It’s not yet ‘uhuru’ for young citizens in Nigeria. Despite the passage of the not-too-young- to-run bill into law, the youths are still stuck under discriminatory laws, SUNDAY ISUWA writes
The Nigeria’s 1999 constitution and the Electoral Act, 2004 as amended stipulate that Nigerians has the right to vote and be voted for.
According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), an umpire saddled with the responsibility of registering, educating monitoring and conducting elections in the country, voting age starts at 18.
Nigeria lowered the age limits for contesting elections with the signing of the Not-too-young-to-run bill, but the youths between the ages of 18- 29 are still faced with discriminatory laws.
The youth from 18 to 29 have the right to vote but not to be voted for, contrary to the constitutional provision of the right to vote and be voted for.
The age limit for candidates for the office of the president and senate has been reduced from 40 to 35. Governorship, state house of assembly and the house of representatives positions were pegged between 30 and 35 years.
“The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria legally disempowered the large segment of the Nigerian youth population by disqualifying them from contesting,” a lecturer with the department of Political Science, Nasarawa State University, Prof Asisi Asobie, said.
Nigerians under age 35 cannot contest for the office of the president, based on section 131b of the 1999 constitution as amended.
Also, youth under 30 years cannot contest for the governorship election according to section 177b.
The same is applicable to State House of Assembly and the House of Representatives, according to section 106b and 65b respectively.
Political pundits are of the views that the Nigerian constitution needs further amendments as it relates to the age limits of people who can vote, but not to be voted for.
“Those provisions are discriminatory against Nigerian youths and in favour of the older generation which suffer no legal limitation on account of age,” Asobie said.
“The legal constrains are unjust and undemocratic in a democracy where the youths of ages 18-35 form the bulk of the population,” Asobie disclosed while advocating for age 18 as limit for one to contest all political offices in Nigeria.
“I think that people who have the eligibility to vote should also be eligible to be voted for both by creed and in principle,” a legal practitioner, Gloria Ballason, said.
She said the party structures which had already placed the youth in a disadvantage position needed restructuring.
“Party structures should be recalibrated to allow for political succession rather than having the older generation dominate the scene,” Gloria said.
“I believe that every political setup needs the dynamism of the young and the wisdom of the old,” Gloria added, suggesting non-discriminatory policies and laws in the polity.
“I believe more that the supervening factor should be to have candidates with track record who have what it takes to deliver,” the lawyer added.
“Most Nigerian youths are unemployed and can’t raise the required amount by political parties from candidates,” said a social commentator, Julius Daniel.
He said electoral process especially in Nigeria required huge amount of money to be executed adding that with the high rate of poverty as recently released, made many young people in Nigeria not to have the financial muscle to stand on the way of the older politicians.
“How many youths can challenge a state governor in a political contest financially in the same political party? Even in the opposition political parties, nomination and expression of interest forms are not free,” Daniel said.
He said without economic empowerment, the dream of the youths to take over position of leadership will still be a mirage.
“Things have changed,” Daniel said, apparently referring to the occupation of power by some politicians at the age of 26 but are still holding to power now.
“They are still competing. What the youth should do now is to seek for political empowerment. The youth should force the old politicians to make the economy work. Let wealth spread. With economic empowerment, they (youths) can register new political parties. But for now they should go and empower themselves,” Daniel added.
More Nigerians are advocating for the repeal of the ‘discriminatory’ law of the right to vote, but not to be voted for. Every Nigerian that is of voting age should have the right to vote and be voted for,” said a presidential hopeful, Awwal Abdullahi Aliyu.
Aliyu said since the voting age is 18 then there shouldn’t be age limit for people who want to contest various elective positions.
“The not- too- young- to-run law, as passed by President Muhamadu Buhari never took cognisance of this age issue for political offices,” the young presidential hopeful said.
“That makes the law incomplete,” Aliyu said, referring to the not-too-young-to-run law.
He said even though it gives room to the younger generation to actively participate in politics, a young person aspiring for the office of the President, Senate or member of the House of representatives can’t get the huge amount of money required by political parties.”
“The forms should be free for youths and women in order to encourage them to contribute to national development,” he said.
“Nigerian youth are rated amongst the best in the world in all fields. In Nigeria, the youth constitute about 80 per cent of the voting strength and of that 80 per cent, 75 are always actively involved in voting and other electoral activities. While the older generation constitutes only 20 per cent of the voting strength and only 10 of the 20 per cent participate in political activities. They always have it all.
“This trend must change. We need the youth to participate actively in politics. You don’t really need much money to retire the older politicians. That’s why I’m offering myself to serve, I see it as a matter of national importance to come and salvage this beautiful country Nigeria and give it back to the rightful owners the Youth and women,” Aliyu added.
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