The road has been cleared for young Nigerians to run for elective offices, if and when they decide to do so. President Muhammadu Buhari removed the age hurdle that had excluded the youths from the political process by signing the “Not too young to run “ bill on May 30. The National Assembly passed it last year. A day earlier, speaking on the occasion of Democracy Day, Buhari had promised to sign the bill in “few days’ time”. He said then, “In few days to come, I will be joined by many promising young Nigerians to sign into law the “Not Too Young to Run” bill.”
The new law alters sections 65, 106, 131, 177 of the Constitution. It lowers the age bar that effectively prevented the nation’s youths from running for president or governor. Now the age qualification for president is 30 years, down from 40; 30 instead of 35 for governor and senator. At 25 you now can run for a seat in the House of Representatives or state House of Assembly. Before, you must be 30 to run. “The new law is aimed at relaxing some of the stringent and discriminatory provisions of the Constitution,,” Buhari said after he had signed the bill. However, he jokingly told the young men and women he invited from the 36 states to witness the signature ceremony: “You can aspire to be President but please, postpone your campaigns till after the 2019 elections”.
We, at Peoples Daily, welcome the new law. It not only widens the political space but also it ensures a level political field for all potential players. The United States, considered the mother of democracy, was the first foreign government to congratulate the Nigerian youths on the new piece of federal legislation.Its embassy in Abuja posted on its tweeter handle the very day the bill was signed: “Congratulations to Nigerian youths as Buhari signs #Not too you to run bill. The U.S . supports a free, fair and inclusive political process that includes young people, women and the disabled”.
The lowering of the age limit shows that our democracy is maturing. It is a practical expression of the adage “the youths are leaders of tomorrow” – a tomorrow that never comes round. But now, they can be today’s leaders. All over the world, people are opting for younger leaders in the place of old politicians. President Emmanuel Macron of France, for example, is in his 40s. Here at home, young Nigerians -men and women – have proved their mettle in business, the bureaucracy and politics even where they hold key party posts. Why should they not seek elective political offices too?
While we congratulate our youths on this new law which has come after a long, heady struggle, we dare say it is not the end of the road yet. There are still “many rivers to cross”. For one, the older politicians will not just give way to the young Turks. They are well positioned by reason of experience and resources to bea t the youths in political contests any day. What we are saying is that, to translate this victory into winning votes, our youths must become more politically active, using their numerical majority to take the leadership of the political parties they join, cultivate mentorship, pool resources and do a lot of networking. Above all, they will need to push to the front burner issues that affect the average voter. In other words, the platforms they campaign on must not be religious, ethnic or clannish. To get to the very top and stay there, our youths seeking elective posts should offer the voter something that the oldies right now are not giving and cannot give. And that something is quality leadership.