The Convergence (Day 3): 400 young candidates gather in Abuja (LIVE UPDATES)

Participants present at the event.
Participants present at the event.

The maiden edition of ‘The Convergence’ – an event held to empower and prepare young candidates ahead of the general elections in Nigeria – opens for the third day this morning in Abuja.

Speakers, including young lawmakers from other African countries would be speaking throughout the day.

About 400 young candidates of various political parties are participating in the conference.

The event is an initiative of Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA Africa) and the Not Too Young To Run movement, one of Nigeria’s largest and most successful youth movement in recent times. It is supported by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (UKAID).

Today is the final day of the three-day event which commenced Monday.

Click here to read PREMIUM TIMES full updates of Monday’s activities.

Workshops on campaigns for legislative elections and the use of social media to run effective campaigns are some of the highlights of Tuesday’s programme.

Stay on this page for today’s updates.

9:40am The first session on the ‘knots and bolts of elections in Nigeria,’ begins.

Tunji Lardner, the executive director of WANGONET, is giving an opening remark, which would pave the way for the session.

Mr Lardner tells the candidates to look beyond religious and tribal lines while pursuing their political career.

Cynthia Mbamalu, the project manager of YIAGA Africa and the anchor of today’s event takes the stage to announce a re-arrangement of the day’s sessions.

She urged the audience to use the #convergence on their social media handles to make the event trend.

Ms Mbamalu introduces the first session of the day.

Cheta Nwanze, head of research, SBMorgen Intelligence, takes the stage to give a lecture on the first session – ‘The power of data in political campaigns’.

He explains the importance of data.

He said if the police work with data it will make their primary assignment, which is securing Nigerians, more effective.

Using data projection on BREXIT, Mr Nwanze illustrates how data can become a tool for winning elections.

Mr Nwanze explains how data can define trends and patterns.

“Data is the new oil,” Mr Nwanze notes.

Mr Nwanze says data can be negative and misrepresented, when in the wrong hands.

He Nwanze highlighted how a data platform used data on ‘the worst fear of Americans’ to make people vote for Donald Trump.

10:50am – question and answer session.

A participant urges the audience to join her advocacy geared towards putting pressure on INEC to release data on candidates, among other information on electioneering.

“We will sue them if they refuse to release the data,” she says.

A participant who had worked at a data collection centre in Bayelsa state expressed worry over data used in the country.

“From my observation, all data in Bayelsa State are not correct.”

In response to a question, Mr Nwanne argues that Nigeria’s population is not as high as 180 million, as being projected.

“We don’t even know how many we are in this country. Our census has being built on a false premise from inception in 1931.”

Mr Nwanze notes that the country’s population is being politicized by the government.

He stressed the need for the young candidates to understand the demographics of their people. “They say numbers don’t lie and politics is a game of numbers.”

Mr Nwanze has worked in numerous information technology and media organisations, where he collects data.

A participant asks, “How do we build a social contract between the citizens and the government?”

In his response, Mr Lardner says candidates must have a good understanding of what social contract means.

He urged them to get their social contract with their community and also get the communities to trust them.

He says generally, every contract fails when there is a breach of trust. “We do not trust our government, in general.

“If I was running, I would go to the community and get their trust.”

He says leadership is a calling and it is not easy to lead a country that is as complex and complicated as Nigeria.

Samson Itodo, the convener of the event takes stage. He urges the candidates to ensure they have data on their constituents.

He lectures them on why data is the most basic tool in elections.

“You must have the number of PVCs collected and not collected in your constituencies. You should know those who collected and channel your campaign towards them.

“For those who did not collect in your strong holds, you need to find out the reason. You need to be doing the INEC job of informing your people how to collect their PVCs.”

Mr Itodo advices the candidates to make sure they have data on previous elections, especially on the seats they are contesting.

“If you don’t have results of previous elections on the seat you are contesting, then you have not started.

“You need to know who won and lost, what was the margin of lead? It is very important.

“You need to know if the incumbent is losing the support that gave him the winning margin.

Mr Itodo concludes by asking the candidates to work hard and see that people voting for them did not make their votes invalid by making mistakes while voting.

11:20am – Tea Break!!!

11:55am – commencement of the next session – ‘Elections and the law: When ignorance is not bliss’.

Festus Okoye, a lawyer and national commissioner of INEC will handle this session.

