YIAGA AFRICA and the #NotTooYoungToRun movement is set to host the largest gathering of young elected lawmakers in Nigeria.
YIAGA AFRICA and the #NotTooYoungToRun movement is set to host the largest gathering of young elected lawmakers in Nigeria.
Ready To Run initiative is currently filming a documentary that tells their story
YIAGA AFRICA has conducted an extensive reflection sessions with its State Focal Points in charge of election observation deployment in various states in Nigeria to assess the quality of its deployment for the 2019 elections. It can be recalled that YIAGA AFRICA through its Watching The Vote (WTV) project deployed 3906 observers across all Local Government areas in Nigeria for the 2019 Presidential elections using the Parallel Vote Tabulation methodology and has taken steps to assess the process in a bid to improve on it ahead of the Bayelsa and Kogi Governorship elections coming up November 2019.
Before the elections, YIAGA AFRICA built a structure of 48 State Focal Points (SFPs) across all 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with states like Kano, Lagos, Rivers, Anambra, Borno, Katsina and Kaduna State having more than one SFP due to its geography and population. WTV recruited SFPs were in charge of project in the state as they recruited Local Government Areas Supervisors in every LGA in Nigeria while also representing the project in election observation related activities in their states. The LGA Supervisors on the other hand recruited polling unit observers from sampled polling units with the support and coordination of the State Focal Points in the state. Thus the SFPs are in a position to assess the quality of PVT deployment in the state ranging from quality of observers and whether they have been recruited from the right polling units.
During the post-election debrief session across all Geopolitical zones in Nigeria; SFPs revealed that the WTV project helped to build the capacity of citizens and provided an opportunity for them to participate in the process of entrenching free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria. This is evident as some observers voluntarily observed subsequent elections as citizens’ observers without support from the WTV project. The PVT deployment for the 2019 general elections also improved gender mainstreaming and women participation in the electoral process as SFPs revealed that in most cases over 40percent of Polling Unit and roving observers are female.
Another major success recorded by the largest movement committed to credible elections during the 2019 elections is the fact that despite the threat to violence in some areas, WTV observers successfully deployed to sampled polling units without major hitches. Similarly, WTV observers were mostly seen as ambassadors of credible elections in their communities. Also the project built on its credibility as election stakeholders, like electoral commission, Nigerian Police other security agencies, traditional and religious leaders and other election stakeholders further reaffirmed their confidence in the WTV election observation project.
For instance, The Resident Electoral Commissioner for Oyo State, Barrister Mutiu Agboke opined that “WTV will always gain recognition because they have integrity, call me for any of your activity and my team I will attend”. Similarly, Dr John Oyedokun Adewoye of the National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in Oyo State said YIAGA AFRICA WTV project is a well-recognized institution in electoral matters and assured the support of the NSCDC throughout Oyo State. Likewise, the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Ondo State endorsed the WTV project saying, “honestly WTV project is doing wonderful by using data and technology to enhance integrity of election, I wish INEC will adopt the system”.
While the WTV successfully deployed observers to sampled polling units, getting quality non-partisan citizens was a herculean task especially riverine communities, clustered localities and settings with low literacy level. Despite these challenges, coupled with insurgency in the North East the team leveraged on existing relationship with members of community and opinion leaders to make sure deployment was 100% on Election Day.
As YIAGA AFRICA’s Watching The Vote prepares for the Bayelsa and Kogi Governorship elections, we remain committed to building confidence of citizens in the electoral process as we continue to build a nationwide movement of citizens committed to credible elections.
We hereby appreciate the support of election stakeholders like the Independent National Electoral Commission, Nigerian Police, NSCDC, Traditional and religious leaders, the Nigerian Union of journalists and most importantly our observers for a successful deployment of the PVT during the 2019 elections.
Democracy thrives with an independent judiciary that is insulated from undue interference. The Judiciary is the hope of the common man as well as the political elite. Nigeria has just concluded its general elections where the contest for political power assumed unimaginable acmes with democratic institutions weakened and sabotaged by the state; rampageous political thugs destroyed election materials, abducted and raped election officials; voter suppression manifested through arbitrary cancellations of votes and purchase of voter cards from eligible voters; selective and non-application of electoral guidelines and violence were the order of the day. These elections have come and gone, and attention has shifted from the umpire who may have not sufficiently discharged her constitutional responsibilities. All eyes are now on the judiciary, who is not just the third arm of government but the umpire to adjudicate the petitions arising from the elections.
