A GROUP PARTNERS
CASE STUDY into
THE NIGERIAN ELECTION SYSTEM
THE CHALLENGE A wicked problem: how to turn Nigerian elections from rigged to unrigged by putting the 2007 election process under the microscope. This is the story of an event and a framework built on lessons from the past and with a focus on the future in order to achieve a fundamental change in attitudes and behaviours. The result was a living system – one that would be the responsibility of the citizens and indigenes of Nigeria to uphold and honour, and to sustain into 2011 and beyond. Holding this quite amazing event was the idea and vision of Tunji Lardner from WANGONeT – his vision and persistence were the catalyst that we hope will ignite many more sparks across this beautiful country whose people deserves so much better. The 2007 Nigerian elections had fallen well short of basic international and regional standards for democratic elections, marred as they were by poor organisation, lack of transparency, widespread procedural irregularities, signiﬁcant evidence of fraud, voter disenfranchisement, lack of equal conditions for contestants and numerous incidents of violence. Tunji’s plan was to break away from “predictable low-calorie thinking” and take a serious look back at the 2007 elections in order to critically examine the hidden pathologies, identify concealed patterns and actually point fingers at election-rigging culprits. By staging the event as if it were a criminal post-mortem investigation, Tunji wanted to go back to 2007 to look for latent clues, to interview ‘persons of interest,’ examine the corpse of the elections and then conduct the ‘post mortem’ before a live audience. In his words, “It was clear in my mind that the only way we could get people to look at old things differently, was to present them with a newer lens to view old, familiar but really unexamined phenomena.” The Group Partners process is perfect in such a situation – although we’d never used it quite like this before! The final title for the event said it all – ‘how NOT to rig an election’. The workshop would present a critical look back at the 2007 elections to enable nearly 200 participants to look forward to those of 2011 and beyond and see how they could be very different indeed.
THE EXAM QUESTION
How and what can we learn from past elections to influence the future of the Nigerian election system and avoid the historic problems of widespread rigging?
THE APPROACH Tunji and his team dedicated many months and huge energy to persuading others to support this vision. The leap of faith that they took, and the belief they had in this process was heavily influenced by supporter and facilitator Adewale Ajadi, with whom we have had the good fortune to work on several other occasions. In Adewaleâ€™s words:
The project fills me with hope that if we can prioritise organisation and systems over the next 10 years we would truly be able to transform from a country of indigenes to a nation of citizens â€“ 150 million empowered, networked creators of value, authentic in their being, inspired by their dreams, connected beyond creed and engaged to deliver excellence.
Nigerian Electoral System V 2.0 Blueprint
It was a great privilege to have been part of a team of close on 200 people who assembled to make ‘rigging’ history. Together we built a ‘Nigerian Electoral System V 2.0 Blueprint’ that sought to be the tipping point into a new era of healthy demoncracy. In preparation for what was to be a truly inspiring event we read, analysed, reflected and synthesised over four years of frustration, countless reports, looked into the global context and came to understand the ongoing challenges and the daily barriers – the technological and infrastructural realities. To really understand, however, requires an impartial mind coupled with the forensic rigour that was envisioned at the start of this project. With patience and respect for the context a system emerges – one that is in need of care, attention and rehabilitation. The clues
are all there if we choose to see them, clues that lead to answers. The system that emerged before and during the event with all its high-level themes and very specific insights is both past and future. It takes a very different view of the subject of rigging – a systems view that looks objectively at every aspect of the process and breaks it down into logical interdependent phases from the perspective of different ‘stakeholders’. The research that had been conducted – primarily through the lens of the 2007 Elections – focused on five stakeholder groups: the Electorate, the Politicians, the Security Agents, the Judiciary and the Administration – each of which would have its contribution to make to the new system – yet would also need to be fully appreciative of, and have respect for, the multiple moving parts.
