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16 Jul
0

Not Too Young To Run: A story of people, power and democratic renewal – Samson Itodo

Nigeria operates a rigid constitution. Rigid constitutions by their nature are complicated and painstaking to change. It takes time, effort and resources to insert a comma, full stop or delete a word from a rigid constitution. This is attributed to the cumbersome amendment process prescribed in the law that makes it nearly impossible to amend a section of it. As an official document with special legal force, the constitution requires strict adherence to its conditions for amendment. Failure to meet one condition renders an amendment a nullity, resulting in the waste of public resources, as seen in the case of the botched 4th alteration to the constitution under the previous administration.

In order to alter the constitution, a constitutional amendment bill must be introduced and passed by a two-thirds majority of members in each chamber of the National Assembly and must also be approved by a resolution of the Houses of Assembly of no less than two-thirds of all states in the Federation. Section 58 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), makes presidential assent a condition precedent for the passage of bills into law. That means the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria must assent to any bill altering the provisions of the Constitution before it takes effect. In view of this tedious process, it is not misplaced when stakeholders rejoice at the successful passage of a constitutional amendment.

The Not Too Young To Run bill fulfilled all conditions prescribed in the constitution for its passage. The Senate and House of Representatives passed the bill with an overwhelming majority while 33 out of 36 state assemblies adopted the age reduction amendment. May 31, 2018, will be remembered in history as the day democracy won and Nigeria witnessed a true “youthquake.” President Buhari signed the Not Too Young To Run bill into law, reducing the age for running for the office of the President from 40 to 35 years, House of Representatives 30 to 25 and State House of Assembly 30 to 25. He acknowledged Not Too Young To Run as a “landmark piece of legislation conceived, championed and accomplished by young Nigerians.” What an affirmation of youth power! Democracy thrives when citizens assert their sovereignty through active, strategic and systematic engagement with democratic institutions.

The advocacy for age reduction was conducted against the background of a failing state and loss of faith in manifestly weak democratic institutions, such as political parties and parliaments. The weak relationship between the executive and legislature was not only stifling growth, but it was also undermining democracy and governance. Worst still is the prevailing philosophy that public leadership is hinged on service to self, ethnic or religious affiliation, rather than service to the people. Nigerian citizens, particularly young people, were frustrated, disenchanted, and disillusioned with a country where justice is not for all but for a select few who can afford it. Lastly, building consensus in a pluralistic and politically sensitive nation like Nigeria is an arduous undertaking.

The roadmap to the bill’s success was anchored on the trilogy of people, power and democratic Not Too Young To Run as a campaign began on May 2016 with the sponsorship of an age reduction bill in the National Assembly. The decision to engage the National Assembly on this issue was a departure from previous strategies adopted by Youth Action Initiative Africa, now known as YIAGA AFRICA. Previous advocacy strategies were limited to the submission of memoranda and participation in public hearings, but the Not Too Young To Run campaign adopted a more people-driven, disruptive and strategic approach.  Thus, for two years, young people organized and built strategic capacity to push for age reduction.

The campaign was used as a tool to organize its constituents, who are mostly young people, to create the power they need to achieve the common purpose of reducing the age for running for office. From the outset, it was important to ascertain their values, interests and resources as well as their readiness to take strategic actions to address the issue of exclusion which was a common enemy. This was followed by a categorization of the people who share our values and vision into five blocks: Constituents, Leadership, Opposition, Supporters, and Competitors. United by our shared purpose and vision, we then proceeded to build a strong community of people who exercise agency interdependently on behalf of those values or interests. We recruited and developed leadership within our constituency. Driven by our snowflake or interdependent leadership model, we built leadership teams at the national, state, and local government levels to achieve our goals. Every individual or organization involved in the campaign took responsibility for advancing the cause in their sphere of influence. Through it all, the movement remained about the people, not any individual.

Our approach to power and power dynamics contributed in no small measure to the success of our struggle against inequality and gerontocracy. We approach Power as a relationship rather than a status. For us, “power” is the influence created as a result of the intersection between interests and resources. The convergence of interests and resources establishes the influence we need to take action.  As a movement, we organized around two forms of power: “power with” and “power over.” According to Marshall Ganz, “power with” is created just by organizing our resources with others, creating the power we need to affect the change that we want (e.g. community union, or interest groups, etc.), while “power over” refers to situations where others hold power over decisions or resources that are needed to create the change that you want. In such cases, we have to organize our power with others first to claim the resources or decisions that will fulfil our interests.

