02 Sep


Leading Civil Society Organization,YIAGA AFRICA has charged Young speakers of state house of assembly on quality representation and leadership saying their performance will determine the chances of young people in future elections. 

YIAGA AFRICA, hosted a strategic leadership and legislative agenda setting retreat for Nigeria’s four young state houses of assembly speakers in Nigeria, Rt. Hon. Abok Nuhu Ayuba from Plateau state, Rt. Hon. Adebo Ogundoyin (Oyo), Rt. Hon. Nasiru Magarya (Zamfara), and Rt. Hon. Yakubu Danladi Salihu (Kwara) on Saturday the 31st of August 2019 in Abuja. YIAGA AFRICA recently organized The Convergence 1.0 and 2.0, to provide technical support to hundreds of young aspirants and lawmakers nationwide, and it hopes that in a few months, if you seek for models of legislative performance you will turn to Oyo, Kwara, Plateau and Zamfara State Houses of Assembly.

At the retreat, the Executive Director and Not Too Young To Run convener, Samson Itodo, highlighted the importance of the meeting stating that how the speakers perform “will determine how young people will fare when they contest in future elections. People are looking up to you as the mouthpiece of these Houses of Assembly; if you fail, people will fail to give other young people the opportunity to lead”. He further told them to prioritise integrity, accountability, mutual respect and excellence. 

Present at the retreat were also YIAGA AFRICA’s legislative focal persons in the four states, Not Too Young To Run strategy team members and Hon. Luke Onofiok—the pioneer Speaker of Nigeria Youth Parliament, former Speaker of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, and a current member of the House of Representatives—who shared his in-depth knowledge of experiences with the new speakers on how to make their leadership count. He urged them to be transparent in all their dealings, not to be biased with the Governor and officials in the house, but rather to ensure that their colleagues and staff of the Assembly such as the clerk, see them as partners. He explained ways the speakers can foster effective-legislature relationship and regularly engage with various segments of the society, including women, youth groups, student groups and even the labourers, bus drivers, conductors and artisans.

The young speakers all shared their leadership journey from pre-election phase to their emergence as Honorable members and later, Speakers; a central factor in their story was challenges arising from their age. Rt. Hon. Adebo Ogundoyin, who was commended for his avid use of social media as a tool for legislative engagement noted that “an injury to one is an injury to all. we have to be more responsible” in the delivery of functions. Rt. Hon. Yakubu Danladi Salihu noted that he had taken an intensive legislative course in accra just before his inauguration into office, and has drafted a tentative legislative agenda for his state, which he would contact YIAGA AFRICA for support where needed. Rt. Hon. Abok Nuhu Ayuba highlighted the challenges of revenue generation and lack of financial autonomy in the state legislature, while Rt. Hon. Nasiru Magarya noted that the House since inauguration has concentrated on legislative support and will be marking their 100th day in office this week. 

YIAGA AFRICA stated its commitment to support the speakers in developing a citizens’ driven legislative agenda, peculiar to each state, and a legislative peer review mechanism to be administered to the four speakers by Dr. Jake Dan Azumi from National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, which would help to improve the functioning of the legislature as well. The retreat also had in attendance: YIAGA AFRICA Board Member, Dr. Aisha Abdullahi, representatives of UKAID, Charles Onyemachi; Political counsellor at the British High Commission, Dominic Williams; and MacArthur foundation’s Deputy Director (Nigeria Office), Oladayo Olaide.

Read More
30 Aug

2019 Elections: Opportunity Lost? YIAGA AFRICA Watching The Vote Report on Nigeria 2019 Presidential Elections


Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished guests – welcome to the YIAGA AFRICA Watching The Vote (WTV) public presentation of the 2019 general election report holding today, August 30th, 2019 at the Transcorp Hilton In Abuja.

Nigeria’s 20 years democracy was tested with the conduct of the 2019 general elections. The elections presented an opportunity for Nigeria to consolidate on the gains of the 2015 elections and deepen her democratic transition. Although INEC introduced reforms to deepen electoral integrity and citizens participation, the elections were characterized by many of the same shortcomings that have marred previous national elections in Nigeria. As in past elections, INEC’s logistical challenges and misconduct by political parties undermined the integrity of the elections and the ability of some citizens to vote and undermined public confidence in the process. Clearly, INEC overestimated its own capabilities and/or underrated the challenges with the management of logistics. This was worsened by undue interference with the electoral commission functions by state and non-state actors as well as release of election funds six weeks to the presidential elections despite its secured funding from the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF). The assault on basic rights and freedoms by state institutions especially security agencies coupled with failure to conclude amendments to the electoral legal framework indicated a lack of commitment to electoral reform and electoral integrity.

For the 2019 presidential elections, the official results announced by INEC were consistent with YIAGA AFRICA’s Parallel Vote Tabulation results estimates. In other words, the results reflect the votes cast at the polling units. Similarly, the INEC official turnout rate and rejected ballots figure were consistent with YIAGA AFRICA estimated turn out rate and rejected ballots based on reports from 1,491 (98.4%) of sampled polling units. However, the YIAGA AFRICA PVT findings revealed certain lapses and reports of malfeasance which impacted on the quality of the process in some polling units and states. The PVT also revealed possible incidents of vote suppression as reflected in the percentage of cancelled ballots in some states like Rivers, Nassarawa, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Plateau, Kogi, Benue and Kaduna states. It is important to note that YIAGA AFRICA’s PVT estimates are based on the results from polling units before elections were cancelled. Therefore, the PVT estimates would expose whether cancellation of ballots would have impacted the outcome of the presidential election. Although these cancellations did not affect the overall outcome of the election but it led to the disenfranchisement of voters and exposed complicity on the part of election officials. However, unless the misconduct and malfeasance occurred in a statistically significant number of polling units across the states the PVT would have captured them as critical incidents which undermined the outcome. The report contains evidence which make makes it clear that a lot was less than desired, and that the overall outcome (however valid) is not necessarily vindication of the process.

