Kunle Lawal is the Country Manager of Wardchat Nigeria, a social media application designed to bring Nigerian voters together to discuss, interact, exchange and chart the way forward towards the upcoming general elections. During a recent interaction, he spoke about the app and its importance to the nation at this critical time in Nigeria’s history.
You have just launched the application, Wardchat. Tell us about it and how it works.
Wardchat is a social media application. Social media apps connect people, but Wardchat takes it to another level where it relates to people on a proximal relationship based on the smallest unit of a political structure, which is the neighborhood.
You register on the app using your voting unit or ward and within your constituency. It helps you connect with people, connect, engage. Wardchat helps you chat and communicate with people who are actually there, close to you and going through things with you, not someone in France talking about what is happening in a constituency. It would change the face and the game of how politics is conducted and how debate plays out on social media.
Is this a way to bring social networks into politics?
For a long time this has been debated. The answer is yes, and we do more than that. Imagine selling small chops and knowing that when you promote on social media, you are promoting it to someone in Britain, America or wherever. Wardchat narrows it down and makes sure it’s people in your area who see your promotion. A neighborhood is about three or four streets. Imagine people in your area know you sell small chops, they can just order them from across the road. It lowers the settings on the trade.
We have reached the point of leveraging technology to propagate politics. This is done in a dismal way on apps made by Nigerians for Nigeria. This by Nigerians for Nigeria.
As the leader of the country and a former politician, don’t you think people might see this as a decision of a political party or a personal agenda?
Everyone always has an agenda. The real question is what exactly is this program. I had a brief stint in politics, but that doesn’t mean I’m tied to anything. I have two sponsors: the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the people of Nigeria. For more than two years, I have been away from politics. I do not belong to any political party. Moreover, the visionary behind Wardchat is not a politician. I was recruited purely for my expertise, not just to run for office, to participate in party politics, and for my understanding of governance and the constitution. I am a worker with Wardchat.
Who are the target users?
We all say politics is local and it can’t be that way. If the interaction can also be made local, I think we can start having very concrete conversations in democracy.
What reactions and challenges do you foresee?
Take religion as an example. When Jesus Christ and the Prophet Muhammad were on earth, we had no idea that these were the best things that happened to us. Eventually people would realize that they were the best thing that could happen in the world. I think that would be the best thing that could happen in politics in the next 10 years.
What are the plans to raise grassroots awareness to connect?
We use the normal marketing strategies, using influencers, but our system is about doing more than just engaging. We have 73 million registered voters in Nigeria, and only 28 million participated, mostly at the grassroots. We have now entrusted the conversation to them. If the people who actually vote participate in this, we can leave the rest to the usual social media platforms to continue complaining.