The host of the event, Ms Mbamalu, is currently on stage, welcoming the participants back into the Atiku Abubakar Hall, so as to begin the next session.

She introduces Mr Okoye to rounds of applause from the crowd.

Mr Okoye takes the stage. He says elections in Nigeria cannot be conducted in a vacuum because there are rules and regulation.

He says the constitution is the first of such laws.

“Every other law bows to the constitution.”

The electoral act 2010, as variously amended, is the second law guiding election, notes Mr Okoye.

He says the two laws guide elections in Nigeria.

He highlighted the need for the candidates to have elementary knowledge of the constitution and the electoral act. “If you don’t have Knowledge of the law, you will make simple mistakes that can render your ambition useless.

“You must know the qualification for any position you are contesting for.”

Citing some sections of the constitution, he listed some basic qualifications for contesting in an election.

He used the signing of the not too young to run bill to show an example of how the age qualification for contesting for presidential elections went from 40 to 35 years.

He gave instances of some young presidential candidates who were below 35 years, without knowing they are not qualified.

He tells the candidates to pay attention to the electoral act.

He cited various amendment on the electoral act over the years.

He spoke on the place of the card reader in the electoral process. He says all the cases in court never condemned the use of card reader in the electoral process.

He explains why the card reader is essential for elections. He disputes claims by some lawyers that the card readers are reasons for over voting.

Mr Okoye says the INEC is ready to conduct elections that Nigerians will be proud of but political leaders should be held accountable.

“They (political leaders) might try everything possible to mar the process. It is time to focus on vote buyers, those who train and use thugs during election and those who use violence means to threaten INEC officials.”

He urged the candidates to pay attention to the law. “If you pay attention to the law and you lose, there is a big chance for you with at the election tribunal.”

Mr Okoye is a human rights and constitutional lawyer. He worked as the executive director, human rights monitor.

Question and answer session at The Convergence 2018

Another INEC official takes the stage to give a lecture in the session on the ‘knots and bolts of elections in Nigeria,’.

Okechukwu Ibeanu, a professor and National Electoral Commissioner in INEC also stressed the need for young candidates to understand the legal frame work guiding elections, especially the INEC rules and regulations.

“You should see the law as your old testament and the INEC guidelines as the new testament.”

The professor further takes the candidates on a journey of how to win elections.

He says what is most critical is the extent a candidate can go in showing commitment and carrying the people who will vote for you along.

Mr Ibeanu is a professor of political science and concurrently research professor in development studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He served as Chief Technical Adviser to the chairman, INEC from 2010 to 2015.

Many hands are raised from the participants, as the host announces it is time for the INEC officials to take questions from the INEC officials.

12:40am – INEC officials takes questions from the candidates.

A participant puts INEC on the spot and accuses the commission of being biased.

“Why is INEC being partisan? Why is INEC substituting names of candidates who won elections?”

INEC is currently under fire as more candidates accuses the commission of several irregularities, especially regarding difficulties collecting PVCs.

Mr Ibeanu, in response, says the commission makes plans to train party agents.

On collection of PVCs, he says the commission only issues and get PVCs ready but is not responsible for delivery the PVCs at voters door steps.

On buying of PVCs, the professor says the commission has put in place tightened checks to stop such irregularity.

He further speaks on what the commission is doing to authenticate the voters register.

“The voters register will now be subjected to forensics.”

A candidate expresses worry on transportation of election materials.

“Politicians, in some cases, provide vehicle for transporting (voting) materials and thereby use that opportunity to manipulate the process. How will INEC stop that?” he asks.

1:00pm – More questions thrown at the INEC officials.

Mr Okoye answers questions this time. On a question on whether or not attending debates can mar a candidates’ candidacy, he says debates have nothing to do with the conduct of elections and therefore cannot debar any candidate.

Mr Okoye says every vehicle carrying election materials will be tracked in 2019.

He urged political parties, civic groups, religious and traditional rulers to promote the collection of voters’ card.

He speaks on the Osun elections. He says INEC lawfully announced the first election as inconclusive.

He further explains why elections were cancelled in seven polling units.

“If what we did was wrong, the law will make its declaration on that, so we should allow that.”

He argued that security officials should be blamed for the security challenges (in Osun).

Mr Okoye says INEC will deploy about 800 vehicles and gun boats for the 2019 elections.

