The Problem Statement
No doubt that Nigeria is a blessed country with huge natural and human resources. Young people account for the majority of the population with 70% of the Nigerian population below 35 years. It is therefore pertinent that they are well represented in the political space of the country. However, young people have been sidelined from ruling and to fill in political spaces due to bills that do not favor young people to run. The 1999 Nigerian constitution amended in 2011 Section 65 (1); Section 106 (B); Section 131 (B); Section 171 (B)., documented that a person age 40 and above can run for the presidency, 35 and above can become a governor and senator, while 30 years above can become a house of the representative member and a member of the state house of assembly. This law marginalizes young people below this age from running and hinders their ability to contribute to economic and social development despite being innovative, energetic, and having huge networks. To drive national development, we need to engage young people in the political process. More so, youths account for over 67% of registered voters, on average, which means that whoever they decide to vote for is sure of winning the election. More importantly, if the age of voting is 18 years, why would young people be denied the right to be voted for? Hence, the need of the Not Too Young to Run Bill
The Policy Solution
To fill this gap of engaging young people in politics and providing opportunities for them to run for political offices, the not too young to run bill was passed in May 2018. This lowered the age limits for running for the presidency from 40 -35 years, Senator and Governor from 35 – 30 years, while 30 to 25 years in the House of Representatives and State House of Assembly respectively (Westminster Foundation for Democracy, 2019; Okogba, 2018). This ushered in a new generation of voices and young people into the political space. More than any other time, we have seen the energy young people demonstrate and we need more of this energy in politics rather than engaging in political violence or thuggery. Young people have been used as a tool for political violence and the Not Too Young To Run Act addresses this by ensuring that young people with ideas and strong leadership potential are allowed to lead.
In simplifying this policy, we need to understand young people do not need to prove anything to take on political and leadership positions. We have seen young people lead community projects through several civil society organizations they are running. If young people are not too old to vote, they should also not be too young to run. YIAGA Africa (2016), who led this movement opined that the need for this bill will bring about the following;
- Inter-generational & sustainable political system
- Inclusive political space for young people
- Promotion of Issue-based politics
- Evidence of Advocacy: Today, we have been able to show that true advocacy works and that through consistent advocacy we can make a significant difference.
NIGAC Constructive Position/Take
The problem with this act is despite getting huge popularity and has ushered in a new generation of political leaders. It seems more as an act on paper than action. A cue can be taken when President Muhammed Buhari signed the Bill. He said, “You can aspire for President but Please postpone your campaign till after the 2019 election.” (Tukur in PremiumTimesNg, 2018). What does this mean for young people? It meant young people still have to wait to be able to contest for election and with this kind of intention would meet a bottleneck at all levels of political participation. Many actions still need to be taken to build the capacity of young people to run. This means young people need to come up with shadow policies that keep the government in check. Young people need to be encouraged to track illicit campaign funds and unaccountable political funding which block young people from access to power. If this is not done, old politicians who have access to power and privileges will continue to dominate the political space Udemeh (2018). “Other required actions are the training of young people on political leadership and political ideologies and the development of human capital to ensure they are fully prepared for tomorrow’s challenges of political leadership.”
The bill has had some successes as well, with an increase in youth participation and candidacy. The difference can be spotted between the 2015 and 2019 elections, there was a 13.2% increase in youth participation. However, the number of youths aged 15 -29 (National Youth Policy, 2019, P 3), voted into elective positions is less than 1%. Also, in the cabinet of President Muhammad Buhari, there are no youths ditto at the National Assembly. Furthermore, Ajodo-Adebanjoko (2019) gave that lack of funds and high cost of nomination forms remains a barrier for youth representatives in political offices jeopardizing the efforts of the Not Too Young To Run bill. The cost of nomination form was as high as 45 million Naira (US$125,000) in 2019 for presidential aspirants and 22.5 million Naira (US$60,0000) for governorship aspirants. It is a bit lower down for the senate as 7 million Naira (US$19,000) is needed to purchase a nomination form and 3.8 million Naira (US$10,500) for the House of Representatives. Only a few Nigerian youths can afford such an amount of money and naturally have denied us from running. “While in theory, they are Not Too Young To Run, in practice, the youth find themselves Too-Poor-To-Run and in a dilemma of how to mobilize sufficient funds to be ‘eligible’ for representation.” Hence, the need of breaking the power and privileges older folks have by ensuring that there is a 50% allocation or seat for young people to fill in all political spheres and removing barriers such as slashing the nomination form price to allow young people to hold political positions. Then, we will know that the Not Too Young To Run Bill is working. We also need young people to collaboratively pull economic and financial resources to sponsor young people for political offices. A great idea could be setting up a “Trust Fund” to achieve this. We understand this is farfetched from reality but it can be a good way to start when we start having conversations around it and mobilizing young people to make that happen.