Oludotun Babayemi, co-Founder of Follow The Money, an initiative of Connected Development was invited to speak at Strengthening Advocacy and Civic Engagement (SACE), held at RockView Hotel Royalé.
SACE is a governance project funded by USAID to support civil society to advocate for reforms that improve transparency and accountability and increase inclusive governance in Nigeria.
Working nationally and in the Niger Delta, the project works with 16 core partners (in clusters and collaborative initiatives) reaching over 200 CSOs – strengthening capacity, supporting advocacy engagement and public awareness work by the core CSOs on key issues.
The project will support increased engagement and efficacy of civil society to be able to influence public institutions whose function it is to serve citizens’ interests. SACE explicitly aims to engage marginalized populations, such as women, youth, and the disabled in the process and emphasize the importance of leadership and innovation which is also part of the core mission and theme of Connected Development.
Still in line of these components, it’s envisaged that this project will bring Strengthened partnerships between CSO-led coalitions and networks and targeted Government of Nigeria institutions and key stakeholders to advocate for and monitor select democratic reforms aimed at strengthening transparency, accountability, and responsiveness of government institutions.
It was now very apparent why the likes of Oludotun Babayemi who is widely travelled and well-rooted in grassroots activations, Omojuwa; Social Media Commentator, Maryam Uwais; Human Rights Lawyer and Activist were representatives of their respective organizations to share thoughts with the group of CSOs present at the event.
Japheth Omojuwa, a Nigerian blogger, public speaker, socio-economic and political commentator and social media expert gave doses of advice for Social Media folks. He said “One of the fastest ways of reaching people is perhaps through Social Media” but, a caveat was labelled on to that “We have to take responsibility for the platforms we consume our news from”.
The 2016 Best Twitter Personality Of The Year said Part of what drives our movement towards achieving success with Social Media is that, “the citizens now have the power to drive change via new media but because we are now in the era of masses; Mass media, mass production, mass movement, we have move from the stage where organizations say something and we follow”.
Oludotun Babayemi, the co-creator of Follow the Money, Nigeria; School of Data Fellow and CrisisMapper Fellow shared essential information about how FollowTheMoney – the largest grassroots movement, designed to track and visualize government funds in Africa was formed.
He said “Passion drove us to Zamfara State to link what was happening but we never thought of sustainability; however sustainability is an essential component of building effective public campaign strategy.” Speaking more on how passion drove their activity, he said “the first time we journeyed into Zamfara State, Bagega wasn’t even on the map”.
He also intensively debated that “No country has been able to move from underdevelopment to development without Education”.
The Stanford University Centre for Development, Democracy and the Rule of Law fellow enthused further that “We decided not to be conventional in our campaign but to leverage heavily on the media in innovative ways.
We started Follow The Money campaign by tracking government funding on health, education and environment and we constantly leveraged on champions to drive the Bagega Campaign such as Omojuwa as key ‘influencer’, as it is always sane and reasonable for long-term sake that “NGOs should focus on their strengths and have one thematic area of work to remain relevant and in sync with the public because originality, people and technology are key to success”.
Babayemi advised that “knowledge based advocacy is important in having focused campaign” to be able to have strengthened public awareness, discourse and support for key democratic governance issues such as transparency, accountability and good governance.
As part of the Objectives of the 2.0 Mindset series which is to share lessons learned based on the achievements and challenges of CSOs in TAGG engagement.
Mariam Uwais, Special adviser to the President on Social Protection plan made cases for how we can effectively manage some social vices and curb them, in line with focus. She was quick to relay to the audience that “persistence has reward”.
Mariam Uwais, Special adviser to the President on Social Protection plan made cases for how we can effectively manage some social menace and able to curb them, in line with focus, she was quick to relay to the audience that “persistence has its own reward”.
“Identify our audience well” because she said “Working on Child marriage in the North, we targeted the turbaned and bearded.” Because “It’s always important that you stand for something; build network and reach out to people”
The seasoned lawyer and activist also tasked the audience that in carrying out the functions, we must “be kind, be compassionate, put yourself in the others shoes and always keep the bigger picture in view”.
More so , as the program also seek to provide an opportunity for key stakeholders to have in-depth discussion on the expectations and way forward in optimizing CSOs role in policy dialogue and reform. She enthused that “We’re enlisting 3rd party monitors to track social investment because it’s important to hear the other party’s’ voice.“Every beneficiary of social protection program of the Federal Government has BVN and their names in register” she added.
