Data

General Issues
Social Welfare
Governance & Political Institutions
Specific Topics
Public Participation
Location
Nigeria
Scope of Influence
National
Files
https://s3.amazonaws.com/uploads.participedia.xyz/ec3387eb-c5af-4e97-840f-2e967c54e2d0_I-Voted-Now-Wetin-Handbook.pdf
Links
http://youngstarsfoundation.org/ydi/vote-not-fight/
Videos
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5QPFF8H0sU
Start Date
End Date
Ongoing
No
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Facilitators
Yes
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Online
Decision Methods
Not Applicable
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
Traditional Media
New Media
Staff
Yes
Volunteers
No

CASE

The Youngstars Foundation’s 2015 Post-Election Youth Participation and Engagement Initiative

First Submitted By Adebisi Alade

Most Recent Changes By Scott Fletcher, Participedia Team

General Issues
Social Welfare
Governance & Political Institutions
Specific Topics
Public Participation
Location
Nigeria
Scope of Influence
National
Files
https://s3.amazonaws.com/uploads.participedia.xyz/ec3387eb-c5af-4e97-840f-2e967c54e2d0_I-Voted-Now-Wetin-Handbook.pdf
Links
http://youngstarsfoundation.org/ydi/vote-not-fight/
Videos
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5QPFF8H0sU
Start Date
End Date
Ongoing
No
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Facilitators
Yes
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Online
Decision Methods
Not Applicable
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
Traditional Media
New Media
Staff
Yes
Volunteers
No

The failures of Nigeria's civilian government gave rise to the Youngstars Foundation who committed to a campaign aimed at educating and mobilizing youths to improve participatory democracy and good governance through active post-election engagement of elected representatives.

Problems and Purpose

Since 1999, state and non-state actors in Nigeria have pushed democratic elections in the belief that it can address the challenges of corruption, human rights abuses and engender economic development. These expectations have not always been fulfilled. Despite the international commendation that Nigeria received for the peaceful conduct of the 2011 general elections,[1] governance in the aftermath of this election has not met the expectations of the populace.[2] Myriad political and social problems persisted. It seemed like democracy had brought misery to the masses. It became obvious to many Nigerians that successive civilian governments have largely ignored the wellbeing of the masses and excluded the electorates from governance. The failures of civilian government gave rise to new grassroots pro-democratic groups in the country aimed at educating and mobilizing youths to improve participatory democracy and good governance in Nigeria through active post-election engagement of elected representatives.

Background History and Context

From the beginning of the Third Wave of democratization in Africa since the 1990s, two major patterns of political behaviour have been identified. First, scholars have argued that citizens’ unenthusiastic political participation still exist, even in the 21st century.[3] This is because many Africans who have lived under authoritarian governments have come to believe that their voices do not matter in politics. Some see democratic elections are meaningless. One journalist who covered the 2014 general elections in South Africa noted that youths in the country boycotted the elections because they had not seen any meaning progress in the country.[4] In Uganda, voter turnout dropped from 72.6 percent in 1996 to 59.3 percent in 2011; and after Tanzania recorded a turnout of 84.4 percent in 2000, the figures dropped to 42.8 percent in 2010.[5] While voting is the easiest means of political participation in a democracy, the problem of voter apathy in Africa has over the years made is difficult for people to exercise indirect sovereign power. Secondly, scholars have argued that where free and fair elections manage to hold in the continent, real democratic governance is often largely elusive in such places. In other words, many Africans have not engaged their elected representatives after elections.[6] This lack of sustained engagement of elected representatives after balloting in Africa has made elected government officials largely unaccountable to the people who elected them.

In Nigeria, civic engagement since 1999 has been particularly low.[7] After about sixteen years of civilian rule, many voters remain uneducated about the electoral process. Voter political naivety made elected government officials largely unaccountable to the people who elected them. Voter political naivety undermines accountability and transparency in democratic processes. The inability of elected representatives to deliver on their electoral mandate disappoints youths and diminishes their interest in active political engagement. Despite the international commendation that Nigeria received for the peaceful conduct of the 2011 general elections,[8] governance in the aftermath of this election has not met the expectations of the populace.[9] Myriad political and social problems persisted. These included the problem of militant insurgency in the north-eastern part of the country gained momentum, rising unemployment and cost of living endemic corruption among the ruling class and infrastructure decay.

