Dear Alfred: Now That You’re An Angel In Heaven, Keep Watching Over Us

Hamzat Lawal November 8, 2021 0

by Hamzat Lawal

I have been asked, many times, what  makes Connected Development (CODE) and Follow The Money (FTM) thrive so well. My answer has never been ambivalent; People. At the centre of our work, are the passionate people who drive the campaigns, coupled with the digital space. Simply put, the marriage of technology and people birthed the revolution and success of FollowTheMoney and CODE, I just happened to be in the middle of the dynamics.

Now that our mission has expanded beyond the shores of Nigeria, it is easy to see the fundamental role played by digital technologies in harnessing the vast potentials of young people across the world, as they commit their talents towards advancing their communities by holding governments to account. Hence, our line of work at CODE requires painstaking analysis and cross-border innovations. The ever-evolving social media space and highly volatile multimedia models are our allies. We depend on them to keep marching forward.

Hamzat Lawal and Alfred Oji

However, we rely more on key human talents to coordinate these efforts. These skilled humans of CODE, navigate through the morass of progress reports and present them in a way that portray development details and resonate with our teeming volunteers, partners and wider public. This is why our social media posts and monthly newsletters have never failed to evoke the tenacity of our vision and the gravity of our projects, in Africa and beyond.

It is therefore instructive to note that someone was behind the curtain, on the keyboards, pushing out our labors in words and pictures. A young man whose heart burnt with an unquenchable fire for societal change, followed us day and night, as we “Follow The Money”, so that the world could keep tabs on what we were doing at every turn of the road. A man who was creative, clear and concise in all our communication materials. A man who made it possible for CODE to maintain a resounding presence in the digital space, where it all began. 

Dear partners, supporters, friends and citizens, with extreme sadness, I announce that the gentle man who manned our online presence, Alfred Anicho Oji, CODE’s digital media officer, passed away on Friday, 22nd October, 2021. This came as a rude shock to all of us at CODE.

Alfred was dedicated and committed to the work of advocating for improved public services in Nigeria, Africa and beyond. He was someone who, in every way possible, embodied CODE’s values and principles of justice, social accountability and empowering marginalized grassroots people. He was a committed development worker who held together our social media assets and consistently grew CODE and FTM’s online community simultaneously – showcasing our work and impact to local and international audiences.

Alfred was good-humored, friendly and, simply, a warm person to be around. His death was unimaginable and we will miss him sorely. We mourn this egregious loss of a fellow comrade in the fight for human rights and a fair world.

On a personal note, I can say that Alfred was not just a staff of CODE; he was a remarkable colleague, a trusted fellow and a perfect gentleman. He was dedicated to his job, and friendly to everyone. He was supportive, and vividly carried the vision of CODE. Indeed, I have lost a comrade in the struggle.

Alfred lived a full life. He gave himself completely to the cause he believed in. Thinking back now, it was as if he was in a hurry to finish his assignment before leaving. He was a hard worker. This was evident in his work etiquette. We saw that whenever the CODE team was on a field trip; he followed us virtually – in order to get the best stories for our digital platforms. In fact, his professional tenacity inspired everyone to be more productive.

Certainly, even to the last hour, there was a sense of urgency in his push for excellence and delivery. I remember that a day before he passed, Alfred shared his thoughts on the EndSARS protests anniversary. My personal photographer, Jide Ojediran, made the video. Jide said that he had wanted to make the recording the next Monday, but Alfred insisted that the video be made that Thursday. He was gone the next day. Thankfully, we now have Alfred’s three-minute perspective on police brutality in Nigeria. Obviously, here was a man that wanted to change the world, and make it a better place, with the little time he had.

He was a calm, content man who hardly got angry. For Alfred, CODE was a family. He recently brought his fiancée whom he was just about to wed to the office; apparently to introduce her to his second home. I remember the warm moments I had with the promising couple. My heart now bleeds at the pain his fiancée is presently going through at losing such a wonderful soulmate.

I remember when we traveled to Osun for our colleague, Busayo Morankinyo’s traditional and white wedding, and how we played, joked and made fun of life. Alfred insisted he became my “orderly” for the occasion – opening doors for me, and calling me “Boss”. I never knew it was the last CODE-play to feature our indefatigable brotherly comrade, Alfred. Oh, what a life!

That fateful Friday was the darkest of days for me, when I received a call that Alfred was no more. Even more painful, when I was told that as the CEO, I was the one to make the call to his family. It was one of the toughest moments of my human existence. I had yet to adjust to the shock, and was told that I was to be the bearer of the same bad news.