Nigeria missed an opportunity to improve the quality of its elections as compared to the 2015 national elections. The 2019 elections were not the elections Nigerians wanted; they were not the elections Nigerians expected; and, most importantly, they were not the elections Nigerians deserved. Nigeria needs a national conversation on a new electoral design or framework that responds to prevailing socio-political and economic realities. INEC must improve its capacity to deliver credible elections and political parties must play according to the rules. Failure to do so could imperil Nigeria’s 20 years democracy.

Issues in the 2019 General Elections

Election Management

Electoral leadership is essential for successful elections. Elections in Nigeria fail to meet standards or inspire confidence because of poor performance attributed to lack of effective planning. When election officials are not appointed in due time, when procurement processes are delayed, when ad-hoc officials are not recruited and trained early, elections will fail. Until December 7, 2018, INEC had only 50% of its leadership full constituted. 33 states of the federation had no Resident Electoral Commissioners Twenty-three months to the 2019 elections. It took over 1 year and 6 months for President Buhari to fully appoint National commissioners to the electoral commission. The delay in constituting the commission gravely impacted election planning and implementation.

Several reforms and innovations were introduced by INEC to promote electoral integrity and citizens participation. These reforms include a 16-month Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) and PVC collection exercise, simultaneous accreditation and voting, electronic transmission of results, tactile ballots and braille guide for persons with disability, re-configuration of the polling units to guarantee secrecy of the ballot, scenarios and response for the application of the Margin of Lead principle and sustained stakeholder engagement amongst others. The commission undertook robust voter education in partnership with other stakeholders like National Orientation Agency and civil society groups.

Few hours to the commencement of polls on February 16, 2019, INEC announced the postponement of the presidential and national assembly elections to February 23 and governorship and state assembly elections from March 2, 2019 to March 9, 2019 citing challenges with election logistics deployment especially deployment of sensitive election materials (ballot papers and results sheets). YIAGA AFRICA believes the decision to postpone the elections was taken in the interest of Nigeria’s democracy. Clearly, INEC overestimated its own capabilities and/or underrated the challenges with the management of logistics. The Nigerian citizenry deserve commendation for their patriotism and resilience to participate in the elections despite the postponement of elections. YIAGA AFRICA commends INEC for sharing information with stakeholders through the daily briefing by the INEC Chairman. It availed citizens with adequate information on INEC’s preparedness and boosted confidence in electoral stakeholders.

Despite the one-week delay, INEC continued to experience significant logistical challenges on 23 February that resulted in late opening of polling units throughout the country. As at 7:30 am on February 23, YIAGA AFRICA WTV observers reported that INEC Officials had arrived at 31% of polling units. As of 10:00 am, 41% of polling units had opened across the country. By 11:30 am, 74% of polling units had opened nationally. As was the case in 2011 and 2015, polling units in the South East and South-South opened later than in other geopolitical zones. At 11:30 am, YIAGA AFRICA WTV observers reported that 74% of polling units had opened as of 11:30 am.

Once polling units opened, most polling units had essential election materials including a register of voters, indelible ink/ a marker pen, an official stamp, voting cubicle, ink pad, presidential ballot box and polling unit booklet. Smart Card Readers were present in 99% of polling units and were largely used throughout accreditation and voting. However, nearly half of voters may have voted with the Smart Card Reader authenticating only their Permanent Voters Card and not their fingerprints.

  1. Unclear electoral rules, weak oversight

INEC’s issued guidelines to improve the integrity of the electoral process and inspire confidence in electoral stakeholders. For instance, INEC insisted on the use of Smart Card Reader for voter accreditation eliminate multiple voting and voting by proxy. The Commission also insisted on the display of polling unit results using the Form EC 60 E (The People’s Results sheet). YIAGA AFRICA noted some lapses in the design, communication and lack of uniformity in the implementation of the guidelines issued by the electoral commission. There was no clarity on who reserves the authority to cancel ballots and the levels where cancellation will take place. In 97% of sampled polling units in the Presidential elections, no individual was permitted to vote if their names did not appear on the register of voters while in 7% of polling units the Smart Card Readers was not used throughout for the accreditation of voters. Of most concern was the failure to publicly post the presidential election results at the end of counting in 19% of polling units.

  1. Election Results management

Election results management remains the weakest link in Nigeria’s electoral process. This necessitated the introduction of the electronic transmission of results by INEC to reduce incidence of results mutilation and falsification. INEC has been piloting the system with the off-cycle elections to test its efficiency and reliability. For the presidential elections, YIAGA AFRICA WTV findings indicate that INEC Presiding Officers electronically transmitted the Presidential election results using the Smart Card Reader in 65% of polling units. Collation officers exercised excessive discretionary powers in cancelling results and declared winners where the total number of registered voters in cancelled polling units will affect the margin of lead between candidates in flagrant violation of Section 26 and 53 of the 2010 Electoral Act as amended. Overall, the percentage of cancelled ballots announced by INEC was 3.3% of all registered voters. This is four times higher than the rate from 2015 when registered voters in cancelled polling units was less than 1% of all registered votes. INEC to undertake a public investigation into the cancelation of ballots and to take appropriate legal actions should it be discovered that any INEC staff or collation officer cancelled ballots with intent to affect the election outcome.

YIAGA AFRICA a noted discrepancy between registered voters as announced before the election and during Collation.  Prior to 23 February 2019, INEC announced a total a number of 84,004,084 registered voters. During the national collation for the Presidential elections, 82,344,125 registered voters was declared indicating a difference of 1,659,959. YIAGA AFRICA WTV observers reported the number of registered voters at sampled polling units and those were overwhelmingly consistent with the polling unit level registration figures provided by INEC on the register with 84,004,084 registrants. Thus, while INEC should provide an explanation for this discrepancy, PVT data shows that the correct register was used at polling units and hence this difference did not affect the election outcome.

