‘Kaduna State Holds the Key to the Success of the OGP at the State Level’, Says OGP Co-Chair, Edetaen Ojo

Mr. Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director, MRA
Mr. Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director, MRA

Mr. Edetaen Ojo, civil society Co-Chair of Open Government Partnership (OGP Nigeria) and Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has said that Kaduna State holds the key to the success of the OGP at the state level. His declaration was informed by the fact that the OGP  officially took off at the State level in Nigeria in Kaduna State.

The State in October 2016 at a three-day National Retreat began the process of co-creating the OGP Nigeria National Action Plan, the most important instrument in the OGP.

Representatives of Civil Societies Organisations (CSOs), the Kaduna State Government as well as government officials from different States of Nigeria gathered from September 26 to 27, 2017 at the Asaa Pyramid Hotel, Kaduna as they began the process of co-creating the Kaduna State Open Government Partnership (OGP) State Action Plan, barely a year after Kaduna hosted a three-day National Retreat to initiate the same exercise at the national level.

The historic event had in attendance key stakeholders including the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai; Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and Government Co-Chair, OGP Nigeria, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN); the Special Adviser to the President on Justice Reforms and Coordinator of OGP Nigeria, Mrs. Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagwu; In-Coming Co-Chairs for OGP Nigeria, namely the Honourable Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed (represented by Dr. Anne Nzeagwu), and Dr. Tayo Aduloju, Senior Fellow, Public Policy and Institutional Development at the Nigerian Economic Summit Group; representative of the Speaker of the Kaduna State House of Assembly, Honourable Commissioners, Permanent Secretaries and Directors of various ministries and other agencies of Kaduna State, representatives of CSOs and members of the public.

Speaking at the event, OGP Co-Chair, Mr Edetaen Ojo said that “It was 11 months ago, in this same city, that we formally embarked on a similar journey at the Federal level when we met here in October 2016 at a three-day National Retreat to begin the process of co-creating the National Action Plan, the most important instrument in the OGP.

“I described the National Action Plan as the most important instrument in the OGP because it forms the core of a country’s participation in the OGP process and is the product of a co-creation process in which government and civil society define ambitious commitments to foster Transparency, Accountability, and Public participation in governance.”

He added that the State Action Plan, which would be developed at the event, will obviously have the same importance for the OGP at the State level and should be seen and treated as such.

Mr Ojo who described the event as historic because the OGP was officially taking off at the State level in Nigeria in Kaduna State said “In a sense, therefore, Kaduna State holds the key to the success of the OGP at the State level in Nigeria as the success of the OGP at this level of governance will be significantly influenced by the fortunes of the OGP in Kaduna State, given its pioneering role.

“A lot of states that have joined or want to join the OGP initiative will be looking up to Kaduna and coming here for guidance.” He added.

Highlighting an essential pillar and philosophy of the OGP, Mr. Ojo described the concept of partnership between government and civil society as going into a marriage.  You need a spouse, he said.  “A husband cannot go alone without a wife and a wife cannot go alone without a husband. Both of them must be present and consenting!” He noted.

The Co-Chair reminded stakeholders of other important factors that can ensure a successful partnership within the OGP framework. He talked about the tendency for tension between CSOs and the government and how to understand the situation.

“There will be tensions sometimes,” he declared. “But in my little experience, it is when people know that they will have to justify and defend their ideas in order to convince others that they make the effort to think them through much more carefully and be better prepared,” He added.

Pointing out the importance of the action plan as well as the co-creation process, he said: “This involvement of civil society and citizens in the reform agenda is the essential difference between the OGP and other processes or initiatives that have been undertaken in different parts of the world in the past to improve governance.”

He further noted that the OGP process also encourages members to establish institutional mechanisms for on-going dialogue and collaboration between government and civil society, which runs throughout the process. According to him, this is known as the Permanent Dialogue Mechanism (PDM) and it helps to ensure that the partnership is real and not merely symbolic; and that the engagement is meaningful and effective.

The Co-Chair also left a message for his colleagues in Kaduna State, assuring them that “this is a great opportunity to engage with government officials in a more systematic fashion, to contribute your ideas for the reform of many aspects of governance for the benefit of our people.” He urged them to take full advantage of it and be engaged in the process.

Mr. Ojo also gave a note of advice to the Governor El-Rufai, “Your Excellency, may I humbly venture a perspective,” he whispered. “If good ideas come from civil society, please take them. Appropriate them as yours. At the end of the day, people will remember your great achievements, and will not be bothered with trying to find out whose ideas they originally were.

“In any event, no matter how great a leader is, he or she can never know everything. One of the attributes of great leaders is the ability to assemble people with great ideas to help them deliver on their visions!” he said

Mr Ojo drew attention to the importance of funding to the success of the OGP. He said that it is extremely important that the OGP process is adequately funded, including through provisions for the OGP National and State secretariats. “The National Secretariat is really struggling because of the absence of allocations in the 2017 National Budget. As we go forward in this process, we need to ensure that this situation is corrected,” he concluded.