The Upper Crust

Yes, they are not too young to run

 

With Uche Nnadozie

The movement has come a long way. When all hopes seemed lost, the National Assembly beginning with the Senate passed the bill to amend age limit for aspirants to various offices in the land. The election of the new French President Emmanuel Macron must have played a significant positive role. He is just 39. In Nigeria, the legal age for adulthood is 18. This age allows you to marry, travel unaccompanied and more importantly, vote. The question is, if you have the presence of mind to choose who to vote for at 18, why should you not be voted for?

Therefore, it is heartwarming that our National Assembly saw reason, sided with patriotism and decided to vote on the side of the people last month. While awaiting domestication by state Houses of Assembly, it is with delight that Nigerian youths welcome this revolutionary constitutional amendment. Because what this means is that young people can contest for President at the age of 35 and Governor or Senate seat at the age of 30. It is a change from the initial 40 and 35 years limit respectively, which was mandated by the constitution.

The bill also stipulates that 25-year-old folks, can now legislate in the House of Representatives and State Assemblies across the country. Although 18- year olds are still not in the frame to contest, however, the hard glass ceiling has been cracked and its only a matter of time.

Progress has been made and this means university students or fresh graduates can now contest to make laws for both states and the federal government. For us, the question has always been whether young people will ever have the chance since the political space is dominated by older Nigerians as against what obtains in saner climes where youthful gusto, creativity, pizzazz and innovation have been deployed to solve nation building challenges.

But there is a snag “not too young to run” is not completely done. Even before the bill is presented to the president for assent, there’s the need for state Assemblies to endorse the amendment. At least, 24 states are needed. And in Kwara and the rest of the country, it is important we join forces with the National Assembly and other progressive forces to force through this amendment. Not just because of its fundamental benefits, but the states must lead from the front. Kwara and other states must sign up to this piece of legislation and be the first state to endorse it. Like every other state, there are more vibrant young people that live and work in the state. That vibrancy must form the basis for political mobilisation. Kwara, more than any other state needs the bill because her youths brim with confidence and energy.

Even so, the state needs to send younger people who constitute her first eleven to the National Assembly to join up with the distinguished citizens that are there already. Nigeria must benefit from the industry, panache, dynamism and ability of the Nigerian youth. We have seen how dry the road Nigeria has travelled with older politicians. It goes without saying, it is time we try something new. Having a population of young, educated and widely travelled people, here is the moment to tap into the store of value of our young to re-direct the development of the country which has seen her ranked lowest in virtually all developmental indices except a few! This means that our youths are good and brilliant from the cradle. If our students make the best grades then the youth should make the best politicians.

We need a new set of thinkers. While other countries are making real progress, Nigeria has been bugged down by gerontocrats and unbending folks who think like them. Apart from education where the youth have excelled; another area is that of enterprise in the area of technology and ICT. Nigeria is the foremost seat of innovation in Africas. It is not called the “Japan” of Africa for nothing. What is more, this this, the country and their industry are ran by young people. It is time to take some of those young people who have made our Nigeria a global country of ideas and substance to run the politics of the state and country. The same way the Kwara youth is known for sports, music and education is the same way the Nigerian youth is recognided. The state’s football clubs, Kwara United and ABS are as popular in football as Nigeria is, even in other sports.

Surely, although age ceilings have been cracked, there is yet another challenge and that is “not too poor to run”. When this amendment passes, it is important that young people challenge the role of money and godfatherism in our politics. Young people therefore must initiate strategies to raise funds for elective offices in a way to avoid entangling their ambition with that of older political jobbers. These jobbers will hold them hostage and kill the essence of “not too young to run”. The kernel of the movement is to unleash bright and globally acceptable ideas into Nigeria’s governance infrastructure. Let Kwarans, Nigerians everywhere run with this movement and endorse young aspirants for elective positions as 2019 approaches.

Yet, it is not as if younger people were ever excluded. It is either they were not very confident or were busy searching for when everything will be fine. No one leaves the stage for another in politics. You have to struggle for it. You have to show you really need it. If this movement will help open up the space and encourage inclusion and  more participation, so shall it be.

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