava Out-Growers Programme & Provision of 5,000 hectares of Farmland

 

Working   in   collaboration   with   the   Federal   Ministry   of   Agriculture   and   Rural Development (FMARD), Abuja, the Delta State Government, and a private company, the  Umiaghwa-Abraka  community  has  provided  5,000-hectare  farmland  for  the cultivation of cassava on a huge commercial basis. Five hundred hectares have already been cultivated while the Invitation for the Expression of Interest has been advertised for the HQCF processing plant. Its major goal is to ensure reliable fresh root supply to support small, medium and large-scale farmers as out-growers, and to enter them into off-take agreements with the eventual private sector operator of the High Quality Cassava  Flour  (HQCF)  processing  plant.  This  is  a  key  component  of  government’s cassava production, intensification and industrialisation programme under the Cassava Transformation Agenda.

 

Without any doubt, this investment presents a great opportunity for significant job creation and income generation for the people of Delta State in general and in particular for my people.

 

v  Umiaghwa-Abraka Foundation limited by guarantee

 

To ensure that all sustainable development activities are properly executed and managed to provide for the needs of our present generation as well as safe guard those of future generations, we are currently on the process of registering the Umiaghwa-Abraka Foundation limited by guarantee. This body is to serve as our Executing Agency for all current and future development initiatives.

 

But regardless of how formidable this body is, without a strategic development framework within which we can realistically articulate our development plans, our efforts may, at best produce a few short-term projects that lack the capacity to sustain our collective aspirations over time. It is in order to forestall this that I set up the Umiaghwa-Abraka Kingdom Sustainable Development Planning (UAK_SDP) Committee with Dr. Joyce Ogho Ogwezi (Sustainable Development Expert) as its Chair.

 

v  Umiaghwa-Abraka  Kingdom  Sustainable  Development  Planning  (UAK_SDP) Committee

 

The ultimate aim of  the initiative was to assist the people of Umiaghwa-Abraka Kingdom envision a robust future for themselves, increase our capacity to develop through a broad-based community planning and implementation process, which empowers us to contribute to our collective search for sustainable growth of the Kingdom.

This Committee, which was inaugurated on November 2nd, 2012, had the following as its terms of reference (ToRs):

·         To design a draft Sustainable Development Plan (SDP), which should be ready for review before the next Umiaghwa-Abraka week that came up in April 2013

·         To work as a multi-disciplinary group to articulate development initiatives that will engender sustainable future for our Kingdom

·         To design a strategy for the actualisation of all identified and supported sustainable initiatives from planning to commissioning; and

·         To carry out any other duties that may be assigned by me from time to time.

 

It would interest this august gathering to know that the chair and all members of this multi-disciplinary team are my sons and daughters, who are professionals in various fields (including Participatory Development planning, Medicine, Pharmacy, Engineering, Agriculture, Economics and Business Management, Education, Linguistics and Indigenous language development, Geography and Regional planning, Information and Library Sciences, Social Studies, History, among others). May I also add that every one of them has continued to volunteer their time, expertise and skills to ensure that our collective goals and aspirations are fully realised. As their Royal Father, I am very proud of them.

 

Before I conclude on this presentation, permit me to make the following observations and recommendations.

 

Traditional institutions and leaders like their political and religious counterparts have emerged as a very significant force in our society, which cannot be ignored. As we are all aware, these traditional institutions have humanly-devised constraints that shape human interaction and the way societies have evolved through time (North, 1990) These include formal constraints imposed by rules, laws, constitutions, informal constraints ( dictated by existing norms of behaviour, conventions and self-imposed codes of conduct), and enforcement characteristics. Essentially, the objectives of these institutions are to reduce the arbitrariness of actions by individuals, to increase predictability, and to reduce conflicts. Thus, when conflicts arise among resource users, especially at the grass root levels, the case is often taken to the Council of Chiefs for adjudication.

 

Regardless of some challenges associated with the recognition and deployment of these traditional institutions, there is growing interest, among development practitioners, in the search for more authentic and socially-embedded civil society actors.  Renewed  interest  is  also  being  shown  in  whether  locally-based  traditional institutions, like Traditional Rulers’ Councils, match this description, given their continuing importance in respect to local justice, land and community development activities.

 

Very distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I dare to say, at this juncture, that with the modest strides we have made in raising our collective consciousness and commitment to the sustainable development of our great kingdom and ensuring that we build a more enduring legacy for our children, no doubt the Umiaghwa-Abraka Kingdom development model offers much hope for the use of traditional institutions as  a catalyst for our social transformation.