Challenges women face in politics

Ebere Ifendu, convener, women in politics forum, takes stage to discuss challenges women face in politics.

Using projections, Mrs Ifendu illustrates how women have been represented in the country since inception of democracy.

She goes on to list some of the challenges women face in politics. “Sex for money is one of such challenges. Funny thing is that even when you give your body, you might not get the ticket.”

She says security is a major challenge for women.

2:05PM – Next session – Getting out the votes.

Joanah Mamombe takes the stage to speak on the subject. She starts by explaining how she managed to “get out the votes to win her elections.”

She lists strategies to win elections. “Set up a team and training. Planning is key. Understand your constituency; know the rules; get your voters registered; observe adapt but be consistent.”

Ms Mamombe is a 25-year-old gender and human rights activist. She is a Zimbabwean politician and former student leader. She recently joined the Zimbabwean parliament as a member after winning her elections at 25 years old, making her the youngest member of parliament for Harare West Constituency.

She further stresses the need for young politicians to properly style and brand him/herself. She says there is the need for candidates to have a budget that “you share with people that you are going to meet.”

She tells the candidates to have a strong message. “Your message should be in line with that of your political party.”

Ms Mamombe explains that her strategy of writing a letter helped her win. “I wrote 35,000 personal to my constituents and the impact was massive. I received several calls after that and I believe it played a huge part to my winning.”

She stresses the need for candidates to utilise social media to connect with more voters.

The lawmaker urges the candidates not to underestimate door to door campaign. She also speaks on political party endorsements.

2:20 pm: Still on getting out the votes – Serah Makka of ONE campaign takes the stage to speak on media and campaigns.

“Why should we vote for you?” Mrs Makka asks the candidates rhetorically. “Why are you running?”, she adds.

“If you do not understand then you need to go back to the drawing boards.

Makka tells the candidates that they are running for offices to serve the people. “You are running to serve the people.”

She explains that as candidates, “Your number one job is to listen. You are like midwives. You listen and deliver the dreams of the people. The citizens need and addressing that should be your priority.

“Even when you win people will ask you what are your plans because you have to be ready to answer the question.”

She says candidates need to know what other candidates are doing and learn how to differentiate yourself from them.

Mrs Makka is a trainer at the African Institute.

“You should be accountable”, the ONE campaign says as she concludes the session to a thunderous applause from the crowd.

2:50pm Damian Lawani takes the stage to handle a session on practical experiences and aspects of winning elective offices. ”

He starts by explaining the difference between not too young to run and not too young to win without money.

Mr Lawani says practically, money is the biggest challenge for young politicians in Nigeria. “I don’t see fresh graduates or young candidates coming up with kind of money requested by some major parties for nomination forms.”

He took the crowd on a journey on how it is almost impossible to run for an election without money.

The crowd are in frenzy moments after Eugenia Abu, one of Nigeria’s frontline broadcast journalist stepped on the stage to speak on how to use social media to get votes.

As the applauds dwindle, she starts by explaining how young candidates are supposed to package themselves on the social media.

The former NTA newscaster tells the candidates they need to have infographics, nuggets and information that move on social media. “You have to have a touch and feel of people wanting to visit your site. You have to brand your self properly in the media space.”

She admonishes the crowd to learn how to respond maturely on social media. “Do not do the kind of things that make you appear frivolous. Don’t respond in anger but with facts when people try to talk you down.

“Mind the kind of pictures you post on social media, the kind of people you stand with.”

She explains to the candidates that once they decide to run for office, “people will always judge you.”

She urges them to know how to carry themselves with pride.

Mrs Abu explains to the candidates how to engage with the press.

“You have to learn how to write press release and call for press conferences.”

Mrs Abu has won several awards over the years in the field of journalism including the Nigeria merit award as best newscaster of the year. She authored two published books. in the blink of an eye, a collection of essays which won her the ANA/NDDC Flora Nwapa prize in 2008.

Mrs Abu still maintains weekly columns in two national dailies, Tales from the main road in business day on Fridays and Dive favourite books with Eugenia Abu in the Sunday Trust. She is a motivational speaker, life coach and media strategist.

The event came to a high point as the journalist wraps up her session. Cheers and applauds reigns. At a standing ovation, she asks the crowd to recite a song by popular American rapper Nas, “I can”.

