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Gbede Development Initiatives:The Way Forward

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By Professor Joash Ojo Amupitan, SAN

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.- Barrack Obama

INTRODUCTION
The words of Barrack Obama, is perhaps, the starting point for this occasion. The time for change has come and the change-makers are here today. I am delighted to be the Guest Speaker at this epoch-making occasion—Gbede Day, featuring a Cultural and Traditional ceremony and the raising of N500,000,000 Naira for the building of Centralised Modern Palace for the Stool of Olugdede. This occasion is organised by Gbede Traditional Council under the leadership of our dear revered Kabiyesi HRM Oba Olusegun Oloruntoba, the Olugdede of Gbede Kingdom and Gbede Development Union.
We are all gathered here for one objective—the development of Gbede land/District. At the end of this occasion, we are expected to have developed a road map/blueprint that will accelerate the development of our district. Let me commend the organisers of this occasion. Your presence at this occasion alone is an important development strategy and is expected to set the tone for the next level. It is also observed that since the Olugbede stool was established in 1912 as a unifying factor, there has been no central palace to make the administration of the Kingdom seamless. Each Olugbede had always operated from his town or village of origin unlike other kingdoms that were established after the Olugebede stool. This has not allowed the Gbede Kingdom to record the progress that is commensurate to its capacity. This effort is a commendable one aimed at fast tracking the development of Gbede land.
This paper is predicated on the following premises/assumptions:
1. That Gbede land is one of the three groups namely- the Gbede group, the Ijumu Arin Group and the Ijumu Oke Group and together they formed the Ijumu Nation and are knitted together by the same affinity and progenitor.
2. That the three district that made up the Ijumu LGA were carved out for administrative convenience and for development purpose. They remain one indissoluble family and nothing can separate them just as we have in Romans 8:35.
3. That Gbede shall continue with this consciousness of oneness and mobilise her brothers from the other two districts to imbibe the same so that even in the nearest future when we have additional districts and Local Governments within Ijumu land, the identity shall remain the same and we shall not work at cross purposes.
4. There has not been any serious indigenous developmental initiative of this magnitude by the Gbede people, and that is why the Olugbede has always operated from his village or town of origin without any conscious efforts to have a befitting palace for him. The story must change today.
5. The Gbede people, in fact, the Ijumu people, are a special breed—the best, the most honest, trustworthy, brilliant, transparent, hard-working, highly professional, talented, and reliable people you can find in Nigeria today. That is why our people have made an impact in their various areas of endeavour within and outside Nigeria. Although some of these values are being eroded, they must be corrected in the agenda we are setting for ourselves.
6. Gbede and Ijumu land have all it takes to emerge as the richest economies in Kogi State and Nigeria as a whole if we have the appropriate strategy and our commonwealth is properly managed.
7. That Gbede Traditional Council, under the leadership of our dear revered monarch HRM Oba Olusegun Oloruntoba and Gbede Development Union (GDU) are the platform to achieve the desired development.
8. We need to adopt and implement the correct approach /model of community development to fully explore our opportunities. Therefore, we consider some models and strategies of community development in this work to assist in that respect.
9. To achieve the desired goal, we need to partner with our other brothers from Ijumu, other neighbours, the Government at all levels, and investors.

READ Launching of Olugbede’s Palace is a Dream Come True -Oba Colonel Oloruntoba (rtd)

