Nigeria combines both weak democratic performance and democratic fragility, which has eclipsed the decline in civil liberties with the greatest adversary of the citizens being the state, due to its institutionally weak systems of accountability and checks and balances. Thus, the Institutions that are supposed to protect these civil liberties seem to have been decimated, planted or captured, both at federal and state levels. This is coming in the wake up of increasing shrinking civic spaces and recent global reports on democracy dissatisfaction across the world. Nigeria in particular has continued to experience its own share of setback in its quest for sustainable democracy with assault on human rights and attempts to restrict freedom of speech with undemocratic legislation.

It was against the backdrop that Yiaga Africa hosted experts, practitioners, academicians and civil society actors to a research design methodology meeting on building solidarity in the era of shrinking civic space. The meeting according to Executive director of Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, the meeting explored various institutional models of building solidarity and provided clarity on organizational approach to promote solidarity.

He noted that given the transformational potential of solidarity, we need to build solidarity as a response to the shrinking civil space – the forms that it takes, the level, the character is what we also need to study or explore. Amongst the areas to be explored may be a possibility of conducting an academic research. He said, research and knowledge dissemination provide an opportunity for timely information about civil society restrictions and overall trend. “National actors and civil society actors are generally more aware of the problem; actors have experienced the effect of shrinking civic space and are in a prime position to share their experiences and shape research design”, he said.

Also speaking during the meeting is Jaye Gaskiya from Say No Campaign who raised critical issues that could have led to the current democratic setback, saying movements of solidarity particularly in the context of the shrinking civic space and in the context of expanding the democratic space and deepening democratic consolidation needs to ensure that it is in itself democratic. He said, looking at the revolution now, there is a certain level of spontaneous solidarity that you expect for any form of action, but the extent to which the spontaneous solidarity will go depends on the organized solidarity which has been built overtime.

Samson further tasked academics to encourage their students’ to undertake research work on these movements, making reference to instances of the research work on ‘Not Too Young To Run’ carried out by post-graduate students particularly in Bayero University Kano (BUK), and Lagos State University, amongst others.

Other partners at the meeting include, Kenneth Okoineme from Action Aid,  prof Pam Dung Sha, a professor of political science from University of Jos, the Country Director of Amnesty International, Osai Ojigho, Dr. Umar Kari from University of Abuja and Mallam Y Z Yau from Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), Kano.