OKOBI: From politics of stomach infrastructure to politics of genuine empowerment, By MacDonald Ebere
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..OKOBI can be adopted as a collective empowerment mechanism by politicians and political leaders for the development of community entrepreneurs, fostering community entrepreneurship, enhancing employment, and advancing broader community development. This will constitute a significant shift away from the negative politics of stomach infrastructure to a positive politics of empowerment…
The relationship between development and politics or how politics influences development is a critical dimension in understanding the political economy of Nigeria. Our partisan politics of acrimony often trumps inclusive development and marginalises the vulnerable in society. This sort of politics can only exacerbate our developmental struggles with poverty, poor education, insecurity and unemployment, amongst others.
Whilst well-functioning markets are important for economic development, the economy itself reflects people’s worldviews and priorities. As such, it is increasingly evident that the economic frameworks borrowed from Western economies are sometimes completely detached from the real issues facing our people and communities. That’s why they don’t often work for us. This has led to calls to rethink the development approach, taking into consideration our peculiarities. Response to this call is at the heart of the One Kindred One Business Initiative (OKOBI) currently championed by the Imo State Government under the leadership of Senator Hope Uzodimma.
To advance inclusive business opportunities in local communities in Imo state, the Chief Economic Adviser to the Imo State Government, Professor Kenneth Amaeshi has articulated a unique local economic development programme, which he christened the Kindred Economic Empowerment Paradigm (KEEP) or Umunnanomics. This programme, which is meant to create and enable businesses, as well as enhance social and economic sustainability, in different communities, informs and shapes the OKOBI.
OKOBI is already gaining momentum with significant interests amongst local people and communities in Imo State. Some kindred businesses so far include farming, livestock, services, and manufacturing. These kindreds have also been empowered to explore access to both local and international markets. This is important, as it will further enhance their viability. It is expected that the OKOBI agenda will also reduce insecurity, as it is seen as a solution to unemployment. These businesses will be able to recruit personnel from their communities as they continue to grow. This will lead to improved employment opportunities in the state.
…OKOBI creates a holistic and inclusive socioeconomic development solution for kindred (community) development. So, instead of treating voters as transient transactors, politicians who have the financial resources and social capital can actually help their constituents create community businesses that will ensure no one is left behind, in the true spirit of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
It is obvious that OKOBI is an innovative approach to unlocking informal financial resources, transforming human capital, and building community businesses at the micro level (local communities). As such, it provides politicians and political leaders the opportunity to rethink their approach to community empowerment, which has hitherto remained largely transactional and created different forms of unsustainable and negative dependencies. Paramount amongst the approaches is the so-called stomach infrastructure strategy, where politicians prey on the vulnerability of voters, especially during elections, by offering them food and money for patronage.
The stomach infrastructure paradigm can be very problematic and unsustainable, as it focuses on the now, rather than the future, and thus cannot be regarded as actual empowerment. The stomach infrastructure paradigm also does not focus on the communities and how to create long-lasting socioeconomic outcomes and impact for the sustainable socioeconomic development of constituencies and communities. In essence, the stomach infrastructure paradigm is transient. This does not only undermine our democracy, but it also dehumanises our people and undermines their capabilities to function independently.
On the contrary, OKOBI creates a holistic and inclusive socioeconomic development solution for kindred (community) development. So, instead of treating voters as transient transactors, politicians who have the financial resources and social capital can actually help their constituents create community businesses that will ensure no one is left behind, in the true spirit of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. When politicians and political leaders adopt and implement OKOBI as a socioeconomic empowerment initiative, it portrays their good heartedness and genuine commitment to meeting the needs of our people and progressive community development. This approach to building financial and human capacity, which empowers people and communities to grow socioeconomically, rather than to be fed, is rooted in the sense of service and spirit of politics that underpins political participation. This is absolutely essential.
However, for OKOBI to succeed, certain things need to be done. First, the implementation should be properly structured to enhance the tracking of investments and the performance and progress of the people and businesses supported. This is critical to measuring the impact on the people, constituencies, and communities, where the programmes developed have been deployed. Therefore, the starting point with OKOBI is for political leaders to understand the needs of the people and businesses in their communities. The result of the needs assessment will help with the development of strategic sustainable socioeconomic development pathways and programmes that will help address these needs and spur the human capacity and business acumen required to boost development for local communities.
By supporting informal businesses and local entrepreneurs in their constituencies and communities, politicians will be at the forefront of promoting conscious capitalism – i.e., a socially responsible economic and political philosophy that accounts for all stakeholders, including communities, towards sustainable socioeconomic transformation.
Secondly, for OKOBI to achieve its desired goals in this instance, accountability, transparency, data measurement, and management must be weaved into it. This is because the essence of adopting the OKOBI agenda is to ensure that political leaders are able to ascertain the level of development in their local communities, with the intention of addressing the developmental issues involved.
By supporting informal businesses and local entrepreneurs in their constituencies and communities, politicians will be at the forefront of promoting conscious capitalism – i.e., a socially responsible economic and political philosophy that accounts for all stakeholders, including communities, towards sustainable socioeconomic transformation. In essence, the implementation of OKOBI by politicians will advance the principles of a higher purpose, stakeholder orientation, intentional leadership, and a conscious culture in their communities. These principles, which are fundamental to OKOBI, will, in turn, foster collaboration, partnerships, and community essence, as they promote the sustainable growth and development of local entrepreneurs and the concept of sustainable entrepreneurship for community development.
It is instructive to note that OKOBI is not restricted to Imo State or Igboland. It can be replicated across Nigeria and societies where kindred structures exist and matter.
In sum, OKOBI can be adopted as a collective empowerment mechanism by politicians and political leaders for the development of community entrepreneurs, fostering community entrepreneurship, enhancing employment, and advancing broader community development. This will constitute a significant shift away from the negative politics of stomach infrastructure to a positive politics of empowerment, where politicians and political leaders strategically teach their people how to fish instead of giving them fish. This will be a win-win-win for politicians, voters, all citizens and our democracy.
MacDonald Ebere, an expert in practical political philosophy, writes from Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria.
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