Youth engagement in politics is important because they are agents of change. Historically, youths have transformed government policies and made institutions more accountable through active engagement in decisions that shaped their lives and future. With full understanding of the potentials that youth-based political activism holds for Nigeria, Youngstars Foundation International focused on building young people through political education for active participation in democratic processes. In 2007, the foundation did some workshop to sensitize people for the general elections of that year. In 2011, the foundation used non-partisan Nigerian celebrities such as Innocent Idibia (2Face), Jude Abaga (M.I), Olubankole Wellington (Banky W) and Oladapo Daniel Oyebanjo (D’banj) as the association’s ambassadors in a USAID-sponsored concert that was organised to educate Nigerian youth on participatory democracy.

After the elections of 2011 however, the organization felt the need to reach a larger number of youths with their message of active post-election engagement of elected officials. This was done with a view to show that democracy works where elected officials are non-violently engaged by young people to deliver on electoral mandate. Also, the organization believed that well-informed youths would actively participate in the 2015 general elections and by extension, inculcate in them a culture of post-election engagement. Employing what they tagged “a youth democracy film”, Youngstars Foundation engaged non-partisan Nigerian celebrities in a 50 minutes entertaining but, highly educative movie to politically conscientize Nigerians on how to engage their elected representative after elections in order to deliver dividends of democracy. Youngstarts Foundation acknowledged that youth active post-election engagement could bring about positive change in the country. As such, the show was called “I Voted Now Wetin” (literarily translates as I voted, Now what?)

The foundation secured a grant of $127,000.00 USD for the project from National Democratic Institute for Public Affairs (NDI), International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Stories were developed around Nigeria’s problem of political apathy and political naivety. The movie was released officially in 2012.[10]In addition to the movie, a youth democracy film handbook was produced to reiterate the salient lessons in the movie. Months leading to the elections, the movie was aired across the country. Among other things, the movie arguably transformed youth groups, civil societies and weak political parties into large coalitions which weakened the position and influences of the ruling party.[11] The result was that for the first time in the history of Nigeria; an incumbent president and his political party (the People’s Democratic Party) which had ruled for sixteen (16) years was defeated in the 2015 general elections.[12]

The ruling party’s defeat was partly the result of mass political education and re-orientations which occurred across the country. This orientation, as demonstrated in the movie, did not only condemn the prevailing maladministration and political exclusion in the country, but also attributed Nigeria’s socio-economic problems to poor approach at democratization which manifested in electorates’ non-engagement of elected officials after elections. This case study does not ascribe the post-2015 political change solely to Youngstars Foundation or its youth democracy project, however, the “I Voted Now Wetin” movie made a valuable contribution to youth involvement in democratic politics in Nigeria. With serious message against government’s poor responsiveness to the masses, corruption and political exclusion in the post-2015 era, it became obvious that the movie was instrumental in promoting popular participation in Nigeria democratic process. Youngstars Foundation’s youth democratic project has particularly advanced Nigeria’s democratization processes by capturing and sensitizing youths on how to non-violently pressurize elected representatives to honour their campaign promises.

Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities

Youngstars Foundation was established in 1995 by Kingsley Bangwell.[13] It operates from Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital, with a branch in Accra, Ghana. Youngstars Foundation International has a concrete administrative set-up. The structure and hierarchy of the organization include a Board of Trustee, headed by a Board Chairman. As the Founder and Executive Director of the group, Mr. Kingsley Bangwell is one of the members of the Board. Below the BoT is the management team which consist of the Head of Operations, Head of Programs and his assistant, as well as Head of Accounts and Finance. The management team is responsible for the implementation of projects in accordance with the donor-approved proposals. The team also ensures proper documentation of financial records and reporting to donor institutions. There are few research assistants also within the administrative setup of this group with the primary responsibility of gathering data for home-grown democratic innovations and programs of the group.

