Citizen participation in Nigeria and rural development is generally considered to be an important means for attaining development gains, strengthening local accountability, and empowering citizens, especially those at the grassroots. Therefore, the status of Nigerian citizens is ubiquitously vast in terms of the responsibilities they ought to offer for the overall ascendancy of the country.
Citizen participation in rural development improves the accountability of rural development projects that are usually hijacked or diverted away from the scheduled purposes. It reinforces traditional accountability systems and expands the scope of accountability. The participation of citizens is also instrumental in the design of needs-based policies and it makes the rural areas more transparent, increases levels of trust felt by citizens and bolsters the legitimacy of government decisions and actions at all levels.
In fact, the participation of citizens in rural development is an important mechanism that can control the actions of government officials, and it can therefore strengthen local accountability systems thereby improving lives and properties of the rural people.
In addition, rural development is a significant aspect of sustainable development that cuts across diverse sections of our societies. Indeed, any society without development could be said to be dangerous and prone to a number of chaotic ills.
The word “development” in its entirety can be deduced to be virtually changing the life of an individual, group of people or community in terms of social amenities, such as good health, good roads, adequate and clean water, education, and numerous other ingredients that makes up a great society.
However, due to lack of a well articulated, transparent and accountable initiatives in rural development, there has been much variation in the administration and performance of rural communities in Nigeria. Efforts made by past and successive Nigerian governments have been at their worst with more propaganda. Indeed it is safe to say that Nigeria had no rural development programme until 1976 when development for rural development was created.
Before this time the government’s idea for channeling some revenue to the rural sector was through: large sales plantation of cocoa, rubber, oil palm, subsidy approach which allows the public sector to provide infrastructure which indeed transport irrigation facilities etc. and that of agrarian called reform in a package called “Integrated Rural Development” (IRD) (Agwunobi, 1993).
As noted by Agwunobi, great damage was inflicted by financial agencies that persuaded Nigeria into multi-sectorial development programme under the pretense of the integrated rural development programme (IRDP) even though Nigeria does not have a well defined rural development strategy.
Rural development has not been centrally guided; instead of institutionalizing rural development ministry, the federal government has rationed the development programmes on several ministries and departments at both federal and state levels. The crucial role of local government system as a link between government and the rural people remains unrealizable and indeed inundated with unyielding attempts. These lapses have prompted a continued search for a new strategy for rural development in Nigeria (Okeh, 2010).
It is a general belief that local governments should be vehicles for development at the grassroots. This is why it is argued that local governments are championed in order to increase the people’s understanding and support of social and economic development in the rural communities. It is also attested that rural areas should be effective agents for social service delivery. Basic services such as health, primary education, shelter, employment—to mention just a few—should be on the priority list of rural areas.
THE ROLE OF NIGERIAN CITIZENS IN RURAL DEVELOPMENT
The participation of citizens in rural development have been regarded as crucial for promoting and sustaining progress and development from the grassroots. Arising from all the above exploration, in paraphrasing Enyi John EGBE, PhD of some important recommendations for roles of the Nigerian citizens in solving the lingering problems of rural underdevelopment in Nigeria and in order to have reasonable rural development, the following recommendations are fostered:
1. Since over 70% of Nigerian population live in the rural areas and produce the greatest wealth of the nation, the Nigerian citizens through democratic processes should accord more recognition in terms of budgetary provisions and provision of social and economic amenities to the rural areas.
2. The production needs of rival dwellers centre around poor infrastructural facilities, inadequate extension services, and lack of financial credit. Therefore feeder roads are urgently needed to effectively link and integrate peasants scattered all over the country with the urban centres to enable them to evacuate their products from the farms. They also need adequate water supply for drinking and irrigation, especially in the arid parts of the country.
3. The Nigerian citizens should see to success government providing conducive environment to foster rural and community development in Nigeria. Facilities such as education, health services, electricity supply, improving literacy, and general quality of life are acutely inadequate in the rural areas.
4. There is also need to adequately train the farmers in the use of new techniques of farming and for them to be provided with farming equipments like tractors, fertilizers and pest control chemicals at subsidized prices that those peasants can afford. In this regard, the current practice of absentee farmers living in the urban areas trading in fertilizers meant for real farmers should be stopped. Therefore, the Nigerian citizens should ensure that government endeavour to deal directly with the real farmers in the rural areas if rural development is to be achieved.
5. The so-called “agricultural credit guarantee scheme” under which commercial banks are encouraged to give peasant farmers loans guaranteed by the federal government through the Central Bank need to be reviewed. This is because the processes involved, including feasibility studies required to secure those loans, are beyond the capability of peasant farmers. The fact of the matter is that agricultural credit facilities in Nigeria have been designed for the big capitalist farmers. This policy should be reviewed to favour the peasant farmers who live in the rural areas.
6. The rampant and endemic corruption, greed and mismanagement associated with institutions for rural development should be nipped in the bud. The Nigerian citizens have all it takes, through legal means, to see it to an end. This requires the intensification of the crusade against these vices by the government and her agencies like EFCC and ICPC, among others. This requires the change of attitude by the political leaders to deal with the situation squarely. Therefore, the Nigerian state should make deliberate efforts to create virile and credible institutions and structures that enhance rural development.
7. Further more, it is advocated that Nigerian citizens should try to break away from the neo-colonial and dependent nature of the economic and social system. As long as we operate these social and economic systems of dependence, development in the real sense of the term will remain a mirage. In the long run what we would witness will be continued exploitation and domination by western or foreign investors.
8. On the overall, rural development in Nigeria should not be the concern of only Federal, State and local governments. It is important that individuals, communities, corporate organizations, nongovernmental organizations and international organizations and agencies must be deeply involved in the efforts at eradicating poverty, enhancing rural development and the overall national development of the country.
We have attempted a review of rural development and how with the contribution of citizens this lofty objective can be achieved so that, projects such as the construction of roads, bridges, schools, railway lines, air trip, ports, marketing boards and many other developmental projects, among others would be a reality.
ENYI JOHN EGBE, Ph.D (2014). Arabian Journal of Business and Management Review (Nigerian Chapter) Vol. 2.
Y.M. Kamar (Ph.D), N. I. Lawal, S.I. Babangida, U.A. Jahun. The International Journal Of Engineering And Science (IJES) || Volume || 2014 ||.
. UNO, (2004) Admin Committee on Coordination Task Force on Rural Development Guiding Principles for the Design and use of Monitoring and Evaluation in Rural Development Project and programmes, Rome UNO.
Williams, S.K.T (1998) Rural Development in Nigeria. Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, Osim State, Nigeria: 1-124. ‘0 A)