  1. Inadequate strategic communications and poor access to information

INEC still grapples with effective public communication and information sharing. Whilst noting significant improvement in the Commission’s use of traditional and digital media for public outreach, the frequency, timeliness and availability of election information and data has been poor. In voting centers where election did not hold or it was postponed, INEC failed to clearly communicate procedures for a second day of voting.

Undemocratic political party primaries and commercialized candidate nomination process

According to the INEC election timetable, parties were expected to conduct party primaries between 18th August and 7th October 2018 in order to submit the candidates list on the 18th of October for Presidential and National Assembly election and the 2nd of November for the Governorship and State Assembly election 2019. Recognizing the important role of party primaries in our democracy, YIAGA AFRICA Watching the Vote observed the conduct of party primaries to nominate candidates for the Presidential elections. YIAGA AFRICA employed direct observation of the party primaries, interviews and desk review of reports for the observation of party primaries.

Political parties deliberately flouted their guidelines, constitutions, INEC Guidelines on Party Primaries as well as the Electoral Act. The party primaries were signposted by financial inducement and horse-trading. WTV observers reported inducement of delegates with local and foreign currencies during direct and indirect primaries. WTV observed deliberate substitution of candidates who won in primaries with supposed “anointed choices” of party leaders.  This runs contrary to the provisions of the electoral act and recent judicial decisions on nomination of candidates. Most parties failed to submit the list of delegates to INEC prior to the conduct of primary elections. Others conducted parallel primaries in contravention of laid down rules. This led to violence and disruption especially in Benue, Delta, Zamfara and Imo states. YIAGA AFRICA made four projections in the preliminary report on the conduct of party primaries. They include;

  1. An upsurge in pre-election disputes filed in court
  2. Heighten rate of vote buying and selling during elections
  3. Low level of women, youth and PWD candidates for the elections
  4. High incidence of political violence driven by intra and inter party conflicts

As projected in our preliminary report, a total of 809 court cases were filed challenging the conduct of primaries by political parties. This figure is higher than the 766 election petitions cases on the 2019 elections. Women, PWD and youth candidacy was also unimpressive. For the presidential elections, women candidacy stood at 8.3%; Senate 12.3%; House of Representatives 11.6%. Of the 23, 316 candidates fielded by parties for the general elections, only 7,772 were youths (18 – 35). Purchase of Permanent Voter Card and Voter Identification Numbers (VIN) were amongst the new methods devised by politicians for vote buying. Violence also marred the elections in several polling units resulting to votes cancellation and inconclusive elections.

Election Security

In the build-up to the election, YIAGA AFRICA and Nigerians received assurances from security agencies on their non-partisanship and professionalism in the management of election security operations. INEC also informed stakeholders of assurances from security agencies to collaborate and ensure effective deployment for the elections. Despite these assurances, there were reported cases of violence leading to loss of lives and property in pre-election period and election day. In some cases, security agencies especially officers of the Nigeria army disrupted elections in some polling units and restricted the movement of election observers on election day contrary to the provision of Section 29 of the 2015 Electoral Amendment Act which limits the role of the military to the provision of security support for deployment and safety of election materials and personnel. These incidents were mainly reported in Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Bayelsa states. A YIAGA AFRICA WTV observer was also arrested and detained in Kafanchan, Kaduna state during the Presidential elections.

Declining Voter turnout

YIAGA AFRICA’s PVT estimates indicated that turnout for the national presidential election will be less than the voter turnout rate for the 2015 Presidential elections based on official turnout figures collected from the PVT’s representative statistical sample of polling units across the 774 LGAs and 36 states plus the FCT. INEC’s official turnout rate of 35% indicates a decline in voter turnout. This reflects a growing sense of disconnect between the Nigerian people and the political elite. It also raises questions on the credibility of Nigeria’s voter registration figures.


Assault on basic rights and freedoms especially press freedom and civil society

YIAGA AFRICA notes a budding trend of voter intimidation and assault against unsuspecting individuals, press and civil society during elections. Voters were intimidated, harassed or assaulted in 9% of polling units during accreditation and voting. INEC polling officials were also intimidated, harassed or assaulted in 7% of polling units during accreditation and voting. In 11% of polling units, political party agents attempted to influence voters or INEC officials. YIAGA AFRICA received verified critical incidents reports of APC and PDP agents or supporters attacking observers, polling staff or voters; snatching ballot boxes; and destroying election materials. These incidents though isolated – are examples of egregious misconduct that undermine the electoral process. If Nigerian democracy is to move forward, party leaders must ensure that they encourage and model peaceful engagement with the electoral process and urge their supporters to act in accordance with the electoral guidelines and the law.


Following the comprehensive observation of the 2019 electoral cycle, YIAGA AFRICA makes the following recommendations;

Election Management

  1. YIAGA AFRICA urges INEC to undertake a comprehensive post-election review of the 2019 electoral timeline to identify gaps in its preparations and to clearly communicate with the public plans to address the structural or other issues that have resulted in three successive national elections marred by logistics challenges. The challenges experienced during the elections calls for a detailed and systematic post-election review which includes an inquiry into the cancellation of ballots, an audit of the voter register and a review of the elections operation management systems.
  1. INEC should imbibe a culture of proactive disclosure of election information in line with standard open election data principles to facilitate public engagement and boost stakeholder confidence in the electoral process. Election results, voter registration data, PVC collection rates electoral guidelines etc. should be easily be made public via traditional and digital platforms.
  2. YIAGA AFRICA also recommends that INEC review its training procedures for ad hoc polling staff in view of failures to consistently adhere to counting procedures such as counting the number of unused ballot papers, counting the number of spoilt presidential ballot papers, counting the number of counterfoils for the presidential ballot papers and sorting the presidential ballot papers into piles with a pile for each party and another pile for rejected ballots.
  1. INEC should review its policy of deploying academics as collation or returning officers. Experience has shown that academics are also susceptible to compromise and the accountability mechanism is weak. To this end, INEC should diversify the composition of collation and returning officers to include individuals and professional organizations with impeccable character and stout mechanisms of accountability.
  1. Investigate and discipline all permanent and ad-hoc staff alleged to have been involved in any malpractice or fraud during and after the elections. INEC should provide regular public updates on the prosecution of its staff involve in electoral malfeasance.

