24 Jul

YIAGA AFRICA Express Displeasure Over Youth Exclusion from Ministerial Nominees

Yesterday the Ministerial nominees for President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term in office were announced at the floor of the National Assembly. The list comprises 43 nominees coming from across all 36 states and Federal Capital Territory with notable 7 women and no single person below the age of 35.

The conspicuous absence of young people under the age of 35 in the ministerial nominees read by Senate President Ahmed Lawan as sent to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari has to come us and the entire Nigerian youths as a big Surprise. It is indeed disappointing to see that despite the giant strides made my young people especially in the area of politics and leadership, President Muhammadu Buhari has not seen any person below the age of 35 worthy of any ministerial position.

Despite publicly proclaiming that young people of Nigeria are now set to leave their  mark on the political space, just as they have done over the decades in entrepreneurship, sports, art, media entertainment, technology, and several other fields, we are surprised that President Muhammadu Buhari did not consider young people in his cabinet.

While portfolios are yet to be assigned to ministerial nominees, it is obvious that from the list, the minister of youth and sports will not be a youth as none of the nominees is under the age 35 not to talk of the  new National youth policy which classifies youth between 15 and 29 years old. This is in contrast with the faith President Buhari showed to young people when he signed the Not Too Young To run bill into law.

The recent emergence of  Speakers under the age of 35 in State houses of assembly of Oyo, Zamfara, Kwara and plateau not only shows that young people are good for ministerial position but also demonstrate their readiness to deliver effectively. Similarly, young people have emerged in various principal positions in their state houses of assembly. This is no doubt a huge result achieved within a short time and no doubt should have ensured young people staked a claim for ministerial slots in the cabinet list released on Tuesday.

While the wait for President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet is over, the wait for youth inclusion in his cabinet still lingers. State Governors across Nigeria still have an opportunity to change this narrative by appointing young competent people with character and capacity to head various commissions in the state.


Samson Itodo

Executive Director, YIAGA AFRICA

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18 Jul


Location: Abuja
Position Type: Full time

Duration: 2 years and renewable



The YIAGA AFRICA Centre for Legislative Engagement (YIAGA AFRICA-CLE) is a think-tank established to promote the development of the legislature in Africa through innovative research, capacity development and public engagement. The goal of the Centre is to ensure the legislature is capacitated to discharge its legislative functions in compliance with democratic principles and standards. We are searching for an energetic, innovative, knowledgeable individual with strong leadership skills to join the YIAGA AFRICA CLE team as a Program Officer. 

Key Responsibilities

  1. Manage day-to-day execution of project activities
  2. Coordination of project field activities in liaison with the CLE Coordinator, Senior Program Officer, Legislative Engagement, and Officer
  3. Support the CLE program team with routine project operational and administrative tasks. 
  4. Undertake research on issues that advance the goals of the centre
  5. Support in the development of project concept note and proposals, project annual work plan and Monitoring and Evaluation plan 
  6. Project monitoring and preparation of periodic project reports in line grant conditions and requirements

Key Qualifications/skills

  • Bachelor’s in Law, political science, Arts and humanities, development studies or related field (A master’s certificate is an added advantage)
  • Minimum 5 years working experience in the field of legislative studies Engagement, practices and procedure
  • Strong leadership and project management skills
  • Excellent communication skills, both written and oral
  • Excellent working knowledge of basic research tools and all relevant experiences in programs implementation (Proven experience in research is an added advantage)
  • Sound knowledge of local and international legislative practices and procedures
  • Self-motivated and innovative
  • Ability to work well under pressure with tight deadlines
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Good analytical and organizational skills
  • Excellent online research skills


How to apply

Interested candidates should forward a one-page cover letter and detailed resume with the contact of referees as attached PDF documents to on or before November 1, 2019. The subject line of email application must state the Name of Applicant and title of the position. Only applications sent in the required format will be considered. Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.


