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.