Open Government Partnership - OGP News

Las rapaces controlan las plagas en los viñedos.  LUIS SEVILLANO

Las rapaces controlan las plagas en los viñedos. LUIS SEVILLANO

When I heard that an OGP team was planning to visit Nigeria, the 70th country to join the Alliance, I offered to take part. In 2006 I participated in a scenarios planning exercise with 40 Nigerians from government, civil society and religious groups. I got hooked. In less than a year, we produced Naija Junction, four creative stories about plausible futures that the country could live. I was commissioned to write an Orwellian story, which was partly inspired by my first meeting with Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, the then Minister of the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja.

Ten years later, in October 2016, I spent a week with the OGP Support Unit, during his visit to Nigeria. Our mission was to accompany the pioneers of government and civil society in Nigeria in their process of co-creating the first plan of action since its formal incorporation to OGP in July 2016. During our stay in Kaduna and Abuja, I had three moments of inspiration:

First, the tenacious work of the Open Alliance of civil society organizations. A coalition of civil society leaders working on open contracting (PPDC), fiscal transparency and open data (BudgIT) and access to information (Media Rights Agenda) worked hard to ensure that Nigeria met the requirements and was eligible for OGP. They created the Open Alliance and fought against skepticism that the Nigerian government could be more open, responsible and supportive.

Once the administration of Muhammadu Buhari took office, the Open Alliance, in collaboration with some reformers from the Public Service Reform Office and the Ministry of Justice, resumed their efforts. This situation contributed to the anti-corruption commitments that President Buhari announced in May in London and the formal incorporation of Nigeria into OGP in July 2016.

Second, Kaduna's "Eyes and ears" initiative. On Sunday, October 23, Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai, the executive governor of the state of Kaduna, invited us to have a broad discussion on open government in the offices of Sir Kashim Ibrahim.

We were delighted with an account how, in his first days as governor, his assistants covered his letter and signature in the instructions he wrote in official communiqués and paraphrased the instructions in his own words. "We do it to protect it," they said. "If everyone sees your handwriting and signs, they will forge it."

He quickly changed the process and made sure his instructions were transmitted with his own handwriting, without filters, without changes, and with enough copies to all actors relevant information. It seemed to me a simple act, but one that impacted the opening of the Kaduna government.

Then he shared a more technical but no less transparent way of monitoring his government's performance. The "Eyes and Ears" project allows anyone in the state not only to review, but also to report on the progress of government projects through a telephone platform. He showed us a screen he had in his office from which he could monitor the most recent state of all government projects, those abandoned, those in progress and those that had been completed. In a recent speech on the budget he gave to the Kaduna State Assembly, Governor El-Rufai commented:

Añañuca de Cordillera | Project Noah
The plant resists low temperatures (up to -15 ° C even -20 ° C), can be covered for months (1 - 8 months) by snow. Short dry periods are possible (generally not longer than 1 month).

I was not surprised to learn that Kaduna is considered one of the pioneers of Nigeria in terms of government openness and accountability.

Third, the shift from deflation to euphoria thanks to the murmur of starlings . And the starlings were made. At the official inauguration of the OGP workshop, there was a small misunderstanding in the order of the speakers and OGP Executive Director Sanjay Pradhan made his presentation before the Minister of Justice and the Deputy Governor of Kaduna. Realizing this, Sanjay stopped his presentation about the opportunity that OGP represents in half and allowed government leaders to begin their paper. The session ended before Sanjay had the opportunity to comment on his most important points. I noticed a small sadness in his usually imperturbable attitude.

Fate wanted that to be the time for your message. The opportunity was given during the second day of work, in which a group of civil society participants and the government struggled to understand what open government meant for Nigeria. I noticed that those who worked on creating ambitious, transformative and feasible commitments to achieve government openness and accountability in Nigeria understood that it was not an easy task.

Sanjay also noticed. So he chose the perfect time, when energy fell on Tuesday before lunch, to do the part of his presentation that had not ended the day before.

He told the story of a small bird, a vulnerable starling who every day faced the threat of being the prey of a hawk. The analogy of this starling with a citizen or a reformer of government and that of the predator with a corrupt government official was evident to all who heard the story.

Nature is beautiful. But this was the first time I noticed that her beauty was being used so effectively to inspire a group of frustrated officials and activists. It worked? When Sanjay finished his story, few people were able to avoid a tear.

I hope to read Nigeria's first action plan and how starlings will influence how this great African nation will transform its government.