As this event was the 8th edition of the 2.0 Mindset Series since it was launched in December 2016. The platform has focused on various themes including: Effective Advocacy, Strategies and Tactics; Collective impact – what works; Understanding the Open Government initiative and much more.
Also as this initiative seeks to complement the project’s subsequent dialogues on fostering and strengthening public discourse and support for key democratic governance issues. We hope to reach out again next time around. In the meantime, join our movement via ifollowthemoney.org and be part of the people who will drag positive change into the country. #FollowTheMoney
Olusegun is the Social Media Strategist for Connected Development & FollowTheMoney. He’s a Social commentator and Social Media expert.
L-R Hamzat Bala Lawal, Senator Jummai Alhassan
Ever imagined the world where there wouldn’t be differences within the gender grouping? Ever wished your female children are accorded same respect as given to the male folks out there?
These drove the challenge for the HeForShe campaign that was created by UN Women, the United Nations entity for gender equality and empowerment of women, HeForShe is a global effort to engage men and boys in removing the social and cultural barriers that prevent women and girls from achieving their potential, enlisting men and boys as equal partners in the responsible crafting and implementing of a shared vision of gender equality, with norms of gender equality, non-violence and respect, and thus together positively reshaping society.
Purely the fundamental objectives of HeForShe campaign are to change discriminatory behaviours, through building awareness of the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment and the crucial role men can play in their own lives, and at more structural levels in their communities, to end the persisting inequalities faced by women and girls globally.
HeForShe also provides a platform for men and boys to become advocates for women and girls, and to behave accordingly, telling their stories to the global community about the actions they are taking to end inequality.
There are mixed feelings in the acceptance of this cause but to know if this call for change is necessary, we need to have had a fair knowledge of how gender-inequality wrecks the society.
Research estimates suggest that, on the current trajectory, gender equality would not be achieved until 2095. With men and boys at the table and engaged in the issue, we believe that we can more than double the Speed of change.
Can we then fold our arms and anticipate 2095 without acting as fast as we can and allow this unhealthy phase continue in this devastating form?
In this light, an event was hosted by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development at the International Conference Centre for officially and Nationally Launch this HeForShe campaign in Nigeria to sensitize the National mind-set of the need to act now for a gender equal world.
Present at the event were notable figures, the Vice President of Nigeria; Professor Yemi Osinbajo, The Honourable Minister, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development; Senator Aisha Jummai AlHassan and Phyllis Nwokedi; Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.
The Ministry channels visibly took all present around what we stand to enjoy as this campaign kicks off. It was relayed that the Ministry’s ambitious aim is to secure the commitment of one billion men to make changes in support of gender equality and women’s empowerment. Those changes may range from small steps – acknowledging the issue and recognizing that the status quo is acceptable to big steps that directly make changes to individual or community lives.
Hamzat Lawal; The Chief Executive of Connected Development, an organization that has done well in ensuring that marginalized people and sect are empowered and have their voices amplified was also present at the event and gave a direct speech on the focus and his stance on gender equality and parity.
He said “Although we have come a long way from a century ago regarding the rights of women and girls, there is room for improvement. According to UN Women, gender equality is defined as “equal rights, responsibilities, and opportunities of women and men and girls and boys”.
For long, the attention and the pressure have fallen only on women to be the ones who should believe in gender equality. This is wrong. Both men and women should play an active role in ensuring equality between the sexes. As the popular Nigerian Author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says- “we should all be feminists”! This creed should be passed on to our future generations.
He further enthused “I am happy to be a young man who truly believes in gender equality. In my organization, 70% of my workforce is women. As of 2016, my organization – CODE has directly impacted 26,811 rural lives, especially those of women and children in ensuring that educational and health care appropriations meant for them are well spent through our “Follow The Money” campaigns.
“However, this is not enough. As an Activist, I strongly believe that now is the time to stand up on our tiptoes, extend our arms to the sky, and confess to the world that we are sick of our women and girls missing out of school, and being victims of conflict and domestic violence.”Lastly, Lawal pointed out that “My greatest dream is that one day, I’ll have a little daughter and a son of my own. When my son asks me what it means to be a man, and when my daughter asks me what it means to be a woman, I should be able to tell them one similar thing- “Boys and Girls are equal!
“I implore our youth to join the HeforShe campaign by standing with women and girls around the world who deserve access to education, healthcare, water, and sanitation, as well as decent work. As a great country, we could lead Africa in achieving the sustainable development goals.”
