Beyond #OpenNASS: #OpenStates, #OpenStateAssembly, #OpenLGAs Should Follow By Olawale Rotimi
Transparency and accountability are two key inherent characteristics of democracy that have eluded Nigeria’s democratic system. From 1999 to 2015, the federal government operated with little or no sense of transparency and accountability, during this period, trillions of dollars went missing from the nation’s treasury, many projects have been abandoned by contractors, huge budgets were passed every fiscal year with discouraging implementation statistics, more funds have been embezzled and many more lost to manipulations and illegal dealings such as oil theft. At this time, Nigerians majorly interacted with their government on the pages of national dailies; a good number of Nigerian bloggers also advocated for transparency and accountability but the Federal Government under former President Goodluck Jonathan damned the consequences and ignored Nigerians’ advocacy. So far, former President Jonathan’s administration has been rated as one of the most corrupt in its time around the world.
Usually, election campaigns give important opportunity for every political aspirant to canvass votes by telling electorates what s/he plans to do differently in agreement with the electorates’ interests. 2015 election campaigns across Nigeria was not an exception, the All Progressive Congress cruised into victory not because of the faces of aspirants in the party but the party’s manifesto and campaign vocals. The party’s campaign vocals present pressing matters that are of topmost interest to Nigerians which previous governments ignored. Matters such as general transparency and accountability of the government, pay cut for government officials, running an opened national assembly among others. Debates and advocacy following these thematic issues are taking interesting dimensions, a historic advocacy has been consistently raised for an OpenNASS, because the Nigerian Legislators are perceived to be earning more than the contributions they make. Frankly, Assemblies before the 8th National Assembly are characterized with Luke warmness, poor scrutiny process and watery debates on the floor, Nigerians strongly believe these among others must not continue else the “change” craved for will not be witnessed.
The congregation of lawmakers in the 8th National Assembly has demonstrated some level of vibrancy and tenacity, they have shown willingness, ingenuity and passion to make the legislative most productive ever in the nation but this may be essentially and practically impossible without considering matters of interest to Nigerians as mentioned above. This readiness explains why the leadership of the 8th National Assembly has committed itself to OpenNass and reduction in the allowances of lawmakers. These are commendable steps if they are sustained in the right direction. However, as much as Nigerians are advocating for OpenNass, we must bear in mind that Nigeria’s progress is not only dependent on National Assembly; state governments, state house of assemblies, local government areas and ministries must operate a transparent and accountable system to consolidate the system laid by the Federal executive and legislative.
We may be making a serious mistake by focusing all eyes on the Federal government while state and local governments are operating unchecked by citizens. We are farther to the federal government than we are to state executive, legislative and local governments. The demand for accountability and transparency must not follow a descending order, but ascend from the root to the top. The advocacy must transcend OpenNass, citizens in various local government areas and states must focus on checking their state governments by demanding for accountability and transparency. State Assemblies in Nigeria operate in a silent manner, their budgets are huge and unknown to the populace, meanwhile low productivity is common to many of them. Ignoring State Assemblies and governments which are closer to us to focus solely on National Assembly is synonymous to cutting down a tree from its branches and not the root. Nigerians in various states can take a walk in group to various state assemblies to demand transparency and accountability; our local governments must equally be checked. We must not hibernate till 2019 when another election will hold, and Nigerians’ quest for accountability must not be limited to National Assembly. States government, state assemblies and local government must be transparent and accountable.
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