HISTORY OF GBEDE LAND
There is always a history behind everything and every person or community. If I decide to go into the history of our Kabiyesi, the Olugbede HRM Oba Olusegun Oloruntoba, for example, we will not leave here today; talk less of the history of the whole Gbede district. Not many of us know that our Kabiyesi was rescued from the phantom coup during the late General Sanni Abacha. God saved his life because he had an important role to play in mobilizing and developing his people.
What we are doing today will go down in history, in fact, as an epoch-making occasion which will connect with the previous account of how we got to where where we are today. Thankfully, because of the advancement in society and the influence of technology, today’s history will be thoroughly documented with relevant evidence in the form of pictures, video and audio recordings, as well as written documents. So I congratulate the Gbede Traditional Council under the leadership of HRM Oba Olusegun Oloruntoba, and Gbede Development Union for making history today. We are demonstrating today that the labour of our hero’s past are not in vain. I’m going to dwell much on history to underscore the need for unity and also to point out the grave implication of disunity. Also, to show that in the affairs of Ijumu land, the Gbede group should play a fatherly role, being the eldest of the three brothers that made up the Ijumu Nation. If our forefathers had collaborated together are were united, the Nation of Okun would have been more than qualified to have a state of their own since the earliest times of State creation in Nigeria.
Gbede land, as we all know, is a district within Ijumu LGA of Kogi State. It has Boundaries with Idoyi, Ilogun and Okofin all in Bunu axis; Mopa and Ayedayo both of Amuro Yagba; Kabba in the Owe axis and Iyara and Ekinrin Adde in Ijumu Aarin axis.
The history of Gbede land is rooted in oral tradition. The oral tradition is to the effect that there were three brothers (great hunters) who migrated from Ile-Ife and settled in the present-day communities constituting Ijumu land. On getting to Iyamoye from Ile-Ife, they found the land to be quite rich in animals, and they decided to settle in present-day Ijumuland. They had expansionist tendencies, and they were so strategic in harnessing and dominating the vast and rich land they had founded, so they demarcated the land into three different parts. Their point of dispersal was the present-day Iyamoye (Iyah). The eldest of the brothers decided to move to the present-day Gbede land (then known as Igbe-Ode) and settled there; the second brother settled at Adde, while the youngest settled at Ogidi. Historians confirmed the name of the eldest brother as Owa and was married to Agba. The above oral tradition was confirmed by the work of one our greatest historians and archaeologists, Professor Seyi Hambolu of the Department of Archaeology, University of Jos, who, in one of his works, opines that Gbedde refers to a sub-dialectical group or a clan within the Ijumu ‘tribe’. He traced the origin of Gbede people thus:
“All groups interviewed agreed on Ile Ife as ultimate home. They also agreed that their origin is tied to that of other Ijumu people. The basic or seemingly standard version is that of three brothers who left Ile Ife on a hunting expedition and on getting to Ijumu land they found the area to be quite rich in animals so they decided to settle around. It is said that this three brothers parted at a point known as Iyah (that is parting) at the present Iyamoye village. The eldest settled at Gbedde, the second settled at Adde and the youngest being the Ogidi. This they claimed is the basis of Ijumu affinity. They further claimed that the eldest was named Owa and his wife was Agba and they settled at Igbobiti from where other villages in Gbedde emerged. To further buttress the hunters’ story, it is claimed that the name Gbedde is a simplification of -Igbe ode- hunting forest. It is from this hunter that the former twenty-two villages that the Gbedde group emerged. This numbers seems disputable for there seems to be more villages mention then this number. But quite significantly most of these villages remain only in their memories. There have been various reorganizations on a level one might term as internal migration. The product was the emergence of bigger and more viable villages, being conglomerations of tinnier ones. Thus, today we have just about eight villages in Gbedde land.”

