Can the Not Too Young to Run Act Deepen Nigeria’s Democracy?

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Muhammadu Buhari

In this report, Ugo Aliogo examines the issues and concerns in the Not Too Young to Rule Act
The Not Too Young to Run Act is an aspect of Nigeria democracy that speaks to the youth population in the country and their involvement in political process. The law ensures that young people are no longer spectators, and campaigner merchants. It gives them an opportunity to actively run for public office with constitutional backing. The law concerns political processes and participation.

In discussing the Not Too Young to Run Act, the Executive Vice Chairman, Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy, Dr. Tunji Olaopa, said although the promoters of the law had advocated for independent candidacy as an integral part of the bill with a view to using such to checkmate the issue of money, “a factor that is considered a major barrier to youth participation in standing for elective positions,”

He also stated that the issue of money was not eventually made part of the law but the gathering recognised finance, network and competence as the major barriers limiting youth entry into partisan politics.

He further noted that some of the constraints that are responsible for voters’ fatigue are still present and most of this weigh heavily against the youth in their path to political inclusion.
Olaopa, said the Act presently is not far reaching enough to recognise young persons as critical stakeholders and cornerstone for societal development.

He explained that the youth in self-examination highlighted that they have failed to show innovation in their style and mode of political involvement as they have continued to use the old paradigms with an expectation to achieve new feats, acting out the scripts of the older generation, who understand and have mastery of the complexities of party politics and electoral processes.

He admitted that there is need for new approaches especially in the formation of youth based political parties, mobilisation and more importantly, in fund-raising processes leveraging on their number and technology.

According to him, “Political inclusion is premised on three cardinal principles of being able to vote, being eligible to be voted for and being part of the process that can influence the policies that shape futures. Although, the Act has opened some windows of opportunities for young people especially with the reduction of the age of eligibility, and with a youth-inclusive legal framework which is an essential and primary step in mainstreaming the youth in the political processes, the onus is now on the youth to participate formally and improve their political roles in their societies.

“This must be actualised through active involvement in political parties, mastering internal party processes, getting visibility and experience, building necessary and strategic alliances and network with a view to influencing internal party policies and practices

“It agreed that a lot of youths have the entitlements mentality, and this serves as a self-imposed barrier to the integration of youth especially into the mainstream of leadership in the country.
“Nigerian youths were advised to stand up and be counted. The house made historical references to past and older generations who achieved political and social milestones as young persons.

“So, the problem is not that there hasn’t been political inclusion for the youth in the country, but today’s Nigerian youth have kept themselves in the beggarly mode of entitlements instead of rising up to the challenge to make their marks and earn their places of honour.

The Not Too Young to Run Act is an amendment of Section 65 (1), 106(b), 131 (b), 177 (b) of the constitution.
Prior to the amendment, the constitution required that anyone vying for a seat at the National Assembly must attain the age of 35 years for Senate and 30 years for House of Representatives; section 106 (b) stipulated that a candidate must attain the age of 30yrs before contesting for a seat at the state House of Assembly; Section 131 (b) pegged the age of 40 years for candidates vying for the office of the President; while Section 177(b) pegged Age of Governorship candidates as for 35 years.

President Muhammadu Buhari in signing the bill into law in May, had told the youths that they can aspire for the position of President, but they should postpone their campaign till after 2019 election.

The Buhari had also said under the new law, there was no reduction in the age requirement for the office of Senators and Governors, stating that age would still be left at 35. He said he hoped it will be looked after eventually.
Lawmakers also approved independent candidature in the new law. It was part of a wider constitutional amendment process which the National Assembly carried out last year.

Since its passage in July 2017 by the National Assembly, about 25 States, representing more than two-thirds of the country’s 36 States, had adopted the bill as at March ending.
According to a media report, the proponents of the bill noted that reducing the age at which Nigerians can contest elections into political office would afford the youth better opportunities to contribute to nation building though public service.

The report also stated that in recent times, despite making up the larger percentage of the population, limited opportunities have existed for young people to participate in politics and that reducing the age limit would go a long way in correcting the imbalance noticed overtime.

The report said: “It is felt that the youth owing to their age are not only more likely to be imbued with ideas needed to move the country forward, but are also likely to be more energetic or more embracing of a hands on approach to governance. It does appear that the issue of age or aging politicians seeking elective office or remaining in political power is not unique to Nigeria.”

“Young people have every right to be active participants in civic and public life. It is time to ensure they no longer face arbitrary barriers to run for public office,” noted the former UN Secretary-General’s envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, had said.

Africa Renewal in the report also noted that the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have also endorsed the campaign in Africa.
“The ECOWAS Commission is partnering with the AU on the empowerment of the youth of the continent with a bid to release their creative energies, raise their productivity and turns a vibrant human resource into an African development force,”

Another individual who took a different stand on the issue is a public affairs analyst, Sage Vincent, who noted that the Act is a tea party that everyone is not invited, noting that what the Senate and the House of Representatives members are doing is to normalise elective positions for their children and cronies.

He also stated that through the Act, the lawmakers have put in place a measure to ensure that their children have a fair share in governance.
He argued that many of the youths don’t have the financial power to run for political office, adding that many youths are not economically empowered.

“Government has succeeded giving youth’s age-allowance without any economic empowerment. The ordinary Nigeria youth don’t have the financial power to run for political office. He does not have what it takes to summon delegates. The party on its path decides who they give the ticket to and the decision is made within the party inner caucus,” noted Vincent.
Vincent explained that according to the party structure, the party gives an aspirant ticket to run for an elective office, and if the individual does not have the financial power to run for such position the individual does not get the ticket.

He further stated that the Act is more of an elitist programme which is carefully positioned to benefit the children of the rich in the society, the poor.
According to him: “If you also look at the bills from the economic aspect, how many youths are economically empowered. You government have just given age-allowance without any economic empowerment.
“The party structure is controlled by the current politicians; therefore you don’t expect an individual who just graduated from the University to amass so much money to sponsor his election.

“The Act would have been good if there were no party systems. One of the problems with Nigeria politics is the issue of god-fatherism and everything revolving round the political party system. If there is Not Too Young to Run, there should also be independent candidates. So if you are a popular youth, you can run for an elective office without getting a god-father to sponsor you.

“The Act is an invitation to god-fatherism because the election of an individual for an elective office is sponsored by a certain god-father. If you allow them, they will put in their own children and their cronies. This development sounds lovely, but these individuals have their intentions to achieve. The Act will not go far because the economic empowerment is not there. How many individuals can afford to buy party form? Do you it requires up to 27 persons (in each of the ward, the party Chairman and the Secretary) to sign a party form and attest to the individual’s integrity.

“It is a ploy to deceive the common man. We need to rebrand the party system and search for independent candidates. There should be economic empowerment; here the electoral body should reduce the price used in purchasing those forms.”