Development Funds are everywhere a child of necessity. They do not happen until something prompts them. Most times, the experience that precedes their birth threatens the foundations of the existing order. Take, for example, the formation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The global economy was on the verge of total collapse as a result of the Great Depression that followed two World Wars. Global liquidity dried up and global financialfragility threatened the stability of the International Financial System and by extension, the global economy. The European Development Fund (EDF) and its sister, the African Development Fund (ADF) were founded on the same emergency principles of reacting to the hard experience of instability in the economies of member states or their allies. Bottom line-no one thinks of setting up a development fund until the hard lesson of lack of one emerges. I am yet to read any consistent explanations why the birth of development funds is often reactive rather than proactive.
In our community, the Aro Kingdom, the case is not different. Serious discussions about setting up an Aro Development Fund gained traction after the community embarrassment called Aro Civic Centre. The project had degenerated into a “white elephant’ as a result of lack of sustainableways to “feed thehungry goat” that was the task of everyone but the responsibility of no one. It took someone like Dr. Alex Otti to assume the responsibility of organizing how to feed the abandoned and hungry “goat” which now ignited interest in Aro Development Fund. Notwithstanding, it is better late than never!
At the maiden Nzuko Aro Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting of George Okoronkwo Ezuma Presidency, held on 18th June, 2016 at Neniv Centre in Lagos, the idea of Arochukwu Development Fund (ADF) was mooted. Though it did not come explicitly as Arochukwu Development Fund, but the broad philosophical foundations of the Fund were outlined in a Paper titled “Securing Our Tommorrow” by Mazi Udo Chijioke. The paper outlined the dangers facing Arochukwu Kingdom in the areas of security,economic and social transformation in the absence of a sustainable way to fund its community development. Consequently, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa (Ugwu Aro) visibly enthralled by the papers realistic recommendations moved a motion to adopt the paper as a working document for Nzuko Aro. The motion was unanimouslycarried.
Subsequently, at the 5th meeting of the 6th Central Executive Committee (CEC) meeting held in Arochukwu on 23rd September 2017, Nzuko Aro formally constituted a three member committee to develop broad guidelines and strategic implementation framework on the establishment and management of Arochukwu Development Fund. The terms of reference of the committee are as follows (a) set out the objectives and purpose of the fund, (b) propose the structure of the fund (c) recommend methods for financing the Fund (d) highlight accountability procedures and (e) make any other recommendations towards the efficient, effective and successful implementation of the fund.
However, plan development, plan implementation and plan success are not always easy to achieve symmetrically. More often than not the development of a plan is actually the easy part, the more difficult stages are its proper implementation and sustainability. Though, it is often argued that the three stages of plan development are complementary to each other- a poorly developed plan could impedeitseffective implementation which ultimately might attenuate its success. However, the real work should be to ensure that critical success factors drive every stage of its life, cumulatively and progressively. This is why I considered it necessary to share some of my thoughts on what I presume will be the critically success factors in achieving the objectives of the Arochukwu Development Fund.
VISION STATEMENT: The vision of Arochukwu Development Fund must be properly set to inspire every eligible contributor to the Fund to keep their focus on achieving the set objectives. In my consideration, a fitting vision statement of the ADF would be “In the future, ensure no community development project in Aro Kingdom will be constrained by lack of adequate and sustainable funding”. With this vision statement, it becomes easy to mobilize the public to be part of the progress and avoid the immediate past experience with the Civic Center and other such projects in the future.
MISSION STATEMENT: The possible mission statement would be “ To embark on socially and economically relevant projects and programmes that will place Aro Kingdom as first among equals in Community Development in Abia State” . The import of this mission statement is to ensure that investments by groups and individuals in community projects are geared towards achieving a common purpose of developing the Kingdom to become a pride of place for all. This will be the required shot in the Arm!
THE “TRUST” FACTOR: It has always been my argument that many highly successful Aro elites and even the middle class and the poor are ever willing and proud to invest in Aro development but their concern had always been who to trust with their investments. As the case of Civic Centre has amply demonstrated with what I prefer to call the “Alex OTTI Factor”. Successful completion of the Civic Centre leveraged on the fact that Aros trusted his promise and linked them to his personality and integrity. They took bait on those qualities and it paid off. In the case of Aro Development Fund, it is strongly advised that the leadership must be people with enough “Trust Capital” to invest in the management of the Fund.
AKU RUO ULO (THINKING HOME): Today many branches of Nzuko Aro Worldwide are taxing themselves to invest in their places of abode, be it in Abakaliki, Abuja, Lagos, Houston etc, by purchasing land and building meeting halls etc etc. While it is desirable to do so, however, it must not be at the expense of developing Aro Kingdom- Our Home. Therefore, it is high time branches initiate development projects at home and completes them for the benefit of the community rather than developing other climes, while home suffers from lack of basic developmental projects.
THE FUND MUST BE PROJECT AND PROGRAM- DRIVEN: The Arochukwu Development Fund must not be fungible and fit for all purpose. As is currently the case, a trend is emerging where all Aro financial problems are referred to Nzuko Aro for settlement in the midst of no effective fund generation mechanisms to address such request on a sustainable basis. The easiest way to enlist the support of many Aro elites to be part of the Fund would be to ensure that projects are developed and sold to them on need basis. Without tying the Funds to specific projects or programmes, it will become subject of abuse and the interest to sustain its funding by stakeholders will naturally wane with time.
TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY: The problem with transparency and accountability in managing public trust is that peoplemore often assume it than practice it. “Oh! Sincethey know me as an honest man, everyone knows that I will not embezzle their money”. When people are given positions based on public trust, that is precisely when they should double their efforts to show transparency and accountability. Not assuming it, and in the course of executing the office degenerateinto running a one- man show. The tendency that same people who trusted you will be the first to accuse you of embezzlement is palpable. Unfortunately, many honest people run into this “trust trap” without knowing why. The issue is that BEING HONEST IS IMPORTANT, DEMONSTRATING HONESTY IS KEY. Therefore, those to be trusted with managing the Arochukwu Development Fund must not only be above board, but must be seen to demonstrate it at all times. I am convinced that strict adherence to the aforementioned success factors will deliver an Arochukwu Development Fund that will be the pride of all Aro citizens. Ndewo nu!