1.1     Background of the Study
 A leader is a person that holds a dominant or superior position within his field, and is able to exercise a high degree of control or influence over others. According to Chin (2015), leadership is a process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task. Leadership seen from a European and non-academic perspective encompasses a view of a leader who can be moved not only by communitarian goals but also by the search for personal power.

One of the foremost scholars of leadership, Bass (1990) described leadership as an interaction between two or more members of a group that often involves a structuring or restructuring of the situation and the perception and expectations of the members.  Leaders are agents of change –persons whose acts affect other people more than the way other people’s acts affect them. Leadership occurs when one group member modifies the motivation or competencies of others in the group. The concept of leadership was defined by House (2004) as the ability of an individual to influence, motivate and enable others to contribute towards the effectiveness and success of the organisations in which they are members.    

The United Nations defines community development as a process where community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to common problems. (UNTERM, 2014). It is a broad term given to the practices of civic leaders, activists, involved citizens and professionals to improve various aspects of communities, typically aiming to build stronger and more resilient local communities. There are numerous overlapping approaches to community development. Some focus on the processes, some on the outcomes and objectives.

 Achieving a successful or sustainable community development project in Rivers State has been on discourse for many years, but due to the challenges faced, its maximum goals are yet to be actualized. Central to the challenges of community development is the issue of leadership (Governance) which is believed to pose a threat to successful community development, citizens’ participation, mobilization and involvement in decision making in community development projects.

Community development occurs when people strengthen the bounds within their neighborhoods, build social networks and form their own organizations to provide a long-term capacity for problem solving. (Rubin and Rubin, 2001). Community members who have the capacity to do something to enhance their quality of life are portrayed as having the ability to think, to decide, to plan and to take action in determining their lives. It is often argued that, in any community development programme both economic and individual growth must be given equal attention so as to ensure that the process of community development achieves its due balance, continuity and sustainability through its power structure (leadership).

Various community development literatures have been dedicated to community leaders and their role in local communities (Williams, 1989; Israel and Beaulieu, 1990; Ugboh, 2007; Zaharah and Abu, 2008; Ozor and Nwankwo, 2008). In his analysis of community leaders, Fariborz et al. (2009) states that a community without leadership may not be equipped to mobilize resources or influence tourism planning which obviously is an aspect of community development. Furthermore, local communities, like any organization cannot progress successfully without active and dynamic leaders who are willing and able to take initiative. To them also, the success of the local community initiative depends on the quality, creativity and commitment of its leadership in maintaining its daily affairs. In line with the view of Fariborz et al (2009), many scholars contend that promoting local leadership to help make communities better places to live should be one of the primary purpose of community development. Several other literature in community leadership such as Rost, (1991); Robinson, (1994); Langone and Rohs, (1995); Kouzes and posner, (1995); Northouse, (1997); Price and Behrens, (2003) collectively suggest that, community leadership emphasizes a collaborative, on-going, influential process based on the relationships between people. However contemporary views on community leadership emphasize the need for citizens to voice their opinions and thoughts in shaping the decisions and policies that affect their lives (Rost, 1991; Robinson, 1994; Langone, and Rohs, 1995; Kouzes and Posner, 1995; Northouse, 1997; Price and Behrens, 2003).

It may be argued that a community without leadership may not be equipped to mobilize resources or influence community development projects. Local communities according to Aref and Ma’rof (2009) cannot proceed successfully without having dynamic leaders that are willing and able to take initiatives. Lack of capable community leaders is often mentioned by local people as a barrier to community development. (Aref and Ma’rof, 2008). According to Rubin and Rubin (2001), community development is regarded as a continuous process aimed at improving the quality of life of the community. It is all about continual improvement by the people themselves to bring about change in their lives which is usually driven by its power structure. The ultimate goal of community development therefore is to develop members’ capabilities and potential to affect their well being and quality of life through maximizing resource utilization to benefit them socially and economically. This could only be achieved through effective management of community development programmes as well as having highly committed and enthusiastic leadership. Considering the role of local leaders in the success of community development projects, it can be argued that local leaders are the base-line to every successful community development project. A study in Rivers State by Ozor and Nwakwo (2008) points out that the role of local leaders in community development programmes cannot be undermined. This study involves community leaders, and those individuals who were perceived as leaders of their communities and as people who are interested and influential to the development of their communities. In the recent years, community leaders has proved themselves as veritable instrument for the planning and executing of community development programmes.

The community leaders in OBIO/AKPOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA  of Rivers State embarked on road construction projects which have been abandoned for some years without accomplishment. These maybe the problems of inadequate funds to carry out and accomplish these developmental projects, not minding the fact that inadequate funding of the project may have been hindering the accomplishment of the road project, absence of qualified manpower to enhance the technical area should not be forgotten. As a political entity, the community development projects are always influenced by the politics of who should be the leader within the members, based on the level of community development. Most of the leaders of community development are illiterates who may not know how to use modern equipment for development purposes.Top of Form

It therefore became imperative in this study to address the issue of community leadership challenges and provide best practices for achieving successful community development projects in OBIO/AKPOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA  of Rivers state.