Through interdependent collaboration, we organized to create power with one another.  We built strategic partnerships with several organizations and stakeholders from different aspects of human endeavour like civil society, trade unions, professional associations, faith-based and community organization etc. Media groups like Channels Television, African Independent Television (AIT), TV Continental, Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Premium Times, Sahara Reporters, The Cable, Signal NG and YNAIJA played a key role in public sensitization and agenda-setting. It also took a collaborative effort to organize a series of public demonstrations, advocacy visits, town hall meetings, and public debates to push the campaign. When the Senate and House committee allegedly killed the bill, it took the collaborative power of different actors for it to be rescued.

As a movement, we also organized to challenge ‘power over’ held by decision-makers in the constitution review process. They include; Senate President and Speaker of House of Representatives; Deputy Senate President and Deputy Speaker who act as chairs of constitution review committees; 46 members of Senate committee on constitution review and 47 in the House; Senators and Honorable members; Speakers and members of State Assemblies. The movement also engaged four categories of influencers in our power map – leadership of political parties, traditional/religious leaders, godfathers and drafters and consultants to the committee on constitution review. Four questions guided our engagement with these actors: What change do we want? Who has the resources to create that change? What resources do we have that they need? and What do they want? The demands of the movement were clear-reduce the age for running for office –  but then the power to amend the constitution was vested in the national and state assemblies, not young people. We recognized lawmakers leverage on the youth vote to win elections, hence our campaign that youths will withdraw their vote and support for any legislator who voted against the bill. It worked.

Democratic renewal is specific and concrete. Our demand was specific – open the political space by reducing the age requirements for running for office in the constitution.  As it stands, the age requirement for running for the office of the president, house of representatives and state house of assembly has been reduced and of binding effect. Although this falls short of the demands of the movement, it is a progressive step towards fostering inclusive electoral politics. Maximizing the gains of this landmark constitutional amendment will certainly require increased voter participation in elections. It is therefore crucial for qualified unregistered young voters to participate in the ongoing voter registration, ensure they collect their Permanent Voter Card (PVC), and show up to vote in the 2019 elections.

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.

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15 Jul
0

President Buhari’s Cabinet and Implications for Youth Inclusion by Ibrahim Faruk

Over the past 5 years, youth inclusion in democratic processes has gained global attention, buoyed largely by the emergence of young leaders across the world. In Nigeria, the Not Too Young To Run Movement addressed a major impediment to youth inclusion in the electoral process with the passage of the Not Too Young To Run (age reduction) bill. This historic piece of legislation was a positive action towards closing the representation gap and signaled a shift towards inclusive politics. As a result of the reduction of age limits, Nigeria witnessed a new wave of competent and credible young women and men who aspired to run for office in 2019 Elections. For the first time in Nigeria’s post-independence history, young people between the ages of 25-30 are legally empowered to contest for seats in the House of Representatives and State Houses of Assembly.

 The direct and indirect impact of the age reduction bill is evident in how youth fared in the 2019 Elections. Across the 991 seats in 36 State Houses of Assembly, 68 members are between the ages of 31 and 35. While this represents only 6.08% of the members of the State Houses of Assembly, it is an improvement from the levels of youth inclusion in 2015. More importantly, there are 22 direct beneficiaries of the Not Too Young To Run Act in the State Houses of Assembly between the ages of 25 – 30. This is directly as a result of the age reduction legislation that was passed by the National Assembly and assented to by the President on 31 May 2018.

 The emergence of Rt. Hon. Saliu Yakubu Danladi, Rt. Hon. Abok Nuhu Ayuba, Rt. Hon. Adebo Ogundoyin and Rt. Hon. Nasiru Magarya Speakers of the Kwara, Plateau, Oyo and Zamfara State Houses of Assembly respectively, who are all under the age of 35, also represents an improvement in the level of youth inclusion across state legislatures. Young legislators also occupy principal positions in various state legislatures following the passage of the age reduction bill.

 The age reduction legislation goes beyond reducing the age for running for elective offices to also reducing the age for appointive positions in the Federal and state cabinets. The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) states that ‘No person shall be appointed as a Minister of the Government of the Federation unless he/she is qualified for election as a member of the House of Representatives’ and that ‘No person shall be appointed a Commissioner of the Government of a state unless he/she is qualified for election as a member of the House of Assembly’ among other qualifications aimed at ensuring equal representation in the Federal cabinet, which has also been emulated across state executive councils.

 In 2015, young people were mainly appointed as special advisers on new media. In states like Kaduna, Abia, Cross River and Anambra, young people were also appointed to prominent portfolios like Commissioners of finance, Budget and Planning, Youth and Sports Development. However, it took President Muhammadu Buhari six months to swearin a cabinet after the 2015 election and a similar situation seems to be happening after the 2019 Elections (Senegal’s Macky Sall and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa both appointed ministers within days of being sworn in this year). An analysis of the composition of the President’s cabinet in 2015 did little or nothing to promote youth inclusion in decision making spaces.