The above was also confirmed in the Report of the Committee put together on the History of Gbede Land led by the late Elder Abel Olorunyomi who traced the history of Gbede Kingdom thus:
“Oral tradition informs us that Gbede people descended from the eldest of three brothers who left Ile-Ife. The other two brothers settled in Ijumu Arin and Ijumu Oke. The three constitute Ijumu kingdom today. The link with Ile-Ife is still evident linguistically. Also there are some areas of Gbede Kingdom where it is claimed that they used to worship 201 idols the sme number as in ile-Ife.
Gbede today has ten (10) towns/villages each with its Olu (Oba), namely: Ayetoro, Ayegunle, Iyah, Okoro, Ayeh, Odokoro, Agirigbon, Iluhagba, Araromi and Iluhafon. There are few Ebira farm settlements but these have no recognizable Oba/Bale”.
From the above, the history of Gbede land is intertwined with the history of Ijumu land, constituting the great warriors who carved a brave identity for themselves and for Ijumu land as a whole. However, their bravery was almost subdued in the 19th century when the Nupe soldiers invaded the land from Gbede axis which caught them unaware. From the compilation of Professor Hambolu:
“Ijumu is an ancient name chosen for a modern administrative unit and which has at sometimes known as ljumu. Presently is a local Government Area with its headquarters in lyara in Kogi State. The struggle for Ijumu identity was pioneered by Late His Highness, Eleta Ayeni Ewogbemiro, who as an enlightened citizen got a “Native Court for his people in 1922. The Ijumu traditions of origin emphasizes strong cultural ties with lle-ife, with the Ekiti and other neighboring Yoruba-Speaking peoples. Settlement within Ijumu is now known to date back to the first or second centuries, while very remarkable iron-working, brass casting and pottery traditions show that the ljumu had been economically a dynamically a dynamic people even before 1,000 A.D. The complex chieftaincy traditions of the ljumu “ministate show very clear affinities with those of the Yoruba and of Benin and had been worked out for many centuries before the Bida armies invaded the area during the nineteenth century. This ancient Ijumu culture and its institutions have continued to provide inspiration for the ljumu of today.
The ljumu of today proudly recall their war of independence” and still name the heroes of the epoch struggle against the Bida yoke. This war which lasted from about 1894 till January 1897 when the British intervened and established colonial rule. Their Akoko allies had since become part of the present Ondo State but the spirit of non-subservience symbolized by the Ogidi war and by the Eleta Ayeni episode the victory of Ogun Idi Ayin in Ancient Adde, has continued to inspire the ljumu. The Olujumu institution is one of the expressions of the modem Ijumu for their cultural identity and one which for them links the present with the past as face the future.”
During the Nupe invasion, the Gbede land was the most devastated and it took the intervention of the British soldiers to demolish the Nupe slave raiding and subsequently abolished slavery. Hambolu further informed us that the wars were of two types, namely the Anupe and the Gonigon, but they were two in one and the Gonigon were pure thieves, robbers, looter and were considered as the more dangerous groups and their identity was not usually clear. On the other hand, the ‘Anupes’ were the real invaders from Bida their capital. They were less violent and more systematic in the exploitation of the resources of the area. Their main requirement was payment of tribute in form of human beings carried into slavery to Nupe land.
The Report of the Committee on the History of Gbede Land provides further insight thus:
“Before the Nupe invasion which started in 1859, oral tradition has it that there were 165 settlements (villages/hamlets) in Gbede. However, there is no known map to show their locations. The inhabitants were all subsistence farmers who interacted freely with one another in their villages/hamlets as well as with neighbouring ones,. A small percentage engaged in trading, crafts (e.g. brass making, sculpture, , iron smelting, etc) in addition to farming. The rustic peace was dealt a devastating blow by Nupe invasion. The entire Gbede Kingdom was actually overrun by Nupe invaders. The invasion led to systematic decimation of all that Gbede people, resources and industries, hopes, aspiration, social and physical infrastructures.
Those people who were lucky not to be killed or enslaved hid in caves or fled to safer places outside Gbede e.g. Igbagun (from Iga Ogun) Ekiti, Ebira land, other, parts of Yoruba land, Edo State and only very few remained as Nupe subjects. Richard H. Dushgate in his article titled “Kabba”. The British Invasion 1897” described the vaillaages that the Royal Niger Company forces passed through on their way from Lokoja to Ogidi in Ijumu Oke to wipe out the Nupe army thus:
Game was scarce and sheep and goats were almost non-existent due to lack of inhabited villages……The column passed through a poor, almost uninhabited country devastated by Nupe slave raiding. At Emu, one of the few remaining inhabitants reported the presence of Nupe cavalry the previous day, when the villager’s food supplies had been requisitioned”.
After the slave trade was abolished, most of the Gbede people who fled from their communities returned back, but several settled in communities other than their original villages/hamlet while many did not return back home from Bida, and other neighbouring parts mentioned above. This trajectory can further be found in the Report of the Committee on the History of Gbede Land at pages 24-25 thus:
´The reality and challenges of the devastated villages led to the first wave of village reorganisation in the Gbede kingdom. Many villages that had been wiped out had been taken over by thick vegetation. The returnees were far fewer than the pre-Nupe invasion population. Examples are Iyamoye (which is from 16 pre-Nupe invasion villages/hamlets), Aiyegunle-Gbede (Agbara, Ehuku, Akure, Igga, Ofede, Okeleti, Ilseo, etc) and Iyah-Gbede (Arodi, Aregbo, Erege, Agun, Agbahunwa, Ilogbeya, etc) where villages/hamlets were abandoned to form bigger communities. For the same reasons, post-Nupe invasion settlements like Aiyedayo, Effo-Amuro, Isanlu, Okoro, Ikoyi-Ijumu, Ayede, etc emerged. The resulting settlement pattern for Gbede is depicted in a map by C.K. Meek 1917. This map shows the locations of the villages/hamlets, trails/bush paths and even important market centres in Gbede as at 1917. It also shows the three groups of villages into which Gbede is traditionally divided for administrative purposes ONA, OTUN AND OHI. The division into Ona (the way), the Otun (right hand side) and Ohi (left hand side) would appear to be as if the people were coming from the east or north east. It also indicates that the people were united as a group (see attached map).
The settlement pattern deposited in C.K. Meek’s map has been seriously modified in later years by the reduction in the number of towns/villages to ten (10) and the emergence of the two biggest towns in Gbede Kingdom today, I.E. Ayetoro and Ayegunle.”
The reason for the reduction of the 165 settlements (towns/villages/hamlet) to ten is not far-fetched. During the Nupe war, it was easy for most of the villages and hamlets to be overrun because of their dispersed settlement and sparse population. The villages were not only many and scattered but there was no cooperation and collaboration amongst them. They were not organised at all. Therefore, the need for unity and collaboration is necessary, especially with the ethno-religious crises that have bedevilled Nigeria. Thankfully a Balogun of Gbede land is being installed today. This point was succinctly brought out from the account of Hambolu thus:
“As for the reasons why the Nupes invaders were so successful in their marauding, l was informed that, it was largely due to the scattered nature of their settlements then. We had a case of a village not consisting of more than ten houses, in such a situation; it was usually easier for invaders to capture them one by one. As the area was organized in mini- states, they where not known to be actually war like, and their defensive system was not in any way adequate.
The role of individual saboteurs who collaborated with the invaders for their self fish gains were emphasized. The case of Gbedde was that of surrendering, as it was thought foolish to attempt a violent resistance against the well organized and armed invaders. Those captured from the already invaded areas were made to join the army of the invaders to invade the other areas.
As for the effects of war on Gbedde areas the most important was the drastic reduction in population of men with its associated problems e.g. reduction in the number of productive force, social strains like being widowed and orphaned.
Another important consequence was their realization of the inherent danger of remaining scattered. Thug as it occurred later, villages started conglomerating. Another effect was the hatred that was developed for the treacherous individuals and towns that cooperated with the invaders though time has healed the ill-feelings.”
It can be seen that the account of the history of Gbede land is confirmed by the work of the famous British Anthropologist- Charles Kingsley Meek, whose work on the Northern and Southern Tribes of Nigeria has been very authoritative and acknowledged globally.
It is significant to note that the arrangements of the three brothers formed the modern historical and administrative units in the present-day Ijumu land. According to Hambolu “Ijumu is grouped into three historical and administrative units i.e., Gbede in the North, Ijumu Arin in the middle and Ijumu Oke in South, the administrative Headquarters of Ijumu Kingdom is in lyara-ljumu in ljumu Arin.”

