The Nigerian youths constitutes the largest constituency of over 60% of the 170 million population which amounts to at least 120 million youths. It is worrisome how the youths in the last decade have been schemed out and marginalized from governance. The present administration insensitiveness to being inclusive in terms on youth’s inclusiveness in governance is a point of worry and needs urgent attention. In the Federal Executive council where decisions are being made, there are no youths to represent and negotiate for the youths, even the Minister for Youths and Sports is about 52 years old, the youngest of the 36 Ministers is, Alhaji Abubakar Malami, SAN (Minister of Justice) who is 48 years old as at the time of his appointment. This singular act alone is a bogus slap on the faces of all Nigerian youths and this signifies that the youths have no place in the affairs of governance and decision making in Nigeria, also it is a total disregard to the global call towards reducing injustice and inequality world-wide.
Away from Nigeria, the minimum age requirement to contest for governorship across the 50 states in the United States of America is 30 years, Senate 30 years, U.S. Congress 25 years, House of Delegates 21 etc. In Australia, any person who has attained 18 years may stand for election to public office at federal, state or local government level. The youngest ever member of the House of Representatives was 20-year-old Wyatt Roy elected in the 2010 federal election. In Denmark, any adult 18 years of age or older can become a candidate and be elected in any public election. In France, any citizen 18 years of age or older can be elected to the lower house of Parliament, and 24 years or older for the Senate. Minimum age for the President of France is 18. In Iran, a person must be at least 21 years old to run for president. In the Netherlands, any adult 18 years of age or older can become a candidate and be elected in any public election. In Norway, any adult 18 years of age or older can become a candidate and be elected in any public election. In South Africa, Section 47, Clause 1 of the 1996 Constitution of South Africa states that “Every citizen who is qualified to vote for the National Assembly is eligible to be a member of the Assembly”, defaulting to Section 46 which “provides for a minimum voting age of 18 years” in National Assembly elections; Sections 106 and 105 provide the same for provincial legislatures.
Ghana has a voting age of 18 years with a population of over 24 million, and a voting population of 13 million, However, the age requirement for running for a seat in Parliament is 21 years. These are just few countries I have pointed out
An evaluation of the political and economic scenes in the Nigeria’s democracy reveals a country where it is hard to say youths are the leaders of tomorrow. Most of the politicians who are leaders today have monopolized the power despite out of ideas that can salvage the nation from the incessant crisis and economic woes. Historically, young leaders had fought for and ruled this great nation with their youthful exuberance and performed brilliantly. Nigeria’s pre-independence struggle was championed by young nationalists like Chief Obafemi Awolowo (37), Akintola (36), Ahmadu Bello (36) Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (34) and Okotie-Eboh (27), Enahoro (27), Dr. Nnmadi Azikiwe (40), etc. all led the struggle for independence of Nigeria in their youthful ages. Buhari, Nigeria’s President presently also benefited from being giving the opportunity to participate in governance at his youthful age. In August 1975, after General Murtala Mohammed took over power, Buhari was appointed as Governor of the North-Eastern State at the age of 33, to oversee social, economic and political improvements in the state. Also in March 1976, the Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo, appointed Buhari at the age of 34 years as the Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources, in 1977, Buhari was 35 years old when he was also appointed as the Chairman, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) which was created in 1977, Buhari was just 41 years when he became Nigeria’s Head of State.
The National Youth Policy categorizes youths as all persons between the ages 18 – 35. Since the democratic regime, the 1999, Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria Section 65, 106, 131, 177 have all placed age restrictions in elective offices despite prescribing the age of 18 as the voting age. These age restrictions over the years have created a huge gap between the voting age and eligible age to run for office. Whilst the ‘right to vote’ is guaranteed, the ‘right to be voted for’ is not guaranteed until the attainment of an age bracket that is above the youth age classification. For instance, all those who fall within the youth age category are deemed unqualified to run for the office of the President, Senate and Governors. This in itself is discriminatory and an exhibition of injustice and inequality. Whilst the Constitution recognizes 18 as the voting age, it strips young people of the opportunity to pursue their political aspirations.
The notion that the youths are the leaders of tomorrow is no longer working and fashionable. This assertion has not made the youths to be only relegated and marginalised, but has made them to wait endlessly. The old Nigerian leaders, who have ruled 30 years ago, are still the set of people ruling today, so when will the “tomorrow” of the youths come? The answer is: ‘tomorrow is now’ and we are the leaders of ‘today’ not ‘tomorrow’ anymore. We must possess our possession, and take our space within the political space, as it takes a young mind to understand the thinking, wants and needs of a young person. We must all support the #NotTooYoungToRun’ bill, as if scaled through, it will renew the hope and future of the Nigerian Youths. It will also be desirable if the bill can request or ask for at least 30% allocation for the youths both within all political parties for elective positions and also appointive positions. With this, the interest of the youths will be well cemented and level playing participation guaranteed.
We must also realise that we have a formidable tool at our disposal which will cost us nothing; all we need is to be committed, visionary, act and engage. The tool we have is the ‘Number’, the ‘population’, since politics is a game of number, and if youths alone are up to 100 million out of 170 million total population, then we can out-number any group or age bracket within the political space.
2019 is around the corner, we all need to renew our interest in politics, have a common voice in unity, vision and take our future in our own hands. If the best political position the president of Nigeria could afford to give us is the Personal Assistant on New Media, Bashir Ahmad who is 24 years old, despite the full and mass support he enjoyed from us during the campaign both online and offline, then we need to have a rethink, mobilise ourselves en-mass to have a mutual interest and fight what belong to us.Nigeria is potentially a great country. We should come together to harness our potentials and rescue the wrecking ship of Nigeria from being berthed to total wreckage. Remember, the time is now!
This article was written by Onilogbo Adesegun.