During President Buhari’s remarks at the signing of the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Bill in Abuja on May 31, 2018, he said to Nigerian youths represented at the State House, You are undoubtedly Nigeria’s most important resource – not oil, not agriculture, not solid minerals – but you and all of us. Your energy, intelligence and talent are what will drive and develop Nigeria, long after we are all gone.” It is left to be seen if the energy, intelligence and talent will determine who the Presidents men and women would be when the list of ministerial nominees is sent to the Senate for confirmation.

 While attention seems to be focused on the announcement of ministerial nominees, the state executive council provides more opportunity to increase the level of youth inclusion in decision making spaces. It is important to sound a note of caution that beyond the tokenistic appointments of youth as special advisers on new media or to the ministry of youth development but as President Buhari noted, the young people of Nigeria, are now set to leave your mark on the political space, just as you have done over the decades in entrepreneurship, sports, art, media entertainment, technology, and several other fields.

 The Not Too Young To Run law has provided an opportunity for the emergence of competent young officials to with competence, character and content to contribute their quota to national development in appointive positions in the federal and state cabinets. All eyes are now on President Buhari and the state governors as they constitute their cabinets.

 

Ibrahim Faruk is a Senior Program Officer with YIAGA AFRICA’s Youth Program and is a member of the Leadership and Strategy Team of the Not Too Young To Run Movement.  He can be reached via fibrahim@yiaga.org. He tweets via @IbrhmFaruk

 

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04 Jul
0

Interview: How YIAGA AFRICA uses music as tool for Political Participation, Democracy

Sets September 2019 for Music Album Launch

Music has over the years remained a rallying force in driving people to action; it has remained a powerful communication tool, which in the words of Matt Haig; “…makes you feel emotions that you didn’t necessarily know you had inside you, and runs around waking them all up. A rebirth of sorts.” Within the continent, music has remained a powerful source of inspiration motivating citizens action, be it in the fight against military regimes, dictatorial governments or in the struggle for democracy and even the fight for freedom. Music remains that centrepiece with the power to connect a diverse people by telling unifying stories or inspiring a collective action. 

In this era of democratic renewal, as more countries in Africa, especially in West Africa continue on their journey to democracy and building an inclusive society with a people driven democratic agenda, soulful voices from Senegal, Nigeria, Togo, Mali, Benin, and Gambia convened in Dakar, Senegal to produce a music album as a tool for engaging with African youths on democracy.

An initiative of YIAGA AFRICA, a civic hub of change makers committed to supporting sustainable democracies in Africa, in partnership with the Ford Foundation and World Movement for Democracy (WMD), is designed to foster that rebirth; a reawakening in the people, driven by a vibrant collaboration between the artistes and civil society members to counter anti-democracy narratives, advance next generation civic engagement, and build solidarity across West Africa. 

We had a sit down with the senior program officer of the youth department, Ibrahim Faruk, to highlight everything from the planning process to the production of the music album that will be used as a tool to create better awareness for democracy.

Ibrahim Faruk, Senior Program Officer, YIAGA AFRICA

Despite the busy time in YIAGA AFRICA, from hosting a conversation on the future of democracy in Ethiopia, to the learning visit and meeting in Senegal how prepared is your team for the shooting of the ground-breaking music album in Senegal? 

The YIAGA AFRICA team are always prepared and in the spirit of disruption, which is our mantra, the meeting in Senegal with musicians, civil society and democratic movements from across the west-African sub-region, serves as the major intro to the writing, recording and production of some music with the musicians.

Are the selected artists publicly named or the names are still under wraps?

Yes and No. We have Cill Soul from Nigeria and are currently working with others, who cannot be named now so look forward in anticipation. All the way from Gambia are Killa Ace and Awa Bling, then we have Master Soumy and Ami from Mali, Elom 20ce from Togo, Moonya from Benin Republic, and Y’en a Marre from Senegal.

YIAGA AFRICA, during a meeting with West-African artists on music and democracy

What was the selection process like for this meeting and music recording?

Well for us, we needed a story from the region and Y’en a Marre came to mind. Y’en a Marre (which in English translates to ‘Fed Up’) is a group of young musicians and journalists, who successfully inspired the ousting their former president in Senegal who was bidding for a third term in office in 2012. You know ours is such a rich continent and we are learning to look inwards and find that story that can spur us to action. Y’en a Marre holds a positive significance to this initiative and it was one of the reasons Dakar, Senegal was chosen as the venue for this meeting, so that the other organizations who come, can also learn from them, in terms of using music, and working with civil society and building a movement around that.

