The Executive Director YIAGA AFRICA, Samson Itodo yesterday charged journalists across electronic, print and online media to invest time and energy in data-driven journalism ahead of the 2019 general elections saying that quality of elections is best analyzed using credible and accurate data. Mr Itodo said this on Saturday during YIAGA AFRICA’s Watching The Vote (WTV) media roundtable for the 2019 general elections and the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) for the 2019 Presidential elections.
He said, the 2019 election is a crucial election in the history of Nigeria and to ensure that the result reflect the voting realities, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the media need to revolt against any attempt to manipulate the election. According to him, YIAGA AFRICA’s WTV, the largest citizen movement committed to credible elections will be deploying citizen observers across all 774 Local Government Areas in Nigeria. He said, YIAGA Africa is sounding a note of warning that it will expose any attempt to manipulate the 2019 general elections. He also urged journalists to adopt the use of accurate data in reporting elections, stressing that the PVT method of the organisation, provides empirical data to enable accurate analysis of the election.
According to him, as it is now there is crisis of confidence in the electoral process from different stakeholders. “We are concern that at different levels, people will not accept the results because they will think that the process has been compromised. He said, “What YIAGA is doing now is to say there is a methodology that has the capacity to verify any result declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), particularly the presidential election.
“So there will be no need to take to violence or cause any form of instability because there is a methodology that can provide evidence,” he said. Itodo expressed optimism that the deployment of the PVT for the election would help to boost citizen confidence in the electoral process.
He advised Nigeria journalists to embrace the global trend of data driven elections reportage as they covered activities related to the forthcoming general elections.
He said that data reporting and investigative journalism on the forthcoming elections were important as there are already a lot of misinformation and fake news in the public.
He said that the only way to counter fake news and misinformation is by using data and evidence, saying gone are those days when people focus more on non-data reporting of an election.
During the roundtable which saw about 40 journalists from electronic, print and online media, YIAGA AFRICA’s Watching The Vote management team shared plans on its election observation deployment plan for the 2019 Presidential elections. According to the WTV project director, Cynthia Mbamalu, “what is important for us is that before the elections, we put all our plans as an institution that will deploy observers and ensure we have better partnership with election stakeholders.” She stated that as part of YIAGA AFRICA WTV initiative, 882 observers were deployed to all 774 local government areas to observe pre-election proceedings, while 3,034 polling unit observers will be deployed across the 1,515 of the 120,000 polling units across the country.
There were sessions on the WTV PVT methodology, WTV pre-election observation, WTV deployment for the 2019 election and media reportage of PVT findings for the 2019 elections. While conducting the session on PVT, training Manager, Paul James emphasized that YIAGA AFRICA’s WTV randomly selected polling units to deploy non-partisan observers in order to provide accurate election data fresh from polling units. According to James, having observed the process in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun Governorship elections, PVT has consistently provided data on quality of elections and how it can be improved.
Also speaking is Advisor, Election at the National Democratic Institute, Richard Klein who explained various countries where the PVT has been used to detect fraud in the electoral process. According to Klein, the PVT was first used in the Philippines to protect the votes of citizens from a dictator saying Zambia is the first African country to successfully deploy the PVT which helped eliminated fraud in the 1991 Presidential elections. NDI are providing technical support to YIAGA AFRICA for credible elections in Nigeria.
The roundtable with reporters is the first set of engagement with journalists as the team will further engage editors both in Lagos and Abuja.