Who truly thinks that anything is going to change in the political space now that we have the “Not Too Young To Run Act”? I don’t think so because in Nigeria the more things change, the more they remain the same. While there is nothing wrong in having the new law, I doubt if there was any young Nigerian who can sincerely say that he was unable to become the country’s president since 1999 just because the presidency age ceiling was 40. Again, is there any young Nigerian who is convinced he could have been the governor of his state or senator except for the 35 years eligibility age or who can establish that he could have been in the House of Reps or state assembly if not for the 30 years constitutional stipulation? I have my doubts and thankfully, the time which the new law brings upon us will prove to all that in Nigeria, the factors that determine who wins a party nomination and election are way beyond the issue of age.
My fear is that those who are overjoyed by this law may be making the mistake of believing that it has been the missing link we sorely need to get governance outcomes or national renaissance. It is for this reason that I found the president’s Democracy Day announcement of his preparation to sign the bill into law gratuitous and a making of a mountain out of a molehill.
I recall that in 2016, the president signed eight crucial bills into law, including “The National Agricultural Land Development Authority Amendment Act 2016”, “the Telecommunications and Postal Offences Amendment Act 2016,” and “Water Resources Amendment Act 2016,” which Nigerians only heard through the president’s special adviser on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang.
All I can hazard, as guess is that the public attention the president’s assent to the “Not Too Young To Run” bill attracted is a statement against gerontocracy.
For the avoidance of doubt, except for the eligibility age for the presidency which was cut down to 30 from 40 and that of House of Reps and state assemblies from 35 to 25, that of governors and senators remains at 35. So what’s the heck?
I need some convincing too that Nigerians are indeed ready to go for a 30-year-old youth either by next year, 2023 or even the far-flung 2027 as their president and I doubt if I am alone.
In the U.S from where we adapted our presidential system, much as the constitution allows them to have a 35-year-old as president, they have never had such in their history. The U.S’ youngest three presidents: Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton all made it to the White House in their 40s.
I am also not celebrating this law because I have no illusions that youthfulness means performance. Since 1999, I have seen enough examples of young politicians who hugely disappointed with underwhelming performances either as elected state governors, federal legislators or in some other positions.
Who is that Nigeria youth who has weaned himself either through education or association of the primitive mentalities that have ensured that the old brigade kept us where we are?
Who is that Nigerian youth that gives no hang about first being a good tribesman before being a good Nigerian? How many of our youths, even among the educated, understand and apply the fact that religion is a personal relationship with God and is guided accordingly in his dealings with those who worship in a different manner with him or her?
If there are altruistic Nigerian youth who are not driven by the intent to make a killing or to “hammer,” in power or in its corridors, I dare say they are a negligible minority. All one needs is to follow threads or conversations on issues of ethnicity and religion in social media platforms to know that the youth are as lost as the old brigade in chauvinism and bigotry.
If the youth are not of nobler character than the old brigade in the embracement of ethnicity, religion and corruption why should I celebrate the “Not Too Young To Run” law or make a case for the youth takeover of political leadership of my country? It would be replacing six with half dozen.
Olisa Agbakoba, SAN and former President Olusegun Obasanjo have been strident on their position for a generational shift in governance. Way back 2017, Agbakoba in a letter, sought Obasanjo’s enlistment in the crusade. I found Obasanjo’s July 28, 2017 reply to the letter, frank and edifying. By way of comparism between the old brigade and today’s youth, Obasanjo said, “The point to ponder is how have the successor generation positioned themselves to lead? I look back at some members of the younger generation and I am miffed at the missed opportunities.
“I am equally saddened that although we the so-called older generation did facilitate, some semblance of infrastructural development, today the gains made have been mostly pushed down the drain by some of those privileged young people saddled with similar responsibilities in the recent past.” These perspectives give me cause to ponder. While we can do without the many baggage of gerontocracy, it is good to be a spring chicken in government, yet we will come to grief if emphasis is placed on youthfulness rather than ability to deliver outcomes.
If there is anything of consequence with the “Not Too Young To Run” law, it is its provision for independent candidature. For whatever it is worth, non-partisan politicians can now stand for elections. This is in place in many democracies, including that of the U.S; we copied. In fact the Nebraska State Legislature is strictly for non-partisan politicians. The U.K has its own version and in Kuwait, political parties are totally outlawed, only independent candidates play.
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