It is true that America has exported (and is exporting) her ideals and philosophies around the globe especially in the context of democracy. It is also evident that the result of the export has been really mixed. We have all seen democratic dictatorships, parliamentary democracies, monarchic democracies and what have you. However, the bedrock of the American democracy vis-a-vis Presidential/Vice-Presidential elections – The Electoral College System – is held tight to chest. For this, no export! Even though, you may want to agree with me that the system will suit Nigeria.
Since independence, Nigeria has gone through some experimental settings of democratic governance but has come to rely more on the presidential system with the two houses of national assembly akin to a republic, and of course same spirit with the American system. However, when “copying” the American democratic style, Nigeria did not imbibe the electoral college stuff which may assist the nation in combating virtually all the ills always plaguing the country during and after elections: bribery and thuggery, wanton destruction of lives and properties, marginalization of minorities, massive voter fraud (rigging) and errors, and “abnormal” long court cases while contesting results.
The system, though not totally perfect on its own, elicit the spirit of true federalism, an ethos being loudly touted by most political leaders in Nigeria as the missing piece in our representative democratic endeavor. It necessarily demands moderation, compromise and coalition building among political parties and candidates (particularly the aspiring Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates). The candidate(s) are expected to appeal to a broad range of people, and not just be urban- or class-centric. Electoral college therefore reflects people’s choice but also respect the minority; it also definitely creates stability and certainty in elections.
The system is such that all the votes on the national election day are actually being cast for a certain set of people (the electors – one from each senatorial district and Federal Constituency) who have been earlier chosen/elected by political parties, in each and every state, to represent them in selecting both the president and the vice president sometimes after the general elections (it is always done in December in the US election year). A simple majority win on the votes of electors is enough to return a candidate (or set of candidates as in joint ticket) as the winner of the elections. The current number in the US is 538 and as such any candidate winning 270 electors carries the election. Nigeria with 469 “electors”- total number of senatorial districts and federal constituencies in the country- should necessarily have the candidate having 236 electors as the president. The candidate having the required electors will be declared as the winner of the election regardless of who wins the popular vote of the general election.
You may want to term the arrangement as being unfair and undemocratic especially when the candidate winning the electoral college loses the popular vote – it has only happened four times in the over 200 year history of US presidential elections, the most recent being Bush’s victory in the 2000 election – but the implication is that the losing candidate might have neglected some minorities and/or ideals affecting some groups of electors as evident in Al Gore’s case with New Hampshire in 2000. The system rather create a fair ground for big and small states to have a real say in choosing the president, and allow people of some leanings to fight to be heard, else…..
Nigeria with so many ethnic groups and other minority interests therefore should really benefit from this kind of arrangement. And with elections always fraught with irregularities and violence, Section 134 of the 1999 constitution (declaring the candidate with: 1. the highest number of votes at the election, 2. not less than 25% in each of at least 24 states in the Federation, the winner of the election) which is basing success on only national votes may need need to be amended for a Nigeria-needed system like the Electoral College System.
Share your thoughts on the viability of this system in Nigeria by dropping your comments below.