AN APPRAISAL OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMMES IN NIGERIA 1999-2009: AKWA IBOM STATE EXPERIENCE
1.1 Background of the Study
Development is a necessary aspect of societies, indeed any society without development could be said to be static. Hence all societies are dynamic. Development as a term has been defined by many writers with different views: – Ablu, (1982) viewed development as synonymous with economic growth measured in aggregate terms. Abubakar (1981), sees development as qualitative improvement in all societies and in all groups of individuals within societies. He asserts that all men must surely have enough goods in order to be men and to develop themselves. As defined by Forest (1981), development is creating the condition for the realization of human personality. He noted that development has to be marked with reduction in poverty, unemployment and inequality a high level of nutrition, high health standard, low infant mortality rate etc. From the above definitions of development, it can be deduced that development is virtually changing the life of an individual, group of people or community in terms of social amenities, such as good health, good road, adequate and clean water, education etc.
Rural development as an exercise is geared towards a specific field requiring thought and action on the government and the populace which its effect is a socially conditioned one, meaning that it brings about improved conscious relationship amongst individuals; groups and organizations. According to Ndangara (2005), rural development efforts must be derived from the needs and aspirations of the rural people and not necessarily in response to the needs of the urban political economy such as unemployment, food shortage, and rural urban migration. It entails a line up programme of actions targeted at increasing the efficiency of the rural population to the extent that there is rural steady power supply to the extent that standard of living and productivity are enhanced, and education and the environmental sanitation promotion are witnessed.
Basically therefore, rural development is concerned with raising the quality of life of the low-income population living in rural areas on a self-sustaining basis through a fundamental transformation of the rural mode of production (Gana, 1986). Central to this transformation, is the provision of rural infrastructure that are required to facilitate the production, distribution, and consumption activities as well as enhance the quality of rural life. Since the daily tasks of the rural people are carried out on space, land is therefore basic to the viability of rural life, and a comprehensive spatial reorganization of rural land through rural planning is of paramount importance for the attainment of rural development objectives.
According to Abah (2000), rural development in Nigeria dates as far back as the 1940s when projects known as Bamenda Cross River and the Niger Agricultural scheme Mokwa, 1954, were launched. Abah cited above says, since that period, successive impact of all the efforts are yet to be fully felt in the rural areas. Supportively Olayiwola and Adeleye (2005) asserts that, there is absence of infrastructure, which improves the quality of life like potable water, electricity and good feeder roads. However, this situation has made the rural settlement difficult for young school leavers.
In another development, rural development has been mono-cultural field to agriculture which is the occupation of the rural settlers thereby relegating other sectors of development needs of the rural people to the background. In the words of Ndangara (2005:139), the process of rural development is therefore synonymous with agricultural development but agriculture cannot develop unless other rural development amenities are present. On this note Abah (2005) succinctly put that: To many people, rural development simply means agricultural development; to some it is primarily concerned with welfare. These views are myopic because rural development should affect all aspect of the economics, social and political lives of the people who inhabit the rural areas and it should be relevant to the alleviation of all the conditions associated with the rural sector. It is true that economic base of the rural people is agriculture, but beyond food, they also need education, employment, decent housing, medical care, electricity, roads, other means of communication, entertainment, facilities for social interaction, etc.
Evaluation of rural development in Nigeria is incomplete without the contribution of international organizations such as food and agriculture organization (FAO) as the leading agency, international labour organization (ILO) United Nation Education, Social and Cultural organization (UNESCO), United Nations (UN) World health Organization (WHO) and World Bank. These organizations have enhanced Nigeria rural Rural development in Nigeria: problems and prospects for sustainable development through their technical expertise in the field of education, extension and training which have continued to strengthen the technical, physical and environmental bases to rural development in Nigeria. Specifically, FAO and World Bank have been the main sponsors and promoters of agricultural development formulation or irrigation development programme, River basin and other developmental projects. FAO in collaboration with UNESCO and United Nations Development programme (UNDP) have disseminated information and knowledge about soil erosion and method of controlling it, ILO and UNESCO have been in the area of training of the grass root level extension workers and general education. World Health Organization (WHO) has been active in the area of prorated of primary health care and designing special programme for the delivery of such services.
It is worthy to note therefore that Government at all times make attempts to develop the rural areas. These are seen in the lofty goals set for the development of the rural settlements. Every successive government will tends to explore new methods or ways to accelerate the development. Akwa Ibom State having benefitted from the democracy now operating in Nigeria also has to follow the laid down democratic procedures to get any programme operating. A change in the policy thrust or direction of previous government or administration implies that the administration will start afresh from the beginning. This involves thinking out the best policy and sending them to the State House of Assembly which will have to legislate on the said bill and having been passed by the House, will be sent back to the Governor for assent which will eventually becomes law and implementable. Thus, for such procedures to be completed, time consuming which characterized our legislative proceedings would have eaten deep into the live of the administration, thus leaving little or no time for its implementation (Gana, 1986). Either the new government that comes in will abandon such policies or where the government succeeds itself, it will no longer visit such policies.
This had always been a major feature of the Nigerian system be it at the national, state or local government levels. Lack of continuity of government programmes has been the major challenge of the Nigerian political development.
This paper is therefore set to explore the problem of implementation of rural development programmes with a view to highlighting its consequences on the rural inhabitants and also make useful suggestions on how to handle the programmes.