Electoral Legal Framework

  1. The 2019 elections revealed challenges in the electoral process which calls for a review of the Legal framework for Elections which includes further review of the electoral guidelines regulating the cancellation of votes at polling units.
  1. The 9th National Assembly should prioritize constitutional and electoral reform in its legislative agenda. Special attention should be placed on reviewing the timelines for submission of list of candidates and substitution of candidates from 45 days to 60 days; introduce time frame for the appointment of INEC Chairman, National Commissioners and Resident Electoral Commissioners; harmonize timelines for the determination of pre-election matters and duality of jurisdiction and amend Section 68 of the electoral act to regulate the power of polling officials to declare results.
  1. To cut election cost and reduce election logistics hiccups, INEC and the National Assembly should engage with electoral stakeholders to introduce new criteria for access to the ballot vis-a-vis tightening the criteria for registration of new political parties as well as review the sequence of elections to enable INEC conduct elections in one day.

Political parties

  1. YIAGA AFRICA calls on parties to deepen internal party democracy through the organization of more transparent and open primaries and to make active efforts to attract and promote candidates with capacity, competence and character in electoral contests. Candidates should emerge through an open and competitive process rather than an auction to the highest bidder.
  2. Parties should develop protocols for recruitment, training, and deployment of party agents for elections. This will enhance the quality of their engagement during elections.
  3. Political parties should demonstrate commitment to electoral integrity and accountability by sanctioning its members involved in electoral fraud or violence during the 2019 elections.

Security agencies

  1. Security agencies should as a matter of urgency commence investigation and prosecution of electoral offenders especially for the violent disruption of the electoral process which led to the death of some citizens.
  2. YIAGA AFRICA calls on the security agencies to ensure proper coordination especially between the military and police during elections. It is important to note that the Police is the lead security agency responsible for election security, such proper lines of communication and rules of engagement should be adhered to. Security agencies must at all cost remain non-partisan and professional in their conduct and

Civil society and media

  1. CSOs and media should expand the scope of their electoral engagement to the entire spectrum of the electoral process
  2. CSOs should work in a collaborative manner to set the agenda on electoral reform and mobilize citizens to provide oversight on the electoral reform process
  3. CSOs and media should intensify engagement with INEC and other stakeholders to address the shortcomings in the 2019 elections and improve the quality of elections in Nigeria.


International Community and development partners

  1. Impose sanctions on individuals and institutions who undermine Nigeria’s democracy and instigate electoral violence. YIAGA AFRICA commends the United States for the imposition of visa ban on persons who undermined the 2019 elections. YIAGA AFRICA calls on the United States government to make public the list of individuals on the visa ban as this will enhance accountability and promote deterrence. Other foreign missions should adopt this mechanism of accountability and make public the list of individuals placed on ban.
  2.  Sustain support for democratic reforms in Nigeria through timely and strategic advocacy and support to civil society.
  3. Hold the Nigerian government accountable to her commitment to international norms and standards like human rights, rule of law and constitutionalism.


Thank you and God Bless the people of Nigeria!

For media inquiries please contact:

Moshood Isah
Communication Officer
Tel. +234 (0) 703 666 9339

Learn more about #WatchingTheVote at or on social media on Facebook at, Twitter @YIAGA.

Read More
28 Aug

Bayelsa/Kogi Polls: YIAGA AFRICA Meets Stakeholders, Advocates for Credible, Peaceful Polls

The November 16th Governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states are fast approaching and it is becoming more imperative to advocate for peaceful and credible elections in both states. There is need for election stakeholders to put mechanisms in place to ensure a participatory credible and peaceful elections in the states.

As the largest citizen movement committed to credible elections in Nigeria, YIAGA AFRICA’s Watching The Vote (WTV) has commenced advocacy visits to election stakeholders in both Bayelsa and Kogi states. This is in a bid to share our election observation deployment plan, seek stakeholder buy-in and explore areas of collaboration as well as provide information on the pre-election observation deployment for Bayelsa and Kogi.

The Board and Management of WTV led by Project Director, Cynthia Mbamalu and Board member, Professor Nnamdi Aduba, met with the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Bayelsa State, Pastor Monday Udoh Tom and other officials of the commission in the state. The team is glad that the REC and the elections team are receptive to our plan to deploy Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) election observation, which remains the gold standard for election observation across the world. The REC also promised to take stakeholders along while providing information on the commission’s activities ahead of the November 16th Governorship election in the state.

Similarly, there are no credible elections without peace, and this makes our advocacy visit to the Commissioner of Police and the Commandant of National Security and Civil Defence Corps in Bayelsa state very vital at this crucial point in time. The visit to security agency enabled us analyze and share early warning systems against security threats for immediate response ahead of the elections.

While informed citizen participation is vital to a credible election, we believe that not only the electoral commission has a role to play in educating voters; other stakeholders including religious and traditional leaders can play huge roles as influencers to their followers in preaching the credible and peaceful polls. In this vein, the team successfully engaged head of Traditional Rulers Council, Pa Alfred Papapreye Diette-Spiff who expressed his delight, while urging the team to swing into action, report any wrong doings to the appropriate authority and help achieve a credible process.

The team also met with the Ijaw Elders Forum who declared readiness to work for credible election as it has already commenced sensitization of the citizens to ensure violence-free elections. In their words, “ we will monitor negative utterances and actions of political actors and follow-up to ensure they are prosecuted. Thus we will be glad to receive credible information from your violence monitoring system, so that we can hold culprits accountable”.