“YIAGA AFRICA is an equal –opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of disability, sex, tribe, religion, etc. Qualified women are especially encouraged to apply”


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18 Jul

Server Controversy and Implication for Bayelsa, Kogi Elections – Moshood Isah

Barely four months to the Governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi state and with the controversy of over the usage of server hovering over the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the commission may just remain in a fix on possibility of using a server for the upcoming Governorship elections. Although the court has taken a decision on permission to request to access the server that has been initially declared non-existent, stakeholders have interpreted the judgement in different ways. This is despite, election observation group like YIAGA AFRICA revealed that its observers saw INEC officials “attempting” to transmit elections result to a server and reports from media says officials of the commission confessed to have transmitted results to a server. While some believe the court decision further reaffirms non-existent of server, others think the court only decided it’s too early to access the server at the preliminary stage of the litigation.

It is no brainer that the commission transmitted results to a server using the smart card reader during off-circle Governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun 2018. The only logical explanation for this is the expectation that the new electoral law will be signed into law and thus electronic transmission can be implemented in full force during the 2019 elections.  This is apparently why transmission of results using smart card reader was also in the electoral guideline for the 2019 elections. Then conundrum here however is that the lack of assent to the electoral law means, information on the server remain unharnessed as it has not been used to publicly authenticate manual data of either accreditation or results.

This article is not in any way taking readers back to the 2019 Presidential election tribunal on the server controversy as Chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has said he will address the server controversy that trailed the 2019 general elections, after the Presidential Elections Tribunal.  All the same, there is need to forecast the plans of the commission with the use of server in the upcoming off-circle governorship elections.

Argument abound on the idea of electronic voting or at least electronic transmission of election results is to provide a transparent evidence vis-à-vis results pasted at polling units and collation centers.  Political analysts have said electronic voting and result transmission to server is the solution to the consistent electoral hitches. Although, this is subject to assent to the new electoral act, analysts believe that the upcoming Kogi and Bayelsa election is another opportunity for the commission to sincerely test run its server ahead of subsequent elections pending when the electoral law is signed.

On the other hand, for the fact that neither electronic voting nor electronic transmission has been backed by law, others may wonder the essence of financing and deploying a server for the Bayelsa and Kogi elections.   Similarly, considering the fact that data therein are for not necessarily for public consumption and cannot be used to authenticate results from manual collation, will the commission still go on  and still deploy servers for result and data transmission for the upcoming Governorship elections?

Without assent to the new electoral act, one begins to wonder what impact electronic transmission has served during previous off-circle elections where INEC publicly admitted it test-run its server in a micro scale. Despite this, it is not out of place for the electoral commission to pilot its server in off-circle elections just as it has done in Ekiti and Osun but when for how long will it keep deploying a server that may not have impact on the elections it was deployed.

In a bid to overcome this electoral conundrum, it is pertinent for the commission, civil society organistions and political parties to push for assent to the new electoral act which will solve a lot of electoral issues in Nigeria. It is believed that electronic voting will eradicate rigging, multiple registrations and voting while cases of political violence and hijacking of ballot boxes will be easily checkmated. Adopting this process for Nigeria’s democracy will not only increase transparency but will also boost citizen confidence in the process while further improving participation in the process.

Moshood Isah is an Election enthusiast and Communication Expert

Isah is the Media Officer of YIAGA AFRICA

He tweets @Moshoodpm

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17 Jul

Challenges facing INEC ahead of Kogi, Bayelsa polls by Raymond Mordi

Bayelsa and Kogi states are warming up for governorship elections on November 16. Deputy Political Editor RAYMOND MORDI looks at the challenges that may afftect the conduct of hitch-free elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)

THE Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under the leadership of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has turned full circle, with November’s governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States. Yakubu’s emergence as INEC Chairman coincided with the inconclusive elections witnessed in the two states four years ago.

The commission faces another crucial test with the conduct of the governorship elections in the North-central and the South-south states, on November 16, 2019. The off-cycle elections in the two states provide opportunities for the commission to perfect its systems and processes and convince Nigerians that it has learnt some useful lessons from its past mistakes.

Kogi and Bayelsa are among the seven states where the governorship elections hold on different dates from the other states. It will be the first time that two off-cycle elections would be holding on the same date. Four years ago, the Kogi election was held on November 21, 2015, while that of Bayelsa took place on December 5, 2015. But, the governors will be sworn in on different dates: Kogi on January 26, 2020 and Bayelsa on February 13, 2020.

