Nigeria Needs to Institutionalise Open Government Partnership, Says MRA Executive Director

Mr. Edetaen Ojo,  Chair,  Steering Committee of Open Alliance Nigeria
Mr. Edetaen Ojo,
Chair, Steering Committee of Open Alliance Nigeria

The Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and Co-Chair of the National Steering Committee (NSC) of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in Nigeria, Mr Edetaen Ojo, has  called for the institutionalisation of the OGP  in Nigeria “such that we can have a reasonable degree of certainty that the OGP process will continue in Nigeria regardless of which political party is in power.”

Edetaen who was represented by MRA’s Freedom of Information (FOI) Programme Manager, Mr Ridwan Sulaimon, made this call in Abuja on October 8, 2019 during the meeting of civil society leaders in Nigeria with the visiting delegation of the OGP Global Support Unit to Nigeria.

In his opening remark, Edetaen sought the advice of the OGP Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr Sanjay Pradhan, saying: “One area, for instance, where we could use your advice and guidance is how we institutionalize the OGP in Nigeria.”

The MRA Executive Director added that there are two components to this. “The first is how we entrench the OGP philosophy and practices within different ministries, departments and agencies of government such that its fundamental pillars such as transparency, accountability, and citizen engagement become routine features and practices in governance at that level.

The second component, he said, “is how to make our participation in the OGP irreversible or nearly so. Many of us will recall that earlier this year, in the lead up to the general elections, there was an anxiety amongst some of us that a particular outcome of the elections could result in an end to the OGP process in Nigeria or at least negatively impact it.”

He added that this anxiety was not helped by the experiences from countries like Tanzania and the United States, which clearly indicated that the possibility was not that remote.

Welcoming the delegation, Edetaen said he remained convinced about the importance of the visit as Nigeria has a large number of officials who have recently joined the Government as Ministers, Special Advisers, Special Assistants, heads of various departments and agencies who know little or nothing about the OGP.

“If we are going to record any significant success in the realization of our objectives, these officials need to be engaged and won over. They have got to be brought on board so that we can have the full weight of the Government behind this initiative,” he said.

“I can think of no better person than Mr. Sanjay Padham, the CEO of OGP, to lead that sort of evangelism, with his infectious passion, his implacable belief in the capacity of the OGP to transform governance for the benefit of citizens and the authority with which he carries on the enterprise of spreading the OGP philosophy,” Edetaen submitted.

He also said Nigeria is privileged to have Sanjay and his colleagues in the OGP Support Unit believe so much in it and for repeatedly receiving high level visits from the Support Unit within the short period that Nigeria has been a member of the OGP.

Referencing the sagacity of the OGP CEO, Edetaen said: “I remember several times when, overwhelmed by the challenges confronting governance in Nigeria, I have become despondent, only for me to listen to Sanjay speak or read something he has written about OGP in general or Nigeria in particular, and I would become inspired and motivated all over again, full of hope for the future.”

Talking about the OGP experience in Nigeria, he said the past three years have been very rocky but it has also been a tremendous learning experience, both on the Government side as well as on the civil society side.  “We have no doubt that we have recorded some successes.  But we also know that we have suffered some setbacks. It is my hope that we have learnt important lessons and garnered significant experiences from our three years of engagement in the OGP process, which should serve us well going forward,” he said.