Elections on their own do not guarantee good governance. We often forget this truth. But democracy without good governance is effectively meaningless. The role of citizens as the ultimate sovereigns does not end with the electoral process. It actually extends to their capacity to be part of the governance process over the long-term. Holding governments accountable to their election promises gives meaning to the ballot and reinforces the primacy of citizens.

On Friday May 29, 2015, a new government was inaugurated in Nigeria. The activities leading up to the general elections climaxed on March 28, when citizens went out to cast their votes. It became a two-day affair – a drawn out event that tested the tenacity of Nigerians; people who remained resolute in ensuring their votes counted.

There are several reasons the 2015 elections will remain memorable for Nigerians. First, it involved unseating an incumbent government; second, it dislodged Nigeria’s leading political party (which was the first time this has happened since the country’s return to civil rule in 1999); and third, the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat and congratulated his opponent even before the official results were announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). On top of all these, Nigeria’s electoral process was carried out with minimal violence.

Just why Nigeria’s 2015 elections were so successful will, no doubt, be the subject of much discussions and analyses for years to come. Personally, I saw the level of awareness and involvement of Nigerians, and the role that social media played in directing political discourse and shaping conversations (by ‘online activists’) as key determinants on why these elections transpired so well. Certainly, there are many factors that contributed to the success of the elections, but it was the genuine passion and interest that citizens showed in the policy conversations around the elections that truly stand out as both remarkable and commendable.

The Buharimeter is an online and mobile technology tool designed to track and measure campaign promises of the new government. This tool is patterned after the Macky Meter in Senegal and functions as a platform that aggregates all the President-elect promises on a sector-by-sector basis. At the core of this project is the desire to deepen democratic accountability and promote active citizens’ participation in governance issues.

Elections on their own do not guarantee good governance. We often forget this truth. But democracy without good governance is effectively meaningless. The role of citizens as the ultimate sovereigns does not end with the electoral process. It actually extends to their capacity to be part of the governance process over the long-term. Holding governments accountable to their election promises gives meaning to the ballot and reinforces the primacy of citizens. The momentum generated by the 2015 elections provides a unique opportunity to build on citizens’ activism, exemplified in the ardent online conversations seeking to hold governments accountable to their campaign promises.

A prime example of how this ‘online activism’ manifests is through the Buharimeter, a Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) project carried out with the support of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA). The Buharimeter is an online and mobile technology tool designed to track and measure campaign promises of the new government. This tool is patterned after the Macky Meter in Senegal and functions as a platform that aggregates all the President-elect promises on a sector-by-sector basis. At the core of this project is the desire to deepen democratic accountability and promote active citizens’ participation in governance issues. The site has created a space for people to comment and contribute to discussions on each of the promises made by the incoming administration. The platform allows citizens to score the performance of government, per sector, through the response to a set of relevant questions that are pre-set on the platform. Additionally, government policy documents will also be uploaded. These policy documents will be tied to each of the promises, which allows citizens to assess and discuss the viability of the policy option adopted as compared to the realisation of promises stated. There is also an “I-Witness page” to allow the uploading of pictures and videos of projects related to the promises made.

The Buharimeter is the perfect tool to ensure a level of consciousness in government actions is sustained and translates into qualitative engagement with the new administration.

The project hopes to challenge citizen’s fixation with the “supply side” of governance, which conversely places a lot less emphasis on the demand side – demanding accountability for government programmes, reforms and public goods. It encourages citizens to keep a keen eye on what government has promised with a view to ensuring they perform and are responsive to the people they govern. The project also has a weekly radio programme that starts on June 1 on Nigeriainfo FM Abuja (airing between 6pm and 7pm) and which will move the discussions offline. For maximum impact and reach, both online and offline engagements are essential. Progressive change would only happen when there is a balanced combination of both top-down and bottom-up pressures in the governance process.

It’s not just the Buharimeter project that shows the extent of citizens’ engagement in monitoring their new government’s activities to ensure accountability. In the lead-up to the March 28 elections, a particularly prominent hashtag, known as #BabaNowthatyouarethere, was created as a way for twitter enthusiasts to share their list of ‘asks’ to “Baba”, their (expected) new leader. People’s imaginations began running wild with all sorts of wishes and requests – some unrealistic or simply in gist, such as Arsenal winning the Premier League, to some more serious and achievable concerns, such as ensuring that Nigeria becomes a fully-functioning democracy replete with power, employment, having a stable economy and (above all) ridding itself of corruption. The hashtag brought to the fore what most people wanted to see in their new government. And even though many of these ‘asks’ were outside the bounds of reason, they were often shared with good humour and optimism. They also helped engage and foster a stronger citizens’ engagement and awareness on a more general level.

One of the key outcomes of the 2015 elections is a renewed realisation by ordinary Nigerians that they have some power to effect change. The Buharimeter is the perfect tool to ensure a level of consciousness in government actions is sustained and translates into qualitative engagement with the new administration. It sustains the drive that now that ‘Baba’ is there, ‘Baba’ must now go to work for the good of the people.

Watch the Buhari Campaign Promises infographics video here.

Catherine Kyenret Angai is OSIWA’s Democracy and Accountability Programme Coordinator. Follow Catherine on Twitter @AngaiCK