The 2nd lesson from the “Communal Labour Concept” for our National Infrastructure Development Planning and Implementation is how to collect data.
The communal labour concept exists primarily to champion infrastructure development projects just like our various local/regional or national governance structures. To effectively achieve its goals, leadership collects data on all existing infrastructure gaps and developmental interventions.
Although largely not documented, it is within the knowledge of leadership. Speak to any communal labour leader and he/she without hesitation will list all the roads, schools, public toilets, hospitals etc and give you a perfect picture of their current state including what needed to be done about them.
The benefit of knowing the challenges they face at the communal level helps in planning for how they address them. The knowledge of the state of affairs helps in prioritising which projects to undertake and for what communal benefits. Many roads may be in real bad shapes, but only one may be worked on at a time in order of priority and service importance to the community. Most streets may be dirty, but just few gutters may be chosen for clean-up exercise in that order. This practice is true of our lives – we have many challenges but cannot address all at the same time.
Put an MMDCE on the spot or give him/her time to produce his/her “assembly profile” that captures all towns/villages and their respective current and required infrastructure plan and you may be asking him/her to turn a woman into a man. Such a document should ordinarily be in existence by now and serving as a guide to any infrastructure project initiated by the assemblies or central government.
This document should have covered every village/town highlighting their current population and growth expectations, current and gaps in infrastructure development in line with all sectors, particularly road, education (basic to tertiary), health, communication, local economy etc. This document should have provided the benchmark for the fulfilment of a unique minimum social amenities for our communities.
The preparation of this document should have been backed by a policy framework that segments our communities into broad classifications with infrastructure development goals. For instance, if the policy defines Anyako as “Class A town” it should imply at the minimum, Anyako should have a 100-bed hospital, 1000 litres a day water system among others.
However, no such document exists and we are happily engrossed in our current chaotic approach to the infrastructure development of our communities.
To continue on this path will be disastrous. We need to apply the lessons of data collection from our communal labour concepts to our national infrastructure development agenda and produce a baseline policy document quickly.
To win support for such policy and foster strict implementation, there should be multi-stakeholder and bi-partisan engagements and input into agreeing on clearly defined infrastructure parameters and matrix.
We have a local government structure that should easily facilitate these data collection efforts. We have unit committee members and assemblymen from these communities. With little or no motivation, they owe a duty in line with their service to the communities to work with the MMDCEs to produce this infrastructure document – “Assembly Profiles”.
These “assembly profiles” can then feed into regional and national profiles where with the use of technology, a national dashboard will be available to every citizen. We as citizens can access the number of communities without basic school, hospitals, feeder/asphalt roads, good drinking water etc. With consistent updates as we provide the needed infrastructure projects, we can objectively measure the performance of leadership in these roles right from MMDCEs to Regional Ministers to the Presidency (including Ministers and Political Parties).
A party’s performance in government can thereof not be subjected to their own performance scoring systems/assessment scorecards or that of their political opponents. Citizens will be better equipped with an objective marking scheme to assess the performance of their leaders.
The National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) has a great role to play in facilitating this approach to data collection. It must work with the political parties and other stakeholders to define the data collection parameters and set timelines for their collection. From here, it can objectively fashion out a short to long term infrastructure development plan for our dear nation.
Political parties can now draw from these documents for their campaign manifestoes and promises.
Alternatively, political parties with their existing constituency party structures can also task their executives to help collect this data and leverage it for their manifesto drafting and policy initiatives when in government. Constituency executives/teams must be put to effective use in this context and be assessed based on the quality of data collected. It’s an opportunity for them to showcase their competence for potential national leadership roles.
We must reverse our current infrastructure development planning and implementation approach. It must be informed by data collected from our communities. Our infrastructure development goals must be designed based on our common definitions of what we want our communities to have and to look like. This way, we may be able to provide the needed basic social amenities for our people and objectively hold our leaders to account.
The Writer is Richard Nunekpeku, a lawyer at E.L Agbemava Law Office and an Agribusiness Entrepreneur. He can be reached via email at Richard.firstname.lastname@example.org