 1.2 Statement of the Problem

Given the importance of the communities in the development prospects of a developing economy like Nigeria, it could be observed that the communities have continued to suffer neglect. They are grossly underdeveloped and poverty has remained pervasive. While resources abound, development has eluded most communities due to lack of the mastery of the practical wisdom (leadership) and technology to mobilize them for our overall benefit. (Ozor and Nwankwo, 2008:63). This is to say that the lack of purposeful and knowledge leadership, the catalyst to integrate and drive the wheel of development is the bane of community development in Nigeria. Despite the availability of human and natural resources in the rural areas, it is still difficult for some part of rural areas to encounter development. A lot of people still live in abject poverty and lack basic amenities like electricity, pipe borne water, healthcare facilities, schools, good roads, etc. It is saddening to recall that rural community development was neglected by successive governments since colonial rule in Nigeria. For instance, while the colonial government concentrated their development projects such as roads, schools, hospitals, and pipe-borne water around the major cities and built network of roads to areas where they exploited our natural resources, the rural areas were completely left out. The post-independence governments are not equally left out in the practice of rural neglect as only communities whose sons and daughters were in government benefited from development projects otherwise referred to as “national cake”. Even where good development programmes were designed for rural areas, they most of the time failed because there were no scientific and empirical studies of the target rural communities which should guide their implementation. Since the 1980’s, Nigeria and many African countries have experienced a rising wave of revolts and restiveness by some rural communities. Governments have not been able to tackle these crises because there were no reliable baseline studies on the problems of such rural people. (Ovwigho and Ifie, 2004).

Since Nigeria’s independence in 1960 till date, the vast rural communities of the country are in a deportable state, it is an established fact that majority of Nigerians live in rural communities which are characterized by illiteracy, disease, neglect, exploration and equally being oppressed by the nation. (Anyanwu, 1992).

Most of our rural areas suffered from inadequate provision of social service, from social infrastructures and employment opportunities, high birth and death rate, low life expectancy, malnutrition and diseases. (Adelemo, 1993). As regard to the level of economic development, quality of life, access to opportunities, facilities and amenities, standard of living and general liability, the gap between the urban and rural communities in Nigeria is very large and noticeable.

On this ground Omosuji (2004), disclosed that rural areas is a geographical location or an area which is inhabited by a population which is less than five thousand people, majority of whom are farmers and whose economy is predominantly agrarian in nature.

However, it is virtually impossible for the poor to acquire the bare essentials of life, let alone contributing meaningfully to the progress of the society within a national setting. Adebayo (2002) said “Enlighten a man, you develop the community”. Therefore community development has to be man’s oriented. It therefore falls on the ruralites to free themselves from the shackles of underdevelopment with or without government supports, because local leaders are always vocal, intelligent, cosmopolitan, knowledgeable, and sometimes educated, their role in liaising between agencies of development and their communities stand out clearly.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The general objective of the study is to examine the impact of leadership on community Development in Rivers State, using OBIO/AKPOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA  as a case study.

Specifically, the objectives of study are to:

  1. Determine the socio-economic characteristics of leaders in OBIO/AKPOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA .
  2. Determine the level of participation of community leaders in successful community development projects in OBIO/AKPOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA , Rivers State.
  3. Identify the challenges faced by community leaders in the course of achieving success in delivering community development projects in OBIO/AKPOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA , Rivers State.
  4. Recommend ways of achieving sustainable community development projects in OBIO/AKPOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA , Rivers State.

1.4 Research Questions

  1. What are socio-economic characteristics of leaders in OBIO/AKPOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA ?
  2. How does the socio-economic characteristic of leaders in OBIO/AKPOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA  affect community development?
  3. Does the level of participation of community leaders give rise to successful community development projects in OBIO/AKPOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA , Rivers State?
  4. What are the challenges faced by community leaders in the course of delivering successful community development projects in OBIO/AKPOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA  Local Government Area, Rivers State?
  5. In what ways can sustainable community development projects be achieved in the OBIO/AKPOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA , Rivers State?

1.5 Research Hypotheses

H01:    There is no significant relationship between levels of participation of community leaders and success in community development projects in OBIO/AKPOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA , Rivers State.

1.6 Scope of the Study

This study was undertaken to examine the impact of Leadership in community development in OBIO/AKPOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA , Rivers State. The study was restricted to Port Harcourt City Local Government Area in Rivers State, Nigeria.

1.7 Significance of the Study

This research will help to ensure that leadership focus is on dynamic, interactive processes of influence and learning which will transform community structures, norms and work practices. It is believed that the findings of the study would be useful to community leaders, especially in reforming the various strategies available to them in dealing with poor community development.

This study will help policy makers to analyze the causes of poor management of resources in Rivers State and provide remedies, then make proper socioeconomic decisions for sustainability of growth and development in Rivers State and Nigeria as a whole.

The study will educate the Government to focus on community leaders and traditional rulers as grass root developers in national building and development.

Finally, policy makers and implementers will correct their mistake from this. This study will offer a lasting solution to the numerous problems that are facing community development at the local government.

1.8 Justification of the Study

Given the importance of the communities in the development prospect of a developing economy, especially Nigeria, it could be observed that the communities have continued to suffer neglect due to lack of good leadership. As true as this might sound, it is yet to gather adequate research evidence to prove that leadership is the key factor that affects communities’ development. On that note this work is made to prove that fact.

1.9 Definition of Terms

These are terms used in this study and are explained in accordance to the context of this study.

 Leadership: Is the ability to influence others through coordinated activities of others within a group towards the realization of the groups’ objective.

 Community Development: Is the process by which the efforts of the people themselves are united with those of Government authority to improve the economics, social and cultural conditions of the communities, to integrate these communities into the life of the nations and to enable them to contribute fully to national and to enable them to contribute fully to national progress.

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