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THE ROLE OF AGE GRADE IN BAYELSA
New ‘bottom-up’ approaches to development attempt to transform the condition of rural population through the mobilisation and utilisation of their resources.Bayelsa state in Nigeria provides a case study of rural change and the role of social organisations and institutions (especially age-grades, social clubs and town unions) in the drive for rural transformation. These organisations form the pivots of rural self-help and have executed numerous projects but the absence of clear policy guidelines has limited their effectiveness.
Elimination of wide spread poverty and growing income inequality are at the core of all development problems and in fact define for many people, the principal objective of development policy. The dilemma of rural development in Nsugbe Bayelsa state area is that, if all the agricultural and industrial projects started in all corners of the country since 1950s to the present were successful, Nigeria would have recorded substantial food surplus and much of its rural areas would have undergone great transformation. This paper relied overwhelmingly on in-depth interview and secondary documentary sources of data. These were obtained from Bayelsa statewhich were purposively selected on the account of their status as one of the area with the largest population of Urhobo people. A random sampling of the area yielded eight clusters of communities which constituted the study location. 120 randomly selected adult respondents took part in the study while data were subjected to content analysis. Active participation of Bayelsa state age grade in rural development initiatives was widely reported and communities were found to be involved in development projects which they considered relevant to their felt needs and aspirations. This was expressed through the activities of age-grade organization. Although the Bayelsa state age grade has been able to achieve much success within the limit of its resources, the paper recommended an active collaboration with governmental agencies to take rural development in Nsugbe community to a greater height.
This paper examines the tourism potentials of Nsugbe community with a view to harnessing their potentials for sustainable tourism development. These villages were chosen because of the plenitude of tourist attractions (natural and cultural), which they offer; their proximity to the state capital and other valuable opportunities. The paper uses ethnographic method to elicit information and analyze the data collected from respondents. It is contended that a well executed community-based tourism (CBT) will not only create employment opportunities in the selected villages, but will also raise their standard of living.
1.1 BACKGROUND THE NSTUDY
Since the end of the Second World War, particularly during the past three decades, rural development as a concept and as a programme of action has attracted much attention that it has been enthroned as a vital tool in the development of many developing countries. This conviction was predicated on the firm belief that rural development could be the panacea for replacing rural poverty with prosperity in the developing countries of the world. Olisa (1992), however, observed that the results have not been significantly positive in most countries which have received and lived on aid and other income generating investments, especially from the more developed countries.
The failure of rural development and the indicators of that failure are as manifest in Nigeria as in the countries in Africa mentioned in a United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation’s report in 1988. In that special issue on Rural Development published in February 1988, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) painted vividly the discouraging picture in the following words: At least 700 million people live in poverty in rural areas of the developing world. And available evidence suggests, many of them are becoming poorer. “This grim picture emerges from the latest review … of agrarian reform and rural development in the 1980s”.
In Nigeria, basic amenities such as pipe-borne water, electricity, hospitals and medical care, primary education and modern communication are inadequate in over 80% of the country’s rural area. Agriculture is largely at subsistence level with traditional tools just as the rural agriculturist is without modern agricultural skill and knowledge. Over 80% of the country’s population live in the rural areas and are engaged in agriculture and as Olisa (1992) observed, yet the country’s internal food supply relative to domestic demands, has been consistently on a steep decline.
In the rural sector in Nigeria, public policy has consistently emphasised “increased agricultural out-put and productivity” as the main instrument for rural communities’ development. Similarly, public policy makers also regard rural development as synonymous with agricultural development (Hall, 2000, Onokerhoraye and Okafor, 1994 and Tom, 1991). The assumption was that increase in agricultural output would lead to increase in rural income and improvement in the livelihood of the rural areas. Onokerhoraye and Okafor (1994) have argued that agriculture is by no means the only possible occupation for rural people and have advocated a new and broader view of rural development in Nsugbe Bayelsa state area. Over these years, rural dwellers in Nigeria have been encouraged to produce more agricultural products because that is where, according to economic principles they had the highest comparative cost advantage. Okpala (1980), however, disagrees and argues that the prevailing public policy emphasis on increased agricultural output and productivity as the main thrust of rural development, is at variance with the peoples perception of what constitute their development. The rural dwellers frequently do not adopt the type of rural development proposals, programmes and projects that are espoused in the official national development programmes. This is because they do not share government’s enthusiasm for agricultural development. The various rural communities therefore, undertake other types of projects they consider more relevant to their felt needs and aspirations.
