Elections are very critical to the sustenance of any democracy because they give voters the opportunity to select those who will preside over their affairs.
Since 2011, the Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) has been involved in election observation in Nigeria. YIAGA’s Programs Manager, Cynthia Mbamalu says the organization’s involvement in election observation is recognition that election is not just a political process but a matter of human rights.
On the 26th of September 2016, YIAGA once more showed its commitment to the promotion of democracy in Nigeria with the training of 60 observers on their roles and responsibilities on election day.
The training focused on basic election observation guidelines, do’s and don’ts during an observation mission as well as the principles of election observation.
Cynthia Mbamalu said citizens have a responsibility to be watchdogs and ensure that their choices are reflected at the polls.
In his welcome address to the observers, Samson Itodo, the Head Research and Policy Advocacy thanked them for their patriotism and commitment to democratic development in Nigeria. He dwelt briefly on the importance of election observation, stating that the exercise aims to boost citizen confidence, promote transparency and ensure compliance with electoral guidelines.
Itodo said the observers would observe the election from kickoff of the election, including the early arrival of election materials, accreditation and voting process, as well as collation of results.
He also said the individuals would observe the conduct of election, attitude of electoral officials, voters and security officials, in and around the polling stations.
On the principles of election observation, Itodo reiterated the need for the observers to be neutral, honest, professional and possess high integrity.
“As an INEC accredited organization, we are non-partisan and very neutral. We do not compromise on that”, he said
He urged the observers to respect security operatives at the polling units and to ensure that their reports are credible and verifiable.
“Election is a major civic activity that gives us a sense of belonging as citizens. Observers contribute their own quota to the development of our democracy. Election is an act of patriotism”, he concluded.
In their evaluations, the participants rated the training content “satisfactory, useful and insightful”.
Wellington, a young observer praised YIAGA for the training content, calling it “an in-depth and wonderful experience”. He expressed his readiness to put the knowledge to use in ensuring free, fair and violent-free elections in Edo State.
Esther Ogwu, another observer, called on the people of Edo State to exercise their franchise and to shun all acts of violence that may jeopardize the process.