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE STOOL OF OLUGBEDE

Of significant importance to the history of Gbede people is the stool of Olugbede, which was a unifying factor. The Olugbede is the paramount ruler of the whole of Gbede land. Each village in Gbede land has its own Oba or Olu, and the villages and towns have been organised into three groups, namely the Otun, Ona, and Ohi and the Olugbede emerges from the groups in rotation. In the beginning, the Olugbede was not even graded, and as recorded by Hambolu, “His royal insignia is not much different from the insignias of the other chiefs of the villages that is a horsetail, and animal skin. His rulership extends through his life span, and there are no provisions for indictment.”
The Olugbede today is a powerful ruler, a first-class-graded Oba and a unifying factor for the Gbede people. It has made the cluster groups stronger and become recognizable forces. This point is well captured by the Report of the Committee on the History of Gbede Land at page 25 thus:
“Gbede history seems to be tied to the fortunes of Olugbede stool, especially since the British took control of the area. Although the first Olugbede was appointed in 1912 and the area accorded the status of a District, the Olugbede was not graded until 1922 during the reign of H.R.H Eleta Edidi b’oroke. However, the grading and accompanying staff of the office were withdrawn when H.R.H Elewa Atomode died in 1936. H.R.H J.B. Asaju could therefore not inherit the 4th class status. Today , Olugbede is a First Class OBA and a member of Kogi State Traditional Council.”
In the same vain, Hambolu explains:
“There is the Olugbedde who is the paramount Chief of the whole Gbedde land. We then have the village heads with jurisdictions over their villages. However the institution of Olugbedde seems to be quite recent, and infact said to be a response to colonial situation and part of the effort of cluster groups to be stronger and become recognizable forces. So far it is based on a network of three i.e. the villages are subdivided into three groups namely the Otun, Ona, and Ohi. It is rotated in the Otun-Ohi-Ona sequence. When it is given to a subsection it is the sole responsibility of those in that group to appoint an Olu for Gbedde land. However they put into consideration the acceptability of their candidate to the other groups. There has never been a case of rejection of a candidate for the Oluship.”
As the above shows, Gbede is traditionally divided for administrative purposes into ONA, OTUN and OHI. This is followed strictly in the appointment of the Olugbede by rotation. The Report of the Committee on the History of Gbede Land explains this nature of this administrative arrangements thus:
“Whenever there was anything to be shared, it was done on the basis of Ona, Otun and Ohi. Ona is given the first right of refusal and then rotates next to Otun and then Ohi, in that order whenever it is Not an imposition. The group (Ona, Otun or Ohi) is first given the offer. The particular village/hamlet within each group which should have the offer is determined by negotiation among all the group members. Negotiation takes over the process until the individual person beneficiary is determined. The negotiation within each group is left to the benefitting group. This triad rotational system (Ona, Otun and Ohi) has been in operation from time immemorial in Gbede. Rotation among towns/villages as against the triad system of groups of villages is not known in Gbede history or tradition.”

