Making sense of 70% of rural Nigeria

Positive change need not be expensive nor drastic. How about small gradual solutions all around?

Tweaking perception the seventy percent Nigerians living in rural areas could be all it takes to effect positive change that will be felt by all.

Agbopa Village, Ibadan

Agbopa Village, Ibadan

I took the above photo a while ago during a visit to Agbopa, a village in the outskirt of Ibadan. As a fellow villager, this photo is not out-of-place, I only turned my attention to the woman when I realised she has been standing on the same spot for about two minutes chatting happily with her friend – she was on her way to ẹkù (a designated place for palm oil processing).

The woman above could have been from any of our villages in the south where daily activities revolves around farm work. Most people work day in day out but very little to show for it.

Most of the village folks especially in the south tend to have a few common aspirations educating their children is usually at the top of the list, this is after primary needs have been taken care of.

Getting insight to the state of Nigeria today need not be tedious. There are lots of document produced by lots of trusted organisations i.e UN on the state of Nigeria rural areas. Some of these documents were very thorough, highlighting lifestyle challenges of the seventy percent Nigerians in rural areas.

If we can afford to spend so much money on data collection, why aren’t we implementing recommendation, especially when it need not be expensive?

In the last few years, lots of focus groups and plenty of conferences held by several government bodies, most of which have glamorous themes – paid VIPs and speakers invited to give endless talks on how to improve our country on all fronts.

At the end of these meetings, one thing that I have noticed is preparation for yet another talk/conference when little/nothing is done with the outcome of the previous gatherings, so it feels like endless cycle of Owambe. 

How to best help pull along Nigeria seventy percent?

Repair school buildings so family can stay together in one place –  Not too  surprising the seventy percent especially in the south understood the benefit of education and would go the extra mile so their children could have what the parents lacked.

According to the UN, Nigeria as it stands today is only using half of its estimated 71 million hectares of land suitable for growing crops – great asset left untapped.

One of the key contributing factors to the endless civil unrest in Nigeria is fight over land ownership especially farmlands. Population growth means more people depending on the same piece of land for survival given one group exercising superiority over the other – hence tension and needless loss of lives.

Why are we not opening up more new areas for people even if the government have to foot the bill for the initial clearing of the land?

Well, no single answer to solve our many problems or to help seventy percent of Nigerians living in rural areas but what I know to be true is that we need to change the way we perceive villagers and help where it’s most needed – revamp existing village schools is a very good place to start.



Categories: Africa, Nigeria, Village Life

Tags: , , , ,

10 replies

  1. I know overseas, every community has it’s own circle to help people from it’s own area eg Ekiti parapo is in London and helps with anything to do with Ekiti state (I know because a friend of mine, belongs to it). It would not be ill-conceived to imagine that every city in Nigeria will have someone from the rural communities, who would be willing to represent the community regarding rural development and would regularly report back to the rural folk. All communities should put forth someone who will campaign for them at state levels to get additional funding.

    For sure if community inspectors can be resurrected to ensure that projects are being implemented and maintained, that would be perfect. There should also be teams sent out from Abuja, who carry out ‘ad hoc’ inspections to guarantee that what is being reported back to Abuja is the case. If the state is failing woefully, action must be taken. This can also be strengthened by the use of a hotline, to ring by rural folks.

    I think the idea behind every state should meet the water, light and sanitation requirements etc… within 10 years. If they are behind, then the people should vote out the governor and his people and get someone who can do the job, that is the essence of democracy.

    The cocoa initiative in Osun sounds promising.

    The idea for tapping the gas I think is good, it’s basic common sense, but the NNPC are just too lazy and corrupt to bring this light. That would bring employment to those parts of the Delta that are affected by pollution as well as reducing pollution.

    All the ingredients are there, it is just the will, implementation, endurance and a radical shift in attitude. Like the Chinese, see what they’ve done in 40 years with discipline…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I liked the idea of Ekiti Parapo, I wonder if this gathering is for Ekiti as a whole or a few Ekiti towns. Would be nice if all towns within a state can have such a group whereby issues affecting collective lot can be addressed – easier to get government officials to do their job that way.

      I know that towns within Osun have their own various group meeting with similar concept in London, however most go with their hometown rather than the state as a whole.

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      • Sorry (for my mistake) FK, you are right, Ekiti Parapo association is just for the town itself.
        It makes sense for the various towns throughout each state “to hook up” with one another to press their case. Governors will then definitely have to “sit up and pay attention” – as people will know their rights. Not the present tossing a few crumbs as an afterthought to the villagers as is presently the case.

        They should also “connect with” other regions of the world that have faced similar challenges and have subsequently overcome them. They can exchange ideas to improve their situation. The internet is becoming increasingly available.

        Hometown, is an understandable focus, but the poorer parts of a state should not be neglected. As an act of “solidarity” financial help should be extended from one town’s association to another. This must all be transparent to see that the money is used wisely, not simply pocketed.

        Co-operation and collaboration are key, not selfishness (as is currently the case).

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks jco.

          Given we have too many fragmented associations/unions – it is presently a problem to address the state collective issues as individual towns is about self interest rather that the whole state and accountability is presently a big issue.

