Lagos-based musician Chioma “Cill” Ogbonna has won the 2019 Accountability Music Awards, winning the most votes among the finalists who represent the best of socially-conscious music from across the African continent. 

The 2019 Accountability Music Awards (AMAs) is a collaboration between Accountability Lab, the ONE Campaign and Trace Africa, that seeks to celebrate African musicians who use their voices to call for more transparency and accountability across the continent. Viewers learned about the campaign on Trace Naija, Trace Urban and Trace Africa and thousands voted for their favourite song focused on accountability, transparency and the fight against corruption.

Cill,  whose music incorporates elements of soul, alternative rock, folk, and country music, with splashes of “Africanness”, earned the most votes in the campaign. Her song ‘All You’ve Got’ talks about social and political reform in Nigeria and encourages citizens to take an active role in pushing for change. Cill said she was elated about the win. “It’s even more encouraging to see that people listen to conscious music. We live in a world especially in Africa, where you wake up almost daily to scary events, human right violations, abuse of power, failing electoral processes, a decline in political participation or even worse, political apathy or downplaying of life-threatening realities – like we see on Twitter everyday where we just want to ‘dance away our sorrows’.

“I am glad to see that people still embrace music that inspires them to do right and not act like spectators; music that awakens their consciousness – this is exactly what conscious music is to me. I’m more hopeful today than yesterday,” she said.

Fellow Nigerian and hip-hop legend Falz, real name Folarin Falana, came a close second with his song ‘Talk’ which challenges the promises of security and economic prosperity offered by Nigerian policy-makers, while the country faces austerity measures and threats from Boko Haram. Kenyan afro-pop group Sauti Sol, Malian singer-songwriter Fatoumata Diawara, and Zimbabwean dancehall artist Platinum Prince were also among the nominees.

African citizens consistently place corruption amongst their top concerns, and report having lost faith in many key institutions, including legislatures, police, courts, and national electoral commissions. The most recent Corruption Perceptions Index, launched by Transparency International last week, ranked Sub-Saharan Africa as the lowest scoring world region with 32 out of 100 points, less than the global average of 43. Western Europe and the EU was the highest scoring region, ranked at 66.

The AMAs recognize that music is an essential way for citizens to raise their voices about these issues. The competition also supports the idea that communities should be an integral part of local and national anti-corruption reforms and that public engagement campaigns are successful vehicles for encouraging such collaboration. It attempts to elevate the profile of musicians shining a light on injustice and lapses in accountability on the continent and also bring awareness to the effects that corruption has on our communities.

Executive Director of Accountability Lab, Blair Glencorse, said the AMAs, run for the 1st time in 2019, are an exciting way to begin to shift norms: “These artists are using their voices to engage citizens around critical challenges in their societies. The more we can do to celebrate and lift them up, the more we can begin to popularize their messages and shift understandings of the problems”. 

ONE in Africa Interim Executive Director, Edwin Ikhoria said: “Corruption is a major obstacle to Africa’s growth and development, and contributes to high levels of poverty and instability on the continent. We congratulate Cill and other courageous musicians who use their voices to bring about positive change in our communities, particularly in the fight against corruption.”

Listen to Cill’s winning song below.