It is actually very important when we look at some of the countries that were chosen, because, for instance, there’s an on-going protest in Togo, in a bid to remove the president because he has overstayed his constitutional term limit. We also made selections from Gambia because organisations including musicians and civil society members were able to build the consciousness of a lot of young people, especially when Yahya Jammeh lost elections and he refused to step down. At the time, there was a campaign called ‘Gambia has decided’.

In addition, Mali has a very strong musical community or environment, music is an integral part of their lives…of course Nigeria too I mean, this is the home of Fela Anikulapo Kuti. But just because these are the countries that are currently participating doesn’t mean that the Album won’t be obtainable or used across West Africa. And if you can see, we have francophone and anglophone countries to represent our diversity. So we can also share different experiences from different countries, as we work together with movements, musicians, and civil society around accountability, participation, anti-corruption, basically around social issues that affect young people most especially, but affect the entire society too.

So the intention is to use music as an easily accessible medium to sensitize the youths?

Yes…so using Music as a messenger for democracy. The Album will be centred around themes related to democracy, including democratic participation, holding elected leaders accountable…accountability is closely tied to anti-corruption, you know, so anti-corruption messaging, civic engagement…ensuring that it is not just voting every 4 or 5 years but that it is also important to get involved in all the other activities through the electoral cycle, and ensure that you are engaged throughout.

So aside from producing the music Album, what are your other expectations? 

So the music album first of all is a tool for engagement. We’ll continue to work with our partners across the West African sub region to use the music that will be produced, to reach out to many other young people. We are also reaching out to university communities to work with student artists who can contribute verses to the songs in the album. The student communities across the country are a very important cohort in the movement for democratic development and we believe that more young people will connect to the music as a message for democracy and become change agents. 

What will be the production process of the album, as regards studio sessions, and the relationship between CSOs, the artistes and even the music engineer?

So we have a studio that we are working with in Dakar: Waliyaane Studio, they also produce music for Y’en a Marre. Since we are already going to be in Dakar for the meeting, we decided to take advantage of having the musicians in one place. So Waliyaane studio will be helping to collate, produce, mix and master the album, while our partners will mainly be responsible for disseminating it in their different countries.

The studio has prepared some demo tracks, which has been shared with all the musicians, and we’ve already told them that they need to start coming up with some lyrics. Production will kick-off on June 29th, and the songs will be produced in Bambara, Wolof, French and English. What the meeting will also help to do is, yunno, give them a better understanding of what the project hopes to achieve, and the kind of messages we want to see come out in their music. We also have civil society members who can tell the musicians, for example, “oh this message probably won’t resonate or this isn’t exactly what we want….” This is essentially why we have that partnership with them.

The studio will record for the musicians who are not based in Senegal first; since we have one day. But all the musicians also have the chance to go back, and if they want, to send in additional vocals or do their recording from where they are and send it to the studio. That is also possible. 

Is there like a set date when the album is going to be out?

We are looking towards September, at least, to have everything ready before the launch of the album.

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02 Jul
0

YIAGA AFRICA, NDI Advocate Sustainable Democracy in Ethiopia

 YIAGA AFRICA and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) have beckoned on young people in Ethiopia to maintain the momentum of building a sustainable democracy. The event, themed ‘A Conversation on Youth and the Future of Democracy in Ethiopia’ with key note speaker, Ambassador Derek Mitchell, President of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), gave the Ethiopian youths a platform to engage with over 100 participants on democracy. Participants were drawn from youth organizations, student bodies, civil society, government, academics and development partners.

The key speaker of the conversation, Derek Mitchell, who spoke on the democratic situation of Ethiopians and the readiness of young people to participate, said, “democratic and political transitions are neither smooth nor easy as it comes with challenges. In a democracy or any kind of political change, it will take the people of the country to decide for itself what it desires”.  This according to him further underscores the importance of young people to take part in the process especially in Ethiopia and other parts of Africa saying, democracy is a work in progress and that it is not something one can reach at an instance.

Youth and future of Ethiopia

Discussion with NDI President Derek Mitchell in EthiopiaWhile also responding to questions raised by participants on the readiness of youths in a nascent democracy like that of Ethiopia, Mitchell said, “I believe everyone can be a leader and age might not represent wisdom. It might not be today or tomorrow, but I believe the young will make it.” Mitchell also used the opportunity to decry the recent Internet shutdown during the coup in Ethiopia and addressed how it hindered the peoples’ freedom of expression and limited communication.

