GRASSROOTS DEMOCRACY AND YOUTHS DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA (CASE STUDY OF AKKO LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA)
This paper relies basically on narrative qualitative data. This discourse challenges the idea of grassroot governance as a frame for youth development and welfare, and the ways governance is taking foot against traditional grassroot management and administration techniques. It further highlights problems and potentials inherent in entrenching youth needs, issues and priorities in grassroot governance activities within the broad-spectrum of grassroot development policies and processes. The research draws its study group from youths living in two residential sectors of akko – kumo and jalingo. The youths were drawn from these sectors using informal networks. Two discussion groups of six males and six females were constituted. It was found that the youths want to be patriotic, productive, earn honest living and become respected citizens. However, state corruption, ineptitude, inaction, and insensitivity among others is so pervasive that the capacity of youth to do a thing for the country is completely subverted. This situation puts the youths in the state of idleness and joblessness both of which impose low morals and morality and thereby force them into social and economic decadence and all forms of social vices that are threatsto the fundamental foundations of a decent society.
BACKGROUND TO STUDY
Akko is a Local Government Area of Gombe State, Nigeria. Its headquarters are in the City of Kumo on the A345 highway south of the state capital Gombe(about 40 km approx). Kumo(headquarters) is a cosmopolitan community of more than 30 different tribes,ranging from renown Fulani and Hausa,to remote Jukun and Tulaa. Kumo also serves as the second largest commercial centre besides Gombe The town of Akko from which the LGA is named is west of Gombe at 10°17′00″N 10°58′00″E.The LGA has an area of 2,627 km² and a population of 337,853 at the 2006 census.
Democracy in its true meaning is synonymous with grassroot democracy. Grassroot democracy is a people/community – driven participation in elections, governance and decision making. Grassroot democracy can be seen as a tendency towards designing political processes where as much decision making authority as practical is shifted to the lowest level of organization. Thus, a local government is a government at the grassroots level of administration meant for meeting peculiar grassroots need of the people (Agagu, 1997). Appadorai (1975) also defined the local government system as government by the popularly elected bodies charged with administrative and executive duties in matters concerning the inhabitants of a particular district or place. Local government was further defined by Lawal (2000) as that tier of government closest to the people, “which is vested with certain powers to exercise control over the affairs of people in its domain”. Local government is a system of public administration at a local level, charged with the responsibility of bringing the people at the grassroots closer to the government. The local government authorities in Nigeria operate in an atmosphere in which for reasons of high level of illiteracy, general despondency, and political disenchantment, their activities are somehow remote from media scrutiny and the watchful eyes of non-governmental organizations (Jega 2011). “No democracy can become dynamic, acceptable and sustainable if the system of governance at the grassroots level is not people oriented, friendly, participatory and accountable” (Adedeji, 1999). Sachs, (2005) postulated that, “The stability of a fledging government depends to a large extent on the ability of the governing elites to eradicate poverty For government cannot thrive in an impoverished country where people live below $1 per day, and where stresses of diseases, famine and climate shock are pervasive”. These quotations capture the central objectives and theme of this paper on accountability and good governance at the grassroots level in Nigeria options for rural poverty alleviation.
The origin of local government in Nigeria dates back to the very beginning of colonial administration with the introduction of indirect rule, which marked the genesis of self rule and shared rule. Since then, several adjustments have been made based on several theories of local government without success. The current efforts appear to be blindly directed towards bringing the poverty level to the barest minimum level, with the result that there are so many local governments that are not making any impact on socio-economic and political lives of their people. A visit to any rural settlement in Nigeria, which constitute about 73-75% of the nation’s population will reveal dirt and unmotorable roads, women and children walking barefooted and trekking long distance to get water and firewood, pupil studying under trees, dilapidated and ill-equipped heath centres and scores of poverty driven problems (Aderonmu, 2007). The rural dwellers suffer on many fronts and are powerless to improve their situation because of ill health, poor education and lack of access to many opportunities available to them. They are extremely vulnerable to natural disasters and economic upheavals as well as to crime and violence. The rural dwellers are often deprived of basic rights that urban dwellers take for granted.
Although successive governments in Nigeria since independence to date have attempted severally to eradicate poverty in the country through various programmes, the assessment of their contributions to poverty reduction is scanty compared to the huge am6unt of resources committed to the programmes (Egware, 1999), because local government official are not always accountable and lacks good governance. The situation where local governments merely collect budgetary allocations and taxes and rates without any form of change in the lives of the people and their environments is not good enough, and it is also unethical, undemocratic and anti-governance. The local government must begin to affect the lives of rural communities more positively by reducing poverty than ever before as such; positive changes in the lives of the lives of rural communities will cumulatively result in the growth and development of the national economy.
The situation is further worsened by the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria which places the local government authorities under the crippling and domineering influence of the state governments that are only willing to concede limited autonomy to this tier of government. Thus, the Nigerian Local Government system which is the third tier of government has no interactive links with the community for which it was designed and created. This has made so many people to wonder if there is grassroot democracy in Nigeria. Though the government is located at the local level, it is run by elites who are alienated from the culture of the people (Akinola 2006). Thus the local government and the communities that ought to be partners in progress have been operating at parallel lines. This has resulted in the poor performance of the local government over the years in grassroot development