Clamour for more youth inclusiveness in Nigerian politics has reached another milestone with the passage by 25 State Houses of Assembly of the age reduction bill popularly referred to as the ‘Not Too Young to Run Bill’. The bill’ seeks an amendment to the constitution to reduce the age qualification for elective offices; for President
Clamour for more youth inclusiveness in Nigerian politics has reached another milestone with the passage by 25 State Houses of Assembly of the age reduction bill popularly referred to as the ‘Not Too Young to Run Bill’.
The bill’ seeks an amendment to the constitution to reduce the age qualification for elective offices; for President from 40 years to 30 years; House of Representatives from 30 to 25 years and State House of Assembly from 30 to 25. The bill retains the qualification ages for Governorship and Senate elections at 35 years.
With this passage, the bill has crossed a major constitutional hurdle that requires the passage of such bills by two-thirds of the State Houses of Assembly. There are 36 States in Nigeria and two-thirds is 24 states.
The age reduction bill was passed by the National Assembly in July 2017. With the additional passage by the required number of State Assemblies, the bill will now return to the National Assembly for harmonisation before being forwarded to the President for his assent for it to become an Act.
The States that have passed the bill are Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Delta, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Nassarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Plateau and Yobe States.
A group, the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) has been in the forefront of promoting the bill and has initiated on its website the ‘Not Too Young To Run Hall of Fame’ for states which vote in support of the bill.
Reacting to the passage the group described the development as’ historic and unprecedented’. In a statement on its website, the group said: “this will no doubt enhance the quality of Nigeria’s democracy. We have shown the world that we are a country that believes in its youthful population and is taking concrete steps to address political inequality and social exclusion. This is a practical step towards harnessing the demographic dividend’’
The movement expressed is appreciation to the 25 of the 36 state assemblies that have so far passed the Not Too Young To Run bill. “They have registered their names in the annals of history by passing Not Too Young To Run Bill and the Nigerian youth appreciates them. This demonstration of commitment to inclusive democracy and more importantly youth inclusion is recognized. Posterity will be fair to you” it said.
The movement would like to place on record that the amendment as passed by the National Assembly and State Assemblies reduces the qualifying age of the President from 40 to 35; House of Representatives from 30 years to 25 years and State House of Assembly from 30 years to 25 years.
“The age for the Governor and Senate was retained at the current 35 years. This is not totally in line with the demands of the movement. However, we recognize this as a progressive step towards opening the political space for young men and women to participate in electoral politics. The movement will not renege on its demand for the alignment of the voting age with the eligibility age for running for office.”
Aside from the group, the bill also enjoys popular support among Nigerians because of the trend in the world where young people are hold important positions like President, Prime Ministers and Governors.
Some analysts have, however, observed that the bill may not necessarily change the fortune of because of some peculiar Nigerian factors which skew participation in politics against the youth and other less privileged Nigerians. Factors such as ‘god-fatherism’, ethnicity and zoning which are still prevalent in the polity. They are, however, surmountable with time.
The next task would be how to mobilize the youth for effective participation in politics. Other factors that would have to be contended with include mobilizing the financial resources for effective participation and engaging the political parties to imbibe the practice of internal democracy.