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Would Nigeria’s Version Of Electoral College Make Any Difference?

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LAGOS – If what occupies the minds of Mrs Nella Andem-Ewa Rabana, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr Kun­le Lawal, an entrepreneur and politician, and other like minds would manifest as rolled out, it might just be a matter of no dis­tant date for Wikipedia to recog­nize another form of electoral college other than that of the United States. If that happens, Google and its likes would like­ly start showing Electoral Col­lege Nigeria in addition to that of the US, which is currently the only result one gets when searching for electoral college.

Electoral College Nigeria is not tailored by its designers to look bizarre like that of the US, which in recent years saw to the defeat of two presidential can­didates – Al Gore and Hillary Clinton – that scored majority of popular votes respectively in US presidential election of 2000 and 2016. In 2000, George Bush, then governor of Texas scored popular votes of 50, 456, 002 but used Electoral College votes of 271 to defeat Gore, then US Vice President, who had a popular votes of 50, 999, 897 and Elec­toral College of 266. Similarly, in 2016, Clinton of the Demo­crat had a popular votes of 65, 853, 514 with Electoral College of 227 but was defeated by Re­publican’s Donald Trump’s 304 Electoral College votes and 62, 984, 828 popular votes.

The Nigeria’s version of elec­toral college, is designed to of­fer political education through what its initiators called “polit­eracy” with a view to ensuring that future outcome of elections in the country reflects the pop­ular wishes of Nigerians. It is a non-governmental organiza­tion, NGO. Its promoters cut across different political af­filiations and all parts of the country.

The Electoral College Ni­geria, which has Lawal as Executive Director and Mrs Andem-Ewa Rabana as chair­person of Board of Trustees, was recently initiated by The Emerging Leaders Advance­ment Forum (TELAF), a group of few young Nigerian profes­sionals with interest in politics and national development. The initiative is targeted at banish­ing, among other political ills, what they claim to be “a void of ideological democracy in Nigeria”.

The initiators of the Elector­al College Nigeria took active part in the 2019 general election. While some were candidates, some others were accredited observers, even as a number of them exercised their franchise rights as voters in the election. From their observations, as dis­closed by Lawal in a chat with Daily Independent, the last gen­eral elections were affected by “poor civic education, lack of trust for the system and voters apathy”.

Lawal also mentioned that “party affiliations were placed above governance” and “polit­ical candidates rarely under­stood the positions they con­tested for”. The springboard of the Electoral College Nigeria stems from what the progeni­tors of the group filtered from the 2019 general elections.

Under the stewardship of the Executive Director, the college has since started educating Ni­gerians on the dos and don’ts of ideal electoral system. Even un­der the uneasiness occasioned by the novelty coronavirus dis­ease, its online virtual class has been launched on “politeracy and governance” for aspiring candidates and the electorate. On many occasions, Lawal has been reiterating that “Nige­rians with their high level of intellect is poor in political lit­eracy”.

According to Lawal, “It is in response to an urgent need of not only the electorate, can­didates, political parties but a need for good governance that the idea of the Electoral College Nigeria was conceived”. The lecture on “Post Elections Po­literacy and Good Governance” was delivered by the chairper­son of the advisory board.

With her involvement in pol­itics, as well as her legal repre­sentation of parties in pre and post-election matters in court since the return to democracy in 1999, Nella, as she is most times called by her colleagues, was considered by the partici­pants well-fit for the bill.

The lecture, which had a classroom format, featured prominent politicians, academi­cian, lawyers, political scientist and thought leaders from across Nigeria. Aside Nella, other lec­turers were Olivia Bennett, representative from Allegheny County Council in Pennsylva­nia, Audu Maikori, a lawyer and president of Chocolate City En­tertainment, Ndi Kato, Ettu Mo­hammed, Kevin Akoje, Matthias Tsado and Lawal.

Dwelling on Nigerian pecu­liarity, the former Attorney General of Cross River State, captured a grime occurrences that have been the lot of the Nigerian political system since the return to democracy in 1999. She said: “Ideally, when a candi­date wins the election, he or she prepares to move into his/her new office after inauguration, but in Nigeria it is not usually so. He/she must hold his breath until all the pending suits in court and in the Tribunals are decided, otherwise, he may just find that he/she wakes up the next morning out of Govern­ment House.”

Harping on the need for elec­toral reforms on pre and post elections matters, the senior advocate made far-reaching recommendations, which in­clude constitutional and stat­utory amendments, the need for election management body to stick to electoral guidelines in conducting elections, among others.

Hinging on imperatives of broad spectrum of the society to get involved for credible elections to be achieved, she stressed the need for all stake­holders to ‘imbibe core values of dignity, integrity and service through civic and political ed­ucation”. She enumerated the stakeholders to include, politi­cal parties and their candidates, the Independent National Elec­toral Commission, INEC, secu­rity agencies, judiciary, legis­lature, the news media and the electorate.

Expressing the possibility that stakeholders’ honest dis­position to their respective roles could change the narra­tives and makes the Nigerian politics “no longer an industry for personal predatory interest but rather a call to service”, she urged participants to consider “the impact of more rigorous politeracy and good governance training on all strata of society, to become more effective guar­antors of credible, free and fair elections.”

Though Lawal is of the view that the online lectures are not limited in outreach, since zooms are used for interactive classes, he told Daily Independent that they intend to expand to town hall campaigns in villages and hamlets. He said that the col­lege is already in support of like-minded organizations that bring leadership trainings to town unions, universities and religious organizations.

Lawal further told Daily In­dependent that from the feed­back they get from participants, there is need for expansion on all scales and the urgent need to “expand the potential reach”. He added that the classes orga­nized by the college are done free of charge and assured the electoral college’s dedication to civic education in its unique method.

Before now, there have been organizations like the Elector­al College Nigeria, established to orientate the political class and the electorate. The Ibra­him Babangida military gov­ernment, for instance, set up MAMSER, which was an acro­nym for Mass Mobilzation for Self-Reliance, Social Justice and Economic Recovery. The government also created Cen­tre for Democratic Studies to offer political training to polit­ical leaders across all levels of government in Nigeria.

After the ill-fated transition programme of the Babangida administration and the exit of the then military presi­dent MAMSER only existed as nominal agency of the fed­eral government in that noth­ing substantial was heard of it thereafter. It was eventually renamed National Orientation Agency, NOA, in 2005.

Apart from communicating government policies to the people, NOA is tasked with promoting national unity and patriotism. Its moto is “Do the right thing: transform Nige­ria.” Even so, the right thing of transforming Nigeria, par­ticularly in ensuring credible electoral processes since its creation, could be not be said to have been achieved.

Aside governmental organi­sations, there are a number of NGOs, similar to the Electoral College Nigeria, that have had self-tasked effort of educating Nigerians on issues pertaining to political development in Ni­geria. Yet, the road to achieving the end still appears endless.

Meanwhile, Electoral College Nigeria, as Lawal explained to Daily Independent, is not having a mindset of competing with any similar NGO, but to syner­gise to achieve their common objectives.

Perhaps, the major difference between the Electoral College Nigeria and other similar orga­nizations in the past and pres­ent lies in the fact that almost all the individuals involved in the latest project has, once upon a time, been victims, either col­lectively or personally of the plethora-of-problem-plaque political system in Nigeria. Even so, the all-in-one ques­tion remains: Would Nigeria’s version of electoral college go beyond registering its pres­ence on free online encyclope­dia by constantly impacting the envisaged paradigm shift in Ni­geria’s political development?

Lawal promised that the or­ganisation would be relentless until the expected results start to show and assured the col­lege’s commitment to the cause.

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