Participant Recruitment and Selection

After the foundation secured the financial support of its partners to produce the “I Voted Now Wetin” movie and handbook, youths (between the ages of 18 and 35) were selected for the project through a script writing competition. They were encouraged to submit scripts for a short movie that would encourage youth post-election engagement. The social media/the internet was particularly useful in creating awareness about this opportunity. Stories that would convey the intended message of the project, which is, improving participatory democracy and good governance in Nigeria through active post-election engagement of elected representatives, were collected from interested youths. The best story was selected based on its in-depth description of Nigeria democratic problems and non-violent approach to solving them. Authors of scripts considered among the best (about 7 youths) were selected to act in the movie.

In addition to the selected youths, other non-partisan young music artists and celebrities who did not endorse any politician during the 2011 elections were persuaded to participate in the movie. This was because their participation in the project would attract the interest of Nigerian youths and give publicity to the movie and its content. In all, about 20 youths acted the movie. After the movie was produced, it was translated into Hausa language and Pidgin English for the purpose of those with limited understanding of English language. Copies of the movie were distributed free of charge to youths across the country and soft copy was made available online for streaming on YouTube webpage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=d5QPFF8H0sU#!.

Methods and Tools Used

Unlike several other NGOs and advocacy groups which employ traditional method of town-hall meetings, seminars and workshops, Youngstars Foundation International embrace the power of Information and Communications Technology in executing the youth democracy movie. While the group has used on-site training method in its previous campaigns and programs, its major outlets for the youth democracy movie project were television and the Internet (social media such as YouTube and Facebook). These social media platforms assisted them in reaching more Nigerian youths with issues affecting the country’s democracy. Their assumption was that most young Nigerians would find political participation on social media more engaging and interesting. In this case, employing an entertaining approach in driving democratic innovations brought hitherto excluded young people into political discussion. Importantly, the organization’s “Pass It On” (PIO) strategy was instrumental in effecting the desired change in youths’ approach to politics. The PIO method, often referred to as “Young Role Model Method” teaches young members of the group to spread the lessons of the youth democracy film, train their friends, and also lead praiseworthy life.  Moreover, disseminating issue-based political information on social media promotes youths' demand for accountability and transparency from their elected representatives

Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction

During the period of drafting the proposal for the “I Voted Now Wetin” project, deliberations within the youth group was made by the management team which is headed by the Founder, Mr. Kingsley Bangwell. Final approval however came from the Board of Trustees. After the project was presented to the donors, decisions about the total fund to be spent on the project, the number of cast and the means of distribution were made by Youngstars Foundation in collaboration with National Democratic Institute for Public Affairs (NDI), International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

After the movie was disseminated across the country, feedback from viewers were interesting and encouraging. Highlighting the effect of the Youngstar Foundation project on Nigerian youths, one report noted that about 20,000 youth signed agreement to eschew political violence during the 2015 general elections.[14] This cannot be divorced from the message of the movie which connects youths to a community of young change-makers who are trying to improve their communities. In particular, the movie educates youths on why people vote, the importance of manifestoes in electioneering campaigns and elections, and the importance of reaching out to the community representatives. A section of the handbook rhetorically asks, what do babies do when they need the attention of their mothers? What do children do to show their likes or dislikes? These questions answer give one reason why government may not have shown adequate attention to the problems in most communities. The movie has over 525 views on YouTube where it was posted for easy access.[15] The National Democratic Institute posted on its website that the film reached an estimated 45 million Nigerians around the country and abroad through social networking sites, television broadcasts and youth-initiated viewing parties.[16]

The primary lesson of the movie and its handbook was the development of active engagement of elected representatives and government officials after elections in order to keep campaign promises. Before he saw the film, an electricity consumer reported that there were few houses with prepaid electricity meter in Ebonyi State in eastern Nigeria. Prepaid meters were said to be available in the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) offices across the state. But rather than distribute to the state’s power consumers, PHCN officials created artificial scarcity of the meters and only give meters to individuals with whom they had business or social connections. This act of marginalization allowed PHCN to retain fixed power tariff plan for all houses without prepaid meter in the state. Putting ideas from the movie into practice, the consumer wrote a petition to the state manager of PHCN in Ebonyi. He sent copies to the Ebonyi state parliament, the Ebonyi state governor, the federal minister for power and the Office of the President. The petitioner was invited to the PHCN office and interviewed by the manager. His unusual petition facilitated the distribution and installation of prepaid meters across Ebonyi state that year.[17]