Based on that research we came up with a draft Blueprint that had nine phases, each one representing a number of events and activities involving to varying extent the different stakeholder groups. Each one too constructed to the same architecture: • Primary purpose of the phase • Insights into weaknesses based on 2007 Elections • Potential for complicity per stakeholder in the failure of the system • Potential impact on the system.
The phases were: • Announcement of the Elections The first opportunity to create a solid foundation based on clear intention and direction and well-planned and executed communications to build understanding and confidence among the electorate
• Registration Knowing precisely who is entitled to vote and placing responsibility on each eligible citizen to respect that right and register their intention to vote • Nominations From among those, democratically selected from all parties, that the people of Nigeria most trust to run their country
• Canvassing Clarity on the part of candidates of what they stand for (without personal agenda or ambitions) and clear consistently communicated manifestos from each party • Pre-Voting Parallel administrative activities (including testing and contingency planning) to ensure that come election day all is ready and that voting can occur safely and securely with maximum involvement of all those entitled to vote • Voting Focus on ensuring that nothing impedes the course of democracy – everything as promised and ready ahead of time, adequately staffed stations and no voter intimidation • Collating Effective and accurate collation of the results (including spoiled or destroyed votes) so that every single ballot paper is transported to the counting stations and fully reflects the voter’s intention • Counting The fundamental objective being to accurately count and validate the number of votes per candidate, ensuring that the total count exactly matches the total number of votes cast • The Declaration The announcement of the winning candidate/party and any subsequent challenges/petitions, the system only being complete when all stakeholders agree that a fair and democratic process has been followed throughout all phases.
This type of event had never been staged before. On arrival participants were confronted by this huge visual framework covering 70-foot wall showing the guts of a new system based on the results of all the months of behind-the-scenes preparation by us and by Tunji, Ade and their team. Slowly, over the course of the day we did our detective work, moving through each phase in turn, validating what was on the wall and then discussing in groups what that told us and what weâ€™d missed. Discussion was animated and participation complete â€“ everyone had their say about every phase. New insights and observations were added to the wall as we honoured the conversations and transferred ownership of the framework from a small core of people to the entire group.
A blueprint for a new system Many themes emerged as we continued to develop the system framework, many ideas for what to do next, much debate about what to ‘Stay doing’, what to ‘Start doing differently’ and what must ‘Stop’. Some of the resulting ‘big thoughts’ were inevitably massively interlinked as were some imperatives – such as education of the electorate/ people and changing attitudes. Core principles and values – from objectivity and integrity to relevance and mutuality – were also identified that would have to be shared by everyone working within the new system. A living system is essentially selfgoverning. It adapts to the changing environment and is always working at both the individual part and the collective level. Just as in a natural living system, the Blueprint we were helping bring to life had its own implied sequence and order: Common purpose – including mission, identity and aspiration/ambition. The promise that everyone signs up to and that will form the basis for governance. The culture and shared identify and values that unite the system.
Contribution from every member of the system – individual and group responsibilities that add up to achieving the Purpose. Leadership at many levels spanning all contributions and showing up in the administration of the system’s core processes, the governance of the promise across contributions and enforcement of consequences when the system is compromised. Exchange and sharing across stakeholders to enable contribution to collectively achieve its purpose, to communicate effectively and to continually build awareness and capture insights and learning to enable the system to evolve and adapt. Organisation – meaning capability, skills, equipment, platforms and infrastructure. Until the contribution, promise and purpose are clear to everyone the organisation of the system is sub optimal. The birth of the ‘Nigerian Electoral System V 2.0 Blueprint’ at the end of what had been a long, exhausting yet exhilarating day fully justified the days, weeks and months of planning and organising that had gone into its realisation.
THE OUTCOME Without doubt, the event and the resulting, still evolving Blueprint had a positive impact on the 2011 elections which were widely recognised as marking a significant improvement over previous years and were reported as having been generally well managed with the voters’ register seen as the most accurate to date. However, there is much progress still to be made, especially in the light of the post-election violence that claimed 800 lives and displaced 65,000 people mainly in the north of the country. So this is far from the end of the journey. That said however, a good start has been made against great odds and Tunji, Ade and the team continue the work on the ground to ensure that the impetus of that amazing week is sustained.