Finally, we met with representatives of major political parties in Bayelsa state including Chairman and members of the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC). During the meeting with the political parties, we discussed the importance of conducting transparent and democratic political party primaries. YIAGA AFRICA also shared its plan to observe political party primaries in a bid to provide recommendations.

#WatchingTheVote is a comprehensive observation of the electoral process, which includes the observation of the political party primaries, pre-election environment in all Local government areas and the election day observation which deploys the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT). These will be adopted for the observation of the 2019 Bayelsa State Governorship Election.

Read More
27 Aug


On behalf of the Leadership of the Not Too Young to Run Campaign in Rivers State, we congratulate you on your victory at the 2019 Rivers State Governorship Election and your subsequent swearing in as Executive Governor of Rivers State for a second term.

We believe your re-election will afford you the opportunity to continue to implement your blue print to develop our dear state. We have resorted to write openly to ensure that our message gets to you due to the urgency of the subject matter.  For the first time in Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, young people between the ages of 25-30 are legally empowered to contest for the seats in the House of Representatives and State House of Assembly as a result of the Not Too Young  To Run (age reduction) law.

As the foremost group advocating the inclusion and active participation of capable youths in government, we acknowledge and appreciate your efforts during your first tenure in positioning some young persons into strategic appointive and elective positions across the state. We are also glad that a number of them discharged their duties excellently.

We however, believe that this partnership with youths can and should get better this second term. This is why we are appealing that you consider an even increased allocation of viable positions for youths, if anything from among your teeming youth supporters. We believe our appeal is coming at the appropriate time as you are yet to forward the names of Commissioner Nominees to the legislature.

We acknowledge with all humility that it you reserve the discretion to appoint anyone into your cabinet as a commissioner, notwithstanding we are quite convinced that an improved youth presence would guarantee the much needed energy and speed to drive the NEW agenda in Rivers State.

Considering the political climate we operate in this part of the globe, we are tempted to define clearly the age bracket we REFER to as YOUTHS in this open letter.

Whilst the United Nations defines ‘YOUTHS’, as persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years, we are constrained by environmental and economic realities of the nation, to restrict our definition to the Nigerian National Youth Policy which defines youth as anyone between the age of 15 and 29. We believe this is a more realistic and acceptable definition within the Nigerian context.

There is a growing global acceptance and consensus that young people can perform if they are allowed to; we have also noticed local acceptance of this global proposition that young people can truly make the difference in governance as key active players if given the opportunity. From time immemorial, the position and role of the Nigerian youth in the socio-economic and political development of our country has been that of a prime mover.

This has been so because, youths constitute the crust of the future generation and are perceived as vital instrument in repositioning the nation’s economy.  Even though the patriotic commitment of nation building is the responsibility of all citizens, the youths who are more energetic and purpose –driven always stand at the center stage.  If properly channeled and fully exploited, the innate potentials of the youths can be transformed as a means of development for our dear state.

In Nigeria, Youths have been playing prominent roles in nation building from time immemorial. In the 60s and up to the 70s, the youth were at the very center of governance in the country. At age 19, late Ambassador M.T. Mbu was Nigeria’s High Commissioner to UK and he was Minister of Navy at 20 plus. At his early 30s, late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was already in his bloom in the Western Region and he was leader of Government in the West before 40: ditto the late Nnamdi Azikiwe and Ladoke Akintola. The likes of Gowon, Murtala Muhammed, Olusegun Obasanjo, were Heads of State in their 30s. Their likes populated the civil service as super permanent secretaries while the Military Governors were in their 20s and early 30s.

At 24, Alfred Diete Spiff was appointed Military Administrator of our dear Rivers State (former Rivers and Bayelsa States), where he led the state to unmatched prosperity and unrivaled infrastructure development. The deduction from the foregoing is that the importance of the youth in nation building cannot be overempha­sized as a state.

Interestingly, some states within the federation have resorted back to drawing from the pool of untapped youth resources in their various states. Worthy of mention is the recent nomination of a 27 years old Mr. Seun Fakorede by HE. Gov. Oluseyi Abiodun Makinde ( Executive Governor of Oyo State) as a Commissioner Designate in that State. Youths have emerged Speakers and principal officers in some other states.

This is a laudable feat and particularly one that is worthy of emulation in our dear Rivers State considering the volume of sound intellectual youthful technocrats we have in abundance. The appointment of youths into your Executive Cabinet as Commissioners will create an avenue for young minds and [fresh] ideas to be explored as they are vibrant, energetic and full of innovative ideas. It will also serve as a remarkable model and lesson for misguided youths to denounce violence and pursue more creative ventures that could earn them recognition and a place in governance someday.

We are hopeful that you did consider this humble appeal for inclusion of youths in your Executive Cabinet as Commissioners. We wish you a much more fruitful second tenure.


Thank you.


Chiefson Nwaiwu

Rivers State Coordinator,  #NotTooYoungToRun   on behalf of the Movement.


Read More
26 Aug

The Dangers of Digital Dependency

For July’s edition of YIAGA AFRICA’s Knowledge Management Series, team members express profound thoughts through their written reflections on Yuval Harari’s somewhat controversial, but philosophical book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (2018), which sets out to give the world a guide towards settling in the 21st century world.

Seeing how technology is rapidly changing every aspect of our lives, moulding our patterns of work, wellbeing and how we communicate, it is important that we pause and reflect on how technology has affected our decision-making processes, ethics and the dangers it has posed in the hands of a digital dictator/an authoritative government.

Many will argue that technology has made the world a better place, improved the health sector, educational sector, made communication easier with less travel, and given us access to information at our fingertips. But, it has indeed made billions of people especially in the 21st century, entrust platforms such as Google search with one of the most important tasks of all: searching for relevant and trustworthy information. The top result on Google search often determines what the truth is.

What we fail to see is how we are gradually handing over our lives to technology by allowing algorithms to collect real-time data on us. For instance, a detailed list of all of your financial transactions, travel history, websites you have visited and the details of each search you have initiated online, including your medical history and any other kind of data that can be measured can be easily tracked online. This complex trail of data that each person generates every day has a major impact on our moral values.

