Unleashing the power of citizen-led, values-based governance.
In Africa's complex sociopolitical landscape, a movement emerging that challenges norms and brings fresh energy to democratic governance. Across the continent, citizens are breaking barriers, trying new methods, and leading efforts to create transformative change driven by the people. This movement is unfolding against the backdrop of important governance pillars: security and rule of law, participation, rights and inclusion, and foundations for economic opportunity and human development. A revival of citizen-led transformation is within sight, offering a hopeful and progressive outlook.
A Decade of Decline
In the past decade, Africa’s core pillars of governance have shown concerning decline, marked by coups, conflicts, and pervasive corruption. Recent coups in Gabon, Niger, and Mali disrupted democratic governance and Transparency International consistently ranks many African countries among the world's most corrupt. Further eroding governance are the abuse of human rights, exclusion of marginalized groups from political processes, and security challenges.
Informed by the 2021 Brookings report and the 2022 Ibrahim Index of African Governance, this trajectory paints a disconcerting portrait of security deterioration, eroding rule of law, waning citizen participation, rights violations, and exclusion. This regression stifles the potential for economic growth and human development, and places the core tenets of democracy in jeopardy. Sustainable progress cannot flourish within an environment that neglects citizen engagement, rights protection, and adherence to the rule of law.
Amid unmet citizen expectations, fading trust in democratic institutions has widened the gap between the governed and those in power. This gap has sparked a significant shift in Africa's narrative, motivating citizens to activate change, reclaim effective governance, and demand responsible leadership. Amid the backdrop of these formidable challenges, #FixPolitics offers hope, bringing together individuals who are committed to political reform with the aim of restoring good governance pillars in Africa.
Top of Form
The erosion of citizens' trust in democratic institutions is a consequence of unmet expectations and growing disparities between the citizens and government.. The disconnect between political leadership and aspirations of the people has birthed a groundswell of activism, innovation, and political engagement across the continent. Citizens are awakening to the realization that change cannot be imposed from above; instead, they must play an active role in shaping their own destinies. The call for effective leadership and governance that prioritizes collective wellbeing over personal interests is becoming louder, and more resolute.
Pioneering Change through Citizen-Led Governance
#FixPolitics is an indigenous grassroots organization that I established in Nigeria based on a lifetime of personal and professional experiences in civic engagement. As the curious daughter of a doting public-servant father working in the early 1970s, I came to learn and replicate his strong interest in voicing dissatisfaction toward poor governance and corrupt leadership. As a young professional in the 1980s, working in one of the Big-Five accounting companies, my public pronouncements and activism on issues of corruption led me to co-found Transparency International,the renowned global civil-society anti-corruption organization based in Berlin, Germany.
Through the School of Politics, Policy, and Governance (SPPG), #FixPolitics is empowering a new generation of leaders with the essential skills and values for effective governance.
I never looked back from that time and continued to purposefully combine my professional life with citizen activism, including serving as Nigeria’s Minister of Solid Minerals and Minister of Education. I was regarded as an activist-minister insisting on due process, transparency, accountability, probity, anti-corruption, and good governance in public office. I encouraged people and organizations to hold the government (and myself) accountable. I continued on the same path when I served as vice president for the Africa region at the World Bank in Washington, DC.
Frustrated by the lack of good governance in Nigeria, I ran for president in 2019. I encountered political party corruption and made the difficult decision to end my candidacy, even though I already was on the ballot. At this point, I was committed to understanding what it would take to fix Nigeria's—nay Africa's—broken democracy, politics, and governance.
Dedicated to rebuilding governance systems from their foundation, my #FixPolitics research findings recognized the fundamental role that politics plays in shaping nations. Its overarching goal envisions an Africa characterized by inclusive politics, the prioritization of citizens' needs, upholding democratic principles, and normalizing good governance. Anchored in this vision is the Triangular Pillars of Democracy, or TPD, a transformative framework meticulously crafted to reshape Africa’s political landscape. This framework represents a three-prong structural solution devised to transform the political landscape and yield positive governance outcomes: an empowered and engaged electorate; leadership rooted in values; and a restructured political, electoral, and constitutional environment across Africa.
The #FixPolitics pillars stand as a compelling testament to citizen-led governance throughout Africa. Through initiatives and grassroots campaigns, we have successfully mobilized and organized Nigerian citizens. Initiatives include town hall meetings, online advocacy, and community dialogues—creating spaces for citizens to voice their concerns, ideas, and solutions. This mobilization has led to increased voter engagement, transparency in electoral processes, and improved government accountability. Moreover, #FixPolitics cultivates governance that genuinely represents the interests of the people, addressing issues like inclusive policymaking, social justice, and equitable resource allocation. By fostering this citizen-led movement, #FixPolitics is actively shaping a more democratic and responsive political landscape in Nigeria and beyond.
Transforming Nigeria and Beyond
#FixPolitics has already harnessed the power of its model to create tangible change within Nigeria, Africa's most populous democracy. It exemplifies the essence of citizen-led governance, transforming passive bystanders into active agents of progress. One of the flagship initiatives is #OfficeOfTheCitizen, which empowers individuals to realize their potential in shaping governance outcomes through advocacy, education, and engagement. It has spurred high levels of political participation—and has a renewed sense of civic responsibility.