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

It could be argued that the ruling party’s defeat was partly the result of mass political education and re-orientations which occurred across the country. This orientation, as demonstrated in the movie, did not only condemn the prevailing maladministration and political exclusion in the country, but also attributed Nigeria’s socio-economic problems to poor approach at democratization which manifested in electorates’ non-engagement of elected officials after elections. While this case study does not ascribe the post-2015 political change solely to Youngstars Foundation or its youth democracy project, it suggests the “I Voted Now Wetin” movie made a valuable contribution to youth involvement in democratic politics in Nigeria. With serious message against government’s poor responsiveness to the masses, corruption and political exclusion in the post-2015 era, it became obvious that the movie was instrumental in promoting popular participation in Nigeria democratic process. Youngstars Foundation’s youth democratic project has particularly advanced Nigeria’s democratization processes by capturing and sensitizing youths on how to non-violently pressurize elected representatives to honour their campaign promises.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the movie and the voter education it provided, encouraged electorates to use formal petition mechanisms to demand for their rights from their representative. The movie served as an eye-opener, not only to the youths but also to the general public who has assumed that political office holders could not be challenged.[18] To make an example, an electricity consumer who saw the “I Voted Now Wetin”, movie from the eastern part of the country, Ebonyi state, reported that he stated receiving dividends of democracy after he acted on the lessons of the movie.[19]Through the lessons conveyed in it, the movie engendered sustained youth engagement in post-election democratic processes and governance. This positively impacted youths’ turnout during elections and continued political engagement after the elections. Although there was no official medium to receive feedback about the impact of the movie on democratic processes in Nigeria, enthusiasts contacted the foundation to report exceptional outcomes of the movie in their respective communities.[20]

Analysis and Lessons Learned

There was no mechanism for feedback on the impact of the movie. As such, its direct influence of participatory democracy across the country cannot be fully ascertained. This probably deprived Youngstars Foundation the opportunity to garner useful feedback and integrate such in the group’s future programs. Coupled with this lack of outcome indicator(s), there was no incentive to encourage people to provide feedback on the changes the movie may have caused in different communities. The lack of indicator(s) to measure the outcomes of this project arguably made it difficult for other pro-democracy groups or development agencies in the country to support similar democratic innovation projects.        

The movie was criticized by some Nigerians as being too idealistic and passive. Criticism was based on the belief of some individuals that the message from the move should have been more forceful and even militant. They argue that one can hardly get a response from elected representative in passive ways.[21] As such, they would rather like to see a movie that promotes confrontation and aggression in order to kick-start a political revolution, which they feel the country needs. Moreover, the 50 minutes movie hardly got a television sponsor. Due to the length of the film, it was difficult to consistently air it on television because of the enormous cost such publicity would attract. Most of the movie’s budget was devoted to the production of the movie, but little was devoted for its promotion. Thus, distribution was done in strategic places across the country rather than employing movie marketers in promoting the project. Despite the identified limitations however, the youth democracy movie appears more relevant and functional than traditional methods of conducting voter education such as workshop and town-hall meeting. This is because the digital nature of the group’s approach and it ability to draw on social media which allowed more young people to be enlightened on how to make democracy work.

See Also

Youngstars Foundation (organization)

Pass It On (method)

References

[1]. John Campbell (2015), “Africa in Transition: Nigeria’s Elections in 2011 and 2015”. Council on Foreign Relations: January 21, http://blogs.cfr.org/campbell/2015/01/21/nigerias-elections-in-2011-and-2015/#, accessed on 26th April, 2017.

[2]. Special Report (2012), “The Fourth Republic has failed, says Sagay”. The Vanguard: May 26, http://www.vanguardngr.com/2012/05/the-fourth-republic-has-failed-says-sagay/, accessed on 26th April, 2017.