Ambassador Mitchell further advised young people in the east-African country to build its democracy through voting, active civic education, youth civic participation and youth organizing, he summarized by saying “with courage, commitment and dedication, youth voices can be heard and their positive actions felt”.

YIAGA AFRICA’s Board member, Dr. Aisha L. Abdullahi, who also spoke at the event, expressed delight that democracy has come to stay in Ethiopia and thus, everyone has a role to play in ensuring sustainable democracy in the state. According to her, democracy is already here in Ethiopia and we are simply here to encourage, to promote and deepen democracy in the country. We believe that the youths who form about 70 percent of the population of Ethiopia can join hands with us to give the new Ethiopia”.

Abel Abate a youth leader in Ethiopia also recalled that in the past, the nations and nationalities and the limitations from the central government made the nation undemocratic, thus citizens lived in fear and repression. According to him, the current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmad brings a fresh approach to governance and a good number of positive reforms can now be seen and felt in Ethiopia. He further expressed delight that thousands of political prisoners have been freed in this current government. With the democratic space beginning to open up, Abate further called for more youths and women inclusion and representation in Ethiopia.

NDI Regional Director of Southern and East Africa, Dickson Omondi who delivered a remark said there is no linear path to get to democracy, as a nation must struggle back and forth to achieve sustainable democracy. According to him, “democracy is a shared value. Common values are not foreign to Ethiopians. Our brothers from South Africa have famously captured this in the spirit of Ubuntu because what they were calling us to do is to think about it for each other as brothers, care about each other, respect the dignity [of human persons], respect human rights and basically live as one community”.

Ethiopia is experiencing a wave of democratic reforms led by Africa’s youngest Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed. These democratic reforms have redefined the country’s development trajectory and set it on a path to progress leading to a surge of optimism on the part of citizens. Maximizing the opportunity this new wave of democracy presents for sustainable development will require the engagement of young people as drivers or catalyst of national development and social transformation. Whilst significant progress has been recorded, Ethiopia still grapples with ethnic and identity-based conflicts coupled with other challenges that may potentially undermine its democratization process.

It is against this background that YIAGA AFRICA in partnership with the National Democratic Institute hosted a conversation on Youth and the Future of Democracy in Ethiopia. The program created a platform for young people to reflect on Ethiopia’s democracy and its current development model with a view to exploring pathways for supporting the democratization project in Ethiopia.

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28 Jun
0

EFCC, YIAGA Africa Partner On Anti-corruption Fight

The acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu has stated that for the war against corruption to be won, Nigerians everywhere must critically self-assess themselves to ascertain if they have been part of the solution or problems recorded in the war.

EFCC spokesperson, Tony Orilade stated in a statement that Magu spoke through Usman Imam, Head, EFCC’s South-East Zonal Office in Enugu while receiving Tracy Keshi, Project Officer of Strengthening Citizen’s Resistance Against Prevalence of Corruption, SCRAP-C, a component of ‘Upright Campaign’ by Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement, YIAGA Africa, a Non-Governmental Organization.

He gave assurances that the EFCC was willing to partner with any “serious” Civil Society Organization, CSO, to ensure the eradication of corruption in the country.

According to him, “People cannot ordinarily expect things to change when on their own and at their own levels, they fail to take positive actions that promote integrity and accountability.

“The fight against corruption must start with that market woman who refuses to alter the measuring cup to make more gains.

“It must start from that conductor that must not add more money to the fare when there is no increase in petrol price and from that petrol attendant who must resist the temptation of fiddling with the meter to make an extra gain.”

Speaking earlier, the YIAGA Africa representative, Keshi, said the visit was in recognition of the role of the EFCC in the fight against corruption, and to solicit for partnership in the actualization of the SCRAP-C programme.

“We are here to see how we can complement the successful efforts of the EFCC being the foremost anti-corruption agency in the country in ensuring that this menace called corruption is reduced to the barest minimum,” Keshi said

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28 Jun
0

How Bounce Corruption Radio Ambassadors Amplify the Fight Against Corruption

It is an achievable goal to reduce corruption to the barest minimum in the society. Although a daunting task, it is one that civil society organizations, citizens, media, government authorities and all stakeholders in the society must take on to shun the destabilizing impacts of corruption in Nigeria.

As part of the effort to amplify citizens voices against corruption,YIAGA AFRICA through its Bounce Corruption Projectcommissioned radio presenters across Nigeria to amplify citizens voices through innovative programs that are peculiar to each state in Nigeria. In the last 12 months, these programs have successfully engaged grassroots citizens to be on the lookout in their own communities while holding leaders accountable. 

