The Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Mr. Edetaen Ojo, Co-Chair of the National Steering Committee (NSC) of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in Nigeria has called on Nigerian civil society organisations (CSOs) to ensure that the OGP process flourishes in Nigeria and achieves its objectives.
Mr. Ojo, who is the Chair of the Steering Committee of Open Alliance Nigeria, a coalition of civil society organizations in the country participating in the OGP process, made the call at the Second General Meeting of Open Alliance held in Abuja on April 15 and 16, 2019.
Tracing Nigeria’s journey into the OGP, he reminded the meeting that the past two and a half years of Nigeria’s engagement in the OGP process have been a tremendous learning experience for everyone, both on the Government side as well as the non-state actors’ side.
Mr. Ojo noted that what Nigeria does in the near future will determine whether any learning has actually taken place during the past two and half years, adding that if the same mistakes continue to be made, then it would be fair to conclude that nothing has been learnt as there will simply be no justification or excuse for making the same mistakes over and over.
He pointed out that some of the setbacks that the OGP has experienced in Nigeria were avoidable because they arose as a result of mistakes which could have been foreseen.
Mr. Ojo expressed concern that CSOs had not engaged the OGP process sufficiently, adding that they have not taken adequate advantage of the opportunity presented to civil society by the OGP process to engage with government officials in a systematic fashion and to contribute ideas for the reform of many aspects of governance for the benefit of the Nigerian people.
He reminded his civil society colleagues that the OGP in Nigeria will be experiencing transitional processes on several fronts during 2019, the most significant of which he identified as the transition from the first National Action Plan to the second which will be due in June.
Mr. Ojo noted that the development and delivery of a National Action Plan is not trivial issue within the OGP process and that a country’s failure to deliver its National Action Plan when it is due, can result in the country being placed under review, as is the case with the United States.
He therefore urged CSOs to snap out of the lethargy afflicting the development and delivery of Nigeria’s second National Action Plan to avoid the inevitable national embarrassment that the country will suffer pointing out that CSOs have a role to play in this process and should strive to be better engaged.
Mr. Ojo stressed that the imminent transition in the leadership of the OGP in Nigeria, as a new National Steering Committee (NSC) is expected to take over from the current one at the end of June, is one that requires civil society to be proactive and better engaged in the process.
He pointed out the challenges that will confront both state and non-state actors in the transition process that should take place in June, especially the lack of certainty about who takes over the position of Government OGP co-chair with the expected dissolution of the Federal Executive Council ahead of the swearing in of President Muhammadu Buhari for his second term at about the same time as the OGP leadership transition will be taking place.
He said: “The OGP built into its governance arrangement a system of orderly transition by having in place in-coming co-chairs who are active and engaged such that they are ready to take over the reins of leadership at the appropriate time without any learning curve,” adding that Nigeria’s political reality means that this in-built system may not work perfectly on this occasion.
Mr. Ojo urged CSOs to analyse the situation closely and put on their “advocacy hats to engage with our principal partner, the Government, to make Government aware of these challenges as well as their implications, and consider the proposals that we are putting forward for their resolution.”
He thanked his civil society colleagues for “the honour and privilege of serving as Chair of the Steering Committee of Open Alliance and Co-Chair of the National Steering Committee of OGP Nigeria”, saying it also been a major learning experience for him.
Mr. Ojo said based on the experience, he would propose that a system should be put in place to support the “civil society co-chair, whether substantive or in-coming, firstly to enable the person to ascertain what our position is, as a constituency, on any given issue, and secondly to effectively assert that position whether on the NSC or the Governance and Leadership sub-committee or with Government in General.”
He also thanked the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) for supporting the General Meeting and many other activities of the Open Alliance.