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NDI

The National Democratic Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.

Nigeria

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In the months leading up to the March 28, 2015 presidential poll, Nigeria was widely believed to be on the brink of disaster. Africa observers predicted violence as the likely outcome of the election, in a context of deep political and regional polarization combined with ongoing attacks by Boko Haram insurgents. There was broad concern that a failed election in Nigeria would destabilize the entire West Africa region. Nevertheless, Nigeria held an historic and closely contested election, which peacefully transferred power from one political party to another for the first time since independence. The Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) efforts to increase transparency and curb election irregularities through new anti-fraud technologies were augmented by live announcement of the results on radio, television and social media. A well-publicized parallel vote tabulation (PVT), or quick count, provided real-time verification of the election results and held election authorities more accountable.

The conduct of the presidential election has increased the perception among Nigerians and citizens across Africa that credible elections matter and that leaders can be held accountable. However, significant governance challenges, including economic hardship, citizen dissatisfaction with public services, deeply rooted corruption, political tensions and a fragile security situation, still need to be addressed in the post-election period. Despite these issues, continued quick counts and data-driven observation of the electoral cycle will reinforce successes from the 2015 polls and further enhance the role of citizens in promoting credible, peaceful elections. Increased citizen engagement through advocacy also provides an opportunity for Nigerians to hold newly elected officials to account and build upon the democratic advances of 2015.

Since Nigeria's 1999 transition from military to civilian rule, NDI has worked closely with civic and political organizations to support the development of the country's democratic institutions. The Institute is currently implementing two programs -- the Electoral Empowerment of Civil Society Project (EECSP) and an International Election Observation Mission (IOM) program. EECSP is a five-year initiative which aims to: 1) improve impartial observation, accurate reporting on and recording of election vote totals by domestic election observers during and after the 2015 election cycle; 2) improve management within Nigerian partner civil society organizations; and 3) increase participation by marginalized groups in Nigeria’s political processes. The IOM program hosted over 20 high-profile and Nigeria expert international observers to monitor the 2015 polls.

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Data-Driven Citizen Observation of Electoral Processes

Under EECSP, NDI provided technical assistance to the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Nigeria’s premier citizen observation organization, to conduct a quick count during the 2015 elections and to carry out systematic pre-election observation for five months leading up to the polls. The PVT is an election observation methodology that deploys observers to a representative random sample of polling units to monitor the process and report on vote totals to independently verify results and build citizen confidence in the process.

TMG, with NDI support, provided extensive training to its membership structures at the national, state and local levels to prepare for the nationwide PVT during the 2015 presidential election. TMG bolstered citizen confidence in the electoral process by successfully deploying over 4,000 observers to a representative random sample of polling units located in every state and every local government area (LGA) of Nigeria and by conducting the quick count of the 2015 presidential election. Through the quick count, TMG independently assessed the quality of the electoral process on election day, exposed manipulation of the collation process in four out of six states in Nigeria’s South South geopolitical zone and verified INEC’s results. TMG’s 2015 quick count ranks alongside the 2011 NDI-supported PVT in Nigeria as the world’s largest PVT initiative in terms of geographic coverage. In June 2014, TMG also conducted a quick count in Ekiti state’s off-cycle gubernatorial election and verified INEC’s official results.

One of the biggest challenges for a PVT program is that, as a highly technical exercise involving statistics, it is difficult to explain to the general public. NDI assisted TMG to develop a comprehensive communication and outreach strategy to inform citizens and other critical electoral stakeholders about the PVT. Part of this strategy included a monthly panel discussion radio program and nationwide broadcast of explanatory radio jingles in Nigeria’s four dominant languages during the lead up to the election. An estimated 62 million Nigerians heard TMG’s radio outreach. On election day and the days following, TMG, with NDI support, produced and shared on Twitter and Facebook dozens of infographics explaining quick count data as it was received, processed and analyzed, providing the most timely and accurate data-driven insights into the electoral process in the country. Over 15 domestic and international media outlets -- including the BBC, Al-Jazeera and CNN -- highlighted TMG’s quick count and its data visualizations on social media. Through its own social media outreach, TMG garnered over 60,000 Facebook “likes,” reached over 100,000 Facebook users with its election results verification statement, and made over 350,000 impressions on Twitter users during and immediately following the elections. This communication strategy proved effective because it deliberately combined outreach to the masses over radio and to opinion leaders over social media.

The outreach campaign also included the launch and promotion of a one-of-a-kind online elections data repository, which uses infographics and maps to present the findings of PVT observers deployed during the country’s 2011 presidential elections. Through the website’s interactive content, users can explore stories about critical election day issues such as polling unit opening times, voter accreditation, presence of party agents and voter turnout.

