Author: Yanick Noah Agboado is a Local Government Practitioner, Writer and Leadership Coach.
The relevance of traditional leadership on socio-economic development: the perspective of a Local Government Practitioner
In recent times, providing leadership at the community level has become very daunting and associated with several challenges such as illiteracy, diseases, conflicts, environmental degradation and demand for good governance among other socio-economic challenges. At the core of these myriad of challenges are the traditional authorities who are expected to inspire hope among citizens of their communities and navigate them through the challenges confronting their collective existence and threat to their livelihoods.
The essence of leading is to bring about the desire change in our various communities. In effect, development at the community level must aim at improving the welfare of the local people, the quality of human life and poverty alleviation through meeting the basic needs such as construction of community facilities and infrastructure, development of local economic potential and sustainable use of natural resources.
The importance of traditional leadership in bringing about transformational change within communities cannot be overemphasised. Traditional leaders have critical roles to play as a result of their authority, closeness to the people and their primary mandate to preserve customs and traditions as mandated by the constitution.
Their relevance in socio-economic development of their respective communities is to achieve a strong foundation for the community to grow and develop on their own. Again, they also aim to facilitate the creation of socio-economic institutions that are able to provide opportunities for the community to obtain decent employment and income, dignity, personal existence and participation in development and decision making process.
In as much as the buck stops with the traditional leader, the leadership process is incomplete without the active participation of the community members in the development process. Development can only achieve the expected aim if all level of society and citizens are involved.
This is the surest way citizens can claim ownership of developmental projects and programmes being undertaken within their communities. Traditional leaders must therefore work hand in hand with their subjects to bring about the needed transformation within their respective communities.
The practice of leadership today requires tact and diplomacy in order to rally the support of citizens to achieve the common good. Achieving the expected transformation needed to improve the living standard of a particular community requires that the traditional leader espouse the principles of a servant leader.
Thus, the traditional leader must see himself first of all as a servant of the people from whom he derives his authority and power. He must listen and address the concern of the people, he must show empathy by putting himself in the shoes of his subjects, he must have the foresight to anticipate the problems or needs of the people and find the required solutions to address the situation and he must focus on the continuous improvement of his people.
The required transformation of societies cannot take place in a chaotic environment. That is, an environment characterized by chieftaincy disputes. In recent times, communities have been plagued with pocket of chieftaincy disputes which continue to negatively impact on the collective progress and resources meant for development of such communities.
Indeed, no sustainable development can be achieved in a chaotic and conflict prone environment. In such environments, socio-economic progress made through the hard work of the people are only destroyed eventually due to lack of social cohesion, trust, understanding and effective leadership from traditional authorities.
In this regard, traditional authorities must constantly find a common ground to resolve their differences through continuous dialogue and diplomacy. It is only by so doing that community folks can live in peace and unity and work together to advance the course of their societies and improve their livelihoods.
A divided house certainly cannot withstand any internal or external threat. Such situations only expose lack of unity of purpose as a people and serve as a fertile ground for the agenda of the enemy to fester.
I vividly recall how in recent times many of Ghana’s neighbours including Burkina Faso, La Cote d’Ivoire and the Republic of Togo have unfortunately suffered the insurgence of terrorist attacks and violent extremism across the sub-region. A classic example is the recent situation in our neighbouring country, Burkina Faso, where it is reported that over 7,000 Burkinabes have fled Jihadist attack into the Bawku West District, in the Upper East Region of Ghana. The situation on hand clearly shows that as communities led by traditional leaders, we are not immune to these security threats.
It is in this vein that traditional leaders must work cooperatively with their subjects and all key stakeholders in order to promote unity and strengthen the social cohesion among their people so they are better positioned to deal with any threat that may disturb the peaceful coexistence and socio-economic progress of the people.