In all, I am profoundly encouraged to have worked with a young man like Alfred. He embodied what the quintessential Nigerian youth should be: Hope for a New Nigeria, dedication to work, family and colleagues. The phrase “fierce dedication to what is right” defines the way Alfred lived his life. And I am proud that I was part of that short but glorious sojourn.

He certainly made the world a better place. And his memory means a lot to CODE. Although his physical presence is gone, the lessons he taught us will strengthen our lives and our digital space for many years to come.

Alfred, with your death, I have learnt more lessons about life. Our time here on earth is brief and what always counts and matters is how we lived – the lives we touched and the difference we made in our society. You were very brilliant and very selfless. You believed so much in Nigeria and your work is evident of how much good you wished for our dear country, and how much better you would have made her, if you had the time. Like our heroes’ past, may your death not be in vain. I will miss your tenacious dedication to service. Till we meet again, Adieu, my friend and brother!

Hamzat Lawal is an activist and leads various grassroots campaigns across Africa. He is the Founder of Connected Development [CODE] and Follow The Money. 

Leadership by example: Periscope of a grassroots campaigner

Hamzat Lawal September 1, 2021 5

Defining leadership in the 21st century is easy but can also be conceptually complex. In this digital era, as the world shifts to espouse a digital economy, the characteristics of leadership have transitioned from controlling, directing and organizing to influence, but not just simply – It has now become expedient for today’s leaders to operate beyond management and become an embodiment of a unique vision that is implanted in their followers or team members in order to achieve a goal or a greater good.

Growing up, we read about leaders like Julius Caesar, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandella, who led their people to victory in either war or non-violent protests. In fact, history records their feat as the utmost symbol of leadership. But as society evolves, a new crop of leaders are emerging and their legacy isn’t being built on just their ability to stand or speak against oppression or injustice but in creating institutions and influencing a generation of people to improve society. 

Leadership is no longer about occupying an executive office, a true leader is one who deposits or brings to life the leadership capacity in every individual he meets (even virtually).

A young activist that clearly exudes these progressive qualities of leadership is Hamzat Lawal. He founded Connected Development (CODE), from a place of distress and discomfort for injustices happening to marginalised people in remote communities. Through CODE, Lawal has led advocacies and government’s actions towards providing timely intervention to these deprived communities in the areas of healthcare provision to reduce needless deaths and maternal mortality; education infrastructure to ensure more children in these regions are able to learn and have access to future opportunities; provision of water and sanitation services.

As CODE intensified its work in rebuilding society, Lawal developed a unique socio-digital accountability initiative called Follow The Money(FTM). Through FTM, over eight thousand young Africans tagged community champions have been empowered to demand and drive accountability and transparency in governance in hundreds of communities across the continent.

With FTM, Lawal kindled young social activists across Nigeria and Africa to become active citizens who are invested in good governance and accountability in order to ensure public money is used for public good. 

In 2020 alone, despite the COVID pandemic, these ‘new-born’ activists visited over 250 communities, inspected and monitored the implementation of projects, created online and offline campaigns to demand better from the government and impacted over four million lives. 

By influencing a new generation of activists who are demanding better from governments in Africa and impacting lives of people living in the most marginalized communities, Lawal is demonstrating qualities of a Global Citizen – which in today’s context is the prime definition of leadership.

With a mission to build a movement of 100 million people to end extreme poverty by 2030, Global Citizen is developing a community of leaders like Lawal, who can use their voices and work to address deep-rooted causes and combat systemic poverty across the globe.

To achieve its mission in Africa, the organization recently launched its 2021 fellowship program powered by pop star Beyoncé Knowles (BeyGood) and funded by top American filmmaker Tyler Perry. The program is set to empower 15 Africans, including five Nigerians with network and resources to become global leaders.

As part of fulfilling its objectives, Global Citizen selected eight individuals to serve as advisory council board members, all providing support for fellows and the fellowship program.

Lawal, widely known as the anti-corruption activist, was selected to work as an adviser in the area of citizenship. The year-long program will provide the opportunity for Lawal to once again partake in the moulding of young future leaders.

His role will include spearheading special projects and providing mentorship and guidance for fellows. He will work alongside other influential African youth leaders such as: Aisha Yesufu, Bonang Matheba, Charmaine Houvet and Nozipho Tshabalala, to mention only a few. 

As the progenitor of socio-digital accountability in Nigeria gears up to impact the lives of young, global leaders, his contributions towards fostering transparency in governance has earned him recognition as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons in Nigeria for the year 2021. 

Organized by the Junior Chamber International (JCI) the award features change-makers from various sectors who have not only excelled in the work and created positive impact, but also blazed the trail for socially responsible leaders all around the world. 