Guided by the principle that timely and reliable information about electoral preparations and early warning signs can mitigate the spread of electoral violence, TMG launched a unique pre-election observation reporting project, or PREO, ahead of the general elections. This project marked the first time that a citizen observation group collected systematic data in the pre-election phase and shared it through informative and captivating data visualizations. In November 2014, TMG deployed a team of over 900 nonpartisan pre-election observers across each of the country’s 774 LGAs. The TMG observers monitored developments in their LGAs and texted in responses once every two weeks to a fixed checklist of questions on such issues as the presence of political party rallies, the spread of voter education and information campaigns, INEC preparations, hate speech, inter-communal conflicts, incitement to violence, attacks on party rallies, reports of vote buying and other important indicators of conflict in the pre-election environment. PREO data allowed TMG to develop a comprehensive, data-driven assessment of the lead-up to the 2015 elections and to develop targeted recommendations to policymakers and key responders backed by data.

Under a previous program supported by NDI, a PVT coalition -- which included TMG -- conducted PVTs during the 2011 general elections and more than a dozen subsequent gubernatorial elections.

Non-violent Citizen Participation in Elections

To mitigate the potential for electoral violence, NDI partnered with the 2face Foundation and Youngstars Development Initiative (YDI) to roll out the youth non-violence voter education and get-out-the-vote initiative, “Vote Not Fight: Election No Be War” with popular Nigerian artist 2face Idibia as the campaign spokesperson. A winner of multiple MTV Africa and MTV Europe Music Awards, 2face has broad nonpartisan appeal, and his foundation promotes peace and development work in Nigeria. Most peace initiatives in Nigeria were important and high-profile, but driven by elite actors. Vote Not Fight instead targeted those individuals, particularly youth, who were historically affected by election violence either as perpetrators or as victims. Through the 2015 election, the Vote Not Fight campaign had over 100,000 likes and reached 3.4 million of 11 million Nigerian users on Facebook. From March 27-28, the campaign’s hashtag #VoteNotFight was a top three trending topic on Twitter and made 1.2 million impressions in the run up to the election with 6 million impressions overall. To date, Vote Not Fight is the third most successful social media campaign in Nigeria after “Hope Nigeria” and “Bring Back Our Girls.” Ahead of the 2015 elections, YDI leveraged public events, including 2face concerts, to discuss the campaign and encourage youth to sign the campaign’s non-violence pledge. Vote Not Fight also carried out a radio campaign which reached an estimated 62 million Nigerians. During an event on October 31, 2014, INEC Chairman Attahiru Jega expressed his support for the Vote Not Fight campaign, signed the non-violence pledge and facilitated an electronic voter card reader demonstration for event attendees and the media. Other noteworthy public figures who have signed the Vote Not Fight pledge include Senate President David Mark and U.S. Ambassador James Entwistle.

Recognizing that the 2015 elections would likely be the most competitive in Nigeria’s history, NDI, with support from Search for Common Ground and BBC Media Action, facilitated the organization of the country’s first national Media Peace Day on March 27 under the auspices of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria (BON). The Media Peace Day took place on the eve of the presidential and legislative elections as part of a deliberate strategy to provide comprehensive, nationwide messaging about peacefully participating at the polls and holding fellow citizens accountable for their actions on election day. This initiative marked the first time that a coordinated peace message was so widely distributed on the African continent, as well as the first time Nigeria’s broadcasters united behind a common theme.

International Election Observation

From March 24-30, 2015, NDI fielded a 24-member international election observation mission with representation from seven countries. Prior to deploying two-person observation teams to the Federal Capital Territory and nine states in all six geopolitical zones, the delegation met with presidential and legislative candidates, election authorities, political, religious and civil society leaders, representatives of the media and security and government officials. At a press conference on March 30, NDI released the IOM’s preliminary statement on its observation of Nigeria’s elections, which noted the commitment of Nigerian voters to democratic processes despite some procedural delays on election day.

In an early March 2015 press release, 14 current and former leaders of NDI observation missions to Nigeria from 10 countries joined the Institute in calling for Nigerian election authorities to adhere to the new March 28 date for presidential and legislative elections.

In January 2015, NDI and International Republican Institute (IRI) deployed a joint pre-election assessment mission to assess the political and electoral environment and preparations for the presidential election, as well as offer recommendations to demonstrate international support for Nigeria’s democratization process. The joint delegation met with a variety of election stakeholders including party leadership, INEC and civil society organization.

Strengthening Governance at State and National Levels

In June 2014, NDI completed a year-long program supporting Bayelsa State in Nigeria’s southern Niger Delta region to promote transparency and accountability in budget and procurement processes. NDI provided training and technical assistance to the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, executive bodies working on budgeting and procurement and civil society groups. The program sought to enhance their knowledge about the public procurement law, to hold public budget hearings and to improve legislative rules of procedure. This led Bayelsa legislators and civil society to hold their first-ever public hearings on budget and procurement policy.