In Kogi State, Governor Yahaya Bello of the All Progressives Congress (APC) seeking re-election for a second term, while Bayelsa Governor Seriake Dickson of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would be completing a second term in February next year.

Being the first major elections to be conducted since the 2019 general elections, the commission, observers said, must address the plethora of infractions that have cropped up at the various election tribunals on whether the card readers have helped to plug the loopholes for inflation of ballots.

Ahead of the elections, the nomination of candidates by the parties must be done within the stipulated time and in compliance with the Electoral Act. Yakubu’s words: “The conduct of primaries and nomination of candidates must be transparent and democratic in accordance with the provisions of Section 87 of the Electoral Act as well as our regulations and guidelines.”

The INEC Chairman said so far only three political parties have given notices indicating the dates for their primaries for both Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections. He added: “The commission once again reminds party leaders to do the needful. In doing so, you should indicate not only the dates but also venues and time for the primaries.

“I urge you to avoid persistent rescheduling of your primaries or late minute change of venue which sometimes disenfranchise your members and make effective monitoring by the commission difficult. Where political parties opt for direct primaries, there should be proper register of members otherwise it will amount to conducting an election without the voters’ register.”

In Kogi State, particularly, the ruling APC is undecided about the mode of primary it is going to adopt to choose its flag bearer for the election. The national leadership of the party, it is gathered, is under pressure from the Presidency to reverse the indirect primary already ordered for the August 29. It was learnt that the party’s top hierarchy were already reviewing the decision in the overall best interest of the party.

The issue is believed to have generated tension among members of the National Working Committee who met in Abuja recently. The meeting, which took place at its national secretariat, was presided over by the National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole. The meeting started a few hours after Governor Bello came to pick his Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms.

The party had adopted an indirect mode of primary for Kogi State, but kept mute on the Bayelsa State governorship primary fixed for the same day. But, about 20 APC governorship aspirants have protested against the decision, saying it would affect the fortunes of the party. They demanded direct primary instead and for a caretaker committee to be raised due to litigation over the State Working Committee.

Fears have been expressed in some quarters that the infighting over the primary could cost the party the governorship seat, as it happened in Zamfara and Rivers States during the last general elections.

The issue of security is another major challenge that would confront the commission during the conduct of the two governorship elections. This is not only true of Bayelsa, where militancy and violence has often been mixed with politics, but also of Kogi State, where reports during the last general elections painted a picture of violence and lack of enabling environment for expression of voter preferences.

A security expert, Dr. Joseph Ameh, said what Kogi people expect from President Muhammadu Buhari is for him to rein in security agencies and ensure that they are not at the beck and call of the ruling APC. Ameh said if security officials do their work with patriotism and in an unbiased way, politicians, especially gladiators would reckon that it is no longer business as usual. He said Nigerian voters have become wiser and know how to discipline selfish and arrogant leaders.

While recalling how, during the recent general elections, violence, intimidation and use of weapons to scare voters away became the order of the day, Ameh said if as many as six persons lost their lives in Kogi East Senatorial District, it could only be imagined what would happen during the governorship.

He said: “I am calling on President Buhari to ensure that there would be no gun-running and miltarisation during the November 16 governorship election. It is everybody’s concern, but we believe that the Federal Government would not be insensitive to the issues of security in Kogi State.

“Some of the things that happened during the last election may not be known to the Federal Government, but if the government was in the know, it would be a great blow to the integrity, transparency and even the anti-corruption war President Buhari said he is waging.

“It would be clear to everybody that the Buhari government is corrupt if the Kogi governorship election is allowed to be militarised; that is, if thugs are allowed to kill and maim during the November 16 governorship poll. We shall hold the Federal Government responsible to ensure that proper things are done.”

