International recognition came the way of Onigbongbo Local Council Development Area recently with the showcasing of the Council’s “House of Citizens” (HOC) as a best practice of participatory local Governance by the International Republican Institute at its Africa Regional Conference held in Mombasa Kenya, July 31 2013. IRI visited six countries in Africa (Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa and Uganda) to identify and showcase best practices in democratic governance, which can adopted and replicated in other countries.
HOC is an outcome of collaboration between the Council and an NGO, the Orderly Society Trust (OST) who conceived the idea as part of its Making Local Governance Work for the Poor programme. OST carried out a Nationwide study on practices of local governance geared towards increasing participation in governance by building the capacity of the community representatives to effectively engage local government officials and increase public discourse on local governance,
A major advantage of the House of Citizens is that it provides a permanent apolitical space where local council officials and community representatives meet to identify and analyze challenges facing the community and then propose and prioritise interventions to address such challenges. The House also works with local councils to put in place checks and balances to curtail corruption and ineffectiveness so as to allow for an open, inclusive and responsive local council.
According to the Vice Chairman of Onigbongbo LCDA, Hon. Oladotun Olakanle, “HOC has made our work easier. As elected officials, we are representatives of the people and we need the cooperation of civil society and well-meaning citizens in the community to develop Onigbongbo. HOC makes things easier for us because it already brings the people together and not only can we dialogue and rub minds, we now have a situation where organizations and public-spirited members of the community contribute in kind or cash to the projects of the council”.
In its two years of existence, the House has recorded laudable success. The LCDA responded to citizens’ request to be included in from institutionalized budget meetings for stakeholders in the community to quarterly review implemented projects.
At the conference in Kenya, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Governor of Ekiti state gave a keynote address on State Level Governance across Africa speaking on the critical role of local governments being the tier that is closest to the people and knows where the shoes pinch the most. According to Fayemi, we must begin to pay close attention to the texture of democracy that is being delivered rather than insisting only on form. He also noted that though credible institutions must be built to support important for good governance, strong and purposeful leadership is required to deliver democracy dividends.