In its bid to positively transform the orientation of Nigerians, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) has taken its campaign to the grassroots through partnership with relevant stakeholders. PATIENCE IVIE OBHAFUOSO writes on the importance of such collaboration to the country.
The National Orientation Agency (NOA) has often faced criticisms. These criticisms arise from the perception that the agency does not take its enlightenment programmes to the people at the grassroots.
A large percentage of Nigerians, especially those in the rural areas are not enlightened on government policies and programmes. This ugly situation has promoted political thuggery and all manner of violence, leaving many with the thought of marginalisation.
Previous administrations devised several schemes to promote public enlightenment, social mobilization and value re-orientation by merging the Directorate for Social Mobilisation, Self-Reliance and Economic Recovery (MAMSER) with The Public Enlightenment (PE), The War Against Indiscipline (WAI) and the National Orientation Movement (NOM) of the then Federal Ministry of Information and Culture.
However, the existing schemes were rationalised by the government to form the National Orientation Agency in 1993 with the statutory mandate of enlightening Nigerians on government policies, programmes and activities, as well as mobilize public support for them.
The agency is also saddled with the responsibility to re-orientate the attitudes of Nigerians and provide a feedback to the government on the people’s feelings and reactions towards government policies, programmes and activities, thus expanding the space for public input in government decision- making process.
In spite of these numbers of social engineering institutions that have been initiated and implemented by successive governments, Nigeria is still a slowcoach in the comity of nations.
In an attempt to combat this problem, NOA has entered into collaborations with so many agencies of government such as the Millennium Development Goals (NDGs), Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and its mother ministry, the Federal Ministry of Power, Office of the Special Assistant to the President on Social Development, office of the Senior special Adviser to the President on Ethics and Value, the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Consumer Protection Council (CPC), National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) among others.
The essence of the collaborations according to the director-general of NOA, Mr. Mike Omeri, is to efficiently take campaigns and value re-orientation programmes concerning the various ministries and agencies to every nook and cranny of the country.
He noted that the collaborations were aimed at carrying everybody along by making sure that government programmes and activities are well circulated across the 36states of the federation, and to sensitize Nigerians, especially those at the grassroots.
According to the DG, NOA is the right channel through which transformation programmes could effectively reach every community in the country due to its platform; having offices in the 774 local government areas in the 36 states of the federation, including an office in the Federal Capital territory (FCT) aside the headquarters.
He revealed that NOA also has 40 million telephone lines open for enquiries across the country. This is as well as an E-poly platform for public opinion which enables people from every parts of the country to express their grievances, opinions and suggestions to the agency which the agency in turn submits to the Federal Government. The NOA has also initiated citizen volunteer scheme to operate at the 9,500 ward level across the country.
Therefore, it is in the light of this that the collaborations between NOA and the various agencies of government especially the MDGs has become imperative at a time as this when the proposed year (2015) for the actualization of the MDGs dream is near
It is in this pursuit that the Senior Special Assistant to the President on MDGs, Dr. Precious Gbemiyo has approved the strong partnership with the NOA which is supposed to drive development at the grassroots. She disclosed that the partnership with the agency is aimed at awakening the consciousness of the community members, community leaders on the need for them to be interested in the projects in their domain; the need for them to buy into the developmental project that the MDGs are involved in; the need for them to be owners of the projects; the need to own the projects; the need to be whistle blowers, the need to find out what is happening and the need to take responsibility for the project.
In an interview with the Special Assistant to the Senior Special Adviser to the President on MDGs, Dr. Christopher Otabo, he revealed that the NOA, having a very wide spread personnel across the federal, states and local governments is expected to take the message of the MDGs to the grassroots.
He revealed that the agency is expected to mingle with the people and find out their pulse, what their feelings are about the projects and gets them to come together and rally around the projects to ensure that the projects succeed. “We are hopeful that the NOA is going to bridge the gap by letting the people at the community know that the projects are meant for their benefit and to participate actively in ensuring that the projects work,” he said.
As part of efforts to prepare the minds of politicians and eligible voters for the forthcoming 2015 general elections, Omeri revealed that the NOA would soon hold an all political parties conference in collaboration with INEC to mobilize support against the alarming waves of political violence across the country.
According to him, the conference would inculcate positive value orientation in the political class and in the national politics.
Condemning the recruitment of youths by politicians as political thugs rather than providing gainful employment and positive mentorship, NOA DG noted that the NOA/INEC partnership would help ensure that political parties do not adopt politicians with violent tendencies as their candidates.
The INEC Chairman, Professor Atahiru Jega, acknowledged what he described as the commendable contributions of NOA towards the success of the 2011 general elections and other elections through its voters sensitization before, during and after elections pledged commitment towards sensitizing both youths and politicians against negative involvements in politics.
Giving credit to NOA for its influence leading to the inclusion of voter education curriculum in secondly schools across the nation, Jega expressed confidence on NOA towards sensitizing Nigerians on the issuance of permanent voter’s card to millions of Nigerians due to commence soon as approved by the Federal Executive Council.
According to him, “with such continued commitment to voter education from NOA staff and other stakeholders, the much desired development of our democracy is not farfetched.”
Among other collaborations, the agency recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA). The Director General of NPHCDA, Dr. Ado Muhammad revealed that the NOA is expected to disseminate information about the Primary Health Care Scheme so that people all over the 774 LGAs of the country would know that the Federal Government has a laid down programme to make all Nigerians healthy.
Dr. Muhammad said his agency needed the widespread platform of the National Orientation Agency to mobilize Nigerians into claiming ownership of the National Primary Health Care Scheme as it belonged to them.
Also, the Federal Ministry of power recently organized a one-day train-the-trainer’s workshop at the NOA headquarters, which created a platform for the agency to interact with critical stakeholders on the objectives of the Multi-year Tariff order.
The workshop also educated and equipped the agency’s staff on its proposed public enlightenment and mobilization of Nigerians on the new tariff.
In the cause of NOA’s partnership with the FRSC, the NOA is also set to compile a list of traffic offenders across the country to ensure that safety and order reign on the roads.
The agency through the DG called on Nigerians to forward to the agency the vehicle registration numbers of the erring drivers for compilation and publication.
Stressing the resolve of the agency to bring about moral re-orientation that cut across all the strata of the society including the high and mighty, Omeri said the new approach would involve a comprehensive sectoral approach and collaboration with relevant agencies.