A Nigerian digital democracy campaign is warning the nation must improve the reputation of its elections – or risk citizens beginning to believe they were better off in the days of military rule.
The call – from the makers of the free democracy app Rate Your Leader – comes as a Nigerian senator appeared to voice support for a return to the rule of unelected army officers during a Senate debate.
Speaking in a debate on the proposed National Electoral Offences Commission, Senator Smart Adeyemi appeared to suggest that military rule was preferable to democracy, stating:
“One can be tempted to say that the military government is better than democratic government.”
The senator’s statement was condemned by other senators as “undemocratic”.
Senator Adeyemi clarified that he was criticising the current standard of Nigerian elections rather than endorsing dictatorship, calling the military government “the worst”.
“There cannot be democracy in any nation where we do not have a free and fair election. There will be a misrepresentation, bad governance, misappropriation of funds and all the shortcomings that we have witnessed over the years of the democratic rule. As a result, people of questionable characters find their ways to elective positions. What I am saying is that having people rigged into executive position is the worst thing that can happen.”
Joel Popoola, Nigerian tech entrepreneur and founder of the Digital Democracy project, believes that Senator Adeyemi’s statements reflect the growing frustration of Nigerian voters.
The project’s Rate Your Leader app helps politicians engage with voters in their constituencies, helping them understand what matters most to the people who elect them and build relationships of trust with the electorate.
The app also allows voters to identify and contact their representatives at the touch of a button, direct from their phones or tablets.
“Mischief makers have had a lot of fun with Senator Adeyemi’s statement, but it’s pretty obvious to me that rather than calling for a return to the days of the generals he was highlighting to many Nigerians there is no meaningful difference between military rule and Nigerian democracy as we see it today, apart from the fact that the Generals never pretended that they’d been elected fairly.
“That sense of frustration is dangerous for our democracy and makes it critical that elected officials make use of every resource available to them to truly connect with voters.
“Technology like Rate Your Leader – which is free and utilises the phones almost every Nigerian has in their pockets at this exact moment – is an effective and credible way of doing that”.
Rate Your Leader, is a free app that allows voters to communicate directly with elected representatives in a way which makes abuse impossible, as well as rating them for responsiveness.
The app was developed by the Digital Democracy Project, which aims to use digital technology to reconnect electors and the elected.
has a five star rating on the Google market, with one reviewer writing “This is the new level of politics…better communication of leaders with the electorates and accountability”.