Lawal will be getting awarded for his strides in the political, legal and government sphere. Beyond fruitful legacies, notable awards and recognitions, the path of the grassroot campaigner and activist shines forth as a beacon for all those who desire a better-developed continent and works toward creating the change they so desire. 

In the words of John Maxwell, “the growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.”

Fighting for Deprived and Abandoned Communities in Africa

Hamzat Lawal October 16, 2019 2

“The world is debating local solutions to global problems using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2063 as benchmarks for accelerating inclusive development.” ~ Hamzat Lawal.

Children in far-to-reach Lanzai community in Bauchi State

Despite billions of dollars in export revenue since the discovery of oil deposits in the late 1950s, more than half of Nigerians live in abject poverty without access to basic human needs. Literacy is low and rural banditry is biting. Recent data depicts Nigeria as the headquarters of people living in extreme poverty in the world. In large part, the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of political leaders – former military administrators and their corrupt civilian accomplices, who, for over a century  have humbled a once-proud nation through outright incompetence in resource management and poor governance.

With institutions broken and services poorly delivered, millions of Nigerians, mostly young people – the educated and business class, are fleeing the country to escape impoverishment and political repression. Rather than join the bandwagon, Follow The Money (FTM) – a social accountability movement, was founded in 2012 to challenge the status quo and proffer citizen-led solutions to a political setup dancing on the brink.

First, FTM vigorously and successfully advocated for the cleanup and remediation of Bagega, a rural community in Zamfara State, Northern Nigeria, after 400 children had died from lead poisoning as a result of artisanal mining activities and flood devastation. Following the tragic incident and FTM’s call for action, the Nigerian Federal government released over $5.3 million for the cleanup of Bagega. However, the funds did not get to the affected community until there was international outcry initiated and coordinated by FTM in collaborations with the Human Rights Watch. The team mobilized thousands of citizens and leveraged on the power of social media using the hashtag – #SaveBagega, and government was compelled to do the right thing. Summarily, the efforts paid off as over 1,500 children – who suffered lead poisoning as a result of contaminated water sources, received treatment; the community underwent reconstruction – roads constructed, solar-powered portable drinking water provided, schools and primary healthcare centres built and fully equipped.

An elderly man in Lanzai community, Bauchi State

The results of #SaveBagega emboldened the team and we scaled up. Within seven years (2012 – 2019), FTM has metamorphosed into a continental movement comprising of activists; journalists and researchers, campaigning for transparency and accountability in the way public resources are deployed, spent and managed. As of today, FTM is the biggest social accountability movement in Africa.

This was not enough. We recognised that since government failures are systemic, the solutions must be too. We revised our theory of change and initiated unusual engagements with ministries, departments and agencies ((MDAs) of government especially education, health, extractive and water and sanitation, which deliver such services that directly affect the lives of people living in poverty. The goal is clear: we want better public services for millions of Nigerians living in marginalized communities.

Very often, marginalized communities (citizens) do not possess information about government policies, programmes and projects in their localities. From our findings, this causes confusion and sometimes, distrust between citizens and government. At FTM, we bridge this lacuna by ensuring that project details (budget, duration, contractors and implementing agency) are clearly communicated in simple language to communities in order to engender civic participation and ownership for sustainability.

From the evidence, community participation limits tendencies for corruption as local stakeholders are constantly encouraged to keep their eyes on projects and to ask relevant questions that would advance project implementation. Since 2012, we have successfully advocated for USD 500 million and successfully tracked over USD 10 millionwhich would have ordinarily been misspent – mindlessly shortchanging the people. Due size and population, Nigeria matters for West Africa, Africa, and the world. This is why civil societies must be strengthened to demand accountability – judicious utilization of scarce public resources, and the world must pay attention and lend its support to ensure that Nigeria invests in her bulging population in the spirit of sustainable development goals. If Nigeria remains trapped in the quicksand of corruption, political malaise, economic decline and ethnic rivalry, the world will be worse off for it.

Great Green Wall: Key to Nigeria’s Greatness

Hamzat Lawal July 4, 2019 0

Hamzat Lawal, Chief Executive CODE

The Great Green Wall (GGW) is one of the most audacious efforts in human history, because the GGW countries are faced with conflict, migration, poverty and hunger at the same time, and at an unprecedented level.

Now that a new Director General has taken over at the helm of affairs at the National Agency for Great Green Wall (NAGGW), it is time for a general reappraisal of the essence of the agency in order to properly situate it in the blueprint of building a new and robust Nigeria where the youth shall find a pride of place.

Recently, the Federal Government appointed Dr Bukar Hassan as the new DG of the NAGGW, replacing Mr Ahmed Goni who had been the Director General since the inception of the agency until his recent disengagement after his four years of tenure elapsed. It is interesting to note that the new DG will easily fit into these shoes because he has always been part of the green family.