Okpala suggests a clear distinction in public policy emphasis between rural development and agricultural development. He argues that this distinction may even benefit agricultural development, as it would ensure a direct and unambiguous policy focus on agricultural development while treating rural development as a separate policy subject area. He further argues that the rural people, who are primarily farmers, have food in relative abundance and relatively cheaply. To them, agricultural products generally are “surplus goods” and therefore do not want more of them, particularly with the low prices of agricultural products in Nigeria. What are scarce to them and what they desire, are good roads, good water supplies, health, educational facilities and others.
As Olisa (1992) puts it, the Nigerian rural development dilemma, is that if all the agricultural and industrial projects started in all corners of Nigeria since 1950s to the present were successful, the country would have recorded a substantial food surplus and much of its rural areas would have undergone substantial transformation. Instead, the present general picture of the country’s rural population, is one of economic poverty, malnutrition, poor infrastructure, poor medical facilities, persistence of local endemic diseases which have reduced the quality of labour force, to name but a few.
For example, between 1973 and 2000, Nigeria launched successively, five national rural development programmes with more than eight supportive schemes. These development programmes were in addition to the activities of the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources in the sphere of rural development. The programmes include among others: National Accelerated Food Production Programme (NAFPP) of 1973, Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) of 1976 (in addition to the establishment of Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme to make the programme to work), Green Revolution (GR) of 1980 (which albeit, a mere show or change in terminology) and the Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI) of 1986. These rural development programmes were strengthened with more than eight supportive schemes, such as the River Basin and Rural Development Authorities (RBRDA), Agricultural Development Projects (ADPS), Rural and Cooperative Banking Policies of the 1970s, Mass Literacy Cum Nomadic Education Scheme of the late 1980s and the National Agricultural Land development Authority (NALDA) of the 1990s. The programmes and schemes were designed essentially to improve the rural output and thus develop the rural areas.
These efforts at developing the rural areas in Nigeria, have not yielded the desired results, due largely to their inability to accelerate the development of this sector. The initiatives failed because of the exclusion of the people not only from policy making and planning but also from implementation. Other attendant factors for the low level of development of the rural areas include, the failure to harness available resources within the rural areas, inability to sustain these programmes, managerial problems and the failure to take into cognisance the socio-cultural background and historical experience of the benefiting rural communities. The complexity and enormity of the problems confronting the rural dwellers in Nigeria, call for a profound search for both the causes of the failure of all government rural development programmes and the need for the formulation of a more appropriate and enduring approach. The problem is more than just technology and production. It is the “social, cultural and economic issues responsible for underdevelopment that require attention” (Altieri, 1995)
The consequent entrenchment of powerful and centralised institutions of governance in society has continued to threaten the existential essence of man in his local and national environment. The Igbo were originally free from such centralized and despotic institutions of governance.
However, to facilitate governance in Igbo land where kingship institutions were few, or to achieve uniformity with the rest of the country, the colonial masters created the “warrant chiefs” with the ordinance of 1916. With the attainment of independence, the warrant chiefs became anachronistic and irrelevant. Perhaps to achieve the same objective as the colonial masters, the military government in 1978 created autonomous communities and decreed that each community be placed under a traditional ruler (Bayelsa state age grade or Obi in some areas). The proliferation of kingship institution was thus engineered in an area of Nigeria where the predominant political organization was the “democratic village republic” in which the traditional local institution for governance has been the town union. The situation now is that there exists in most communities in Igbo land two dominant institutions for governance – the town union which is at the apex of the system of unions/assemblies that are part of the democratic village republic and the Bayelsa state age grade Institution fostered by the government.
