Undeniably, citizens’ involvement is paramount for the effective control of corruption in Nigeria; an unpopular fact which inspired Say No Campaign-Nigeria’s grassroots engagement across five states (Abuja, Lagos, Kano, Akwa-ibom, Enugu) in the country, aimed at sensitizing, generating and articulating citizens’ voice to elicit enforcement of sanctions when public service provision fails, and to promote accountability of public authorities, with the support of MacArthur Foundation.
Before the intervention by Say No Campaign, Citizens’ minimal understanding of their rights and entitlements in order to evaluate public service performance was visible in these states, hence, the common opinion of their expectation of the government to fight corruption alone and provide them with better living standard. Opening up opportunities for grassroots actions against corruption in these communities took empowerment with adequate information and institutional mechanisms to denounce and resist abuses of power.
By position of authority, the community leaders are supposed to act as the central voice through which the community members express their preferences, opinions and views, and demand accountability from power holders, but sadly, most of them are totally ignorant of the right information on tools for social accountability, including the budgetary allocation to their various communities.
The community engagement yielded a strong anti-corruption network involving community members, with traditional rulers who are willing to identify abandoned projects in their various communities, question service failure, and continually engage public officials on corruption issues within their state, to increase the impact and rate of citizen led monitoring.
The potential of a collective action in these communities is unarguable when every community member positions him/herself as a positive influence in the fight against corruption, while the traditional leaders on their part should begin by promoting the interest and welfare of their communities through influencing government to be more responsible to its people in providing social and infrastructural amenities; better welfare package for workers; recognize, award or commend good behavior, speak against corrupt acts irrespective of personal gains; and ensure peace in their communities.
The “blame game” has never worked for citizens, refining their expectations when accessing public services is essential in social accountability initiatives and assessing collective action capabilities is critical for choosing the right participatory approach, because some social accountability modalities require particularly strong and well-coordinated citizen actions.