The first Olugbede was HRH Oba Olu Ana, who was handpicked by the British colonial government. He was from Otun group and it distorted the administrative arrangement of the Gbede people. Even the next Olugbede HRH Oba Eleta Ayeni Edidib’oroke from Odokoro was from the Ohi group. The Olugbede who had reigned since 1912 include:
NAME PERIOD GROUP
HRH Oba Olu Ana- 1912-1918 Otun
HRH Oba Eleta Ayeni Edidib’oroke 1920-1926 Ohi
HRH Oba Elewa Atomode 1927-1936 Ona
HRH Oba Joseph Babalola Asaju 1938-1945 Otun
HRH Oba Eleta Fanwo 1946-1949 Ohi
HRH Oba Abodunde Owonibi 1951-1953 Ona
HRH Oba Samuel Abodunde 1954-1984 Ona
HRH Oba Solomon O. Olorunyomi 1985-2016 Otun
HRH Oba Olusegun Oloruntoba 2021 to date Ohi
Occupation and Mainstay: The Gbede area is a rain forest region with abundant food resources in terms of animals and plants, so the people are predominantly farmers and hunters. The economy is subsistence, and exchange in the commercial sense is not pronounced. They cultivate and produce cash crops such as coffee, cocoa, palm oil, cashew etc and food crop such as yam, cassava, maize, guinea corn, groundnut, etc and livestock herding of cattle, goat and sheep.
Land ownership was communal, belonging to families and being farmed. Sometimes, the land is leased to other people for farming, but the ownership remains with the initial owners, and the palm trees and locust bean trees remain theirs.
The Ijumu people are highly educated, and they boast professionals from various fields of study, such as Medicine, Law, Accounting, Armed Forces, Engineering, ICT, Banking, Teaching, Pharmacy, Geology, History, Languages and Linguistics, Sociologists, and Anthropologists. They are mostly civil servants, and most Gbede citizens are in the diaspora.

GBEDE DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVES
Gbede Development initiatives is all about the creativity and the strategy we can put in place to develop Gbede land. When we talk of development of Gbede land, we are talking about the communities within Gbede land and invariably the people of Gbede land. As will be seen below, development involves community and people. We should be talking about how to transform our communities from being mere villages and towns into cities with modern infrastructure and amenities through communal effort, government intervention and investors/partners contribution. Also our people must be well developed and empowered in terms of quality education, quality employment, proper mind-set development and build with the aim of contributing to the good of the society they live in. We should grow our people to be champions in their various endeavours using the Singapore experience. Gbede initiatives should address such issues as education objectives, economic objectives, political objectives, security objectives, developmental objectives, social objectives and even religious objectives. This will involve having timelines to achieve this objectives and putting in a mechanism to monitor the progress.
Gbede land has all it takes to be one of the most developed districts in Nigeria and in the whole of West Africa. Is it in terms of human resources or natural resources and agricultural products? Several indigenes of Gbede land are sustaining the economy of several people/nations within and outside Nigeria. Gbede land is blessed with mineral deposits such as: Limestone, Gypsum, Gold, Lithium, Silica etc.
We should bear it at the back of our minds that nobody is going to develop Gbede land except Gbede people. We can only partner with others in developing our land. Consequently, the initiatives for development must come from us and from this gathering. Gone are the days when community depend on the Government for development. We can see today that our government needs our help. There is a global paradigm shift caused majorly by climate change and the conflict in the international economic order. Not many have discovered this but we should cash on the opportunity and evolve a blueprint that would make our communities to be semi-autonomous and self-sufficient alongside our brothers and sisters from Ijumu Arin and Ijumu Oke.
Therefore, Gede development Initiatives is all about community development and it should start from this occasion. Thankfully, we already have the necessary structures – the Gbede Traditional Council and Gbede Development Union to midwife this initiative. This occasion is part of the conscientisation strategy, which is one of the potent strategies for development. However, this is just the beginning. This occasion should stimulate a new consciousness in our communities and leaders to mobilise our people for development.