It is anticipated that out of the signatories to HeForShe, half will take the initial step of joining the solidarity campaign by making a simple positive pledge for gender equality. It is also projected that another quarter may make the pledge and then be inspired to become more engaged by taking a second step-to donate, to advocate and to sensitize themselves to gender equality issues. And a final quarter may deepen their engagement by making and following through on a major commitment that substantially contributes to social change.
Every story of a champion making a difference has the potential to inspire others to become more engaged. Each man who takes a new action helps all of the humanity to take an additional step towards gender equality.
I advise you to Take Action Now for a Gender – Equal World.
Olusegun is the Social Media Strategist for Connected Development & FollowTheMoney. He’s a Social commentator and Social Media expert.
The idea of a National Health Insurance Scheme in Nigeria was first attempted in 1962 under the leadership of the then Minister of Health, Dr M.A Majekodunmi. In the last four decades, the fight to have a health insurance system that works has been an arduous journey of sorts, fraught with plenty complexities and peculiarities.
The overarching idea behind a health insurance scheme is to improve the health of all Nigerians at an affordable cost. In 2016, the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Professor Usman Yusuf mentioned that in the 12 years of the scheme’s existence, after it was officially signed into law in 2005 by President Olusegun Obasanjo, the scheme covers only about 1% of Nigerians. To say that this is a failure would be stating things mildly. This inability and ineffectiveness as well as the shroud of corruption that has covered the scheme from its inception are major factors that have led to the call for the repeal of the NHIS Act and the enactment of a new Act in its place. One of the major differences now in the Act is the fact that states can now have their own health insurance schemes. This has already resulted in a number of states such as Lagos, Cross River, Kwara, Kano etc signing their state Health Insurance Acts into law. This fragmentation of the pool has both its pros and cons. The pros being that with states being in charge, desired healthcare services will now become a step closer to the people while the cons will be that the pool of funds will have been fragmented, meaning that states have to maneuver whatever financing mechanism possible to get as much money as they can into the funding pool. Some of the strategies that are being employed by some of the states include: making the scheme compulsory for all state residents, compulsory solidarity contributions from residents who are already on private health insurance schemes, sourcing for lump sum contributions from philanthropists etc.
While all of these sound very interesting, one major question that has been on the lips of development enthusiasts is “will these laws and the inherent taxation of the people translate to better health services for the people? Will it lead to the overarching goal of achieving Universal Health Coverage in Nigeria? Will the state governments do a better job of providing the necessary social infrastructure? Will the social contract between the people and the government be strengthened in this new arrangement?”
speaking in a panel session at the event
These are a few of the questions we asked at a recent experience sharing meeting on health insurance for selected states in Nigeria. The meeting which was hosted by Nigeria health Watch and Christian Aid brought together state officials, media personnel, Civil society organisations working in the health space as well as members of the donor community
As much as we may not have answers to some of these questions now because they will only be answered in time as the schemes kick off in the states, we can however make a few postulations:
- The above questions can only be answered with a YES if the state governments beef up the existing health facilities and strengthen the health systems within the states. This should also be accompanied by appropriate accountability mechanisms to ensure that the monies pooled are utilized as they should be and to the fullest benefit of the people.
- The states should not see the Health Insurance scheme as just another method of revenue generation or another political mandate to be checked on a list or as a tool for campaigning in 2019. Rather, the programs and activities of the scheme should have the health of the people at its core.
- The National Health Insurance Agency needs to strengthen its oversight and regulatory responsibility to ensure that the Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) do not run amok and appropriate sanctions be put in place and implemented for defaulters.
- Most importantly is the fact that the states need to understand that for the scheme to work, a good part of the state budgets need to be committed to the health sector to beef up capital health infrastructure at both the state and Primary Health care levels and it should be clear that the funds from the health insurance pool are not meant for infrastructural development.
- Finally, the state governments need to understand that the citizens are major stakeholders in this process as such, they must be carried along every step of the way; they should be able to contribute to the entire decision making process, not just making monetary contributions, there should be a system for addressing the inquiries, complaints and grievances of the people as they arise and the state governments must ensure that they are as responsive as they can be in this regard.
Having successfully supervising more than 10 campaigns in more than 10 communities with more than 7 community reporters, I can boastfully say I have moved to become a follow the money evangelist. The passion for seeing the change I wished for keep pushing me and the first – hand knowledge of the local communities in Nigeria as someone who spent a significant part of his life in the village really paves more ways for me to understand what the struggles in the marginalised communities could be like.