With support from the MacArthur foundation, the Bounce Corruption project takes a bottom-to-top approach in sensitizing and mobilizing citizens to work against corruption in all its forms including political corruption, extortion and bribery. As a matter of fact, the Bounce Corruption radio ambassadors,particularly winners of the Bounce Corruption Innovative Contest—an annual award to the best citizens anti-corruption programs in states across Nigeria—have played a key role in bringing the anti-corruption fight to the grassroots in various states.

In Bauchi state for instance, GlobeFM’s Hannatu Poloma organizes a weekly radio program to sensitize youths on issues regarding corruption in their communities. Just before the 2019 elections, she had an interview with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) North-east zonal public relations officer amongst others, on vote buying and selling. She also held discussions with journalists on the matter in an attempt to sensitize all citizens eligible to vote. Subsequently, she brought citizens on the radio show to discuss, and held a vox pop to amplify anti-corruption on the streets of Bauchi State.

Likewise, Onyimiebi Siasia of Radio Bayelsa holds a 30 minutes program, Let’s Kick Corruption every Tuesday, where people call in to offer their thoughts on corruption issues in their communities. Through the phone-in participation, Siasia has been able to make citizens see that the fight against corruption is a collective responsibility.

According to Peter Cheman Koti of Gotel FM in Adamawa state, his Bounce Corruption Show reached close to one million listeners in one month. Peter was able to engage listeners on the best ways to expose and fight corruption, while doing a follow-up with them via social media and phone-in engagement sessions on the radio program.

Elsewhere in Nigeria’s capital city, Kimberly Nwachuku holds a program on Nigeria Info, Abuja to engage citizens on the anti-corruption fight as well. She also holds a periodic tweetchat in collaboration with BigMo (Moses Nwokedi) where citizens discuss corruption issues as it affects them. The Bounce Corruption project beckons on all Nigerians to be responsive in changing ill-social patterns in their individual communities and these ambassadors are using radio as an important grassroots tool to inform and educate citizens.

The high point of these programs is that citizens are becoming more informed to demand for accountability and transparency in the polity. The government, particularly at the local level are also becoming more responsive and aware, as the radio programs often feature government officials who in turn give direct responses to citizens’ concerns as expressed on the platforms.

As YIAGA AFRICA continues its mission to raise over 20 million voices against corruption through the Bounce Corruption project, there will be more annual innovative programs, driven by radio ambassadors especially those participating in  the Bounce Corruption Innovative Contest Program, to amplify the fight against corruption across various states in Nigeria.

— Fisayo Okare, Media and Communications, YIAGA AFRICA

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28 Jun
0

YIAGA AFRICA Explores Ways to Improve Voters Register

As part of its effort to ensure credible elections, YIAGA AFRICA through its elections department is exploring possibilities of improving the quality of Voters register in Nigeria. Having observed series of elections across the country including the just concluded 2019 elections, YIAGA AFRICA has identified major issues with the Voters registered which is usually updated and released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Cynthia Mbamalu speaking on challenges of voters register

Speaking during an experience sharing workshop in Abuja, Programs Manager Cynthia Mbamalu raised concerns on the quality of voters register and if it can stand the test of time and aid in improving Nigeria’s election.

During the discussion led by member of Election Observation Group (ELOG) in Kenya, Joseph Irura, issues of underage voting, multiple registrations, deceased voters and other issues relating to foreigners being on the voter’s register were raised as major issues bedevilling the voter’s register. Similarly, concerns were also raised on the discrepancy between the number of registered voters released by the electoral commission before the election and the numbers released in the course of the elections. A similar scenario was reported with regard to the number of Permanent Voters Card collected ahead of the election.

This and other major issues formed the crux of discussion as YIAGA AFRICA explores various possible ways of improving the quality of Nigeria’s voters register in a bid to ensure better elections ahead of the upcoming Governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi State.

 

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19 Jun
0

Nigerians Must Take Advantage of FOI Act to Demand Accountability —YIAGA AFRICA

YIAGA AFRICA’s Accountability and Social Justice Program officer, Tracy Keshi has urged members of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the media to take advantage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2011 to demand accountability from leaders, public institutions and even business owners in their communities.

According to Mrs Keshi, “we encourage Nigerians to frequently make use of the FOI Act, 2011 to make requests and demand for accountability from their leaders”.  “You do not have to be a CSO or media house to make FOI requests to public institutions. As an individual, you can make an FOI request using personal letterhead.” The workshop, supported by Department For International Development’s (DFID) Strengthening Citizens Resistance Against Prevalence of Corruption(SCRAP-C) under its #Upright4Nigeria campaign is an interactive capacity building training session with youth based CSOs and the media, who will after the training use their platforms and skills acquired, mobilise and sensitize the youths in their communities on how to use these accountability tools to engage in the fight against corruption.