 

NATURE OF THE DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVES

Development in this context is defined in terms of community development. For ease of understanding and the need to handle this subject systematically, it may be necessary to examine what community development is all about starting with a basic understanding of what a community and the options of development/strategies available to achieve the objective. It is only people within a specific geographical location that can drive development.
In defining community development, it is necessary also to define what a community is. A Community may be described in geographical terms (place-based) or in social terms, such as a group of people sharing common interests, culture or language. A community is not just a collection of buildings but a community of people facing common problems with untapped capacities for self-improvement- Phillips and Pittman. In addition, a community can be described from two perspectives viz- Communities of place, which refers to a location and Communities of interest, which is a collection of individuals with a common interest or tie, whether in close proximity or widely separated. Mattessich and Monsey define a community as:
“People who live within a geographically defined area and who have social and psychological ties with each other and with the place where they live.”
Warren defines community as “A combination of social units and systems which perform the major social functions… the organisation of social activities.”
Therefore, a community can be defined as a geographical territory where people with some social and psychological ties live because, without people and the connections amongst them, a community is just a collection of buildings and streets.
Gbede, therefore, is a ‘community’ (a group of 10 communities ) because it has a defined territory with people having the same social (family, cultural, historical and other social ties) living together in close proximity. Nearly every family is related to one another within the various Towns and villages. The above indices are positive omens for development, and this close affinity is what is being explored in this paper as a catalyst for development.
Community Development is multifaceted. It has roots in many areas, evolving into various academic disciplines such as geography, urban and regional planning, sociology, political science, economics etc. It is a call to social and collective action. According to Long, community development is the process of solving a community’s problem through ‘group decision making’ or ‘group action’. It also involves economic development. Ploch was more apt in his definition of Community Development as the:
“active voluntary involvement in a process to improve some identifiable aspect of community life; normally such action leads to the strengthening of the community’s pattern of human and institutional relationships.”
Community development is all about locally designed programmes designed to make the community a better place to live and work. No wonder Christenson and Robinson state that Community Development is about:
“A group of people in a locality initiating a social action process to change their economic, social, cultural and/or environmental situation.”
Realising the importance of Community Development, the United Nations (UNTERM of 14 July 2014) defines community development as “a process where community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to common problems.” What we are doing today therefore, falls squarely within the United Nations initiatives for development.
Correspondingly, Oxford University established the Community Development Journal with the aim of being the major forum for research and dissemination of international community development theory and practice. The end result is the emergence of an International Association for Community Development (www.iacdglobal.org). So, what we are doing today is part of a global mission and movement to drive development at the primary level that would eventually impact the whole world in terms of its multiplier effect.
The type of development initiative we are talking about is that prescribed by the United Nation Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) (1975:5) as:
“The process by which the efforts of the people themselves are united with those of governmental authorities to improve the economic, social and cultural conditions of communities, to integrate those communities into the life of the nation and to enable them to contribute fully to national progress.”
This implies promoting the collaborative efforts of members of the participating communities with those of governmental authorities and other relevant stakeholders in order to contribute reasonably to community development in particular and national development in general.
The big question is how much have we been able to achieve so far. Have we met the aspirations of the founding fathers of the Gbede nation and by implication of Ijumu nation? The answer is in the negative. Let’s now look at the various models of community development to see whether we have adopted the right model in our quest for development or not.