As each community is large, it’s responsibilities are necessarily in terms of developmental needs. Needs of communities differ both in importance and priorities. What constitute “development” in Eziama may not constitute “development” in Ihitte. A community may have as it’s priority “electricity supply” while another may have “water supply as it’s priority. However the important thing is that all the communities understudy agree on the need for an enhanced socio economic, political and cultural life of the community.
Agreeably, Government alone cannot provide these services Julius Nyerere had said that if people realize that they suffering is not the will of God, they will make efforts and sacrifices. It could have been this realization that spurred non-governmental organizations in Bayelsa state into action. But while non-governmental bodies are making efforts towards improving the living conditions of Anambra East populace. It must be stressed that there is need for adequate government participation in this development bid. If these organizations in better rural community will matererilize.
Credence is laid to this when one looks at the united nations definition of community development. According to them, community development is the process by which the affects of the people themselves are united with those of government authorities to improve the economic social and cultural conditions of communities to integrate these communities into the life of the nation and to enable them to contribute fully to national process community development by this definition, ought to be a joint effort between government and the people of the rural communities.
1.2 PROBLEM OF THE STUDY
A common task facing developing and under – developed nations today, including Nigeria, is the development of rural area. Development of the rural areas or communities means an improvement or advancement in the socio-economic, political and cultural life style of people. In most rural comities including Bayelsa state Area, there is insignificant provision of basic human needs like Hospitals, pipe-borne water, tarred and motorable roads, schools etc, by government. This attitude on the part of government creates an impression in the minds of people that they are not part of the body politics.
Consequently, the people rely on what they can afford to fend for themselves. It is this quest for self-reliance that leads to initiation of community development project of community development projects by non-governmental organizations.
The problem of non-development of rural areas spreads across all states of Nigeria but in more pronounced in Bayelsa state Area – which is my area of study. In this community there is object neglect of provision of these facilities by government. Developmental activities are borne by non-governmental organizations like Town Unions, Churches, Age Grades, Social Clubs etc with little or no contributions from government.
This study will attempt at identifying the nature and scope of developmental projects undertaken by non-governmental organizations in Bayelsa state Area.
It will also find out what kind of problems that confront these non-Governmental organizations in it’s quest to improve the life of Anambra East Citizens.
The problem is that conflict situations have arisen in many communities. There is conflict over the relationship between the town union (or its president) and the Bayelsa state age grade. There is conflict over accession and succession to the Bayelsa state age grade stool, which has tended to destabilize the town union. There is also conflict over the Bayelsa state age grade’s area of jurisdiction and the town unions’ area of jurisdiction. The gravity of the situation is perhaps evidenced by the numerous litigations on these matters pending in law courts all over Igbo land.
1.3 OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
The broad objective of the study is to analyse the involvement of the Town Union and Bayelsa state age grade Institution in governance, highlighting the consequent encounter between the two bodies using case studies. More specifically, the study has attempted to achieve the following objectives:
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTION
1.5 RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS
H0: Town Union and the Bayelsa state age grade Institution have played no roles in the development of communities especially Nsugbe in Bayelsa state.
H1: Town Union and the Bayelsa state age grade Institution played great roles in the development of communities especially Nsugbe in Bayelsa state.
H0: It is impossible to analyse the relationship and identify the interface between the Town Union and the Bayelsa state age grade Institution with a view to understanding the nature, sources and causes of the conflicts between them.
H1: It is possible to analyse the relationship and identify the interface between the Town Union and the Bayelsa state age grade Institution with a view to understanding the nature, sources and causes of the conflicts between them.
H0: One cannot make recommendations to foster harmonious relationship between the Bayelsa state age grade and the Town Union in the development of communities.
H1: One can make recommendations to foster harmonious relationship between the Bayelsa state age grade and the Town Union in the development of communities.