“The FOI Act is not an end in itself but a means to an end. You can also approach the court to compel the public institution involved to release the information requested for. That is why the CSOs and the media should collaborate in holding the government accountable” Keshi states.

“If you are requesting for information from an organization or public institution under the Act, remind them they are mandated by the law to disclose information in their custody”, she says.

Speaking at the event was  Program Assistant, Michael Agada who said, “Let us not think of approaching the anti-corruption challenge from an individual perspective. We are here to achieve synergy. We are saying that we cannot do it alone. That is the point of this synergy. We need to confront this situation and compel things forward,” he stated while facilitating the session on Social and Behavioural Change.

In the lead up to the training, YIAGA AFRICA’s program officer, Tracy Keshi, spoke on the role of the citizens in the fight against corruption on the early morning radio show with Sunrise FM 96.1 FM in Enugu. “Corruption has to do with our way of life too. It is about attitudinal change. If you say no to corruption, and I say no to corruption, together we can begin to reduce corruption in Nigeria.”

“As citizens, we also need to understand that corruption do not only exist in the corridors of government, it also exists within our immediate environment. We need to purge ourselves of everything that helps corruption thrive in Nigeria. Are you doing everything right? Are you holding your leaders accountable? Do you even know what to hold to account?”,  she said.

DFID sets out to work with Citizens, Civil society Organizations, media and public institutions for the SCRAP-C project under its #Upright4Nigeria campaign launched in 2017 and domiciled under the anti-corruption project in Nigeria (ACCORN). They have adopted different  approaches that will contribute to a reduction in corruption in Nigeria in five years (2017 – 2022)

The participants representing various CSOs and media platforms also had a media parley yesterday, 12th June, where they discussed and explored different avenues where they could collaborate and laid the groundwork for how they can seek to reduce corruption in Nigeria.

“Most times, the media reports high profile corruption cases, to inform the public. So, as CSOs, we are supposed to take advantage of these information, use the FOI to request for more information, mobilize citizens in our wards, constituencies and LGAs to demand for accountability,” a participant states. Likewise, if the Civil Society Organizations have worked on anti-corruption issues, the media can help them amplify it,” the facilitator, Tracy Keshi elaborates.

#Upright4Nigeria is the mantra for the CSOs and the Media now under the SCRAP C project as they proceed to sensitize others in their community on the basis of the movement, while it continues to mark a turning point in the anti-corruption efforts across Nigeria.

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17 Jun
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240 Young People Across West Africa Benefit from Youth Organizing School – YIAGA AFRICA

As part of its effort to empower youth for effective policy advocacy, YIAGA AFRICA has concluded a four-day training for young community organizers across Nigeria and some parts of Africa. The training, which ended in Abuja on Friday saw 38 entry level community organizers and young leaders exposed to quality training on direct action organizing, leadership, policy advocacy, non-violent change, storytelling and public narrative, coalition building, community mobilization, and digital organizing.

Over 240 Youths across Nigeria and Africa have benefitted from YIAGA AFRICA’s Youth Organizing School and are currently making positive changes in their communities. The Youth Organizing School supported by National Endowment for Democracy was established six years ago to build a new generation of community organizers across West Africa with the capacity to drive social change and transformation. The school combines the theory and practice of building the capacity of young activists, youth organizations and young leaders.

In his welcome note, YIAGA AFRICA Executive Director said,  through this training, YIAGA has strengthened the institutional and technical capacities of youth organizations in formulating policies and implementing advocacy activities promoting democratic values and principles in West Africa. According to Itodo, the Youth Organizing School is a place where young organizers learn how to build strategic capacity by mobilizing people to use their collective power to solve social problems. He said, over 240 young women and men from six African countries have benefitted from this program and YIAGA AFRICA is proud of the change they are making in their community.

The program according to Itodo, will move into morphing a community organizing institute from 2020. “The institute will provide top-notch research and training on community organizing and building for a diverse range of stakeholders within the African continent. This year, YIAGA AFRICA will launch an online networking platform to connect the alumni of the Youth Organizing School. This is part of our plan to strengthen this community of advocates and community organizers in Africa’, he said.

During this year’s leadership training, alumni from the previous season shared their experiences and how the YOS has impacted on their current project. Wasiu Adebiyi who is now a senior legislative aide to a newly elected lawmaker explained how the YOS has enabled him to build a movement in his community. He said, after the training, he returned to his community to commence aggregation of opinions, which enabled him to identify community problems and proffer solutions.

