The hallmark of democracy is citizens’ participation with plurality of ideas. Similarly, accountability and openness are essential ingredients to engender public trust in leaders and governments.
Alas these ingredients are scarce, particularly in a climate like ours. The strong perception against the government about secrecy on projects funding and implementation have pushed citizens further apart from those saddled with the responsibility of rendering services.
To show his or her rejection to the perceived avarice of public officials, the citizen in protest chooses deliberately hands his responsibility with levity. Many actually submit to fate as they stopped paying taxes, refused to add value to the public space or altogether slumped into lethargic disposition to public service.
In protest, many see public service as conduit pipes through which public funds are pillaged, but likewise nursed disdain against those elected to serve them. And as long as the citizen is upset with the system, he expands the opportunity unwittingly, for the space to be widened against himself and the good of the public.
Annually, humongous resources are appropriated by the government at all levels for capital projects. Heads of governments at the central and subnational level would, with bowed heads approach the parliament to lay before them budget estimates with promises tying them to projects through which the people are meant to feel the presence of government and the proverbial democratic dividends.
For those who fought for the enthronement of civil rule, at least, the primary drive was to see a Nigeria free from the jackboots, and not again be dragged in the mud. Nigerians genuinely fought for democracy to midwife a leadership committed to accountability, transparency; leaders who will command public trust; a system where they could play as partners and worthy compatriots in the management of their affairs through their mandate with the ballot.
Many believe that with the revenue from oil and gas, the visible infrastructures across the country today do not correspond with the humongous resources that have passed through our leaders and public officials. The tell-tale signs are writ large in our size of out-of-school children, poverty, dilapidated education and health infrastructures, especially in our rural communities.
Ask anyone on the street, they point to you the state of the roads, education, railway, electricity, water and many more, including insecurity which is believed to have been fuelled by the gap between the people and the government. How then do you ask citizens to play their part in the face of discordant realities, with their dwindling fortunes and lack of government presence?
What then could be missing; where did we get it wrong? What went missing between the huge financial and budgetary provisions and the miserable condition of the ordinary Nigerian?
Recently, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha delivered on a promise made earlier to promote accountability in governance. The unveiling of the Presidential Delivery Tracker and Website for the Central Delivery Coordination Unit, CDCU, must be seen as a bold beginning in holding public officers accountable to their responsibilities and the promises made by government.
There are now clear and measurable channels, through which the citizens can monitor and track government projects across the country. The provision for a responsive interactive feedback process independent of intrusions from ministries and agencies of government is quite commendable.
James Sule, permanent secretary in charge of cabinet affairs, described the CDCU as “one of the innovative initiatives of Mr. President, established in the year 2020 with the key mandate of tracking the implementation of Policies, Programmes and Projects of Ministries along the 9 Priority Areas of the Federal Government. The Unit also identifies and resolves issues that create bottlenecks and impediments to the delivery of Presidential Priorities.”
Government should immediately kickstart national awareness around the tracker and its use. Nigerians need to avail themselves of the opportunity to become the extension of government by being its eyes, which will translate into benefits for the citizenry. Here, the civil society, media, traditional and religious institutions have a role to play by showing interest not only in using these trackers but also in becoming the state’s eyes on matters that concern all of us.
I am confident, that if well implemented, the CDCU will not only be answers to questions surrounding projects implementations but will also save government funds and shorten delivery time; significantly reduce corruption, and infrastructural deficits while returning to the people the power to oversight public officials and become lead stakeholders on government funding and projects.
Much more, it would have etched President Muhammadu Buhari’s name in history, as a leader that brought these innovations on accountability, project delivery and value for public expenditure.
Adebayo is an Abuja-based civil rights activist