Hassan was once the Head of Project Implementation Unit of the Great Green Wall, and Director, Drought and Desertification Amelioration at the Federal Ministry of Environment. He rose to become the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Environment in 2015, and was redeployed to Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in 2017 until his retirement in September 2018.

Meanwhile, one must not fail to recognize the laudable milestones achieved by the outgoing Director-General, Goni. In a country where budgets are apportioned to other projects without question and when it concerns green issues eyebrows are raised, one needs to appreciate the efforts of the outgoing Great Green Wall agency boss as a trail blazer in the issue of national building and environmental rejuvenation.

Goni and the former Minister of Environment who is now the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed, had worked tirelessly for the mainstreaming of the Great Green Wall project in the Nigerian developmental administration. Shortly before Ms Mohammed left Nigeria to resume her new duties at the UN, she had spoken passionately about the merits of the project and affirmed that there was light at the end of the tunnel because GGW was an initiative of solidarity among a family of countries across the Sahel and the Sahara that were taking collective responsibility.

The Nigerian Great Green Wall Programme commenced because Nigeria is a signatory to the GGW Convention. Later in 2015, in committing to the implementation of the Initiative, Nigeria established the National Agency for the Great Green Wall to coordinate the implementation. Also, a Strategic Action Plan was developed to serve as the programme implementation framework.

The Strategic Action Plan is a five-year plan with the goal of improving the wellbeing of the affected people and reducing their vulnerability to the impact of desertification orchestrated by climate change through improved use of land and other natural resources for sustainable development and support to climate infrastructure. The development objective is to combat land degradation and desertification in Nigeria in order to protect and restore ecosystems and essential ecosystem services that are key to reducing poverty, enhancing food security, and promoting sustainable livelihoods.

The Great Green Wall for Sahel and Sahara Initiative (GGWSSI) is more than creating a wall of trees stretching from Senegal in West Africa to Djibouti in East Africa. It is a metaphor to depict a mosaic of integrated interventions tackling the multiple challenges affecting the lives of people in the Sahel and Sahara areas. It is an African Union programme bringing together 20 countries from the Sahel-Saharan region including Algeria, Burkina Faso, Benin, Chad, Cape Verde, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, The Gambia and Tunisia.

The implementation of the Initiative in Nigeria encompasses the eleven frontline states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara. Desertification is one of the major environmental challenges in Nigeria threatening the livelihoods of over 50 million people in these States. It involves the establishment of a greenbelt covering 1500km from Dandi Arewa Local Government Area of Kebbi State to Marte in Borno State.

So, on a wider scale, The Great Green Wall Initiative holds the key to the future of African drylands. It is a daring initiative that has the potential to bring back to the continent food and water security, create jobs and new economic opportunities, help in fighting climate change and allow people not to only survive but to thrive sustainably.

In Nigeria to be specific, the initiative remains the major mechanism that can be used to ensure the sustainable development of the drylands, combat rural poverty and create hope for the affected people. Within the framework of the GGW programme, it has been envisaged that about 22,500sqkm of degraded land in the dry region of the country will be rehabilitated for agricultural production and the livelihoods of over 25 million people will be improved by the year 2030.

It will also help immensely in the rehabilitation of the Internally Displaced People (IDPS) by creating job opportunities, managing income generation activities and systematically reclaiming degraded farm lands. In addition, it will reduce farmers – herders conflicts by creating grazing reserves and fodder farms in the Northern dry land areas. This way, the rate of South-ward migration of herders shall significantly reduce.

Nevertheless, there are vital points to note as Nigeria enters another phase in the Great Green Wall implementation. The first is finance. The project cannot go far if the government does not fund it properly. As it stands today, the agency is still living from hand to mouth, because it is not well-funded. It is supposed to receive 15% of the Ecological Fund but all evidence points to the fact that it is not doing so.

Secondly, the agency is actually an inter-sectoral agency that has a crosscutting job across many aspects of our nationhood, hence its importance, yet it is not ingrained in the consciousness of many Nigerians. The success of the agency is Nigeria’s success, as many other countries in the Great Green Wall belt are actually looking up to us.

To be candid, youth participation should be an integral part of the agency’s activities because they are the future of the Nigeria and the GGW holds the key to a sustainable future. There has to be a strategic resuscitation of the entire sustainability value chain – livestock, horticulture, etc – in the Great Green Wall. This way, young people can be empowered not only in the North but in other parts of the country where services are provided and raw materials processed; effectively taking 60 million youths out of poverty in the near future.

