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IMBIBING THE SPIRIT OF TOGETHERNESS IN COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT EFFORTS

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By: Professor Joash Ojo Amupitan, SAN
“When individuals and communities do not govern self, they risk being ruled by external forces that care less about the well-being of the village.”- (T.F Hodge)

Salutations/Protocol
INTRODUCTION
It gives me the greatest pleasure to be here today as the Guest Speaker on this auspicious occasion of the Cultural Value Chains and Project Infrastructure Fund Raising under the theme “SUSTENANCE OF CORPORATE EXISTENCE: A PRICELESS GOAL” put together by Iyah-Gbede Development Association. I will be speaking on the topic “Imbibing the Spirit of Togetherness in Community Development Efforts”.
I received the invitation with great trepidation. Knowing fully well the calibre of personalities we have in our community. I did a checklist; the cream de la cream in the community and I was wondering why me. I was instructed and reminded that it is a call to duty and that it is part of the mentoring objectives of the Iyah-Gbede Development Association. It is on this note that I surrendered and I want to specially thank the leadership of IGDA for nominating me for this task.

I have looked forward to an occasion like this in our community (Iyah-Gbede) of which I am proud to be part because of my biological connection to the town. My Late Mother, Deaconess Alice Ajigba Meseoran Amupitan, JP (Nee Alemede) was a native of this community. She was born at Oke Banran Quarters (Now Iyah- Gbede) on 14th day of August 1936 to the family of Chief Alemede Atikekeresareewo (Alias “Agealaherehohinuojo” and “Olodo”) who later became the Olu (Oba) of Iyah Gbede.

Deaconess Alice Ajigba Meseoran Amupitan, JP was born at Oke Banran Quarters (Now Iyah – Gbede), Ijumu LGA of the Present Kogi State on 14th day of August 1936 to the family of Chief Alemede Atikekeresareewo (Alias “Agealaherehohinuojo” and “Olodo”) who later became the Olu (Oba) of Iyah Gbedde, Ijumu Local Government Area, Kogi State, Nigeria.
From above you can see my deep-rooted affinity with this community. In fact, our current Kabiyesi HRH Oba David Tayo Faleke is my cousin and I am pleased to announce that I belong to the Royalty of this community. For my mother’s loyalty and love for this community, she encouraged and guided two of her daughters (Mrs Toyin Ayeni and Mrs Abiodun Oreh to marry from here.
I would have featured in last year’s programme as the Guest Speaker but I was out of the country. I want to thank the IGDA for inviting me once again this year. Prince Dr E.O Jeminiwa and Hon. Yori Afolabi did everything within their power to bring me here today. Kudos to them.
This topic has become expedient because of the History behind this community. The collective decision to move from the old Iyah-Gbede to the present location is something that must be defended and protected. Everything must be done to make the dream of our founding fathers come true. Hence, the sustenance of the Corporate existence of this town is, therefore, a priceless goal to be shared and pursued by all. This can only be achieved if we work together- the spirit of togetherness.
WHAT DOES TOGETHERNESS ENTAIL?
Please permit me to digress a little bit to explain what this term connotes. The Oxford Dictionary defines the word togetherness as “the state of being close to another person or other people.” This has two components- closeness to one another as a community, which is the first stage and the second is getting the community to collaborate or network with other people, community, individuals or government. This closeness will foster the happiness of the greater number in the community. No wonder, the Britannica Dictionary defines Togetherness as “a state or feeling of closeness and happiness among people who are together as friends, family members, etc. family togetherness. trying to encourage a sense of togetherness among the people in the community.” Also, ChatGPT defines togetherness as follows:
“Togetherness can be described as the state or feeling of being united, connected, or closely associated with others. It refers to a sense of unity and harmony achieved through social bonds, shared experiences, cooperation, and mutual support among individuals or groups. Togetherness often involves feelings of belonging, trust, empathy, and collaboration, fostering a positive and supportive environment where individuals can thrive collectively.”
Togetherness, therefore entails unity or teamwork. In fact, the other words for togetherness are unity, solidarity, kinship or cooperation”. If we are united, we are stronger and is therefore a necessity. We will be unstoppable. In the language of Fibi- Value of Togetherness:
“Being part of a team is important to us, not just because we like it, but because it is a necessity. There is no comparison between the things we can achieve as individuals and those achieved through collaboration and teamwork. It is critical for an organization to have a team that works well.” 2021.
This is apparent from the Biblical Tower of Babel. In Genesis 11:3-7, the power of unity was described as the power of possibility. It states:
They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth. 5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” Underlined mine.
May I cite the examples of Malaysia and Singapore- a showpiece of togetherness and community development effort. The
A GOOD TEAM MEMBER
We must not just work together but you must be a good team member. The community is like a body and can be likened to one body in Christendom- the Body of Christ. So, we represent different parts of this body. In the book of Ephesians 4:11, Christ gave different gifts- some are called to be apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers. There must be unity in diversity because we need one another. In the book of 1 Corinthians 12: 19-23, Apostle Paul said:
“12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”
MEANING OF COMMUNITY OR COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
In defining community development, it is necessary 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.
Iyah-Gbede, therefore, qualifies to be a community within the above definition because it is a defined territory with people having the same social (family, cultural, historical and other social ties) lives together in close proximity. Nearly every family is related to one another. The above indices are positive omen 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.”

