Yusuf Akinpelu

Country/area: Nigeria

Organisation: Premium Times

Organisation size: Small

Cover letter:

​This story was a data driven analysis of the dwindling turnouts for elections since Nigeria’s independence. It did a comparative analysis of the participatory level of Nigerians in elections with other nationals across the world.

The first story is about the turnout for elections in Nigeria since independence compared to other countries.

Aimed at unveiling the reasons for the increasing absenteeism in the nation’s general elections, and trigger a policy change, the story took a historical and data-analytical approach to trigger socio-political debate in the country.

This was achieved. 

First, that it was published some days after thousands of Nigerian youths, under the motif #EndSARS, trooped to the streets to demand sweeping police reforms and by extension, end to bad governance, it hit a chord.

A sequel to the nationwide protests was a national debate on what Nigerians, over 80 per cent of whom are youths, must do to ensure that the best and the most competent among them govern them.

They wanted to the existing political order by ushering in fresh minds with novel ideas. They especially mirror themselves in the eyes of the American people who voted out President Donald Trump.

But that cannot happen, I argued, per the prevalence of voter’s apathy during elections. So the piece placed the stark reality before the eyes of the youthful change seekers.

Judging by the comments of netizens (https://mobile.twitter.com/PremiumTimesng/status/1325370072299352065 and https://mobile.twitter.com/AkinpeluYusuph/status/1325647677174984706), the piece was able to convince some Nigerians that they needed to change their attitudes towards determining who govern them.

There were people, majorly on microblogging site, Twitter, whose comments showed that they will be voting in the next election and will be co-opting those in their cycle to do the same.

The report is rich in research and field interviews of voters and experts on democratic processes.

The story did not just simply share blames, it offered solutions and worked out how to tie the solution to specific s at the steps.

The latter was achieved when the spokesman of Nigeria’s House of Representatives praised the story on twitter, asked for an interview with me which I obliged.

He called me on the phone to appraise the report and debate its content. There was a discussion around starting a legislation on how to improve voter’s turnout in the country.

This is particularly key because the Speaker hails from Lagos State, Nigeria’s richest and most populous state and the economic hub of the country, which has had consecutive lowest voter’s turnout in the last two general elections.

Therefore, when Nigeria’s INEC Chairman came to the National Assembly, one of the questions he was asked was why there is low voter turnout in the country. His response was detailed here (https://www.orderpaper.ng/politicians-failed-promises-contribute-to-voters-apathy-yakubu/). There was​​ also discussion about how to amend the electoral act to improve the nation’s voting system.

This story clearly has spurred the possibility of policy change within the legislative headquarters in Nigeria.

Likewise, the story had a wide reach and was widely shared by top officials in the country, including the Speaker’s spokesperson who praised the report. Judging by the average retweets and likes Premium Times gets per post, the story exceeded the usal number of shares by far (https://mobile.twitter.com/PremiumTimesng/status/1325370072299352065).

In all, the story had a great deal of impact and it’s impact are still in progress.​

Description of portfolio:

When I was a teenager, I had just one dream: have a mastery of words in speech and in writing. As I grew, I discovered journalism to be the key to that dream. So everything I do as a journalist is about desire, passion and talent, not mere coincidence or last resort. So it was not unexpected that from my sophomore years, I had began to freelance and cover local news fo my current platforms, Premium Times, Nigeria’s only Pulitzer-winning newspaper, My commitment and talent and craft quickly improved much that by 2018, when Premium Times desired to establish a fact-checking platform, Dubawa, I was contacted to know if I could help shoulder the responsibility of writing for the platform, even though I had not been trainined on fact checking. The desk needed recruits who could raise its stakes and bring novel ideas. At the time, fact-checking was relatively new to the Nigerian media space, but I tried, even without any formal training, to carve a niche for myself in it. I would source for claims and fact-check them, then send them to Dubawa, which publishes. For me, I was merely showing what I could with or without compensation. Months rolled by and one afternoon after class I got a call from the project manager of Dubawa, Ebele Oputa. She told me she would like me to join the Dubawa desk as the management was really impressed about my pieces so far. I was awed. I obliged her. I joined the team officially, and that has shaped my journalism till date. This attribute has defined my sojourn so far as a professional journalist so much that, by 2019, when I was moved into Premium Times newsroom, I got what the paper believes to be arguably its most important — and some say most challenging — beat, the National Assembly. There, because there are usually many reporters who are tasked to tell stories as proceedings unfold, I have committed myself to telling it how no one else might ever think of doing. Where necessary, even for breaking stories, I add statistics, I add necessary anecdotes, I animate my stories to tell the readers what I saw — not just what the speaker said, but how it was said, delivered and, of course, what was left unsaid. For instance, when Nigeria’s works and housing minister, Babatunde Fashola, came to the Senate to defend the ministry’s budget and said the country plans to build about 3,000 housing units, the headlines everywhere was just that. Instinctively, I knew this amount was meagre. So I searched and I saw that Nigeria actually needed over 700,000 housing units yearly to cover its over 17 million deficit. I therefore told the story from the angle of what the minister failed to say. If for nothing else, my story was unique among all other reporters covering the beat, and I got the praise of my editors in a mail and during our editorial meeting that week. If I must tell a story, I look for unique angles or styles to do it, and this has always been my guiding principle. My attention to details and eye for excellence in part informed why my platform elevated me to the head of the data desk less than two years after I was moved from Dubawa to the newsroom. I became the youngest desk head in Premium TImes. Within months of that assignment, myself and my only team member have succeeded in writing impactful data stories. This series story on election turnout is nonetheless arguably the most impactful. I believe strongly

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