Finally, the incoming DG has before him a great opportunity to make history. He needs to build the capacity of the staff of the agency, while ensuring that modern technologies are employed to create a synergy between his various teams and the critical stakeholders scattered all over the nation.

Dr Bukar Hassan needs to also rejig the platforms that will enhance accountability and transparency so that the international community shall find the justification to scale up its support of Nigeria and the agency in the efforts they are set to achieve. In this way also, the wider grassroots citizens of our ever-increasing Follow The Money community shall find ample leverage to engage the agency and hold them to account.

Hamzat Lawal is an activist and currently the Founder/Chief Executive of Connected Development [CODE]. He is working to build the largest social accountability grassroots movement of citizen-led actions through Follow The Money for better service delivery in rural hard-to-reach communities in Africa.


Hamzat Lawal is an activist and currently the Founder/Chief Executive of Connected Development [CODE]. He is working to build the largest social accountability grassroots movement of citizen-led actions through Follow The Money for better service delivery in rural hard-to-reach communities in Africa.

CODE Annual Report 2017

Hamzat Lawal March 1, 2018 34

Follow The Money 2017 Impact Stories in Rural Communities

Download the report here

CODE Annual Report 2017

Email Productivity Hack – How to Create an Email Group on Google Business Email

Hamzat Lawal February 27, 2018 0

As organization grow, we seems to get some things out of place unintentionally; one of which is an email. As someone who send email a lot, I realised, sometimes when I want to send an email broadcast to the whole team – I was usually leaving out some team members unintentionally.

And this has caused me a lot of concern as teammates who are supposed to get an email does not receive one which might eventually lead to unintended consequences.

Thinking of how to mitigate such happenings, I started thinking of how to create an email list serve that will be for some team according to their group names.

One of such team is the Management Team, CODERs (which is a list of all staffs of CODE asides Community Champions and Community Park employee), Chapter Lead and others.

To create the Management Team email Listserve, I followed the following steps;

  1. Look at the top left corner of the organization email, there is Mail text with a down arrow. Click on it
  2. Pick the Contacts menu and it will automatically show you your contact list.
  3. By the left menu, find “New Group” and click on it to create a new group
  4. Since I am creating a management email listserve, I will name my group “Management”, you can name yours according to the team name or group name.
  5. Click on “OK” once you are done and find your newly created group by the left menu options, mine is “Management”
  6. Click on your newly created group (mine is Management)and it will show you that there is no contacts in the group.
  7. Click on the icon with a + button under the search bar and enter all the contacts you want to add and click on add once you are done.
  8. Once you are done, look at the top left corner and navigate back to email menu

With this step, we just created a “management” email listserve and to use the newly created group whenever you want to send a group email to the group, all you have to do is to write “management” on the To menu and you can automatically select the group.

With this, I know the next time I want to send an email to the management email, all I have to do is go to compose email button and enter the group name to select it.

Now I can send email to my groups without having to enter all emails one after the other – I just become a email Ninja.

Although there are some other ways to do this, but by far – this is the most simplest of all the options available.

How has this help to save your time? Do not hesitate to let me know.

CODE, Dotun’s Exit and Next-Generation Leaders

Hamzat Lawal February 19, 2018 6

Not long ago, my friend and co-founder at Connected Development (CODE), Oludotun Babayemi, exited from the Executive Management of CODE and moved to a non-executive role as member of the Board of Trustees. This means that he will no longer have day to day responsibilities or routine involvement in CODE activities, though he will continue to consult, advise and support me and the management team.

I am delighted to say that Dotun’s exit in a very remarkable way symbolizes the core spirit and value of the CODE brand and Follow The Money movement. The essence of CODE is not only captured in its written goals, mission and vision, but in an unwritten belief in the evolution of personal development.

For those readers who are not conversant with CODE, it is useful to state who we are. Founded in 2012, CODE is a non-government organization (NGO) whose mission is to empower marginalized communities in Africa. We strengthen local communities by creating platforms for dialogue, enabling informed debate, and building capacities of citizens on how to hold their government accountable through “Follow The Money”, our governance accountability and transparency initiative.

CODE provides marginalized and vulnerable communities with resources to amplify their voices with independence and integrity while providing these grassroots populations with information that engenders social and economic progress. To enhance effective democratic governance and accountability, we create platforms (mobile and web technologies) that close the feedback loop between citizens and the government. Thus, with global expertise and reach, we focus on community outreach, influencing policies, practices, and knowledge mobilization.

Our commitment to participatory capacity and community building and monitoring and evaluation creates effective and sustainable programs even within the most challenging environments.