[3]. For instance, see: Michael Bratton (2013), Voting and Democratic Citizenship in Africa. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

[4]. Azad Essa (2014), “Why aren't South Africa's born frees voting?” Al Jazeera: 7th May, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/05/why-aren-south-africa-born-frees-voting-20145617536762389.html, accessed on 27th April, 2017.

[5]. Christine Mungai (2017), “Voter Apathy: So Many Elections But Very Little Gain for Struggling Kenyans”. Standard Digital: 18th February, https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/ 2001229808/voter-apathy-so-many-elections-but-very-little-gain-for-struggling-kenyans, accessed on 27ths April, 2017.

[6]. David A. Falade (2014), “Political Participation in Nigerian Democracy: A Study of Some Selected Local Government Areas in Ondo State, Nigeria”. Global Journal of Political Science: 14(8), 17-23.

[7]. See: Linus UgwuOdo (2015), “Democracy and Good Governance in Nigeria: Challenges and Prospects”. Global Journal of Political Science: 15(3).

[8]. John Campbell (2015), “Africa in Transition: Nigeria’s Elections in 2011 and 2015”. Council on Foreign Relations: January 21, http://blogs.cfr.org/campbell/2015/01/21/nigerias-elections-in-2011-and-2015/#, accessed on 26th April, 2017.

[9]. Special Report (2012), “The Fourth Republic has failed, says Sagay”. The Vanguard: May 26, http://www.vanguardngr.com/2012/05/the-fourth-republic-has-failed-says-sagay/, accessed on 26th April, 2017.

[10]. Interview with Kingsley Bangwell, 42 years, Executive Director of Youngstars Foundation, Abuja, Nigeria, on 27th April, 2017.

[11]. Emmanuel G. Onofua (2015), “Lessons from 2015 General Elections”. The Independent: 16th April, http://independent.ng/lessons-2015-general-elections/, accessed on 26th April, 2017.

[12]. Ben Ezeamalu and Hassan Adebayo (2015), “Buhari in Historic Election Win, Emerges Nigeria’s President-Elect”. Premium Times: March 31, http://www.premiumtimesng.com/news /headlines/180374-buhari-in-historic-election-win-emerges-nigerias-president-elect.html, accessed on 26th April, 2017.

[13]. ON Leadership Forum (2014), The Future of Human Rights and Good Governance in Africa. Abuja: Omidyar Network, 11-12. Also, See: http://youngstarsfoundation.org/kingsley-bangwell/, accessed on 27th April, 2017.

[14]. Douglas Coltart (2015), “Hopes for a Peaceful Nigerian Election”. Democracy Speaks: 27th March, http://www.democracyspeaks.org/blog/hopes-peaceful-nigerian-election, accessed on 27th April, 2017.

[15]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5QPFF8H0sU

[16]. The National Democratic Institute (2012), "Nigerian Film Challenges Young Citizens to Engage with Elected Leaders." Posted on April 12: https://www.ndi.org/Youngstars-Nigeria-Aftercount

[17]. Interview with Kingsley Bangwell, 42 years, Executive Director of Youngstars Foundation, Abuja, Nigeria, on 27th April, 2017.

[18]. Interview with Kingsley Bangwell, 42 years, Executive Director of Youngstars Foundation, Abuja, Nigeria, on 27th April, 2017.

[19]. Interview with Kingsley Bangwell, 42 years, Executive Director of Youngstars Foundation, Abuja, Nigeria, on 27th April, 2017.

[20]. Interview with Kingsley Bangwell, 42 years, Executive Director of Youngstars Foundation, Abuja, Nigeria, on 27th April, 2017.

[21]. Interview with Kingsley Bangwell, 42 years, Executive Director of Youngstars Foundation, Abuja, Nigeria, on 27th April, 2017.

External Links

http://youngstarsfoundation.org/ydi/

Notes

The original version of this entry was written by Adebisi Alade and Bonny Ibhawoh of McMaster University (Paticipedia Team)

Lead image: Youngstars Foundation/Facebook https://goo.gl/HWyhuf