Omo-Onile, Community Leaders & Local Traditional Rulers: The Real Reasons Many Nigerian Communities Are Underdeveloped

This morning, I stumbled across a thread discussing the reasons many areas and communities across Nigeria are suffering from a complete lack of infrastructural development. Many areas have terrible almost disintegrating roads,  inadequate or non existent electricity supply die to broken down transformers – that is on top of the nation’s epileptic power production, and a general semblance of neglect and abandonment.

But reading from the collective comments and opinions relayed on the thread, many of them from different areas of the country, one would be right in concluding that contrary to a commonly held belief that Nigerian authorities are un-interested in the development of their communities and local areas, the inhabitants of those areas are the real problem and the direct obstacles to the development of their communities.

The post on Lanre Odejinmi’s wall read:

I’m somewhere in Lagos, where one man built an hotel on the street and brought a new transformer for help the street and by extension his hotel business.
Youth in the area then demanded he must pay N100,000 before it will be installed. The man couldn’t understand why he has to pay to help the street. That was how the transformer got connected to just his hotel.
Another place I stayed last year had a terrible road.
I was surprised a Chinese construction company was dredging the water in the community and using the sands for their construction across the state.
Why will a construction company with heavy duty trucks the ply the road not construct the road as part of their social responsibility?

I learnt they wanted to,
Community refused. They want the money. 
They were paid. The money went to voicemail.
That is how the road has remained that way.

When we talk about under development in this country, often times we fail to see this side of it.
Community sabotaging any form of development just for selfish reasons”.

This scenario reads very eerily similar to a version of events given me by a former top official of  one of  Ogun State’s ministries.

We were talking about the administration of the current state governor Senator Amosun. I commented on the fact that the governor had chosen to neglect Ijebu Ode and left the major Ogun State town in a state of almost complete ruin and structural underdevelopment. In almost 8 years of Governors Amosun, Ijebu Ode seems to have enjoyed very little attention from the government and the roads in many areas of the town are almost unpassable.

But the response I was given was that the roads in Ijebu Ode have remained in the appalling state they are mainly because of the actions of  “community leaders” in the town. According to the source, partisan differences, placed many indigenes of the town at loggerheads with the governor who allegedly vowed to withhold all cooperation with the governor and his administration.

Strangely, though, this stance included the determination to thwart every of the governors move or efforts in the town. One of such examples is the consistent stand that no single construction machinery owned by firms contracted by Amosun’s government will set foot in the town if local contractors (???) were not used – or the community be paid huge sums of money in lieu before any work can be commenced. So rigid were the community leaders in their determination that allegedly, the Awujale of Ijebuland himself, Oba Sikiru Adetona,  tried in vain to convince the warring leaders to change their minds, reminding them that their decision was working against the good and benefit of the town.

Whether or not this account is based on facts or simple allegations, they couldn’t be any more similar to other accounts from other commentators on the thread from all over the country.

One comment read ” Chevron wanted to fix Alpha Beach road, The Baale and his Omo’onile boys stopped the work that they will be given 40 million for a road being constructed for them. Chevron shelved the plan. The road is a sorry state till now”

Another comment read “Shell was to tar the major road from Oju-Ore down to the main town. The parasites from the town wanted the company to give them money. Shell have no option than to stop a few meters after their plant”

Still another comment in the same vein “Same in my Dad’s area in Badagry. Anybody that stands to repair the road, the community elders will fight the person until such person dies a strange death. Na so everybody wey rich go buy big jeep to waka on the road. I don buy big high jeep for my parents too. Lets the poor suffer it. Ko kan aye. (Now anyone that can afford to, simply buys a jeep to drive on the road. I too have bought a jeep for my parents. Let the poor continue to suffer. That is their business – not mine)

In another scenario, a commentator wrote ” When service providers dig the roads to lay their cables, the local government charges them  to fix the road after laying their cables… and they pay. Local government then refuses to fix the road and we all blame the network company for spoiling the road”

Which would lead one to question – do these saboteurs realise the impact of their actions on the community?

Are their motives borne out of ignorance, illiteracy, selfishness, povety or sheer wickedness? Because the few naira notes they will be given – if anyone does, will run out usually after a few weeks or months, after haven been spent on clothes, beer, cigarettes and drugs, but the new clean roads or transformer will serve the collective benefit of the community.


It is a great shame and simply too bad that a nation such as Nigeria has produced citizens that prefer cash over infrastructural development. Many Nigerians complaining about the current administration, list the lack of cashflow as their number 1 reason. This is because as a nation under the highly corrupt administration of the last President Jonathan, Nigerians got accustomed to the free flow of cash from the stuffed pockets and “Ghana Must Go” bags of corrupt politicians and treasury looters. Under the last administration, cash was in abundance supply and the effect  trickled downwards from the loot masters down to family members, friends, staff, errand boys, and in turn, their their family. Everyone was happy  – even if because the cash that made them happy was looted or illegally acquired – no one cared.


Just as loutish “omo-oniles” and selfish community leaders do not care about the ease of life or the elevation to the standard of living that good roads and other infrastructural developments can bring to the lives of their fellow residents. As long as they had their greedy mouths stuffed with illicit Naira notes, everyone else can go and hug a transformer – if they can find a working one.

And if a refusal to pay means that the construction of the new road was not going ahead – so be it.



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