To completely understand this, I would recommend chapter 3 of Prof. Yuval Noah Harari’s book 21 Lessons for the 21stCentury, and a documentary on Netflix called “The Great Hack”. After going through these, we’d all understand why it is pertinent for Nigerians to ask some serious questions: Who is in control of collecting data? What is it used for? Which data is made public and which is held private? As a country, have we even taken out time to reflect on the impact of the Cambridge-Analytica-Facebook saga on the U.S. Presidential Election in 2015? How it was used to increase apathy, create fake news and instigate violence amongst people?

Perhaps, another illustration would illuminate a clearer understanding of the dangers of digital dependency.

Today, China is considered one of Nigeria’s closest allies and partners because of the bilateral relations between both countries. This relationship continues to grow through partnerships in both technology and infrastructural development. We may not see this yet, but China is not just exporting ICT goods to Nigeria. It is exporting digital authoritarianism. The Chinese are using digital technologies to cement its grip on power through surveillance cameras, autonomous drones, and citizens’ data, knowing that nearly every device we use is produced in a factory in their own country.

In China, their “social credit” system uses constant surveillance cameras equipped with facial recognition, body scanning, and geo-tracking to cast a constant gaze over every citizen in their country. Smartphone apps are also used to collect data and monitor online behaviour on a day-to-day basis. The data from educational, medical, and financial records are all collected from each individual into this “social credit” system.

Now, in a democratic society such as Nigeria, those who control all of such data that have been gathered can use it to control society by teleguiding elections, hence undermining democracy.

Against this backdrop, the question is: if the Nigerian government decides to take the approach of the “social credit” system, will Nigeria still have a democracy? Will anybody be able to protest and demand accountability or justice without the fear of been marginalized by the system? Can we even make such decisions on the basis of free will, without thinking twice about avid consequences? Would we even still have free will?

Soon, we might face a struggle between liberal democracy and authoritarianism in the digital realm because Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making it even easier to monitor and control billions of people.

Samuel Folorunsho is an IT Expert in YIAGA AFRICA. Find him on twitter @folomic

Read More
26 Aug

Meaning: Life Is Not A Story

For July’s edition of YIAGA AFRICA’s Knowledge Management Series, team members express profound thoughts through their written reflections on Yuval Harari’s somewhat controversial, but philosophical book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (2018), which sets out to give the world a guide towards settling in the 21st century world.

Every generation is eager to realize the meaning of life, an explanation of purpose and the definition of self but this is met with ambiguous answers because what is certain keeps changing for every generation. The only certain element of life is the individuality of the role each human plays in the cosmic circle and this role defines, gives meaning and influences the choices we make. Understanding that life is not a story is the first step to critical thinking that sparks a self revelation of the reality of statistics, conflicts and resolutions rather than heroes, villains and happy endings. To understand the meaning of life is to understand your real unique function and live a good life to achieve that function, even if it requires you to be bellwether.

Yuval Harari cited in his book, 21 Lessons for The 21stCenturythe Hindu epic, the Bhagavadgita: during a period of conflict and war, the god Krishna explains to prince Arjuna that everyone possesses a unique dharma, which determines the path they follow and duties they must fulfil, it is only when individual dharma’s are discovered that they have peace of mind and liberation from doubts in life; so he urged prince Arjuna to discover his purpose in life. The bemused prince took some time to reflect on his purpose and realized that it was to end the war and restore peace to his land, he killed leaders of the opposing army who were his relatives and the war ceased and the land was restored to its status antebellum. With this story, we realize that everyone has a role to play and if that role is not accomplished it has the power and ability to hinder the executions of other’s purpose, in war, his people may never perform their function in life.

In accomplishing one’s purpose, it is irrelevant if it takes a long time to be discovered or if it is difficult to achieve, as long as the purpose is pristine and you strive to accomplish it even when the process to finding it seems unclear. Path finding is a great climatic moment in life that is key to peace and fulfilment. I love to say, there are three ways by which we learn our purpose; 1. By reflection, which includes meditation, reading, and revelation (which is by far the noblest) 2. By association with smart people to soak in their wealth of knowledge and experience 3. By imitation, which is by far the easiest road to self-discovery. The consequential part of life is that we have the choice to decide how we discover and learn our purpose.

Numerous purposes in life are interrelated, interdependent on each other and can give blurred expectations, it is against this background I believe that in order to construct a viable identity and give meaning to my life, my purpose must give me some role to play, a mission to achieve, an opportunity to extend beyond my horizon and leave a legacy, even if it is not up to eternity.

On the journey to discovering and fulfilling one’s purpose the last element to be on the watch for is suffering. No one’s path is without dust and we all should prepare for the dust of suffering; the dust can be made lighter if one is forearmed before it arrives. As we embark on the journey of self-discovery and fulfilment, we should take some time to pause and celebrate the individuality of our paths rather than compete with each other’s strengths because we all are built differently, some to illuminate the sun, others to blossom new beginnings, end the wars, feed the people, bear the children and sprinkle some sparkle in this troubled world.

Efemena Ozugha is an ardent advocate for youth, women and Persons Living with Disabilities (PWD) political inclusion and development. She is a Lawyer by training and has keen interest in advocating for sustainable development in Africa.

Read More
21 Aug

Samson Itodo Receives JCI-TOYP Award, Salutes Not Too Young To Run Crusaders

YIAGA AFRICA’s Executive Director, Samson Itodo, was honoured with the prestigious Ten Outstanding Young Persons (TOYP) of Nigeria Award conferred by the Junior Chamber International (JCI) in a remarkable event that took place at the Eko Hotel & Suites, Lagos, yesterday, 20th August 2019. 

