When Governor Lawrence Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State announced that his administration would give N10 million to each of the 470 autonomous communities in the state to enable them execute any project(s) of their choice, some people laughed it to scorn. They wondered how government would be giving money to communities, which was contrary to the previous practice of government making money from the communities.

But to assure the people that he was danm serious about the proposal, Governor Ugwuanyi invited all recognized traditional rulers from various autonomous communities in the state to Enugu Government House and personally handed over to them cheques for N5 million each as first tranche of the N10 million he promised, and asked them to use the money to start any project of their choice in their communities. 

The elated Royal Fathers who were not only dumbfounded but also bewildered at such manna fall down from heaven which they had never witnessed before, gladly assured the Governor that they would put the money to judicious use. 

That gesture had sparked off  project activities in different communities of Enugu State as the people competed among themselves to ensure that they properly utilized the money, which would entitle them to collect the remaining tranche of N5 million promised by the Governor for the continuation of their development efforts. 

In less than three months after that first grant of N5 million was made, most of these communities have completed their first prioritized projects, with Governor Ugwuanyi being invited here and there to come and commission them. 

Last Saturday’s commissioning of a civic centre at Enugu Echi Ihe in Awgu Local Government Area of the state, built with the first N5 million grant, is a case in point. The people were elated and full of praises to the Governor for the kind gesture, and asserted that the project had met their expectations, since hitherto they did not have a place to meet to discuss and chart their development agenda.

The Enugu’s “One Community, One Project” initiative therefore, follows the modern development trend of “do it yourself”, where communities are recognized as agents of development, and not just as mere objects to be acted upon and manipulated at will. It follows the principle that he who wears the shoe knows where it pinches. 

It is no longer a case where somebody will be sitting in Abuja, Lagos or Enugu, and will be deciding for the people in a remote community what they want. Rather, it is a participatory system where you go to the people, sit down with them, ask them what they want, and how they will want to have their needs implemented. It is consultative or two-way process where the people will be fully involved in every aspect of their development. 

The new development paradigm, which is bottom up approach, recognizes the fact that indigenous people are knowledgeable,  and are capable of deciding what they want and how to implement their development needs. The only problem is that they do not have the resources with which to actualize these needs. 

This is what the Enugu “One Community, One Project” programme has set out to do, to give communities in the state the resources, the authority, and the enablement to take charge of their development needs. Government officials had earlier visited each of these communities and interacted with the people, after which they were able to distil their development needs, which has been embodied in a government document.

The new Enugu initiative has given the people living in the rural areas of the state the confidence and the authority to decide what they want. It has given them a sense of belonging and makes them believe that the government knows about them, and that they have not been abandoned or forgotten.

Another significance of the “One Community, One Project” programme of the Enugu State government is that it has made democracy dividends to spread and to touch every nook and crany of the state. It is no longer a situation where government projects would be sited in some few favoured communities, those who voted for the government in power, while many other communities would be left out and be complaining that the government had abandoned them. 

Perhaps, the Federal Government of Nigeria may borrow a leaf from the Enugu State development initiative of even distribution of democracy dividends to its constitute units, and jettison its current policy of 95% and 5% voters’ ratio in appointments and siting of projects.

Even if, according commentors, the N10 million being given to each of these communities is considered meagre to carry out meaningful development projects, we strongly believe that the money is not too small to provide micro projects, like  construction of civic centres, culverts and drainages, construction or rehabilitation of health centres, renovation of primary or secondary schools, construction of open market stalls, extension of electricity, etc., which are what these communities actually need.

The Enugu Development initiative has also enabled Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to write his imprint in each of the over 470 autonomous communities in the state.

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