Funding

NDI's current programs in Nigeria are funded by the United States Agency for International Development, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, and the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

Contact Information

For more information about these programs, use our contact form or contact:

Abuja
Jasper Veen, chief of party and resident director, [email protected]

Washington, D.C.
Gemima Barlow, Anglophone Central and West Africa program director, [email protected]

Nigeria Media Peace Day Story Photo
Nigeria to Celebrate National Media Peace Day on March 2703/25/2015
Nigerian Elections Release Photo
Leaders of NDI Observation Missions Call for Nigerian Elections to be Held as Planned03/20/2015
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NDI’s Pat Merloe Testifies Before Congress on U.S. Election Support in Africa03/18/2015
Nigeria Pre-election Assessment Press Conference
Statement of the Joint NDI/IRI Pre-Election Assessment Mission to Nigeria01/20/2015
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Nigerian Electoral Commission Introduces Anti-Voter Fraud Technology11/21/2014
2face Idibia launches Vote Not Fight campaign.
Music Icon 2face Idibia Leads Youth Campaign for Peaceful Nigerian Elections10/21/2014
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Unique Nigerian Website Presents Complete 2011 Election Observation Data as Country Prepares for New Polls09/19/2014
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Promoting the AU Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance in West Africa06/28/2013
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Radio Drama Promotes Women and Youth Political Participation in Northern Nigeria06/26/2013
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International Visitors Share Experiences on Organizing Debates10/22/2012
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Nigerian Film Challenges Young Citizens to Engage with Elected Leaders04/12/2012
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Project Swift Count Observes Five Gubernatorial Races in Nigeria03/30/2012
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Election Commission Head, Observers Highlight Progress and Remaining Challenges in How Nigeria Conducts Elections05/20/2011
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Nigerian Elections Hold the Promise of Setting New Integrity Standard, NDI Mission Finds04/18/2011
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Despite Problems, National Assembly Elections Give Nigerians a Real Chance to Vote, NDI Mission Finds04/11/2011
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NDI International Election Mission to Observe April 9 Nigerian National Assembly Polls04/05/2011
Nigeria Election Watch 201103/15/2011
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Film Urges Nigerians to 'Activate the Power of their Thumb'03/10/2011
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West Africa Election Observers Join Together to Promote Credible Elections02/28/2011
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Nigerian Citizen Observation Groups Boosts Confidence in Registration Exercise01/28/2011
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Published Publication Title Author
06/24/2015 Civic Updates
Civic Update
National Democratic Institute
03/06/2014 Equal Access: How to Include Persons with Disabilities in Elections and Political Processes
Manual|Handbook
National Democratic Institute, International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES)
10/23/2013 Increasing Women’s Political Participation Through Effective Training Programs: A Guide to Best Practices and Lessons Learned
Training Manual
National Democratic Institute
06/28/2013 Press Release: Meeting of the West Africa Election Observers Network (WAEON) on the Status of Implementation of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance in West Africa
Press Release
West Africa Election Observers Network
06/12/2013 West Africa Election Observers Network (WAEON) Field Guide Series
Manual|Handbook
National Democratic Institute
12/01/2012 Final Report on the Nigeria 2011 Elections
Report
National Democratic Institute
10/22/2012 Project Swift Count: Statement on Nigeria's Ondo State Governorship Election - Held Oct. 20, 2012
Statement
Project Swift Count
07/16/2012 Statement on the Edo State Governorship Election
Statement
Project Swift Count
04/03/2012 Declaration of Global Principles for Nonpartisan Election Observation and Monitoring by Citizen Organizations and Code of Conduct for Nonpartisan Citizen Election Observers and Monitors
Declaration
04/02/2012 Statement on the Kebbi Gubernatorial Election – Held 31 March 2012
Statement
Project Swift Count
02/25/2012 Statement on the Cross River Gubernatorial Election Held Saturday February 25, 2012
Statement
Project Swift Count
02/18/2012 Statement on the Sokoto Gubernatorial Election Held Saturday February 18, 2012
Statement
Project Swift Count
02/11/2012 Statement on the Bayelsa Gubernatorial Election Held Saturday February 11, 2012
Statement
Project Swift Count
02/04/2012 Statement on the Adamawa Gubernatorial Election Held Saturday February 4, 2012
Statement
Project Swift Count
12/05/2011 Statement on the Kogi Gubernatorial Election
Statement
Project Swift Count
10/31/2011 Empowering Women for Stronger Political Parties: A Good Practices Guide to Promote Women's Political Participation (Now available in Burmese)
Manual|Handbook
Julie Ballington
09/14/2011 Nigeria 2011: Post-Election Multilogue
Report
National Democratic Institute
09/14/2011 Catalogue of Recommendations to Improve the Nigerian Electoral Process
Report
National Democratic Institute
05/18/2011 Final Statement on the April 2011 General Elections: National Assembly, Presidential and Gubernatorial Elections
Statement
Project 2011 Swift Count
04/30/2011 Statement on the Selected Gubernatorial Elections Results (Nigeria)
Statement
Project 2011 Swift Count