Nevertheless, against this backdrop, we have as our fundamental drive, the hunger to evolve into a global brand that provides a platform for participatory governance, and youth development. We want to see a future where today’s CODE leadership shall be replaced tomorrow by a new cadre of civil society leaders who grew up within our ranks, and evolved into strong thought-leaders while we, the old guard, move on to higher national and global duties.

We want to see Next-Generation leaders who are well-equipped for tomorrow, trained from the emerging societal challenges of today.

This is why we recognize the importance of mentoring. I believe that for there to be a seamless transition into the next generation there needs to be a conscious mentorship agenda on the part of thoughtful leaders of today as well as a willingness on the part of today’s followers to enter what I call a “leadership conveyor belt” in order to be transported through the assembly line of Future Leader manufacture.

For instance, before Dotun left the Executive Team, he consciously planned an exit strategy which sought to “recruit and rejig” a replacement team in the CODE programme value chain.

When we started recruiting A – Team staff last year, he planned to have each new member take the pieces of his role in scaling the organization, and he provided support for their various tasks while he made his transition to work with the Board. It was when he saw the success of his transition strategy that he felt convinced that the coast was clear to make the launch up the next rung in the ladder.

For me, it was a fulfillment of the CODE dream – establishing a template for leadership evolution.

It is a situation I can relate to, having experienced a similar transition in my task in my other life at the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC), when I moved from an Executive role as the Communications Director to a non-executive advisory role as member of the Board. Likewise, some day in the future, I will bow out as the Chief Executive of CODE to a non-executive role.

Just like Dotun is doing today, I will have the privilege of being able to step back and watch CODE develop and grow while I explore other opportunities to add value to the society and impact my world.

I believe robust and sustainable transition is the only way we can emphasize and stay committed to the ongoing success of CODE in particular, and of the wider transparency and accountability community in general. We must remain passionate about open-data, technology and citizen participation, as this is the only real doorway into the journey to deepen democracy by empowering more communities with enough knowledge to be able to hold their government accountable.

And this brings me to a very vital point. It took a long time of personal thought and research to come to the conclusion that the future of Nigeria and indeed Africa depends on active participation of civil society in the political process. A democratic state cannot be stable unless it is effective and legitimate, with the respect and support of its citizens.

Civil society is a check, a monitor, but also a vital partner in the quest for this kind of positive relationship between the democratic state and its citizens. Therefore, the best model would be when the civil society, empowered with their developmental experience and capacity, finds itself playing active role in politics.

There are reasons for this conclusion. First of all, the most basic role of civil society is to limit and control the power of the state.  For instance, as is the situation in Nigeria, when a country is emerging from decades of military rule, it needs to find ways to check, monitor, and restrain the power of political leaders and state officials.

Civil society actors serve as a watchdog, and raise public concern about any abuse of power.  They campaign for access to information, including freedom of information laws, and rules and institutions to control corruption. They promote political participation by educating people about their rights and obligations as democratic citizens, and encouraging them to critically examine electoral manifestoes and vote in elections.  They help develop citizens’ skills to work with one another to solve common problems, to debate public issues, and express their views. They play an important role in mediating and helping to resolve conflicts – by adopting bargaining, accommodation and compromise. These are all functions that guarantee a functional, sustainable state.

Secondly, civil society organizations help to develop the other values of democratic life:  tolerance, moderation, compromise, and respect for opposing points of view. And, without this deeper culture of accommodation, democracy cannot be stable. These values cannot simply be taught; they must also be experienced through practice.

So, I see a future where civil society actors-turned politicians shall help to develop programs for democratic civic education in the schools; revise the curricula, rewrite the textbooks, and retrain teachers in order to educate young people about the mistakes of the past and teach them the principles and values of democracy.

Furthermore, because they have ingrained capacity as a result of their experience, these future leaders shall strengthen democracy by providing new forms of interest and solidarity that cut across old forms of tribal, linguistic, religious, and other identity ties.  Democracy cannot be stable if people only associate with others of the same religion or identity.  They will also play the vital role of engineering electoral best practices by ensuring that the voting and vote counting is entirely free, fair, peaceful, and transparent.

Thirdly, political recruitment of today is flawed.  We need a new model to identify and train new types of leaders who have dealt with important public issues and can be recruited to run for political office at all levels and to serve in state and national legislature. To achieve this, civil society mentorship processes of today could become political recruitment platforms of tomorrow.


