Nigerians have become a more politically conscious people over the years, and this has created the need to foster fruitful engagements between people and their government. In 2014, we worked with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to fund the five-year Strengthening Advocacy for Civic Engagement (SACE) program implemented by Chemonics International to strengthen civil society’s ability to influence the development and implementation of key democratic reforms at the national, state, and local levels.
Citizens Center for Integrated Development and Social Rights (CCIDESOR), a social development platform established to help promote good governance, is one of the eight Niger Delta-based grantees from SACE. Director of CCIDESOR Emeka Ononamadu says that SACE has increased the scale of his organization’s ambitions.
“SACE makes you to think larger than the value of the grant. We first identified those we will work with in Imo State, and we had about 125 partners who had shown their willingness to work with us on the project. After that, we started the process of building their capacity so that they will understand what the real issues are and so that they will be in a position to articulate the various questions in Imo state better. We trained them on different subjects including understanding the budget process and economic literacy, then we started the real work.”
CCIDESOR’s work with the grant was focused on raising awareness on abandoned capital project in education and health in Imo State. He created partnerships with as many as 125 different local partners from all across the state to help compile a report mapping about 121 capital projects throughout the state, a large number of which were simply not completed and with no reason given to the community.
“The most important lesson I learnt is not to say anything except you have very strong evidence. In the past, we could get government to respond to any issue you have in the media, but on this particular report there has been no condemnation or refusal of any issue that we have brought up. I think facts speak louder than fiction. It is easier to mobilize citizens with facts.”
The work, however, is not without its challenges. Sometimes the adversity to accountability and openness sometimes comes from the population affected by these abandoned projects.
“The challenges we face are huge. Nigeria is coming out of the military rule, never mind the fact that we have practiced democracy for the past 16 years. People are still living with this culture of silence in the face of major adversity, and it takes you consistency to turn them around.
Another challenge is accessing government data so your advocacy can be fact-based. One of the ways we work around that problem is to analyze the fact that we got and expand it for better understanding. We also have to fight fear, because this area has a high level of insecurity.”
Onanamadu is most pleased at the impact of increased civic awareness at the local level that SACE has helped engender through his work.
“We have partnered with local organizations to provide training for the youth in Owerri West and the youth in turn have been promoting good governance by officially making some demands to their elected representatives. In letters they have written about abandoned road projects. In the past you hardly could find that, but now you see them taking direct action without our input.”
This project has helped CCIDESOR move some way towards the kind of Nigeria they want to see in the future – a country with an engaged citizenry and a responsive government.
“If everybody makes more demands of government, they will have no option but to listen to those demands.”
Director of the Citizens Center for Integrated
Development and Social Rights (CCIDESOR)