The cheering news from Tbilisi, Georgia that Kaduna State has now been globally recognized as a Sub-National Member of the Open Government Partnership is more than a heartwarming to the people of the state, as Kaduna, under the captainship of Governor Nasir Elrufai is making many feats, and particularly for this singular recognition by the great nations; it means that the dream of the governor to “make Kaduna great again” is gradually coming true.
The Open Government Partnership is a joint ambitious initiative of some countries of the world (notably Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, the United Kingdom and United States) who came together with a common goal of promoting transparency, accountability and citizen’s empowerment among the member countries.
First launched in September 20, 2011 by the above-mentioned founding members, and Nigeria joined on May 11, 2016, as the 70th Member State, while Kaduna state subscribed in September 2017, making her the first Subnational in the country to join.
In furtherance to their commitments, the OGP has, on 16th of this month held a week-long grand summit in Tbilisi, Georgia, tagged “5th OGP Global Summit” where more than one hundred civil society organizations and over 90 governments and citizens from all over the world converged to tell their success stories and challenges and also to draft a new action plans while deepening their existing commitments.
In a broader sense, the crux of the summit was to advance a new charter and to sustain the principles of open government, civic engagement, fighting corruption, and the delivery of public service.
Kaduna happened to be part of this important gathering as a fully recognized subnational partner in the comity of nations. This is indeed an important milestone. But it is not entirely surprising for Kaduna state to have earned such gold medal, because the fundamental philosophy of the OGP is just coterminous with the manner in which Governor Elrufai conducts the statecraft, which takes the citizens to be active drivers in the governance rather than passengers. Whoever is familiar with the present-day Kaduna would but agree that there is a paradigm shift in the manner in which the affairs of the state is being administered.
The policy thrust of Kaduna state government is participatory democracy, where the citizens themselves become the critical stakeholders in every policy from conception to the formulation. That is why major public policies in the state are evidence-based, rather than opinion-based. People have many platforms through which they converse with their governor in any matter pertaining the businesses of the state. For instance, the quarterly Town hall meetings and monthly live radio programs usually anchored by the governor himself serve as a veritable avenue for interaction between him and the people, which gives them opportunity to determine the policy direction of the government.
Other platforms the governor also use in appraising the citizens about what is going on in the state at every spot are Facebook and Twitter. This brings the government more closely to the people and gives them a sense of where the government is heading to, as they are being carried along. This is what the OGP is all about.
Since from the inception of this administration, there has never been any budget that is prepared in a top-down manner. The process of budgeting and budgetary allocation in Kaduna is always done in a bottom-up style, whereby people are gathered in a town hall to critique the budget proposal and give their inputs for adoption.
Another area worth mentioning here, to further buttress the openness of Kaduna state government is Eyes and Ears initiative. This project is designed as monitoring and evaluation tool meant to be carried out by the citizens of the state, to constantly check the progress of any project awarded by the state, through an application called ‘Citizen Feed app’ and to report directly to the governor who has a dashboard for receiving such information in his office.
The application is launched in the Google play store as a standard touchstone for accessing/assessing ongoing projects in the state and because the citizens, having been involved in the budgeting processes, they have been conditioned to realize that these projects are the product of their own submissions, therefore there is more than a need to seriously take the ownership of the projects of their respective localities and monitor the progress. Not only that but in some instances to record any incidence of over-inflation or poor execution. Through this, there are some contracts that have been revoked in the state. They are now the advocacy group for anti-corruption. They help the government in fighting corruption by being active participants in the affairs of the state.
This is the whole idea and principles of the modern democracy to which the OGP is advocating in the world; to be more transparent and take citizens as partners in governance.
The saying by Johann Von Goethe that “The best government is that which teaches us to govern ourselves”, has no doubt resonated well with the Kaduna state of today.