As part of its plans to observe the upcoming Governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states, Yiaga Africa, civil Society Organisation and hub of changemakers on Saturday 6th June, held a virtual meeting with media personnel in both states.  The meeting held online engaged journalists on Yiaga Africa’s election project; Watching The Vote (WTV) and its plans for the upcoming elections even as citizens vote amidst COVID-19.

During the meeting led by Executive Director, Samson Itodo, Director of Programs, Cynthia Mbamalu and Head of Election Paul James, the organisation revealed that, it’s  Watching The Vote (WTV) election project is a comprehensive observation of the electoral process which includes the observation of the political party primaries, pre-election environment in all Local government areas and the election day observation

Samson Itodo said, WTV aims to provide timely and accurate information about the election process to voters and stakeholders. This according to him will ensure that citizens’ votes count by deterring fraud and manipulation during the conduct of elections and collation of results, thereby building citizens confidence in the process. Itodo also revealed that the WTV election project is a movement of citizens committed to credible elections saying the movement will continue to use credible data to counter misinformation while also improving quality of election reporting.

He said the recruitment process for governance is subject to credible elections which will lead to accountability as office holders will know there is a consequence for bad governance. He said, having an alternative citizens’ voice to speak on the electoral process is very valuable to the electoral process. According to him, engaging the media is strategic to build partnership and collaborations in order to disseminate credible information.

“Yiaga Africa is also engaging the Independent National Electoral Commission’s policies for the conduct of elections amidst COVID-19 to ensure the election is inclusive and meets the test of integrity”, he said. According to him, the experiences of its observation of previous elections in Kogi, Bayelsa and the 2019 elections will serve as a lesson to improve on the quality of the September and October governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states.

He said “As an organization that promotes inclusivity, we will be very much be inclusive when it comes to involving people with disability and advocate for their rights especially during these elections. The oversight we provide on the electoral process is what account for the minimal level of integrity in the electoral process. We have been involved in fashioning out electoral guidelines and policies. We will continue to advocate that stakeholders should contribute to this process to ensure the process is not manipulated due to COVID-19 realities.”

Director of Programs Cynthia Mbamalu also revealed that Yiaga Africa will be observing the pre-election environment starting from the political party primaries and government response to COVID-19. She said “we will be using various methods like physical observation, interviews and desk reviews to provide information on the conduct of political party primaries”

Cynthia said they will deploy Long Term Observers to all Local Government Areas in the state to observe and report pre-election activities like activities of INEC, voter education government response to COVID-19 and other pre-election activities. The pre-election observation according to her will also focus on activities of Women, Youth and People with Disability (PWD).

According to her, Yiaga Africa will also be doing extensive violence monitoring using violent indicators while reporting to security agencies to checkmate possible electoral violence. The team according to her will constantly engage critical stakeholders like the Nigerian Police, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Traditional Leaders and other Civil society organisations. This amongst others will contribute to the organisation’s effort to minimize electoral violence.

For the Election Day observation, Yiaga Africa’s Head of election project, Paul James said that they will be using an advanced election day observation methodology called the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT). According to him, the organization will deploy 500 observers to 250 pooling units, 24 Long Term Observers, 18 LGA collation observers and the State Focal Point in Edo state. For Ondo State, Mr Paul said, we will deploy 600 polling unit observers, 27 Long Term Observers, 18 LGA collation observers, and the State Focal Point.

The media team from Edo and Ondo states lauded the initiative saying it was a timely meeting which will enhance media reportage of elections. Journalists raised vital issues around money politics, vote buying, party primaries, electoral violence amongst other issues that could hinder credible elections.

Other issues raised have to do with INEC policy on voting amidst COVID-19 and ensuring that citizens including people living with disability do not get disenfranchised during this period. They look forward to a healthy collaboration ahead of the upcoming polls.