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.
This occasion, therefore is about community development. Interestingly, the initiative on community development in Iyah-Gbede started in November, 1955 when the young Iyah Sons decided to form the IYAH YOUTH COUNCIL with the main objective of developing and nurturing the spirit of oneness among the citizen of Iyah-Gbede and to develop Iyah-Gdede collectively. The following development efforts have been made in Iyah-Gbede since 1972 till date:
1. Donation of A block of four ( 4) Classrooms to Gbede community towards the establishment of Gbedde Baptist Commercial College in 1972.
2. Building of Health/Maternity in 1975
3. Building of the then Oyi Local Government Primary School after the donation of the 4 Class Rooms to Gbedde Community in 1972.
4. Building of Town/Multipurpose Hall.’
5. Laid out the present site of Iyah with an internal road network.
6. Building of Market Shops
7. Provision of Water (Boreholes) and Reticulation
8. Provision of Health Services to Iyah Community at a reduced price throughout the year
9. Carried out Air Qualify Baseline Survey (Wet/Dry) Season.
10. Bought the Electricity Poles for the electrification of Iyah Gbedde before the Divine intervention of the European Economic Community which took it over and completed it.
11. Provision of Street Light (Solar) within the community.
12. Construction of Drainages and Culverts
13. The renovation of Corper’s lodge in 2012, etc
With all these efforts we have been able to achieve the desired community development. Have we met the aspirations of the founding fathers of this community? 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 or not.
MODEL OF COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
Basically, there are two types of 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. according to
Mathie and Cunningham, “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.”
Thay 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.
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.
The approach we have adopted as a community 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.
Therefore, in working together, we must move from the NBAD to the ABCD approach. Fortunately, we have a strong Association in the Iyah-Gbede Development Association and the Oba-in-Council.
In addition, Iyah-Gbede is blessed with men of timber and calibre. One cannot forget their influence and trajectories: General David Medaiyese Jemibewon, former Military Governor of Western Region and Oyo State, former Ajunctant-General of the Nigerian Army, former GOC of 1st Mechanised Division of the Nigerian Army, former Minister of Police Affairs etc, Barrister Tunde Ayeni, OFR, Chairman of several National and Multinational Companies including Telecommunications, Banks and Financial institutions, Professor Ologe, Mr Dan-Kunle, Chief F.O Fagbemi, Prince Emmanual Jeminiwa, Hon. Yori Afolabi among others. This unique town also boasts of producing our current and most revered Olujumu of Ijumu Kingdom His Royal Majesty Oba Williams Olusegun Ayeni. We cannot forget the efforts of our hero’s past. Mention must be made of the late Oba S.O Olorunyomi, the former Olugbede of Gbede land, Late Chief J.A. Ologe, Chief J.A Ayinmode, late Mr Abraham O. Ibitogbe not to forget my Grandfather- His majesty Oba Alemede Atikekeresareewo, who had community development minds. Most of them have been mentors to many of 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. It means you can master their wisdom and move beyond it. Thank you for offering your shoulders to many to stand on.

So, when you talk of talents and Skill, Iyah-Gbede is blessed. It is therefore the task of Iyah-Gbede Development Association to harness these talents for development. They are the greatest assets. How can this be achieved. The words of Kretzmann and MacKnight is 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 Iyah-Gbede Development Association must begin to build the capacity of its members and also of the local people in the 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, Iyah-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.
b. Mineral resources- marble, limestone, iron ore, gemstones, granite, quartz etc
c. Tourism is another potential (the Epa festival can be modernised and made a tourist delight).
d. Education- Have we ever thought of a community university in Iyah-Gbede?
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 Iyah-Gbede.
WHY MUST WE WORK TOGETHER?
(1) Sir Isaac Newton, the famous English scientist, once said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
(2) Helen Keller- “Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much”.
(3) You must not just give a fish but teach them 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.”
CONCLUDING REMARKS
The Community Development efforts of Iyah-Gbde Community starting from 1955 when the Iyah Youth Council was formed must be commended. There has been annual fundraising since the 1970s till date. The Iyah-Gbede Development Association is very strong and formidable. The Oba-in-Council has been very supportive. However, the Development approach has been based on the Needs-Based Approach to Development (NBAD) as against Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD). This has been practised for over 53 years. 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 the experience of Iluhagba Gbede.

The Iyah-Gbede Development Association must continue to forge the unity of the people and ensure collective mass action for the good of all. Iyah-Gbede must be transformed into an envious city that everyone will be proud of. It is a link between Yagba land and Gbede land. It is proximate to the multi-billion Naira Cement Factory at Iluhagaba.

I also wish to suggest further as follows:
1. Iyah-Gbede Development Association 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.
2. Take stock of community assets and plan to turn them into great value and big economy.
3. Develop the agricultural sector and help our local people raise capital through local and international finance institutions. Cooperative societies can be formed and they should be involved in the Mass Housing Scheme. The Local Government should be involved.
4. Enhancing through Public Private Partnerships to harness the mineral resources and large-scale farming.
2. Iyah-Gbede is known for establishing educational Institutions. A tertiary institution could be in the strategic plans of the community.
3. The mineral resources in the community should be mapped out and there could be collaboration with foreign investors.
4. Fundraising on the website would achieve greater results.
5. The concept of social entrepreneur should be taken seriously.

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.”

Thank you for listening and May God bless you all.

 

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