From Anger To Participation: Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria’s First Five Years

Things happened really fast. Social Media rants. eMails. Calls. Meetings. It was all for one reason: halting Nigeria’s gradual slide into another one of its numerous lows. The anger was real, and the fact that a “cabal” was accused of being in charge of the nation’s administration, instead of elected officials, further angered citizens. Yet, in the midst of all the citizen reaction, there was a central question: where are the young (wo)men who make up majority of the country’s population.

On March 8, 2010, was registered. By the next day, messages rolled out from the official eMail address of what had become a movement of young professionals who were not going to look the other way because of their own individual comfort zones. “March 16 is the date when young Nigerians get angry!” was the subject of the eMail that touched on the power vacuum created by the president’s illness, the nation’s electricity woes, fuel scarcity, and announced a rally by young professionals, celebrities, media, students and activists.

In Abuja, and in Lagos, we used technology to keep the eyes of the world on protests that registered the anger of young Nigerians, and that called for a better country. When the Vice President was eventually announced as Acting President, demonstrating that Nigeria had at least been rescued from illegal administrators, it was clear that what had become a movement of angry young Nigerians needed to find a way to channel that energy towards the real work of good governance.

A decision was made to set up an organisation, aptly named Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria. The slogan, “enough is enough!”, was borrowed from earlier protests by the Save Nigeria Group but it stuck as a valid expression of our anger and stayed on as the organisation’s name. An inaugural “board” was set up and a number of participating individuals signed up their respective organisations as founding EiE coalition members. We had moved from chanting “our mumu don do” to working towards ensuring free and fair elections in 2011. Since technology was extremely useful for the cause of protests, it was only natural we opted for the same platform as we planned our engagement for the elections.

It was at one of those evening meetings that the RSVP slogan was first suggested. Register. Select. Vote. Protect. Once it was shared via BBM, no one could argue with the fact that we had found the right slogan that would inform the various aspects of our work as an organisation that had a self-imposed mandate of ensuring free and fair elections in Nigeria, using technology. The highly controversial 2007 elections presented a gloomy picture we didn’t want to see a repeat of, and the heavy use of technology by the Barack Obama campaign in 2008 presented something close to what we though technology could do for Nigeria’s elections.

From rallies, we moved on to Town Hall Meetings. As plans continued towards the 2011 elections, a group of technology experts gathered in a room in Lagos for 2 days, and came up with what was then built upon to become EiE’s tool for decentralised citizen election monitoring opportunity in Nigeria – ReVoDa. With the mobile app on just over 2,000 mobile phones spread across 35 states (no one registered on the ReVoDa network from Bayelsa) and the Federal Capital Territory, EiE produced daily reports during the 2011 elections. Thanks to simple technologies like SMS, we informed voters of postponed elections, shared updates on incidents and called for calm when reports of violence came through.

It’s now been 5 years since the Enough is Enough Nigeria movement started with the rally in Abuja, and a lot has happened in that time, including the fact that some founding members have become partisan even though the institution itself remains non-partisan so that it can call any government to order. This was why some of us resigned from the board as we approached the 2015 elections. While the last five years were spent moving from anger to structured engagement, the next five might be defined by a new active role that Nigerian citizens must play in order to avoid outsourcing government engagement to activists and a few that are seen as “young leaders”.

As a founding member who had the privilege of leading EiE through various technology initiatives, nothing gives me more joy than seeing that the message that EiE once fought hard to make central is now mainstream. Today, the average Nigerian citizen is more aware of the role we can play in ensuring good governance. It is my hope that over the next 5 years of EiE’s existence, we will see the Office of the Citizen strengthened, and government will become afraid of the people, knowing that every false step or wrong move is one more nail in the coffin of their next electoral ambition. Enough is enough of the obvious disconnect between government inaction and consequence at the polls. Enough is enough.