          For example in Osun State now, if we have union independent of the government, people can work together to present ideas for improvement that will be centralised and easily accessible to most people rather than cluttering it in only one place just because it happens to be oldest city.

          This way, states within Nigeria can even work better rather than individual towns struggling. The only reason we tend to do separate hometown meeting is lack of trust, which we must restore to give progress a chance.

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          • Agreed, collectivisation , accountability (and simplicity) are keys to progress.

            I included simplicity, so that everyone can understand the process, and be able to spot cheating.

            Thanks for shedding light on the current state of affairs with hometowns and fundraising.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Sorry, I forgot to mention, think what that missing $20 billion could do if if was soley spent on rural Nigeria. Think what a difference that would make. This is just one reason why transparency and accountability are so vitally important.

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  3. FK, this is a huge subject, but I feel that Nigeria stands no chance of advancing by ignoring rural areas.

    From my little experience of rural Nigeria, Nigerians (urban) have a “Jekyll and Hyde” relationship to the countryside, which oscillates between “it is our roots” to they are “bush people”.

    To my mind a lot more attention need be paid, because the countryside does influence life in the towns and cities. An increasingly unappealing and opportunity deficient countryside will push more people to live in squalid conditions in Nigeria’s already overcrowded and amenity poor urban areas.

    Nigeria is not serious about the potential of the rural areas, there needs to a be co-ordinated policy designed to check the the spread of erosion (in the south) and desertification (in the north). With the current state of land disputes it can be seen there is no effective land management policy.

    Land management and rural development should not be left to the mercy of uneducated and narrow-minded governors. It should include the various communities and with a supervisory role from the federal government. Checks and balances need be put in place.

    I am confident that Nigeria has not achieved the 8 millenium development goals. Nigeria is good at sending ‘sharply’ dressed officials to pose and sign up to agreements which they rarely follow-up on.

    At the very least:
    No one in a settled community should have to walk to a river to collect water.
    No one should be having to waste time collecting firewood.
    Basic sanitation should be available.
    Electrification of rural Nigeria should be completed.
    Doctors should be available to every settled community.
    The benefits of family planning should be shown.
    The importance of sustainability.

    With all the strides made in technology, efforts should made improve productivity. Agro-processing industries should be based in local towns, storage and transport facilities should be improved.

    Development should not be confined to the state capitals, and minority communities should not be denied basic amenities.

    Initiatives should be taken regarding healthcare, I know in Australia, the government has a policy of paying doctors more to live in rural areas, as the cities are the preferred location for doctors. The same thing could be put in place for Nigeria for both doctors, nurses and teachers.

    State governments should subsidise the distribution of gas cylinders of kerosene in areas facing desertification. (Excess is gas is being burnt off in the Delta, this could be used more sensibly). Those states that don’t have gas could pay the gas producing states for this. This would be cheaper than having to lose land, replant forests and re-settle the displaced population, not to mention the loss of income from unproductive land.

    Farmers should be subsidised when drought occurs, I know in Australia, farmers are compensated for loss of crops during droughts.

    I know if these basic steps were achieved, we would not get people dying of preventable diseases, or people whose lives are blighted by disease.

    Poverty alleviation, should go beyond tokenism, in granting a woman a small loan to “weave mats and baskets”. Schemes wereby the local communities can add value to the products they grow/harvest. Information gathering from the locals need be taken more seriously.

    The big question is, “what vision does the government have for rural Nigeria?” The way it is going, in 30 years from now people will still be collecting water from a river, cutting firewood, living by candlelight, fighting over an ever decreasing arable land base and be blighted by disease, as that will be the expectation of the government. The alternative is to create a rural Nigeria, where people aspire to live, one where the youth do not feel compelled to leave their homes for ‘a better lifestyle’. In short the rural Nigeria needs to be taken seriously, and the commitment must be sustained (across various governments).

    Liked by 1 person

    • What can I say – can feel your passion, well the subject matter deserves it – only if we can all see it that way.

      Already, the big cities are crowded. Except if you have a decent job, some living condition in Lagos is worse than the village, sanitation/water wise.

      And you are right, Nigeria can not survive without the rural area not only because of its agricultural benefits, but also for human resources – talents are being wasted and in the city delegates become rotational among the mediocre and ‘bush people’ seen as ‘they’ as if location of where you were raised makes you any less intelligent than the city guys.

      I don’t know the right answer but I know that getting community involved is important and supervised by the state like it used to be in the 70s where we had community inspectors (wolewole). Well, before it becomes another loophole for bribery collection.

      Also, while the list you had are all essential I think as it stands today for most of the villages in the Southwest especially, even decent primary schools with teachers will go along way to keep folks in the village. There are schools already built between the 50s and the 70s only that they have never been maintained so now they are near empty. Safe drinking water, good roads etc are all of course essential.

      Government vision for rural Nigeria? I tend to believe what I see happening as I know there are plenty of document of this but implementation is a whole other story.

      I know that Osun state is helping the farmers now with cocoa seeds loan which is helpful in a way, but I would love to see more done in terms of amenities so farmers can stay in one place to raise their family.

      And yes, that $20 USD that waka commot could have done wonders to bring glory back to the rural areas – no doubt.

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