 

v  As I earlier noted, traditional institutions have been undergoing significant changes over time; even as their ability to effectively contribute to development has been constrained by the enabling laws, which govern them. It is, therefore, necessary that their roles as heads of their polities within the general framework of developmental efforts by re-defined by the central government and its adjuncts as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs)

 

v  Arising from this also is the general assumption that every traditional leader is sufficiently familiar with the concept of participatory development, the critical roles they can play and are fully equipped to do, once they are installed. Unfortunately, current realities do not support these basic assumptions. To adequately address these, I wish to suggest that training and re-training sessions be constantly organised to increase our capacity to do so.

 

v  Traditional leadership in Nigeria has survived into the modern era and is guaranteed by the modern constitution. Although as an institution it seems to have lost some aspects of its power, there is the urgent need to modify it and adapt its functions in order to play a key role in providing for the developmental needs of the communities where it operates. This could be done through advocacy, collaboration with donor agencies, central government organs as well as by identifying innovative usage for revenue generated within the community.

 

v  Traditional leadership, when properly exercised, also provides extra security in guaranteeing the fundamental human rights, particularly of the marginalised members of the community. It is on this note that I wish to suggest that the government continues to support vigilante groups which have maintained a very positive complementary role in safe-guarding the rights of the largely invisible and disadvantaged groups within Urhoboland. Without any equivocation whatsoever, I submit that, if properly managed, local vigilante groups can adequately meet security needs of rural communities in ways that the State security operatives alone may not be able to do. The recent achievement of the local vigilante group in re-capturing Mubi from Boko Haram insurgents attests to this.

 

v  Development experts have highlighted the need for more active participation on the part of indigenous peoples in development planning. At the same time they warned against imposing alien organisational forms on indigenous communities in the name of participation. It  is often easier to promote successful development interventions by drawing on traditional social structures and using local decision-making institutions. The World Bank's recent policy directive on indigenous peoples highlights the need for their "informed participation" in Bank projects, as well as the design of indigenous peoples' development plans or strategies in collaboration with their leadership and organizations. The implication of this is that deliberate attempts must be made to actively involve target beneficiaries in all aspects of development, right from its project identification through planning and implementation stages. This is necessary to increase their sense of ownership, acceptability and engender social endorsement of such projects.

 

v  As of 2006, the Nigerian constitution has no provision for traditional rulers, though legally they continue under the dispensation of the 1979 constitution, which is an unrealistic representation of their actual role. In actuality, policy is made on an ad hoc, state-by-state basis and evolves rapidly. Government should consider creating a clear and constitutionally-specified role for traditional rulers with transparent mechanisms for either making or approving choices; as well as specify more clearly the role they would be expected to play in conflict resolution, community development initiatives, etc.

 

v  Traditional rulership has often been a highly contested political institution, because of its associations with authority and power, and as a result of its politicisation by successive governments and parties, it cannot be treated simply as a civil society group. Extreme caution should, therefore, be exercised in respect of policies which might encourage a renewal of their official participation in political life or government. The undoubted contribution that some of us make to local development efforts should continue to be structured and strengthened by informal and community-based mechanisms.

 

v  I also submit that the Umiaghwa-Abraka Kingdom Sustainable Development Planning (UAK_SDP) model is one that can be replicated and its vital tool adapted and deployed in the quest for alternative methods for development in Urhoboland.


 

Concluding Remarks

 

The potential role of traditional institutions in community development cannot be over-emphasized. There is the need to strengthen the existing ones so that they can make more significant contributions to development. Concrete efforts should also be made to avoid elite capture (a.k.a. development gate-keepers and benefit captors), when decisions are being made; even as vulnerable groups (including female youths, women, widows, the physically-challenged, etc) who are often ignored should be encouraged to participate in the decision-making and implementation processes.

 

Finally, let me thank the Urhobo Historical Society, the conveners of this epoch-making event and this historical gathering of Urhobo sons and daughters for the unique opportunity given to us to share our modest achievements since our re-birth as an autonomous Kingdom. Let me also assure you that when our story will be told in future, this gesture of love on your part will not be forgotten.

 

Thank you for believing in us and for your attention. Long live the Umiaghwa-Abraka Kingdom!

Long live the Urhobo Nation! Long live Delta State!

Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

 

 

His Royal Majesty, AVM Lucky Ochuko Ararile (rtd), Avwaeke I,

Ovie of Umiaghwa-Abraka Kingdom Saturday, 15th November, 2014

 

 

 

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