At this point, the critical question to ask is “Is the Nigerian judiciary ready, and able deliver justice?”
In recent times, the Nigerian judiciary has been mired in corruption scandals, their Lordships have been accused of consistently desecrating the sacred temple of justice without reprimand or sanctions. Since the Buhari administration came into office, there has been stings targeted at the judiciary with the most recent being the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria based on non-declaration of assets. Admittedly, there is corruption in the court, however, the attacks on the temple of justice have further eroded the trust and belief in the judiciary as the hope of the ordinary man. This distrust will play out in the election petitions where even if the court correctly dispenses the law, they are likely to be perceived as partisan and another gun for hire.
It is scary to note the pervading fear across board, that justice may be difficult to obtain against a ruling party. It is believed that only an overly courageous judge can muster the audacity to acknowledge an irregularity and annul an election where the ruling party won. This perceived fear of intimidation and accompanying backlash, as well as the fear of violence outbreak, are palpable trepidations for most judges today. It is therefore plausible to opine that instilling fear in judges is a viable tactic employed by politicians to muscle the judiciary and undermine its ability to deliver justice.
The judiciary cannot be sequestered from culpability. The number of conflicting judgments issued on the same or similar matters by courts of coordinate jurisdiction is alarming. Some judges are either yielding to corrupt politicians or shying away from responsibilities and in that guise issue contentious judgments. Since the conclusion of the elections, we’ve witnessed abuse of court processes. The first was a judge who ruled on matters which fall within the purview of election petition tribunal; subsequently, others started dishing out injunctions prohibiting the counting of votes and restraining INEC from organising supplementary elections and sundry matters. If the interest of justice was ever considered some of the anomalies that unfolded would never have seen the light of the day.
The New Normal is for politicians to perpetrate electoral malpractices and urge their opponents to approach the court for judicial review. The norm is to recruit the services of legal counsel, mostly Senior Advocates with a good media profile. The lawyers are not just adept at using technicalities to subvert the law but are believed to have the ability to bribe judges to procure favourable judgments. In some cases, Senior Advocates often regarded as veterans with good media profile and public acceptance are purposely recruited to give legal proceedings a toga of legitimacy where the judges and their conspirators anticipate backlash or substantial public outcry over a procured judgement.
Another evolving trend is the safety of judges on election petition assignments. For instance, the Osun State governorship election petition tribunals had to relocate her sitting to Abuja for security purposes. It is also important to point out the alarming fears that the location of a court may influence the judgement or ideological orientation of the judges. The Zamfara APC conundrum and ruling is a pointer.
The judiciary is tasked with the responsibility of dispensing over 639 pre-election cases arising from the party primaries and 736 cases emanating from the just concluded elections. The presidential election has four election petitions, 207 for senatorial elections, 101 for the house of representatives, 43 in governorship and 381 in the state house of assembly elections. The number of election petitions reveals the heated nature of the electoral contest and the conviction of some actors, that they were shortchanged in the just concluded elections. It is a welcome development when aggrieved candidates and political parties approach the courts for redress instead of resorting to violence. It is therefore incumbent on the court to deliver justice.
Judicial review is the bedrock of democracy, and without it, the rights and liberty of the people will be jeopardised. It connotes, the court is an impartial umpire in the business of government and controls the management of societal affairs. It is the constitutional right of the judiciary to review and cancel legislation or actions that taken illegally by the government. It further connotes the reassessment or re-examination by judges of a decision or proceeding by a lower court or government department. Judicial review must, therefore, advance the cause of electoral justice.
Moreover, electoral justice will be attained if only those who are called to dispense justice in the society are themselves part of the democratic system and are imbued with democratic ideas. Therefore, the Courts and her ministers in the temple of justice must be insulated from the undercurrents of partisan politics. As human beings, they may have their individual political beliefs, but they must divorce their professional personalities from partisan politics if they would be trusted to dispense justice without fear or favour. The Nigerian judiciary cannot afford to fail the Nigerian people.
