‘CDA meetings must not be political but development based’
By Dayo Emmanuel
Community members in Agbede, Gbasemo-Tuaga and Ofin-Lajo-Oreta all in Ikorodu Local Government Area of Lagos State have participated in a day advocacy training on engaging with duty bearers on community development issues.
Held in Ibeshe-Ikorodu, the event organised by the International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos was supported by UKAid and ActionAid.
In her opening remark, SCEEP Officer for IPC, Stella Nwofia, gave the essence of the workshop.
“Essence of this workshop is to have experiences and to know how communities have been doing and how to do things better,” Nwofia said.
The advocacy training featured participants who shared their grassroots engagements. The participants were exposed to peaceful methods of engaging the government to ensure development of the grassroots.
Facilitating a session on Understanding the concept and principles of advocacy, Executive Director Democracy Vanguard, Mr. Adeola Soetan defined advocacy.
Quoting the World Health Organisation, Soetan defined advocacy as “A combination of individual and social actions designed to gain political commitment policy support, social acceptance and system support for a particular health goal or program.”
In his lecture, the activist also stated three important facts about advocacy and why community leaders must engage such in order to effect development in the grassroots.
According to him, “Advocacy is legitimate and constitutional. In fact development of the grassroots cannot be done by the government alone despite the fact that the government is omnipresent, it is still also ‘omniabsent.’”
“We must first define development in order to achieve it. A country should have security, peace and stability, he said. He stated further that “Anywhere there is war, there cannot be development. Anywhere you see good roads, it is an index of development. Another index of development is access to good schools, access to primary, secondary and tertiary health centres. Then we have to continue to advocate, we must ask which project first, we must priortise.”
He however advised the community leaders further on how to engage in their agitation for development. “Any project you want to advocate on must have a popular appeal. We must set up a popular and acceptable leadership. If the community leadership is not popular, it is a waste of time.”
One of the participants Alhaji Kolawole Sadiq Chairman of Agbede Olosugbo Communty Development Association (CDA) at the event narrated how his community has proffered solution to security challenges through a self- help approach.
“We have held several meetings after the community charter we got on our own because of the slogan that self-help is the best help. We have been able to do some things by ourselves,” he said.
Narrating precisely, he said, “One challenge we highlighted in our community was that there is an open field we use for social functions. Miscreants in the community do gather and hide there to perpetrate evil in the night. We were able to fence this land and mount a gate and since then there has been no avenue for the miscreants to gather again and there has been security.”
In his own presentation, another facilitator, Mr. Francis Abayomi advised leaders in the communities must know themselves.
Speaking on the theme: Understanding the realities: practical tips for effective community-driven advocacy, Abayomi, Executive Director, Peace and Development Projects said, “Community leaders are actors and the residents are stakeholders. Leaders in the community must know themselves, they must know the various communities and must know the things going on in the communities and must be able to learn from each other.”
Abayomi also enjoined the community representatives to take advantage of human resources in their communities for possible community development.
“There are people living in your communities who are government workers, there may be journalists and other professionals, we must engage them and leverage on their influence. We must have layers of involvement and we must involve people in our community development drives.”
He also enjoined participating community leaders to delegate and share responsibilities. “As a community leader you can get the people in the community to go on assignments. When you do, they would get to understand the real issues and would ask fewer questions,” he said.
He added that, “You have to delegate, it is not only the Chairman that must speak at your presentations, when others speak, it means they also understand the issues.”
In his closing remark, Soetan however advised the participants against being political in their operations at the CDA levels.
“CDAs cannot have affiliations for any party. CDA officials are free to be in political parties of their choice, but the main agenda at the CDA meetings must not be political but developmental based.”
Participants took turn to make contributions and ask relevant questions based on their experiences in the community leadership.