Deepening of democratic governance in Nigeria has been the focus of the annual quiz competition of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), among the students of senior secondary schools since 2016. TAIYE ODEWALE reports
Motive behind the quiz competition
The quiz competition at conception in 2016 by management of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), was to facilitate understanding of workings and practice of democracy among pupils of senior secondary schools within the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
Specifically, as disclosed by the Director – General of the Institute then, Professor Ladi Hammalai, the quiz competition aimed at making the secondary students understand the role of legislature in democratic settings and by extension, putting its perception in proper context.
Making the quiz competition more effective and widening its scope
On assumption of office in 2019 as new Director – General of NILDS, Professor Abubakar Sulaiman, saw the annual Quiz Competition as required knowledge enriching template for Secondary School Pupils on workings and practice of democracy.
Making pupils at that level , know what democracy is all about and how best it should be practiced for good governance in the land , to him, was very important and should be expanded outside the territory of FCT.
Little wonder that the 7th edition of the competition held at the Senate wing of the National Assembly, had participating Schools across the Six geo – political zones of the country and the Federal Capital Territory.
The schools were TopFaith International Secondary School, Mkpatak, Akwa Ibom state which eventually emerged the over all winner, Immaculate Conception Secondary School, Bauchi state, Saint Augustine College Jos, Plateau state, Groundvig International Secondary School, Oba Anambra state, Model Secondary School Akure, Ondo state, Global Kids Academy, Sokoto atate and Government Secondary School, Gwarimpa, Life Camp, FCT.
In emphasising the purpose of the competition, Professor Sulaiman said: “Democratic participation is a fundamental pillar of our governance system and it should be inclusive of children and young people. One way of engaging children very early in their development is through civic education which can be an important and effective tool that facilitates the participation of citizens in democratic and development processes.
“In advanced democracies, parliaments play a central role in promoting political knowledge through civic education. In fact, the UK Parliament and the US congress has a designated standing committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement. In Australia, the Parliament and Civic Education Rebate (PACER) provides a subsidy for schools travelling more than 150 kilometres to visit the national capital as part of a civic and citizenship education excursion. Schools must visit parliament on such occasions and participate in an education programme while there.
“In the same vein, the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies introduced the NASS-NILDS quiz competition in 2016 as part of its mandate to develop a training curriculum for schools and tertiary institutions on democracy, legislative practice and procedure, political culture & development – as spelt out in Paragraph h, Section 3 of the Institute’s enabling Act.
“The main objective of the quiz competition is to introduce secondary school students, who are the leaders of tomorrow, to the fundamentals of legislative processes and procedures for democratic governance.
“The Institute believes that initiatives such as this are a key part in engaging young people, encouraging their development and enabling them to engage and be involved in both the political and leadership processes, if not now, later in their lives.
“It is gratifying to say that over the past seven (7) years this competition has provided motivation for secondary school students in the FCT to study and learn new information on the legislature and democratic governance.
“Through the instrumentality of the quiz competition, the institute has significantly promoted awareness, knowledge and understanding of the history, role and function of the Nigerian legislature in FCT.
“On the strength of the remarkable successes in FCT, the NILDS Governing Council in 2021 under the leadership of his Excellency Senator Ahmad Lawan, PhD, GCON and Rt. Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, CFR approved the extension of the competition to the entire country from which finalists from the six geo – political zones and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja are here today for grand finale”.
Lawan’s observations and remarks
At the ceremony, the Senate President Senator Ahmad Lawan, made two critical observations from the seven Schools that participated in the final and their compositions.
First of his observation was that out of the seven schools, only two are publicly owned while the rest are private schools. The second observation he made, was on female representatives in the team of some of the schools which to him, was a welcome development.
He said: “From the seven schools gathered here for grand finale of 7th edition of NILDS quiz acmpetition, it was evident that our private schools appear to be more successful and therefore can win and beat public schools silly.
“That is very significant for us. One, it is a wake up call. Government must invest a lot more in our public school.
“Education at the basic level particularly and probably up to secondary school level should be not only mandatory but free for all indigenes or citizens across the country.
“Infact, education at that level should be a right or must be a right because for any nation to develop, you have to get the foundation right.
“Education has multiple impacts. When you have people educated, they take care of their health. They can hardly join bandits or Boko Haram and all these evil groups that we have in the country. So it has many positive impacts and therefore we must invest a lot more in our public schools.
“Secondly, I have also noticed that there is a good proportion of young girls here. And that also tells me a story that if you want to empower women, you give them education.
“They don’t have to beg anybody to get there once they are educated. They can beat the men by the time they are educated.
“Education of the girl child is very important for any society or country that want to be genuinely developed and I’m very happy that girls are well represented among the competing schools here today .
“The main objective of the quiz competition is to introduce young Nigerians particularly secondary school students, who are the leaders of tomorrow, to the fundamentals of legislative processes and procedures for democratic governance.
“The Nigerian legislature is, no doubt, one of the most misunderstood arm of government. Using the instrumentality of the quiz competition, the institute is gradually changing this narrative by promoting awareness, knowledge and understanding of the history, role and function of the Nigerian legislature.
“To this effect, NILDS is further encouraged to collaborate with research institutes and relevant agencies of government to develop curriculum on legislative and democratic studies for inclusion in the Civic Education, Social Studies, Government and other curricular for basic as well as senior secondary education to enrich their contents and bridge the knowledge gaps in the legislature.
“NILDS should, therefore partner with relevant agencies for internalising content of this competition into the National curriculum on the template of Civic Education or any other relevant subject “.
NBC ‘s hands of partnership
In amplifying the content through relevant television channels to children across the country, the Director General of National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Balarabe Shehu Ilelah represented by Mrs Clementine Usman Wamba (an Assistant Director), said: “What NILDS is doing and aiming to achieve with the annual national quiz competition among senior secondary schools across the country on practice of democracy, should not stop at the various venues but transformed them into content that can be aired on television through any of the thematic channels for required impacts”.