MODEL OF COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

Basically, there are two models of Community Development- Needs-Based Approach to Development (NBAD) as against Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD). The Needs-Based Approach to Development (NBAD) generates the Needs of the community through a process called Need Assessment, analyses the problem of the community, and identifies solutions to meet those problems. The solutions are dependent on outside intervention in terms of fundraising, aid and other technical assistance. It is outward-driven rather than been inward driven. I am not saying there is any problem with fundraising but it should not be at the expense of the asset and resoursery available within. Some of the shortcomings of this model are as follows:
1. It is a one-sided negative view of the society.
2. It can compromise community capacity building.
3. It produces leadership that would denigrate the community. As Mathie and Cunningham succinctly put it- “One of the main effects is leadership that denigrates the community. Leaders find that the best way to attract institutional resources is to play up the severity of problems. Local leadership is judged on how many resources are attracted to the community, not on how self-reliant the community has become”.
4. The people begin to see themselves as deficient and poor.
5. The people have a consumer mentality or mindset against producers mindset just like Nigeria is not an oil-producing country but an oil-exporting country.
6. It weakens neighbour-to-neighbour links because people believe more in external intervention rather than harping on resources within.
7. In most cases, the bulk of the funding from external sources tends to go to the institutions meeting the needs.
On the other hand, Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) ‘rests on the principle that the recognition of strengths, gifts, talents and assets of individuals and communities is more likely to inspire positive action for change than an exclusive focus on needs and problems. Seeing the glass half-full as well as half-empty is not to deny the real problems that a community faces, but to focus energy on how each and every member has contributed and can continue to contribute, in meaningful ways to community development.
The ABCD involves exploring the theory and practice of appreciative inquiry, the concept of social capital as an asset for community development, the theory of community economic development; and lessons learned from the links between participatory development, citizenship, and civil society. According to Mathie and Cunningham, Asset-Based Community Development is an innovative strategy for community-driven development in urban neighbourhoods and rural communities. They opined further about ABCD that:
“As an alternative approach, the appeal of ABCD lies in its premise that communities can drive the development process themselves by identifying and mobilizing existing (but often unrecognized) assets, and thereby responding to and creating local economic opportunity. In particular, ABCD draws attention to social assets: the gifts and talents of individuals, and the social relationships that fuel local associations and informal networks.”
They argued further that ABCD can also be viewed as a response to global changes in the social, political and economic landscape because liberalization policies and technological innovations have resulted in a weakening of the social contract that gave the government responsibility for providing programme solutions to community problems. Technological advances in global and local communications provide opportunities for decentralised economic development for some communities. You can now stay in the comfort of your home using ICT to make money in a legitimate manner that is one of the gains of technology. We need to move ahead of other communities and train our people fast track development and empower them. We can do it formally and informally. We can explore our tertiary and vocational institution or use hand-on methods in providing practical skills and knowledge. A deliberate curriculum can be developed and our Representatives can key it in in their constituency project.
The Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) has the following advantages over NBAD:
1. It builds community from the inside out and not from the outside.
2. It recognises that it is the capacities of local people and their associations that build a powerful community.
3. It takes or concentrates on the inventory of the assets of the community and not just their needs.
4. It sees and creates values in the local resources that would otherwise have been ignored, unrealised or dismissed such as personal attributes and skills relationships among people through social, kingship or associational network.
5. After mobilising the informal networks, formal institutional resources would then be activated such as the Local Government, formal community-based organisations and private enterprises.
6. It creates a very strong community Association to drive the community development processes.
7. A SWOT analysis is employed to achieve the desired result.
We can speak about the concept of hidden capital and the factors of production. There are several resources and wealth hisdden in Gbede land. It is time to unlock them for the development of our people. We can make Gbede land richer than Kogi State. we can become one of the largest economy in the world. This would lessen the impact of marginalisation that we now face in Kogi State and in Nigeria. This path is not easy but it is achievable.
The approach our communities have adopted so far is what can be classified as a Needs-Based Approach to Development (NBAD) as against Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD). Most communities start with a Needs-Based Approach to Development (NBAD) but after some time, Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD was developed as an alternative to NBAD. It was for this reason that we have not been able to accomplish the vision of our founding fathers.
We must move from the NBAD to the ABCD approach. Fortunately, we have a strong Association in the Gbede Traditional Council and the Gbede Development Union to drive this. Gdede Development Union must coordinate this approach for each community and quartlerly or at least half yearly reporting and review of the performance from each community and also providing the platform for collaboration.
In addition, Gbede land is blessed with men of timber and calibre. For want of space, I cannot list them here. Thy must begin to mentor us, and one can only be reminded of the famous statement of Isaac Newton expressed in 1675 that “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”. When you stand on the shoulder of a giant, you can see far. This is a legacy our leaders must leave behind for the coming generation.
So, when you talk of talents and Skill, Gbede is blessed. It is therefore the task of Gbede Development Union to harness these talents for development. They are the greatest assets. How can this be achieved. The words of Kretzmann and MacKnight are apt:
“It is the capacities of local people and their associations that build powerful communities. The process of recognizing these capacities begins with the construction of a new lens through which communities can “begin to assemble their strengths into new combinations, new structures of opportunity, new sources of income and control, and new possibilities for production.”
So Gbede Development Union must begin to build the capacity of Gbede people collaborating with the Traditional Council, the Government at all levels and also of the local people in the various communities in form of training, education both formal and informal, creating new sources of income for its people, opening up new possibilities for production, forming new combination and collaborations with investors.
Thankfully, Gbede is not only blessed with top-rated human resources but also with other valuable assets such as:
a. Agricultural products and crafts. Agriculture is the mainstay of the community: coffee, cocoa, yams, cassava, maize, sorghum, groundnuts, beans, cotton etc. Malaysia relied only on palm oil borrowed from Nigeria in the 1970s and is the most rapidly developing country in the East Asia region. Can we collectively as a community put together an arable plot of land of about 10,000 hectares and collaborate with international investors to turn around our Gbede land. There are some African Food ambassadors that we can collaborate with.
b. Mineral resources- Limestone, Marble, Gypsum, Gold, Lithium, Silica, Iron ore, Gemstones, Granite, Quartz, etc.
c. Tourism is another potential. We can identify communities with speciality and symbolic events, modernise and turn Gbede land to a tourist haven.
d. Education- Have we ever thought of a Gbede university?
e. Sports- what of a football club? Have we developed the potential of our youths in sports?
f. Industry- We have industrialists, bankers, and politicians who can influence the citing of industries in Gbede land. The communities working with the Local Government can also establish agro-based industries.