Receiving the award at the event, Samson Itodo stated that he accepts the award “on behalf of every Nigerian youth who asked their lawmakers to vote in support of the Not Too Young To Run” bill, signed into the Nigerian constitution on May 31st, last year. Itodo has continued to serve Nigerian youths as the convener of the Not Too Young To Run Movement, which led the successful advocacy for the reduction of age limits for running for public office in the Nigerian constitution. Over the last 12 years, Itodo and the team he leads at YIAGA AFRICA, have been dedicated to building strong democratic institutions, promoting people-centred legislation and policies, as well as building a community of active citizens to drive social change in Africa.

Samson Itodo (Right), receiving the 2019 Junior Chambers International Ten Outstanding Young Persons of Nigeria Award.

According to the JCI president, Adeola Juyitan, the TOYP is awarded annually to honour young Nigerians, under 40 years old, for their hard work and exemplary leadership in different sectors of society. Samson Itodo received the award  under the category of Political, Legal and/Government Affairs, alongside nine other young Nigerians who have excelled in their chosen field of endeavours and created positive impact in their communities.

Other notable honourees, selected from nearly two thousand nominations this year, include: Adeola Adefemi (Academic Leadership and/or Accomplishment), Glory Osei (Business, Economics and Entrepreneurship), Naomi Ekpoki (Children, World Peace and/or Human Rights), Folarin Falana (Cultural Achievement), Oluwaseun Osowobi (Humanitarian and/or Voluntary Leadership), Temi Giwa Tubosun (Medical Innovation), Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola (Moral and/or Environmental Leadership), Lauretta Onye (Personal Development) and Onyeka Akumah (Scientific and/or Technological Development). 

Read More
20 Aug

YIAGA Africa, ActionAid hold anti-corruption review meeting in Kaduna

Non-governmental organisations, YIAGA Africa and ActionAid Nigeria with support from Ukaid are currently engaging Kaduna youth groups on anti-corruption campaign under Strengthening Citizens Resistance Against Prevalence of Corruption (SCRAP-C) project.
YIAGA AFRICA is a civic non-governmental organization promoting democracy, governance and development in Africa through advocacy, research and capacity building.

The key purpose of the 2-day meeting currently ongoing at a hotel in Kaduna according to the Programme Officer, Accountability and Social Justice Department of YIAGA Africa, Tracy Keshi, was to assess the impact of earlier capacity building on evidence-based report training for youth groups in Kaduna state.
According to Tracy, “the impact assessment town-hall and establishment of SCRAP-C support systems is an activity embarked on under the youth component of the project – SCRAP–C, implemented with support from Action Aid Nigeria.

“This town-hall seeks to evaluate and assess the practical performance of the youth groups trained on evidence based reporting of corruption.
“The town-hall, also known as feedback assessment town-hall will include collation of verifiable evidences on how participants have reported corruption using investigative tools learnt from the training, as well as ascertain the strengths, weaknesses and explore further prospects of the youth groups in interrogating social deliverables, including mapping out areas where they can be supported.

“The SCRAP-C project aims to look at the fight against corruption through social norm lenses, and complement the law and enforcement approach that has been in existence in Nigeria.
“SCRAP-C will employ social marketing tools, research, advocacy, citizen’s mobilization, media engagements and capacity development to achieve change in behavior toward corruption,” she said.

Source: Sun Newsonline

Read More
19 Aug

Bayelsa/Kogi Polls: Are Political Parties Ready for Democratic Primaries? – Cynthia Mbamalu

In May 2019, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released the timetable for the governorship election in Bayelsa and Kogi states. The timetable highlights series of activities beginning with the notice of election scheduled for the 17th of August 2019 and immediately followed by the collection of the forms CF001 and CF002 which kickstarts the timeline for the conduct of the party primaries scheduled from 18th August to 5th September 2019. Party primary is a fundamental activity in the electoral process for several reasons. At first instance, the primary election is central because it is the process through which candidates emerge in a political party to contest in the elections, without which parties cannot field candidates in the elections.

In addition, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria does not provide for independent candidacy but recognizes duly registered political parties as the platforms upon which an individual can contest in an election. On another instance, primaries facilitate the right to contest in an election because the conduct of primaries is a major determinant of a political party’s access to the ballot. As reiterated by the supreme court in APC & Anor. V Senator Kabiru and Ors (Zamfara APC case); “where a political party fails to conduct primaries, then it is apparent that that political party cannot participate in the general elections. For this reason, all political parties have promulgated their constitutions and guidelines where the procedure for selection of candidates for general elections are provided.” As such, only parties that have duly conducted primaries in line with the Electoral Act and Guidelines for the conduct of primaries and within the timeline in the Election Timetable are granted access to the ballot.

Beyond the guarantee of the access to ballot, party primaries ordinarily are to set the agenda for the elections giving aspirants the opportunity to highlight the issues in their manifesto as they commence their campaigns for the primaries. Although this is not always the case, as political parties in Nigeria are yet to appreciate the importance of robust political debates on issues during elections as more focus is just on the politics of winning the party ticket. However, the ability of different aspirants to articulate the issues in their manifesto during the campaigns for the primaries enables the voter to understand what each candidate represents and make informed decision at the polls.  As Nigeria’s democracy grows, there is more interest by citizens and Civil society groups in the party primaries which ordinarily are viewed by political parties as “party affairs”. The growing quest to observe the primaries is borne from the recognition of the role the primaries play in our electoral democracy and the fact that the shortfalls from the primary elections can hinder efforts targeted at achieving credible elections.

As revealed in the YIAGA AFRICA Watching the Vote observation reports on the 2019 Party Primaries, the monetization of the primaries and the non-compliance with existing laws and guidelines created an environment that enabled the increase in the reports of the purchase of the PVC, voter inducement and vote buying. In addition, was the incidents of electoral violence and the litany of pre-election cases that negatively impacted on the 2019 general election.