Other challenges INEC would confront in Kogi and Bayelsa include that of logistics and manpower, vote-buying, voter apathy and mobilization. For instance, one area INEC should demonstrate its capacity to learn from its mistakes is in the use of ad hoc staff. Recently a former chairman of the commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, accused politicians of using university lecturers, who served as INEC’s ad hoc staff, to rig elections. Part of the allegation is that INEC officials collude with politicians to swap trained ad hoc staff.

Read Also: Breaking: Buhari plays video on INEC’s stand on results transmission
Already, INEC has commenced the review of the recruitment, training and deployment of ad-hoc staff ahead of the elections. Prof. Yakubu said reforms in the delegation of responsibilities by the commission to the ad-hoc election personnel has remained an exercise it will continue to review from one election to another. The INEC Chairman added that recruitment, training and deployment of ad-hoc staff, mostly members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), students of tertiary institutions and university lecturers are crucial to a successful free, fair and credible election. He said with the large population of Nigeria, INEC needed the services of ad-hoc election personnel in the conduct of credible elections.

In recent times, vote-buying has become common in Nigerian elections and there is no reason to believe that Kogi and Bayelsa would be exceptions. Though the Electoral Act criminalizes vote-buying, because it is completely antithetical to the ethos and norms of democracy, it has become a common feature of party primaries and general elections conducted in recent years.

Similarly, the 2018 Revised Code of Conduct for Political Parties also enjoins all political parties and their agents shall not engage in buying of votes or offer any bribe, gift, reward, gratification or any other monetary or material considerations or allurement to voters and electoral officials. Notwithstanding its prohibition, vote-buying continues to be a widespread practice in recent elections.

There is also the issue of distributing uncollected Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) by INEC. National Commissioner, Information and Voter Education, Mr. Festus Okoye, indicated recently that the commission will resume distribution of uncollected PVCs in Bayelsa and Kogi, ahead of the November 16 governorship elections. Okoye said that the commission would soon meet to decide on whether to hold Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) in the two states before the elections.

He said: “In the next one month the commission will take a decision on whether to conduct CVR for these two states, just before the elections. So, that particular decision has not been taken. Definitely the commission will take that decision. But what is certain is that we are going to distribute the uncollected PVCs in Kogi and Bayelsa before the conduct of governorship elections in the two states.”

There are 186,798 unclaimed PVCs in Bayelsa out of the 923,182 registered voters, while 269,000 out of 1.6 million registered voters in Kogi are yet to collect their PVCs.

Elections in this clime have always been characterized with low turnout of voters. For instance, out of the more than 84 million voters registered to take part in the last presidential and National Assembly elections, only 35 per cent of that number participated. This could be traced to lack of adequate mobilization, threat of violence or the cumbersome nature of Nigerian elections, where an intending voter must be ready to sacrifice several hours just to exercise his or her franchise.

In a nutshell, everything boils down to the fact that people do not have confidence in the capacity of INEC to organize free and fair elections. For example, in the words of political commentator, Dolapo Akinbolagbe, one of the popular rhetoric’s that is pervasive is the idea that one’s vote doesn’t count. He added: “There is this assumption (whether accurate or not it is debatable) that the corrupt nature of the political process has led to issues like electoral malpractices.

“One side-effect of voter apathy can be low voter turnout on election day if voting is non-compulsory. In countries or areas with compulsory elections, voter apathy may manifest itself in the form of a high proportion of spoilt ballots or ‘donkey’ votes.

“The issue of voter’s apathy became a heated topic during the 2019 presidential and governorship election. As we saw, the election postponement created a form of voter fatigue as it caused an anti-climax amongst those wanting to perform their civic duty. The anticipation was cut short as news of the election postponement came six hours before polling units opened. This was highly unfortunate for many that had to travel long distances in order to vote.”

All told, as the country heads towards Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections in November, the commission said it will address all the identified challenges and lapses in the 2019 general elections and consolidate on the successes recorded to ensure it delivers credible, free and fair election in Kogi and Bayelsa come November 16.

Malam Mohammed Haruna, the National Commissioner in charge of Kogi, Kwara and Nasarawa states, who gave the assurance recently, identified logistics as one of the major challenges that confronted the last general elections. He said the large number of registered political parties that took part in the last election made the entire process cumbersome for the commission.