Samson Itodo is an elections and constitution building enthusiast. He is the Executive Director of YIAGA AFRICA and Convener of the Not Too Young To run movement. Send comments and feedback to [email protected] He tweets @DSamsonItodo
YIAGA AFRICA, with support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) under the Empowering Youth for Effective Democratic Participation Project seeks to educate young Nigerians on citizenship, civic activism, and fundamental human rights so that they actively engage in participatory democracy.
The Democracy Camp (civic education camps), hosted by YIAGA AFRICA will hold for two days and bring together 100 senior secondary school students from 10 selected schools in each of the following states – Bauchi, Kogi, and Nassarawa states.
In Bauchi and Nasarawa states, the Camp will hold between 3-4 April, 2019, while the Camp will hold in Kogi at a later date.
The Democracy Camp has been held annually for the past six years as part of YIAGA AFRICA’s strategic objectives to build the next generation of leaders and civic actors.
100 students in each state participate in the civic education camp, which features workshops, debates, interactive sessions and simulation exercises exploring the fundamentals of civic activism, citizenship, human rights, and political participation.
Through the Camp, YIAGA AFRICA has and will continuously foster a new generation of informed young democratic activists across Nigeria.
YIAGA firmly believes young people possess the skill, intellect, resilience and energy needed to solve Africa’s governance and development challenges. To this end, we are driven by the desire to mobilize and empower young people with the requisite skills and knowledge that makes them agents of change in their community.
In the just concluded 2019 elections in Kaduna state, citizens prove to politicians that selling their votes is not an option. This was revealed during the YIAGA AFRICA’s assessment of UpRight4Nigeria’s pre-election vote buying and selling sensitization rally which shows that the campaign successfully mitigated vote buying and selling in Kaduna, through the Strengthening Citizens Resistance Against Prevalence of Corruption (SCRAP-C) project.
In Kaduna, over one thousand (1000) youths participated in UpRight4Nigeria’s pre-election vote buying/selling sensitization and rally in three local government areas of three senatorial zones where they pledged commitments to stand against vote buying during the 2019 general elections in their individual localities.
During the assessment exercise, YIAGA AFRICA’s program officer, Tracy Keshi, addressed the impact of this sensitization, stating that the general election in Kaduna state indicated high-resistance to vote buying and selling due to the prior sensitization on voters’ rights.
According to Keshi, “it is about reaching out to Nigerian youths especially as regards to vote buying and selling, which is a form of electoral corruption. To say, I am standing up right for Nigeria, and also to sign pledge cards to firmly attest that they were not going to sell or buy votes actually helped in reducing the level of vote buying and selling”, Keshi says.
A participant at the forum, Abubakar Aliyu, said that the sensitisation he had from YIAGA Africa and SCRAP-C, before the 2019 general elections, was an eye-opener to the effect of vote selling and vote buying.
“I was approached to sell my voter card during elections, I refused to sell it because it was the only weapon I have as a citizen of Nigeria to vote for the leader of my choice during the election. Thanks to YIAGA Africa for sensitisation.
Aliyu Musa, a student of Kaduna State University who, “thanks YIAGA Africa for enlightening us on corruption”, described corruption as a symptom that things, somewhere, were going in the wrong direction.
“It is not only government that engages in corrupt practices; as an individual, I have learnt that even playing truancy by staying away from school is corruption.
Ishaq Idris, a businessman, however, said that people who did not comply with laid down rules in the society and failed to be law-abiding citizens should be sanctioned. “If people should respect rules and regulations that govern the entity –family, enterprise, government, council, country — certainly the society will be corrupt free.
Umma Sani, another participant, expressed concern that some people in authority turned around to manipulate the system to their advantage. “Custodians of policies, rules and regulations should be held with a high sense of respect and accountability, they should wish to meet their creator with pure hearts,” he said.
YIAGA AFRICA had initially conducted advocacy visits to Kaduna state police command, pre-election town hall meetings with various youth groups and a campaign rally. This was followed by the post-election evaluation where close to 700 youths agreed to inculcate and nurture right attitudes to corruption, as they all signed Upright for Nigeria pledged cards, committing to stand up right for Nigeria.
A major achievement from the sensitization is this significant number of youths who signed the pledge cards and are very determined to carry on with this project as ambassadors of UpRight4Nigeria.