Hamzat Lawal October 13, 2017 5

I am not very certain that, Clive Humby, when he boldly declared in 2006 that “Data is the new oil” fully grasped the extent to which this statement will become true a decade down the line. Let us take a look at some of the parallels between oil and data:

  •       Both are raw forms of abundantly available resources
  •       Both can be drilled, extracted, refined, stored, transported and commodified
  •       Both have to be refined to be valuable; in fact, the more refined, the more the value
  •       Both have immense controlling power on the economy

In fact, a lot of people have come to the conclusion that data is to the 21st century what oil was to the 18th century. Consider the fact that recently, Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft have been listed as the five most lucrative companies in the world. We know that what makes them so lucrative are the services they provide. True – but the main question is: “what services and to whom are these services rendered and at what cost?”. Let me try to help with that – these companies by providing various platforms for people to purchase goods without actually visiting a store, meet people without actually leaving the comfort of our homes, cloud storage that does not require bulky hardware etc. collect, on a daily basis, basic data about where people live, how they think, what they like, what they do etc. So basically, they provide access and collect tons of data from us in return. Then, if you consider that this is data that most governments do not even have and people largely give these out without much prodding, then, it should really give you something to think about. If I am willing to provide strangers with so much data/information about myself, why then should I not become data literate? Why should I not be interested in knowing/learning how these data can be used, by whom and for what purposes and how it can affect me? On a much more general level, why should I not be interested in data that can have a direct impact on my life, whether positive or negative?

Despite having worked at Connected Development for some time, during some conversations, I used to still get stuck at some point, trying to explain how CODE is connected to the data literacy movement. All that has been demystified for me after attending the one week School of Data summer camp (an annual event for individuals and members of the SCODA network to come together and share insights on their current work and open up channels for collaboration) in Tanzania from 23rd to 30th September 2017.

members of the SCODA network at the summer camp

Now, I understand that the most part of the work we do is connected to data literacy; when we teach people in rural communities what financial data is important, how they can access such data, refine it, use it, shape it into newsworthy stories and in the long run, use their interaction with the entire system and processes to ensure their communities are the better for it. Afterall, if people are willing to give total strangers personal data about themselves on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and all other social networks, that can be used to put together information about them, why should they not be interested in knowing how much of their commonwealth their governments have decided to spend on healthcare, education, and provision of other social infrastructure and amenities such as potable water, understand how these funds are being spent and follow the money trail. This is what we call Follow The Money and this is why it is important that every citizen, regardless of where they live needs to follow the money.

non-members explain Follow The Money in their own words using the water cycle!

In addition, it was also an opportunity to share what we do at CODE, especially with respect to Follow The Money and how other organizations, individuals, and countries can benefit from this model.

Needless to say that from this, we have people in Haiti, Tanzania, Malawi who are interested in following the money in their countries.

Explaining why and how Follow The Money is a data literacy initiative

Data is abundant around us, data is no longer texts and numbers – data is words, videos, audio, facts, figures. Data is anything that can be used to provide insight on a matter or person or place or situation and since we live in the age of information where these insights can easily be transferred or sold and Data is the currency through which these transactions occur, it is safe then to agree that Data is indeed the new oil. if this is the case, it is time everyone learned how to access, refine and use these data. More important however is the fact that the more people become data literate and use available data, the more evidence there will be for advocating for more data to be open and for data to be more open!

If you are interested in joining a growing community of data enthusiasts who are learning how to use financial data to improve their communities and fight corruption, join us at


Essentialism of Community in Transparency and Accountability in Nigeria

Hamzat Lawal September 11, 2017 2

Today is exactly nine months since we have been experimenting the iFollowTheMoney community and this is a perfect time to write about this community;  what led the Follow the Money Team to the community, why the need for it and what exactly is the future we see to have invested in such a platform.

What is a Community?

Merriam Webster defined community as an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (such as species) in a common location.

With the definition, there are some key elements of a community which are “interacting population” and “in a common place”.

As such, we cannot have an interacting population without a common place.

While reading Babajide Durosaye post on medium about community, I cannot but agree with his definition of a community which he defines as “Communities are networks with shared ideals or demographics, people concentrate on building valuable relationships rather than using each other”.

At Follow the Money, we have community champions in various states and communities in the country and outside of it, we cannot afford to have the kind of community which Babajide defined. Hence, there is a need for us to improvise and find a better way to bring people together in a common place (ifollowthemoney).


The Journey to Follow the Money Community

In the past, Follow the Money Community Reporters (as they are fondly called then) uses WhatsApp as a common place to interact, the WhatsApp group has grown to the point that we had to group them according to geopolitical zones in Nigeria.

We had six groups on WhatsApp and sometimes while waking up (even though I am always on the group at midnight communicating with the night owls amongst the Community Reporters) the user’s end up meeting more than 100 messages on the group which eventually led to us having to losing some of our community reporters. Hence, the need for a better community (common place) to bring people together to interact.