Accordingly, while Political parties may assert that the primary election is an internal political party, the reality is that the primary election informs as political culture which influenced by the practice within the party which sets the tone for political campaigns and has major impact on how democratic or otherwise the elections will be. A flawed primaries process enables a vulnerable electoral system exposed to election related conflicts, undermining the confidence in the electoral process and leaves a litany of aggrieved persons which as was the case in the 2019 general elections, leads to a plethora of pre-election cases court. This growing trend of flawed primaries is not sustainable, remains inimical to the development of our electoral process in Nigeria and at the least raises situations that creates distraction to the electoral commission in the preparation for election.

The Electoral Act in section 87 clearly states that ‘a party seeking to nominate candidate in the elections shall hold primaries for aspirants into the elective offices” which further states that the parties can adopt a direct or indirect primary. With the direct primaries requiring that all aspirant be given equal opportunity to be voted for. While for the indirect primaries, special congresses are to be held in the Local Government Areas with delegates voting for each aspirant and the aspirant with the highest votes cast declared the winner of the primaries.

With the timetable of Bayelsa and Kogi released, political party campaign activities towards the party primaries have commenced with the All Progressive Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) dominating the political scene so far. Other parties that are coming up into the race in recent times are: Social Democratic Party (SDP), Africa Democratic Congress (ADC), Accord Party (AP), Young Progressives Party (YPP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), and Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) with the potential for more parties as the primaries begin. Notably, certain issues already dominating the discourse on the primaries include the method of primaries adopted by the parties with the APC and PDP adopting indirect primaries and then high cost of nomination and expression of interest forms, especially by the APC and PDP in both states. The APC nomination and expression of interest cost N22.5 million with a 50% discount for female aspirants plus an additional administrative fee to be paid. While for the PDP, the cost for nomination is N20 million while expression of interest is 1million. For female aspirants in PDP the cost for nomination is 1 million naira with no requirement to pay expression of interest fee. For the PDP, about 21 aspirants and 12 aspirants had by the last week of July 2019 purchased their nomination in Bayelsa and Kogi states respectively.

More importantly is the role the electoral commission will be playing in ensuring strict compliance to the election timetable and the Guidelines for the conduct of primaries. The role of INEC to monitor political party primaries requires that each party be assessed by their compliance with the required procedures and the provisions of the Electoral Act. The Supreme court’s decision on the Zamfara APC case is a call to political parties and their leaders to review their party processes and commit to duly conducting democratic party primary elections, and as urged by the court; to “play the game according to the law and guidelines which they themselves have made.”

Possible Issues to look out for in the party primaries include:

Political Exclusion: high cost of nomination forms by both the APC and PDP remains worrisome as it maintains the trend of money determining the aspirants in a primary rather than qualification, capacity, competence and manifesto for the candidates. The cost of nomination is therefore the first screening grounds to exclude on grounds of financial strength especially for young aspirants and women.

Commercialization of the votes: Beyond the cost of nomination is also the role money will play in determining the votes of the delegates. With money becoming a determining factor already, the cost of a delegate’s vote will not be decided by the delegates conviction of an aspirant capacity but in his/her interest in bargaining the best price for the vote. The cost for each vote may be a huge burden on aspirants with less financial strength.

Intra-Party Conflict and threat of Electoral Violence: Both the APC and PDP have opted to adopt the indirect primaries for their party primaries with different aspirants in the APC for instance, questioning the decision for the process of primaries adopted by the party leadership. Beyond that is the wrangling’s already existing within the parties in the pre-primaries phase already creating a politically tensed atmosphere. The ability of the party leadership to manage and balance the interests for different top individuals seeking to clinch the party ticket will be a significant factor in quelling post-primaries conflict. In addition, the willingness to comply and the level of compliance by the political parties with the party guidelines, INEC Guideline for the conduct of Primaries, the Electoral Act and conducting transparent primaries will play a significant role in reducing the tendency of violence during the primaries, post-primaries conflict and also the number of pre-election matters in court.

Troubled times for women in politics- The primaries for the different political parties will also be determining the number of female candidates to contest in both elections. The APC and PDP have only 1 female aspirant each, but as more parties plan for their primaries, there may be hope that more female aspirants will contest. However, the question is whether we will have women emerging as candidates in both states from parties contesting in the election. Will Political parties be willing to support female candidates in the 16 November 2019 governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states?

Cynthia Mbamalu is a devoted Human Rights and Gender advocate and Program Manager of YIAGA AFRICA

Read More
09 Aug


The leadership of the Bayelsa State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), has expressed it readiness to collaborate with genuine interest groups and NGO’s whose goal is to ensure free, fair, credible and peaceful Gubernatorial election in the state.

The Council Chairman, Comrade Samuel Numonengi disclosed this when the leadership of YIAGA AFRICA, a Non Governmental Organization whose sole responsibility is to monitor elections with the aim to promote democratic principles in Africa paid him a courtesy visit in his office at the Ernest Ikoli Press Centre in Yenagoa.

Comrade Numonengi said already the leadership of the union in the state has constituted a committee on Election Monitoring and Safety of Journalists and urged the group to work with the committee to ensure a violence free polls in the state.

He said the union will continue to partner with the group particularly in youth enlightenment and publicity as it has done in previous elections and urged the group not to compromise their principles to any individual or political party.

Earlier, the leader of the group, Cynthia Mbamalu who is the project Director for South South, said they were in the Chairman’s office to seek areas of collaboration with the NUJ whose role is critical to the promotion of peaceful and credible elections.

She said YIAGA AFRICA is an electoral monitoring group nick named WATCHING THE VOTE PROJECT, which entails systematic observation of the electoral process in order to promote electoral integrity and eventually boost the people’s confidence.

She noted that YIAGA AFRICA would deploy accredited observers to all the polling units in the local government areas of the state to provide accurate and timely information on the electoral process.

According to her, YIAGA AFRICA is a non partisan and an independent organization that is guided by the electoral laws and guidelines of the country and works towards the promotion of accountability, social justice and credible elections.


Ogio Ipigansi

Secretary NUJ Bayelsa State Council.

Read More