The core of the impact of #FixPolitics is value-based leadership, encapsulated in the three C’s: character, competence, and capacity. This has resonated deeply within Nigeria's political landscape, pushing citizens to demand ethical and effective governance. Through a grassroots network of community organizers, #FixPolitics is instilling civic education, fostering active citizenship, and nurturing a culture of collective responsibility at both the individual and community levels, empowering citizens and cultivating leaders.
#FixPolitics' contributions extend beyond grassroots mobilization and its advocacy for electoral reform led to the enhancement of Nigeria's Electoral Act in 2022, introducing technological innovations to bolster transparency and trust. The fruits of these reforms were evident in the emergence of a previously marginalized political force, the Labor Party, which made significant gains in the 2023 elections, contributing to the revitalization of democracy.
The story of Africa's transformation through citizen-led endeavors is one that helps to redefine the continent's narrative and reaffirms the indomitable spirit of its people, united in their pursuit of a better tomorrow.
Through the School of Politics, Policy, and Governance (SPPG), #FixPolitics is empowering a new generation of leaders with the essential skills and values for effective governance. Notably, more than 50 SPPG students are actively engaged in the 2023 elections, marking a significant shift in leadership dynamics. These five SPPG alumni are shedding light on their learning experiences, contributions to their communities, and the blueprint they envision for broader transformation.
Richard Mammah reflects on the crisis of underdevelopment in Africa, primarily caused by poor political practices. His experience with #FixPolitics has enlightened him about the urgency of addressing these challenges. Through collaborative efforts, he has been working with others to address political issues in Nigeria and Africa, aiming to bring positive change to communities plagued by want, deprivation, and poor leadership.
“An overarching element in the crisis of underdevelopment in Africa has to do with poor political practices,” Mammah says.
Aisha Yesufu underscores the significance of fixing politics to achieve good governance. Her involvement with #FixPolitics has taught her the importance of empowering citizens to actively participate in politics, to choose competent candidates, and hold them accountable.
“If we don’t fix politics we cannot get good governance,” Yesufu asserts. She highlights her work with the #RedCardMovement, an initiative to inform people about their voting power. Despite challenges, Aisha remains dedicated to preventing disillusionment among citizens and ensuring they stay engaged in the political process.
Professor Remi Sonaiya emphasizes the diverse and passionate community within #FixPolitics. As a co-chair of a work study group, she has gained a deeper understanding of the complexities of politics, policy formulation, and leadership. Sonaiya believes that the future of Nigeria will be shaped by the dedicated members of #FixPolitics, committed to transforming governance through evidence-based approaches and shared values.
Adeola Azeez, an alumnus of the SPPG, discusses the impact of the program on emerging political leaders. She emphasizes the importance of values like integrity, transparency, and accountability, which she learned from #FixPolitics. Azeez ran for office in 2023 and despite not winning, is determined to leverage her knowledge and networks to drive change in Nigeria's political landscape and promote representative governance in her community.
“I am more determined than ever to leverage all the knowledge and networks I have gained through #FixPolitics to advance the goal of driving change in Nigeria’s political landscape,” Azeez says.
Dominic E. Obozuwa recognizes the need for a transformation in Nigeria's governance system and how #FixPolitics plays a crucial role in this process. Obozuwa has learned the importance of active citizen participation, free and fair elections, transparency, and accountability through the organization.
“For true governance and democracy to thrive, power and civic responsibility must be exercised by all adult citizens; there must be free, fair and credible elections, as well as transparency and accountability of governance institutions,” Obozuwa says.
His motivation stems from a deep desire to address Nigeria's challenges and maximize its opportunities. Obozuwa actively participates in all three of #FixPolitics’s Work Study Groups, contributing to policy development, grassroots engagement, and electoral reforms.
“Armed with my 'Holy Rage for Change' and my learning from #FixPolitics, I worked with my team to create a new strategy for the vision of my own non-government organization,” Obozuwa says.
As #FixPolitics expands to include Senegal—and with plans to encompass six more African countries: Ghana, Cameroon, Namibia, Kenya, Mali, and Zimbabwe—the organization is poised to help create change across the continent by fostering true citizen-led governance.
The growing force of individuals nurturing citizen-led governance across Africa is a testament to their determination and innovation—and to the potential of collective empowerment. Amid the formidable challenges of effective governance, a resolute spirit prevails, as citizens begin to write their own destinies. The emergence of #FixPolitics, along with other citizen-led efforts, serves as the transformative promise of ordinary individuals to redefine their nations. It underscores the profound truth that active civic engagement and citizen-led initiatives are required to truly reshape the landscape of governance and foster sustainable progress.
Despite the challenges and adversity, we must believe in a future where engaged and informed citizens wield the tools to mold their realities, and the notion of good governance becomes a tangible, lived experience. The story of Africa's transformation through citizen-led endeavors is one that helps to redefine the continent's narrative and reaffirms the indomitable spirit of its people, united in their pursuit of a better tomorrow.
Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili is the senior economic adviser of the Africa Economic Development Policy Initiative and one of the co-founders and pioneer directors of Transparency International, the Berlin-based global anti-corruption organization. She is the founder and CEO of Human Capital Africa, working in the education sector across the continent. Ezekwesili is also the Founder-Chairperson of the Board of the School of Politics, Policy, and Governance (SPPG) in Abuja, Nigeria. She was a candidate for the office of president of Nigeria in 2019, an experience that led her to establish #FixPolitics, a research-based citizen-led initiative.
Cover photo: Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili speaking to reporters at a #FixPolitics event. Photo courtesy #FixPolitics.