At a point, due to the staff strength of Connected Development as we have only two persons managing the 6 WhatsApp groups, the users and also the social media accounts, so we started missing out relevant contents coming from the community champions on the WhatsApp.

Also, on boarding new users on the platform (WhatsApp) started becoming a problem as we keep on repeating the same on boarding message over and over again.


Was That The Only Reason Why we Have to Switch to Have a Universal Community?

NO, we have a big vision of expanding across Africa as we started receiving an overwhelming request for expansion and we also plan on making Follow the Money a household name by having a movement in all the states in Nigeria while having community champions in all 774 local governments in Nigeria.

Also, we need to have a knowledge sharing platform where anyone who is interested in our work could learn from, connect and collaborate on Follow the Money activities while taking some factors into cognizance – like, where we can have people learning from one other, a platform where we can have a community (movement kind of thing). A place we can have people with a shared interest (Transparency and Accountability in Government in Africa and beyond) and a place people can be motivated to act by learning from the actions of others.

We are more aware that it was because people are not asking questions from our political office holders on how our collective monies have been spent, and that was why we keep on having same corruption narratives.

Alas, we had seen in the past and present when people in government reacted to our request knowing we follow the money (no one wants to be labeled someone who embezzled community project money).


Is That All?

With close to a thousand members,  the community is gradually translating into the largest movement of community champions working on transparency and accountability in their various community., These inspiring members are the intermediaries that are taking the Follow The Money work to local communities, mobilizing them, to engage their various government on basic infrastructure issues.

Do we Have a Requirement for Community Champions?

I still do not know how to answer this question but the most important thing is, a Follow the Money Community Champion is a fire starter. He is someone who thinks something must be done about the gross corruption in governance and he is ready to make an impact in his community by Following The Money. Thus enabling the community to have access to good governance,  improved infrastructures and in the proper sense, an empowered community who can speak for themselves and ask government questions about how their monies are spent.

Just as my friend, Babajide Durosaye (never met or know him o) categorized the community ecosystem in his article, I understand that there are movers of a community and such structure is also expected of a Transparent and Accountability community like ifollowthemoney, but for now – the conversation is just getting started and we hope to grow the community to that level someday soon.

We are in need of more enablers, and you may want to become one too by joining the conversation on Transparency and Accountability on ifollowthemoney which we created for change makers like you!

Have a contribution or clarification? Do not hesitate to leave a comment on the box below.

Photo by Nathaniel Tetteh on Unsplash

The Nigerian Youth SDGs Forum, Abuja.

Hamzat Lawal September 1, 2017 18

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

The 17 SDGs Goals were built on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals while including new areas such as climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace and justice, among other priorities. The goals are interconnected – often the key to success on one will involve tackling issues more commonly associated with another.

The Nigerian Youth SDGS Forum #NGYouthSDGs had a gathering of high-level stakeholders pre-summit in Abuja on July 7, 2017 and I was privileged to represent CODE at this event. The event was hosted by the Ambassador of Denmark, Torben Gettermann at the Switzerland Embassy. The forum brought together Civic Organizations and Youth Networks, working to reach the sustainable  goals.

The Danish Ambassador gave the opening remark and welcomed all stakeholders present. He said “there is no single of the 17 goals that are not related to one another, that it’s only by achieving them all only then we can say our mission is accomplished.  The Ambassador all so stated and I quote  “The SDGs, are they ambitious?  Yes they are.  Are they over-ambitious?  No.  Are they attainable?   Absolutely”

Uche Onyinye of TheirWorld.UK spoke on the Nigeria Future – in relation to achieving the SGDs. She explained the goals for all parties involved is the same toward achieving the goals. She went further to explain that the SDGs are timed based goals and we have few years (13 years) to see these goals come to life. She ended by stating that SDGs and Nigeria’s future are intertwined, they can’t be separated.

It was quite fascinating for me to see that various organisations are already building programs and projects around achieving the SDGs. For instance, Serah Makka, Country director for ONE Campaign added that Accountability is the life of democracy and to achieve SDGs, young people have to be active in civic engagement.  She spoke on ONE Campaign effort in education and eliminating poverty and making health and agriculture a focus of work.  Mr Kingsley from Plan International explained how they work with the  grassroot community to impact the young people on SDGs.  Chibugo Okafor with Wellbeing Africa explained their focus on health awareness using innovative adolescents program e.g teaching them general hygeine etc will promote and improve the SDGs. For most of these organizations, working with young people in achieving the various goal interest was a major strength for example  Ijeoma Idika Okorie of Teenz Global Foundation,who works with teenagers in high schools, stated that ownership of ideas through partnership and dedication towards SDGs is key to success in Nigeria.