As someone who constantly speaks, mentor and train community reporters, I am always trying to see things with their eyes as most times, I get the information as it is hot. Hence, this led me to the majority of my decisions in the organisation.
As an organisation that is almost clocking its 5 years of existence, Connected Development has reached the heart of many marginalised communities in Nigeria, and the love of the community led us to our constant reinvention of our process and workflows.
In Oludotun’s blog titled, “Taming the Monster in Nigeria Budget System“, he made it cleared that; Many developed and developing countries are still working towards linking performance to public expenditures, framework or strategy. If these linkages are not made, there will be no way to determine if the budgetary allocations that the support programs are ultimately supporting are successful.
As such, it can be collectively agreed on that the challenges in the spending of the Nigerian government is not about what to spend but about if the monies allocated is actually been judiciously used or not which is a big question that follow the money seeks to answer.
As written by Olayiwola Victor Ojo in his paper titled, “Ethnic Diversity In Nigeria“, it is presented clearly that the polity Nigeria is one of the most ethnically divided society globally with diverse ethnic cocoons and myriads of dialect. And as such, it may be difficult to Follow the Money in all the local communities in Nigeria and the best approach to solving this diversity problem to empower the communities is to train the locals on how to follow the money, and this has always been the bane of operation of follow the money which makes us have community reporters in almost all states of Nigeria with the goal of reaching all wards in the country.
This is not only a proposition or goal of the organisation, we also share this as a part of the purpose of the organisation which is to empower the marginalised communities in Nigeria through our little effort which made us have a community of follow the money enthusiasts.
In all of these, Mark Zuckerberg in his speech at Havard made it known that membership in communities is declining. Many people feel disconnected and depressed and are trying to fill a void. And in our own little way, we are building a community of people who will Follow the Money and become a champion in the Nigeria we aim to see in years to come, this cannot be possible without the sense of belonging to a community who are attached to a purpose of making the government function for the people it is meant to serve.
According to Mark, Change starts locally. Even global changes start small and we hope our little change will have effects the communities to be proactive and ask the government the right question as to demanding for good governance, we hope they will be inspired to know and seek to know what is budgeted for them as a community and they would always request for it and also, we hope to give a voice to that champion who is ready to take a walk and give a voice to his/her community by becoming a champion through leveraging on our platform.
As the community manager of the Follow the Money project, I found a purpose and this will go a long way in my life. It is all about the community, it is about the people and it is way all about leveraging technology to solves challenges facing the communities.
Like the barrister who approached me in the office one day has said “Knowing about this movement made me find what I really want to do”, I hope to see more people who this will truly be their voice, someday.
Open Data Party has come and gone but the feedback we received from the event which took place in Kano in November 2016 live with us as an organisation. From the event, it was found out that our community champions need more community gathering which will be a follow the money immersive session. Also, we have been receiving requests such as, “how can we follow the money in our states” and we feel more need to reach out to more communities as they are our major focus.
Finally, our zeal to train more community champions to follow the money in their respective states came to reality as we won the One Award in April 2017 and this to us, means more communities empowered and more community champions championing Follow the Money.
We officially kickstarted our training in North East Nigeria as we Follow the Money to Maiduguri, Borno State which is the epicentre of the Boko Haram crisis in Nigeria. The decision to start our training in Maiduguri was borne out of passion for communities to follow the money meant for the rehabilitation of the displaced persons in the region as increase in the inflows of aid is made possible by the Oslo Humanitarian Conference of 2016 so that the funds won’t be mismanaged like the aid gotten in the past years in tune to more than $30bn.
The North East mapping event, in partnership with Exit Lanes, took place on 17th and 18th of May in Maiduguri. It had a turnout of 138 participants from the six states in the North East region of the country (Borno, Taraba, Gombe, Adamawa, Yobe and Bauchi). In a post evaluation of the 2 -day training, 75% of the total respondents (32 number of them) said they are now aware of fund flows to their states, where to find the information and how to Follow the Money.
CODEs co-founder, Oludotun Babayemi set the ball rolling on Day 1 by officially opening the training event, setting the event on a high tempo. He spoke extensively and intently about the dangers of not engaging government of which he painted an imaginary picture of what Borno state would be in 2030 if everyone seated in the room got involved. This tempo was however maintained all through the event.
The training sequence had a back to back approach, with adequate time allotted for questions and answers, there was a break after every session for participants to stretch and also give them time to internalise the information received, as well as the ample time to rest before other sessions came up. Tea break availed participants various opportunities to bond and explore areas of strategic interest to them.