Nigerian Electoral System V 2.0 Blueprint
NOT HOW TO
20 RIG 11 AN ELECTION
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT NOT HOW TO
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WANGONET would like to thank AN ELECT ION the following Stakeholders Forum on Elections groups and National people associated with them for their contributions toward this project: DFID for their NOT financial and intellectual capital;EPAD Equality
Foundation for their intellectual and social capital; Elias Center for their intellectual and social capital;
the staff and volunteers of WANGONET for their intellectual, financial and social capital.
NOT HOW TO
20 RIG 11 AN ELECTION DFID
WEST AFRICA NGO NETWORK
G R O U P
WEST AFRICA NGO NETWORK
G R O U P
PA R T N E R S
PA R T N E R S
WAN Ne WEST AFRICA NGO
G R O U P
PA R T N E R S
It took a huge effort to make this event happen – Tunji and his team dedicated many months persuading others to support this vision. The leap of faith that they took, and the belief they had in this process was heavily influenced by supporter and facilitator – Adewale Ajadi In Adewale’s words... “The project means a dispassionate and holistic view one of the deep embedded systems that affect Nigerian citizenship. It confirms my hypothesis that the deepest 5. Pre-Voting challenge to the Nigerian project is a challenge of organisation and systems that resonate as well as has meaning to work-a-day Nigerians There are numerou who can stand s administration activities for it. A system has integrity not because it is protected the preceding that will start in parallel phases by rules but – so that come election because with most people adopt it within their custom voting can day everything is in occur safely, securely and norms. order and and with the involvem is entitled and motivated ent of everyone who to vote. My motivation for supporting and enabling what is actually Tunji’s vision (aside from loyalty) was to test out the hypothesis and see This is a significan t operation that requires that the issue of complexity and systems does not get drowned planning timely , tight co-ordination in polemics and criticism. and strong managem It involves the moveme ent. nt of equipment across rural and urban. It regions, requires the establish The project fills me with hope that if we can prioritise organisation ment polling stations and the provision of informati of secure and systems over the next 10 years we would truly be able toeveryone knows on so that where they go to transform from a country of indigenes vote. It depends on to a nation of citizens -the availability of ballot 150 million empowered, networked creators of value, authentic inmanage the process. papers and skilled people to their being, inspired by their dreams, connected beyond creed and engaged to deliver excellence.” Everything has to be tested and have place. Third parties contingency have to be selected And then finally – grateful thanks wisely and their contribut in managed. Problems to DFID for taking have to be anticipat ion ed so that there are and reactions must that leap with the rest of us! fallback plans be swift when those plans are called on.
How NOT To Rig An Election 6. Voting
By the time voting day arrives everythin g should be in place and the focus moves to ensuring that nothing impedes the course of democra People need to be cy. in place ahead of time so that no one is turned away because the station is not open. And the stations must be open when they say and for as long as by theyDFID, have promised. This is a WANGONeT project, sponsored in partnership with Group Partners and Equality Foundation. No citizen should feel intimidat ed or in any way discouraged from turning up to place their vote.
Some of the immensely uplifting participant feedback:
I learnt another dimension to problem identiďŹ cation and solving without adopting other high technical approaches to complexity. The dimension is user/Nigerian friendly and century compliant. Chima Jeff Megwei, Port-Harcourt.
The workshop was a lifetime experience. I have never participated in a workshop that took my breath from the beginning to the end. I didnâ€™t want to blink to lose out. Erisa Danladi, Gombe State.
The workshop was enlightening and revealing of the many characters, behaviours and actors often overlooked in our approach to preventing election rigging. The no holds barred feedback from participants and genuine courage displayed by team leads who spoke demonstrated that we all were in support of the end of election rigging. Thank you for the visual thinking approach. It puts things in clear perspective. Omotola Fawunmi, Project Stretch, Lagos.
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