The Not Too Young To Run is a campaign which seeks to reduce the age limit for running for elected office in Nigeria and globally. The campaign started in support of bills and motions in Nigeria’s National Assembly sponsored by the following legislators, Tony Nwulu in the House of Representatives and AbdulAziz Nyako in the Senate respectively.
The bill seek to reduce the age of young Nigerians who intend running for the presidency of Nigeria from 40 years to 30 years; for state governor from 35 to 30; for Senate from 35 to 30; for the House of Representatives from 30 to 25; and for State Houses of Assembly from 30 to 25. The campaign is now global, symbolized by the hashtag #NotTooYoungToRun, with the ultimate goal to promote increased youth participation in the political processes globally.
The total number of registered voters stands currently at 71.1 million and there is hope it will increase even more before 2019. While at the moment, it is difficult to have a precise number of young people who have registered, the force of 70%, the percentage of the general population that young Nigerians represent will suffice here and has been missing for much of Nigeria’s voting history.
A critical analysis of the Nigeria youth participation in politics has it that, of 70% young people who are eligible to run for offices in Nigeria, just 27% are not restricted from running for political offices, 43% are restricted from running for office even when eligible to vote, 35% of that population are under 30 years and are automatically out of the brackets of contesting for major offices. Out of the 8% left, only 2% are members of parliament and holding other elective position in Nigeria, a very disturbing position, especially as the Nigerian youth constitute 70% of the voting population.
This vote is particularly important because the population dynamics are shifting globally. Half of the worlds population is under 30, and yet 73% of countries, including Nigeria, restrict young people from running for office, by age clauses existing in their constitutions, despite being qualified to vote. Hence, the youth have unanimously risen up to say, if i am qualified to vote, then i am qualified to be voted for. It is on these premises that the agitation for the #NotToYoungToRun bill was initiated.
Despite the fact the bill almost suffered a set back at the house of representatives, on sentimental issues such as why did the senate not reduce its own not too young to run age, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, passed the Not Too Young To Run Bill into law on the 26th of July 2017. A total of 261 members voted in support of the bill, while 23 members voted against it and 2 abstained.
However, the bill left a lot of questions begging for answers, which is threatening the sincerity and integrity of this bill at this material point in time.
The bill has succeeded in setting a minimum age; however it failed to set a maximum age eligible to contest. If the civil service have set an age when their must retire considering an expected decline in their service, health, and productivity; these natural phenomenon are also applicable to political office holders, hence they must have a retirement age. In other words, it would be practically impossible for the Nigerian youth to take over office from our present aged and old office holders, who have perfected the act of staying and sitting tight in office for an in experienced youth.
According to the National Population Commission which places the total population of Nigeria at 182 million, out of which 112,000,000 live below poverty line and living on less than a dollar per day. Ages 14-24 make up 19.48%, 0-54 makes up 92.92%, with unemployment rate at 14.20%, plus a minimum wage of 18,000, the majority of youth has been technically disenfranchised from being able to be voted for, because the financial demands for running for an elective office in Nigeria is too exorbitant.
Other questions begging for answers are; what chances does this bill guarantee an average Nigerian youth who is interested in contesting an office? How possible is it for a person who earns N18, 000 to afford a presidential or governorship form? Is this democracy or Plutocracy if there is no fair chance given to all? Should the democratic process be so heavily monetized? in an estimated population of 186,053,386, an estimate of 112,000,000 are below the poverty line, and the total number of millionaires are estimated to be less than 20,000.
One question we should first ask, is age really the main barrier to youths occupying elective and non-elective public offices in Nigeria? The answer is no, It is clear that political offices in Nigeria are meant for the elites their children in Nigeria.
The recent trend of Education decadence in Nigeria shows that Nigeria has more than half of the world’s population of out-of-school children. The consequence therefore is that the futures of the country are the children who are currently out of school and Nigeria wont have enough of eligible youth who are eligible to be political office holders in future. Isn’t this another strategy of the ruling class to keep the masses out of the decision-making process of the country in future by making Nigerian children vulnerable and uneducated, while their children graduate from best school overseas?
Fact is, if the Not Too Young To Run bill must succeed, other factors such as demonetizing of the electoral process to its barest minimum for affordability, INEC setting criteria for aspirants to test capability and lastly, the National Assembly should also set age limitation to back of from contesting elective offices.