Every session was practical, as various dialogue points came out of the questions asked, participants were taken through what Connected Development represents and how they could plug into the various models of the organisation in engaging and emancipating their communities, they were also made to engage in the process of identifying money to follow, hashtagging campaigns and connecting to our social media platforms, the right ways to take videos and pictures during community outreaches was also emphasised and done practically. In addition, the process of visualisation, tracking and advocacy, was emphasised.
On day 2, participants were grouped into their various states (participants from Borno – the host state had 3 groups) to find potential campaigns they could follow in the coming weeks. It was great to know that 7 campaigns were highlighted at the end of the session, with participants showing high interest in following the money of projects already identified.
Follow the Money Team in Fashir Interviewing the community stakeholder
We would not have visited Maiduguri without a community outreach to a rural community. This time we were in Fashir, where a 6 -year old abandoned health facility has been turned into a storehouse, and a shelter for animals. “At one time, we reached out to the contractor of this project, but he told us he could not finish the project because the state government has not provided adequate funding for the completion of the project”. After 1 hour of focus group discussions, the community mobilised themselves and were ready to engage the local government chairman and the state commissioner for health.
24 hours travel on road from Abuja, 138 participants, 2 days of great work, and 7 campaigns can be such an adventure for us at Connected Development, as we look forward to furthering outcomes from the campaigns identified. Moreover, the enthusiasm amongst participants to start their Follow the Money chapter was quite overwhelming, and something to look forward to in the coming months. Wondering when we will be in your state or region? Do join us at http://ifollowthemoney.org to be the first to know.
The follow the Money team was given 20min slot to speak about what we do in two events at the University of Ilorin.
The first event was co-organized by the Canvassity Pan African Youth Democracy and The Post-Graduate School of the Faculty of Life Science Student while the second event which was supposed to hold was organised by Junior Chamber Internation (JCI Unilorin) but, did not later hold due to logistics reason by the organiser (JCI Unilorin)
The theme of the event was “Understanding Democracy: How to Leverage the Power of Technology and Social Media to Engage the Government and Increase Impactful Youth Engagement”.
The event which took place on the 29th of April, 2017 was very strategic for our team as it comes at a time we are planning to reach out to all the geopolitical zones in Nigeria by training them on how to Follow the Money.
As such, starting from Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria will be instrumental to our work as we intend to reach out to the consciousness of the youth population in the academic community. Engaging this category of youths will drive intellectual change and conversation around development, governance and Transparency & Accountability.
Though the turnout for the event wasn’t as massive as we had earlier thought, but nonetheless – the message got to, and sank deep into the hearts of the participants as they all wanted to leverage on the Follow the Money Platform to empower their respective communities.
“Where have you guys been all this while?” That statement was echoed by the majority of the participants as they were all wowed about what we have been doing.
Akinsuyi who was one of the participants gave his remarks saying “An eye-opening presentation, but I think it is not for someone who wants to live long”.
In his remarks to feedbacks given by Akinsuyi, Busayo Morakinyo of Connected Development engaged him emphasising on the fact that “we cannot all be mute and watch things go by as we all need to be proactive and ask the right questions from the government, so we can all see and achieve the Nigeria of our dreams”
One of the participants who did not want his name in print raised a salient concern as he asked if Follow the Money would not turn apolitical by the time it gain grounds and I discussed extensively on the nonpartisan traits of the organization and gave him assurance about the fact that we remained firm and resolute on our nonpartisan stand. Also, I was able to let him realised we cannot be a watchdog for the government and at the same time be romancing with them.
While explaining the more, I iterated and let the participant understand that if the organisation was a political one or has a political motive/s, it would not have stood the test of time since 2012 that it was founded.
The event ended with a good understanding of what we do and how the participants can sign up to be a part of the organisation. More of this training will continue until we are able to reach out to all Tertiary institutions in Nigeria, creating systems and deep-rooted thoughts on transparency and accountability. The event ended with commitments from the participants as they indicated their interest to join our Follow the Money Platform.
If truly we are serious about Following the Money, then, we should be able to train the next generation of leaders to be proactive and always speak up and most importantly, they too need to start Following the Money. This is one of the major reasons why we are on the train of training to the tertiary institutions. Look out for our train in the various campuses around Nigeria. We will keep you posted the more, as it is happening.
If you know of any event on social development, transparency and accountability which you would want us to talk about what we do and possible recruitment of Follow the Money enthusiasts, do not hesitate to comment or reach out to our team.