On her own part, Amina Yahaya Muhammad who now works International Republican Institute (IRI) said the YOS was no doubt an eyeopener, which gave her opportunity to learn new things like planning, strategizing and documentation, which has made her a reference point in her current organization. Moses Kusko whose experience and knowledge at the 2017 Youth Organizing school built his capacity to manage the Not Too Young To Run movement in his state, also bared his mind saying networking is a very important idea he learnt during the YOS. This according to him has enabled him built commitment and support for the age reduction movement in his state.

Programs Manager Cynthia Mbamalu also introduced the young community organizers to a distinct approach to leadership, organizing and learning while also identifying the core leadership practices for organizing for policy advocacy and civic engagement. This entails the ability to have a clear definition of an idea, create a connection between understanding the concept and realizing it through targeted action.

Cynthia assisted organizers in identifying their individual values and how it connects to campaigns, advocacy efforts and movement building. According to Cynthia, organizers should know their constituents enough to know the kind of story they can connect to.

A conversation on Global Perspectives on new forms of collective action led by Chris O’Connor from National Endowment for Democracy (NED) exposed organizers to best global practices in social movement and community building. According to him, the Nigerian political terrain has experienced successful movements like the Not Too Young To Run but there is much to be done to also improve women participation in the political process. “While political parties are becoming recipient to youth inclusion, it will be more democratic to also advocate for the participation of women in politics,”. He also encouraged organizers to intensify efforts in building movements saying, the future of democracy and inclusion in Nigeria is bright but it is not happening as fast as it should.

As part of its activities for this year’s training of youths across Nigeria and some parts of Africa on leadership, community organizing and movement building, YIAGA AFRICA on Friday led its cohort of 40 community organizers to Karu market Abuja for sanitization and sensitization on best practices for waste disposal. The exercise in collaboration with Pick That Trash initiative involves picking of wastes around the market and properly disposing them to ensure a healthy environment.

During the exercise, the team led by YIAGA AFRICA senior program officer in the youth department, Ibrahim Faruk also sensitized store owners on the need to ensure proper disposal of its waste. The team went on to advise store owners on best practices in waste management and recycling.

 According to Faruk, community organizing, and movement building can only thrive if young community organizers create a proper connection with their communities. He said one important way of connecting with the community and securing commitment in movement building is to engage in community development service like this.

 “For instance, if you come out on a weekend to clean your community or participate in activities that will improve the community, you are more likely to secure commitment from members of the community when you are building a movement”, Faruk said “YIAGA AFRICA is not only building a new generation of young activists that care about good quality governance but also citizens that care about a healthy environment.”

According to Nancy who came from Cameroon to join the Youth Organizing School, the sanitization exercise exposed her to the importance of engaging in community development service. According to her, exercises like this will enable her to connect with her community when she returns home, saying she will implement all lessons learnt in Nigeria in her home country.

On her own part, Funmi from Ekiti said she was excited to be part of the exercise as it was her first time getting involved in activities like this. She is excited that market men and women were receptive to new ideas of waste management.

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17 Jun
0

YIAGA AFRICA lead Community Organizers for Sanitization, Sensitization in Abuja Market

Community Development service at Karu Market

As part of its activities for this year’s training of youths across Nigeria and some parts of Africa on leadership, community organsing and movement building, YIAGA AFRICA on Friday led its cohort of 40 community organisers to Karu market Abuja for sanitization and sensitization on best practices for waste disposal. The exercise in collaboration with Pick That Trash initiative involves picking of waste and trash around the market and properly disposing to ensure a healthy environment.

During the exercise, the team led by YIAGA AFRICA senior program officer in the youth department, Ibrahim Faruk also sensitized store owners on the need to ensure proper disposal of its waste. The team went on to advise store owners on best practice in waste management and recycling.

 According to Faruk, community organizing, and movement building can only thrive if young community organisers create a proper connection with their communities. He said, one important way of connecting with the community and securing commitment in movement building is to engage in community development service like this.

Youth Organiser at the Karu market during community development service

 “For instance, if you come out on a weekend basis to clean your community or participate in activities that will improve the community, you are more likely to secure commitment from members of the community when you are building a movement”, Faruk said “YIAGA AFRICA is not only building a new generation of young activists that care about good quality governance but also citizens that care about a healthy environment”, Ibrahim said.

According to Nancy who came from Cameroon to join the Youth Organsing School, the sanitization exercise exposed her to importance of engaging in community service. According to her, exercise like this will enable her to connect with her community when she returns home saying she will implement all lessons learnt in Nigeria in her home country.

On her on part, Funmi from Ekiti said she was excited to be part of the exercise as it is her first time involving in activities like this. She is excited that market men and women were receptive to new ideas of waste management.

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