Responding to a question on media being biased, She says “you must understand the media from a perspective of ownership. In your generation, the media is in your hands. Create your own media and do not depend on government-owned media.”

Finally, she reaffirms her earlier position on branding on social media, “Language matters, your logo, your slogan matters, especially on the media space.

3:50 pm – Lunch Break!!!

4:45 pm – Lunch Break ends

Another session commences -Step up the vote!!!
Yemi Ademolekun, Executive Director, Enough is Enough Movement, steps up.

Ms Ademolekun starts by projecting a short video on advocacy for the collection of PVCs by her organisation.

She went on to list other plans by the Enough is Enough Movement to amplify campaigns for young candidates.

Enough is Enough movement (EiE) is a coalition of individuals and organisations committed to building a culture of good governance and public accountability in Nigeria through active citizenship. She is also the secretary to EiE’s board.

She has a first degree in mathematics and Economics from the University of Virginia and an MSc in development studies from the London School of Economics.

Also using a video, she introduces an app “REVODA”, the movement created to report the election process and incidents. The app allows you post pictures text and videos on how the process goes.

The activist explains that her group also advocates for the protection of votes and the voters.

She says they also advocate for teaching people on the best way to vote so as to avoid cancellation of votes.

Still on voter education, a lawyer and development researcher, Nana Nwachukwu, steps up to speak on project step up the vote.

She says the campaign on step up the vote is launched to make Nigerians know they can do more with the PVCs. “We need to understand the power of PVC and why we should always use it.”

Ms Nwachukwu explains they went into research on why people do not vote in Nigeria. She used a projected video vox-pop on “how much can you sell your votes?” to buttress her point.

Step up the vote movement is a voter education campaign targeted at young people.

Ms Nwachukwu in a projected slide shows Nigeria as a country with high voter apathy. “Many young people don’t vote in Nigeria. Without voting, your PVC is utterly useless.”

She urges the candidates to step up their votes and that of their constituency so as to make them count.

5:17pm – Session on voter education ends.

Cynthia Mbamelu of YIAGA takes the stage for a session on “Resources that make a difference in elections protecting electoral mandate: watching the vote!!!

She starts her session with a projected video documentary on use of card readers during previous elections.

Ms Mbamalu is the Project manager of YIAGA Africa and the Project Director of Watching the vote project. She is a lawyer who is passionate about human rights and constitution-building.

The lawyer explains plans and programmes of YIAGA movement. She says her group deploys observers in every ward and local government.

“Using the observers is very important to monitor the electoral process. The card readers are very important to us because it determines the credibility of the process.

She gives the movements’ objectives.

“Our mission is to give details in specifics of the election process.”

5:30 pm – Just as the event was kick-started with her scintillating solo performance, singer and guitarist, Ire Tolu-hi, steps up on stage again to give the crowd a memorable closure for the performance. The singer performs Timi Dakolo’s “great nations.”

Ms Tolu-hi’s haunting voice throws the crowd into a peaceful silence. Eventually, the crowd joined her in the song.

“We rise, we believe in this nation… we believe in Nigeria and the hope she holds…”, the singer sings as she even owns Dakolo’s song with every stroke of the chord of her guitar.

Her performance ends as chants and claps reigns. The event nearing conclusion on a high note.

U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symingtion will soon give a closing remark to wrap up the event.

Hamza Lawal, a strategy team member of the Not Too Young to Run Movement steps on stage to give a brief closing remark.

Mr Lawal starts with going down the memory lane on how the group advocated and finally got the Not Too Young to Run Bill signed.

He calls up on stage the strategic team members of the Not Too Young To Run Movement to a standing ovation and rounds of applauds.

Mr Symington, the US Ambassador steps up on stage to give a closing remark.

His first words. “You can not lead if you do not listen. You have to know what your people want. The minimum essential for a leader is to have the people in your hearts and minds. They need to follow you by choice.”

He says what hold people together is personal friendships.

The diplomat takes the candidates on a journey on how he came to Nigeria.

“You might not win the elections but what matters the most is that you came together,” he notes.

“Let us talk about winning. The greatest challenge everywhere in the world is how to help people find their way – The Convergence!!!

“The challenge is not to get elected alone but for the class of 2019 to change the face of democracy in Nigeria forever.”

On that note, the three-day ‘Convergence’ comes to an end.


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