H0: This project is not aimed at analysing the contributions of Bayelsa state age grade organizations towards the development of Bayelsa state Area.
H1: This project is aimed at analysing the contributions of Bayelsa state age grade organizations towards the development of Bayelsa state Area.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCRE OF THE STUDY
The essence of this study is to draw the attention of the Local State and Federals Government.
This research draws the attention of government to the need for stepping up their matching grants as well as provision of human and material assistance to communities in Bayelsa state Area who are embarking on one developmental project or the other.
Through this research, communities in Bayelsa state Area will realize once again that government own her a duty to assist he in her developmental efforts and there by which government will be made up to perform her own part of the obligation.
Finally, this research will aid students towards making further research in this area as well as serve as an invaluable source of information on Anambra East Community.
1.7 SCOPE OF STUDY
For studying episodes in the encounter between the Town Union and the Bayelsa state age grade Institution, two autonomous communities were purposively selected to reflect situations of harmonious and conflict relationships. The autonomous communities selected are Nsugbe in Bayelsa state Area and Mbieri also in Bayelsa state both in Bayelsa state.
The population of Nsugbe consists largely of indigenes of Nsugbe. There are nevertheless some non-indigenes who work for government establishments located in the community. The commonly spoken language is a dialect of Igbo. Nsugbe is a rural community composed of five villages with an aggregate population of about 30,000. The villages are: Owere, Umuagwuoche, Uba/Amazu, Umutaku/Umungwo and Amafor.
Each village is composed of two or more kindreds. Beyond the family, the individual derives support from the kindred, the village and the town, in that order.
Mbieri, another community chosen for study, consists predominantly of the indigenous population. However, there are non-indigenes who either do business in the community or work in government establishments in the community. Igbo is the commonly spoken language. Mbieri is 705 rural communities composed of 18 villages with a population of about 75,000 people. The villages are Obokwe, Umuahii, Umuomumu, Umuduru, Umuobom, Ubakuru, Amankuta, Umuagwu and Ebom. Others are: Ohohia, Awo, Eziome, Amaulu, Umunjam, Umuonyeali, Umudagu, Obazu and Achi. Each village is composed of four or more kindreds. Though the family is the basic social and political unit, the individual derives support from the kindred, the village and town, in that order.
1.8 LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
The researcher during this exercise encountered some problems. There is the problem of time. There was insufficient time in the way of the researcher to have a through analysis of the study.
Financial constraint was another problem and a limitating factor the researcher faced during this exercise as well. As a result of this, it became difficult for the researcher to pay regular visit to Nsugbe at least to afford him the opportunity to observe from time to time techniques used by town unions government in the development of their locality.
Unnecessary bureaucratic process within the town union posed a great deal of problem as the student was not able to get at same of the key members of the union. Based on these limitations, the study becomes restricted to the role town unions government in the development of rural areas with particular emphasis on Nsugbe community and does not cover other communities.
1.9 DEFINITIONS OF TERMS
ROLE – persons task or duty in an undertaking NON-GOVERNMENTAL – Any group set up, that is out side direct government control or involvement.
ORGANISATION:- They are social and technical devices or instrument that help in the accomplishment of goals that are too large and complex to be handled by one person.
COMMUNITY – A territorially bounded social system within which people live in harmony, love, intimacy and share common social, economic and cultural characteristics.
DEVELOPMENT – A continuous process of positive change in the quality and span of life of a person or group of persons.
GOVERNMENT- An authoritative unit of the state which has the sole function of achieveing the ends of the state- provision of welfare services, maintenance of law and order and establishing and maintaining of relations with similar units in other state.
Ngor Okpala Community, Ngor- Okpala local Government Authorities
and Bayelsa state Government with socio-economic ties.
and financial needs, etc. emanating from the environment.
agents development in the community non-governmental Organisations
leaders in the community and all those with positive disposition in the
conversion process within the community.
to outputs which manifests on the form of development projects and
their execution .
relationship which leads either in support of the system or it’s rejection in the environment.
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