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.
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.
For more information about these programs, use our contact form or contact:
Jasper Veen, chief of party and resident director, [email protected]
Gemima Barlow, Anglophone Central and West Africa program director, [email protected]