We cannot be mere consumers of good governance, we must be participants; we must be co-creators. As citizens, we have to co-create good governance, we cannot outsource it and hope to be passively happy consumers. Like everything worth its while, good governance must be earned –Rohini Nilekani
It’s more difficult, often than not, to see anything encouraging about government and governance in our clime. It’s even tougher to write about it because it stays on record and if it turns out otherwise you are held liable, termed a government apologist, a paid writer, and an endless list of tags are attached to you.
It gets even more complicated having built a reputation as a good governance aficionado, a critics’ critic, and activist for the masses. All these are against the backdrop of everyday growing distrust from the populace, distrust about everything with the name government and politics.
And finally one is equally talking about Plateau State, North Central Nigeria, my home, my land, my heart, the land of many generals, scholars, artistes, sportsmen and women, leaders in all spheres, home of plenty firsts and yes I won’t deny it, land that has equally seen conflicts, killings, in very volatile levels and across ethnic, faith and political dimensions.
So when we see the Plateau, hear, speak of Jos, the Beroms, Angas, Taroks, and some 45+ ethnic nationalities, natives and non natives, settlers and indigenous people, the first question on our lips is ‘wetin again’, ‘dem don start’, ‘these Jos people’ and all manner of derogatory expressions.
However, it’s not always bad news, and often there is so much good news, the reality is that people ‘just no like better thing’ especially when it is coming from the Plateau. (And you sure saw my smile)
And six paragraphs gone, my readers are itching what in heavens could the good news be—kindly still bear with me.
So in the preamble to the US Declaration of Independence it says—
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness –
That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
The key words for me above are equality, rights, liberty, freedom, partnership, power, all given to us by our creator; creation.
With the above I introduce us to the OGP, what is it? The Open Government Partnership is a multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from national and sub-national governments to promote open government, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.
In OGP, governments work with civil society to create action plans with concrete reforms. This model helps ensure citizens play a role in formulating, shaping and delivering on reforms and such plans.
There is an OGP Nigeria with a handful states trying to make impact, putting in efforts to cause change in systems that are part of a structure which pays little attention to any form of reform, least any plan that has the citizens at the heart of such reforms.
Kaduna is doing well, yes there are enormous security challenges, divided in the political participation perception index as the case is in Plateau. But these two states and particularly the Josites have again hit a high, barely months into formally becoming part of the global OGP family.
Plateau State with her active collaborators as I call them in the civil society space have nailed it getting mentioned in OGP Local Innovation Awards: The state brought something New-Relevant-Feasible and Creates value. Together across the board, there is a belief that we can act in the best interests of the people. More specifically, we can improve the performance of our government, help the state become more stable and productive, and unlock new opportunities. We can reduce risks, and enable faster and safer growth. We can, Plateau can, Nigeria can…
We can because we know that at the heart of the governance disconnect is that leadership and her apparatus have in its services, platforms, systems left out the citizens. Not much is new, very few policies are relevant, or feasible, countless occasions projects are out of context, have no resources and bring little or no value. It is in this light that, Plateau state is targeting the bullseyes on Increasing Transparency and Accountability in Extractives.
Abuja is looking at Citizens participation in the budgeting process. These are no mean feats. There will be falls, stumbles, it is no walk in the park. In setting out commitments, there has been that mutual suspicion between government and citizens through the civil society space, it’s a learn process, it’s about sharing and looking at all the possible sceneries; whether it is about the Plateau Gender Commission soon taking off, or the State Peace and Security Fund first of its kind in Nigeria to bedomiciled with the Peacebuilding Agency itself a first when it started. We all must be committed!
Plateau, the North, the South, across faith, despite our differences and the challenges as scary as they may be, beyond the politicking, political jingoism and party speakism and schism as we approach 2023. Nigeria needs to score more firsts in partnerships, openness needs to be the operational word. Inclusiveness needs to drive governance as citizens want to feel good governance.
Good things need to happen in most spheres of governance, the gaps between the governing class and the governed must be deliberately breached and such that engagement is the key word. Too many bad things happening in Nigeria in different parts but with a few good men, with them doing good things, we can bring about some change, the OGP, Plateau and other states have in their hands another opportunity to get it right; hopefully this is one BIG good thing—only time will tell.
This article was authored by Prince Charles Dickson Ph.D.