An Over view:
Most often, campaigns into offices in Nigeria and indeed Africa are usually not issue based and even when specific undertakings and/or commitments to the electorate are made, the Electorate are not sufficiently equipped nor empowered to engage government and demand accountability.
The Mandate Protection project basically seeks to build the capacity of the electorate towards demanding for accountability and transparency from the elected officials based on specific campaign promises.
Benue and Nassarawa States of North Central Nigeria was served as pilot states for this project in the build up to the 2007 general elections. The project funded by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), sought to enhance and promote the empowerment of the citizenry and accountability in governance which has been the bane of under development in West Africa and other under developed countries.
The methodology for achieving this included the creation of State Mandate Coalitions, capacity building training, networking, engagement with government (executive and legislative), public enlightenment/empowerment programs, media and town hall meetings.
The objectives of the project was substantially realized. In both States, Civil Society partners came together to form Mandate Protection Coalitions, elected its Officials and forming their own structures of management. . A 3 day capacity building workshop was held for members of the coalition for both Benue and Nassarawa States. The essence of the training was to equip members of the coalition to effectively and efficiently engage elected political office holders to in order to bring about a positive change in the Nigeria polity. This project was first of its kind regarding realization of documented campaign promises.
The project impacted greatly on the 2011 elections in the States. In Nassarawa state the then Governor Akwe Doma lost re-election as he failed to deliver on the documented promises while in Benue State, the incumbent Governor party lost a substantial number of seats in the state and federal parliament owing to awareness and demand of the civil society no doubt enhanced by this project.
PROJECT ACHIEVMENTS AND OUTPUTS
AS a resullt of the project, remarkable achievements have been recorded. Below is a list of the achievements
(a) Formation of Mandate Protection Coalitions in the 2 States of Benue and Nassarawa.
(b) Capacity of the Coalitions in the two project states built and nurtured to effectively engage Government.
(c) In Benue State as a direct result of the Coalition efforts Government set up a committee comprising local NGOs to assist harmonize the State Economic Blue print styled BenSEEDS. This was no mean feat as since assumption of office efforts have been made to refocus government on the need to continue with the SEEDS process which is a more comprehensive development plan in order to attract donor support once more. Major Donors had left Benue due to an apparent lack of commitment by the then government.
(d) Another achievement is the report of the people’s assessment on delivery on campaign promises. The report serves as a strong advocacy tool for both legislative and executive advocacy.
(e) Civil Society Groups in the project States are now geared in one unified direction towards participatory governance and accountability
(f) Government engagement with the electorate has been enhanced in Benue and Nassarawa States
Lawyers Alert and NAWYCCA learnt and benefitted immensely from this project. Key is the need for networking and working together. Owing to this project both organizations have met severally and in the course of this work shared information, skills and knowledge that is mutually beneficial and organizationally invaluable.
We also learnt the how effective Coalitions can be when working together with a sense of purpose. The States Coalitions are effective, passionate and eager to deliver making State governments responsive.
The value of early preparation is also evident. Even as the Coalitions are engaged in this project they are also poise to impact on the 2015 General elections. The ideas generated in this direction are well thought out as against the “rush, rush” approach which is traditional in Nigeria regarding civil society engagement in the electoral process.
For Lawyers Alert particularly, this has enhanced our administrative skills of administering a wide reaching project in two states involving virile coalitions.
Lawyers Alert is thankful to OSIWA for this partnership and looks forward to more fruitful efforts in the service of humanity.