The not-too-young-to-run Bill was recently assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari thereby making it an extant law. Many questions have been asked and answers given. But after the July 14 governorship election in Ekiti State where no young person was visibly seen contesting, Victoria Omuya Usman looks at the possibility of the youths utilising the law to their advantage.
While it has always been a constitutional right for youths from age 18 to vote in Nigeria, the right of the same youths to be voted for was, until recently, not guaranteed because the same 1999 Constitution (as amended) raised the age bar for contesting certain political offices above the youth age range.
A sudden realisation of this stirred a long period of debate and subsequently, it was concluded that the youths were deliberately being denied the chance to hold some political offices in a country where more than half of the population are young people.
The above conclusion then led Tony Nwulu, himself a youth lawmaker representing Oshodi/Isolo in the House of Representatives, to sponsor the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Bill in 2016.
After a run through all the stages at both chambers of the National Assembly, the Bill was eventually passed this year and hope was rekindled again for the once neglected youths of the land.
Since the passage however, with just a few months before the next general elections, not much has changed and in the few elections that have been held since the Bill became law, which ordinarily supposed to be a litmus test for the new law, the older people are still the ones contesting and winning or losing elections, a situation that has made it pertinent to ask the question how ready then are the youths for the task that the law entrusts to them?
‘‘It’s wrong when we generally ask questions such as ‘are Nigerian youths ready,’’ says Ayodele Adio, a communication specialist. ‘‘What we are doing is throwing a blanket on everybody because we never ask the same question in the case of an old man,’’ he added.
But, not everybody is that confident about youths. While some believe that the orientation Nigerian youths have about governance is already a bad one, others feel that sensitive offices should be strictly reserved for older, more experienced men because an average youth is only interested in entertainment and modern social innovations, thanks to the growing age of technology.
Adio however, is of the opinion that whatever the orientation might be, the country is beginning to see and appreciate what young leaders are doing in other countries and so are warming up to giving youths a try. ‘‘I still believe that the mood in the country is tilting towards the younger person to run. If you follow social media you’ll notice how the young people in the country were excited about Emmanuel Macron in Nigeria and his activities at the world cup.’’
This awareness, he says, is the reason some older people might be tempted to fund and sponsor a younger person in the coming election.
The issue of sponsoring is another reason most Nigerians doubt things will get better under a youth leader. This is because elections cost money and raising such amounts that will be needed for an election will require the contributions of older people who might want to call the shots at the end of the day.
Just like Adio, Adamu Garba, shares the view that sponsoring candidates is one thing any responsible older person would gladly do so long as the candidate in question has proven him/herself as someone that can be trusted with leading the land.
‘‘Development is a welcome idea anywhere. So yes, the older people in my party welcome the idea of having a young person who is interested in driving the nation to prosperity. Most are in support even though they didn’t expect it. I have also come to know that these older people also care about the future of the country. They care about the kind of country they are leaving for their children,’’ Garba said.
Garba, who is a presidential aspirant for the 2019 elections, insists that the system of governance in the country is what is wrong, and not necessarily the old leaders. And that in his view, is what a young leader will address.
‘‘People have been complaining about the leaders in the country but the actual problem is the system. The system the country is being run needs to be overhauled, and that is what we are bringing to the table.’’
Whatever the problem, youth radicalism would bring about the necessary changes that will positively impact the country Adio believes. ‘‘With youths come radicalism. By radicalism I mean transformational ideas. And what the system actually needs is a shock therapy, a departure from convention, what we’ve known over the years. I think what young people will bring to the system is to shock the system, to overhaul the entire system and not do business as usual.’’
The law supports a candidate who wants to run independent of any party. This provision is what most people thought any youth with the ambition of running for president especially, would capitalise on. But that is not the case with the young aspirant, Garba. ‘‘Personally, I do not believe in standing alone. I believe in institutionalisation and everything I have packaged so far is tailored towards institutionalising the system and not personalising it. So I identify with a party and under the party I intend to win the elections come 2019.’’
Adio shares the same views. ‘‘Except we want to lie to ourselves, the only way anybody can win a national election in this country today is if they are running on any of the two major political parties because those are the only parties that have the reportage structure to run elections nationwide.’’
Garba, however, maintains that he is campaigning on the platform of ‘us’, the old, the youths, every Nigerian. And he is prepared and has identified with a party he feels can give him the chance to put Nigeria back in the league of great nations in the world.
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