Raising New Voices, a Civil Society Organization, has released a report on the Call Your Reps campaign it mounted with its members to push for electoral reforms in the Electoral Amendment Bill.
The campaign was an initiative to inspire collective action from the citizens to demand specific reforms in the Electoral Act, including Electronic Transmission of Results. For this purpose, Raising New Voices, with support from other Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) such as Yiaga, Center for Liberty, ElectoralHub, EiE, and OSIWA, built an online portal that provided citizens with the phone numbers and email addresses of all 469 lawmakers in Nigeria’s National Assembly.
The #CallYourReps campaign initially began as an advocacy response to the clamour for the expeditious passage of the Bill to amend the Electoral Act (2010) by the National Assembly, being the legislative arm of government in Nigeria. However, as the issue of Electronic Transmission of Results came to the fore when a supposed bill to amend the electoral Act prohibited the Electronic Transmission of Results via electronic means leaked to the public, the portal was redirected to serve as a tool Nigerians could rely on and demand a return of the provision of Electronic Transmission of Results (ETR).
According to the report, over five thousand Nigerians used the portal to reach out to their lawmakers. The report further said that this was not unconnected to the claim by the president of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, that he received over 900 messages in one day from Nigerians over manipulations of the Electoral Amendment Bill.
A visit to the portal, www.callyourreps.raisingnewvoices.org, one can easily see on the front page that the portal was built with preinstalled text message and email templates that users could send to lawmakers. Also on the front page are the conspicuous pictures of the senate president and Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila with their contact details such as phone numbers and emails.
While speaking on the outcome of the campaign, Mr. Jude Feranmi, the convener of Raising New Voices (RNV), said that “collective Civic Engagement works!” Mr. Feranmi said he has been a community organizer since 2014 and he has learnt that “we see those in power as so powerful while forgetting that this power that they have is a function of legitimacy derived from the people. So as a community organizer, every time our team has the opportunity to show that this power resides in the people, we take it.”
The report also showed a mix of positive and negative responses from lawmakers who responded to either text messages or emails they received.