The minimum age in Nigeria to run for political office has now been reduced from 30 years to 25. This is due to the signing of the #NotTooYoungToRun bill. The bill was passed by the National Assembly last year and signed Thursday night by the president of Nigeria.
This means that twenty-five-year-olds can now run for House of Representatives, which is the lower house of the National Assembly as well as contest for seats at the State House of Assembly level. President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari signed the law at the presidential villa surrounded by the young advocates who vigorously campaigned for the change in law.
The new law aims to relax the stringent and discriminatory provisions in Nigeria’s constitution. In the bill that passed the National Assembly, the changes were as follows:
- The Presidency eligibility age will fall from 40 to 35 years
- Governorship – 35 to 30 years
- Senate – 35 to 30 years
- House of Representatives and State House of Assembly – 30 to 25 years.
This has altered sections of the 1999 constitution, sections 65, 106, 131, and 177 to be exact, allowing the reduction of age for all four main political offices and introducing independent candidacy to the electoral process.
However in the assented bill, the age qualification for governor and senate remains at 35 years contrary to the demands of the movement. President Buhari said that this was the bill presented to him and he hopes it will be looked after eventually. The movement described this change in the original bill as “unfortunate and disappointing” and urges the National Assembly to revisit its vote.
Nigeria has a youthful population as demonstrated by its population pyramid, meaning that this bill is long overdue. his was pointed out a year ago by Speaker of the House of Assembly, Yakubu Dogara, while stressing the need for active youth participation in politics. He also emphasized however that this will not automatically put an end to the marginalization of youth in Nigeria, especially since they have yet to really tackle the issue of youth unemployment. In 2017, the youth employment rate was estimated at 8.5%. Nevertheless, the law will increase youth participation in politics.
“It is also my strong view that creativity and innovation are critical elements in engendering economic growth and development. Indeed the world is open for the youths to excel, especially in the area of technological development. Nigerian youths can compete strongly in the technological field in the new world economy. We only need better technological education, funding and exposure to best practices,” he said at the time.
A “Not Too Young to Run Celebration Conference” will be held on June 28th in Abuja. “The ‘Celebration Conference’ is convened to celebrate effective activism and underscore the inestimable value of citizen-state engagement in enhancing the quality of electoral politics in Nigeria,” said Samson Itodo, one of the founders of the movement.
Since he and Tony Nwulu started the campaign, it has since become global. It is symbolized by the hashtag, #NotTooYoungtoRun and has a website which points out that even though over 51% of the world’s population is under 30, only 2% of the world’s parliamentarians are.
Fittingly, the change in law comes a few days after Nigerian Democracy Day, which is celebrated on the 28th of May. This public holiday in Nigeria commemorates the restoration of democracy, when Olusegun Obasanjo took office as president in May 1999. This ended decades of military rule that began in 1966 during the civil war that began after Nigeria gained its independence from Great Britain. Democracy was briefly restored from 1979 to 1983 but fell to military coup again.
The end of military rule brought a new era of regular elections and the return of civil liberties, free press, and the end of the arbitrary arrests and torture.
Featured Image via Wikimedia Commons.