Source: The Nation

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17 Jul

Kogi Elections: State-based Organizations Call for Early Voter Education

State-based Civil Society Organizations in Kogi state have called for early commencement of voter education activities in the state to checkmate a possible low voter turnout ahead of the November 16 Governorship Election. The State CSOs made the call in Lokoja during an assessment exercise organized by YIAGA AFRICA to analyze the political and security situation in the state.

While registering their fears of possible low voter turnout for the Governorship elections in the state, CSOs urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to reach out to citizens at various communities with voter education messages ahead of time.

Speaking during the exercise, Executive Director of Initiative for Grassroots Advancement (INGRA) Hamza Aliyu lauded YIAGA AFRICA for the initiative saying it will prepare the election stakeholders in the state for better civic engagement. While hailing the credibility of YIAGA AFRICA’s data-driven election observation methodology, he urged that attention should also be channeled to the community level so that communities understand the electoral process better.

He further advised collaboration between CSOs and other election stakeholders saying INGRA will be actively involved in voter education and pre-election observation activities for the Kogi elections.

Similarly, Executive Director of Conscience for Human Right and Connect Resolution (CHRCR) Idris Miliki Abdul also reaffirmed the importance of voter education saying the political and security terrain in Kogi is also taking an ethnic dimension. According to him, in order to forestall any possible violence, there is need to design special messages against electoral violence. He said there is need to map flash points in the state and also intensively stop and search vehicles to check arms proliferation.

In a similar vein, chairman of the Kogi state council of NUJ, Alhaji Momoh Jimoh Adeiza commended YIAGA AFRICA for the steps taken to ensure a free, fair and violent free election in Kogi state, urging them to step up their campaign.

Other State-based organizations that are part of the assessment exercise includes, Lift Up Care Foundation (LUCAF), Challenged Parenthood Initiative (CPI) and Participation Initiative for Behavioural Change in Development (PIBCID).


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17 Jul

Kogi Guber Poll: YIAGA AFRICA Commences Political, Security Assessment

Ahead of the November 16 Governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi State, YIAGA AFRICA’s project has commenced a critical assessment of the political and security situation in the states as part of its plan for election observation. Speaking during an assessment visit to Kogi state’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office earlier this week, Programs Manager Cynthia Mbamalu said, as YIAGA AFRICA’s Watching The Vote (WTV) project commences plan for pre-election observation in the state, the assessment visit is aimed to engage stakeholders in a bid to understand the political and security dynamics in the state.

According to Cynthia, WTV will be observing the pre-election observation environment starting from the political party primary elections saying the team will also be deploying Long-term observers to observe the pre-election environment in each of the 21 LGAs in the state.

She explained that  the objective of the WTV is to provide timely and accurate information about the election process to voters and stakeholders, to ensure that citizens votes count by deterring fraud and manipulation during the conduct of elections and collation of result and as well build citizens’ confidence in the elections.

WTV Project Director Cynthia Mbamalu and INEC head of voter education Ahmed Biambo in Kogi

She said that YIAGA AFRICA would be collaborating with INEC, security agencies, the media and other stakeholders to mitigate electoral misconduct, which allegedly characterized previous elections, and ensure it is reduced to the barest minimum.

“We shall be monitoring the build up to the election across the state. Identify flash points and work with all stakeholders to ensure that violence during the November governorship election in Kogi state is reduced to the barest minimum,” she said.

The team, according to her, will be carrying out more advocacy visit to stakeholders to create the desired awareness towards a more participatory election in the state.

Reacting to this during the meeting, INEC Head of Voter Education and Publicity in Kogi state, Ahmed Biambo expressed delight with YIAGA AFRICA’s early assessment and preparation ahead of the November polls. He reiterated the imperativeness of voter education saying election stakeholders and Civil Society Organizations have a role to play in reaching out to citizens with voter education messages.

According to him, “the success of every election is a collective responsibility of all stakeholders and the commission is ready to collaborate especially in the area of voter education and publicity”.


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16 Jul

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

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 He tweets via @IbrhmFaruk


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04 Jul

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

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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