STRATEGIES FOR DEVELOPMENT

To achieve above, we need to put in place a workable formula/strategy. Some of the strategies that can be employed are:
1. Conscientisation strategy
2. Group action strategy
3. Co-operative grouping strategy
4. Empowerment strategy.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

So far, we have not achieved much in Gbede land because we have not put together the appropriate strategy for development. There are some community Associations within Gbede land that have, over the years, put in place some laudable development efforts. We commend our communities for this efforts. The time has now come for us to work together as a District. In the language of Helen Keller- “Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much”. We should remember what befell our communities during the Nupe war of the 19th century when they failed to collaborate even as brothers. Our land was completely devastated for which we never recovered from. The Olugbede should take this task as part of his important responsibilities. The GDU should also be ready to work with the Gbede Traditional Council to achieve the desire result.
It is observed that the Development approach adopted by our communities has been the Needs-Based Approach to Development (NBAD) as against Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD). Now is the time to change to Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) in line with the suggestions and processes described above. We should learn from what is happening in Iluhagba Gbede in respect of the gigantic Cement factory being established. We have experts in investments and financial services that could help set up some of those industries collaborating with the Local Government and the State Government and some foreign partners.
We must imbibe the concept of social entrepreneur. We must not just give a fish but teach our people how to fish. This is the concept of social entrepreneur. According to Thomas L. Friedman:
“One of the newest figures to emerge on the world stage in recent years is the social entrepreneur. This is usually someone who burns with desire to make a positive social impact on the world but believes that the best way of doing it is, as the saying goes, not by giving poor people a fish and feeding them for a day, but by teaching them to fish, in hopes of feeding them for a lifetime. I have come to know several social entrepreneurs in recent years, and most combine a business school brain with a social worker’s heart. The triple convergence and the flattening of the world have been a godsend for them. Those who get it and are adapting to it have begun launching some very innovative projects.”
The Olugbede and the GDU must continue to forge the unity of the people and ensure collective mass action for the good of all.
I also wish to suggest further as the way forward:
1. Time is now for a Gbede agenda and by implication an Ijumu agenda with a blue print, timelines and strategic plans reviewed periodically that would transform Ijumu land and make the coming generation to be proud of what we are doing today. We have the required experts to set the ball rolling.
2. Gbede Development Union must continue to work towards developing leaders with vision who can do what Mohammed Maktoum did for his people in Dubai and Lee Kuan Yew did for Singapore. We should seek out leaders with community interest.
3. Take stock of community assets and plan to turn them into great value and big economy.
4. Develop the agricultural sector and help our local people raise capital through local and international finance institutions for mechanised and large scale collaborative farming. We have not explored the advantage of having a School of Agriculture in Kabba. Cooperative societies can be formed and they should be involved in the Mass Housing Scheme. The Local Government should be involved.
5. Enhancing through Public Private Partnerships to harness the mineral resources and large-scale farming. We have enough experts to advise us on this. The mineral resources in Gbede land should be mapped out and there could be collaboration with foreign investors.
6. A tertiary institution could be in the strategic plans of GDU.
7. Fundraising on the website would achieve greater results. We would need the data bank of all Gbede indigenes in Nigeria and in diaspora. Technology has simplified this. A friendly website is required and there must be on the website a link for donations and endowments.
8. The concept of social entrepreneur should be taken seriously; not by giving poor people a fish and feeding them for a day, but by teaching them to fish, in hopes of feeding them for a lifetime.
9. Can we turn Gbede land to a tourist haven by establishing a safari as a mark of remembering our ancestors who are great hunters? In the Olugbede palace to be built, there should be a Hall of Fame where our heroines past will be honoured and remembered.
10. We should also carve our own identity in terms of our dressing and costumes, songs and music and great affinity.
11. We should also not joke with the idea of security with the rising cases of banditry all over Nigeria. We must take proactive approach to ward off every threat. Our hunters and vigilante groups should be well trained and registered with relevant government agencies.
May I close with the statement of Coretta Scott King who said- “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members?” Gbede people must be compassionate. Gbede people must be generous to one another. We must carry along everyone.
What are we saying? Gbede land should be a semi-autonomous economy richer than Kogi State and able to impart the economy of Nigeria and be a force to reckon with in Africa.
May I end this speech by congratulating our Kabiyesi for making history. You have started well. May you record innumerable success that would make Gbede an envy of all. May your tenure be peaceful, harmonious, eventful, momentous, remarkable and outstanding. May you be on the positive side of history. You shall end well. I call on all to support the palace project and donate generously towards the accomplishment of the project and the donation should be continuous until it is achieved.
Let me congratulate those that are being honoured today. You have been carefully chosen and you are to be partners in achieving the Gbede agenda.

Thank you for listening and May God bless you all.

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