Young Nigerians across the country have been jubilant since the passage of the #NotTooYoungToRun bill by both houses of the National Assembly, penultimate week. The import of the bill if approved by at least 24 State House of Assemblies is that as young as 25 years, any Nigerian can aspire to a seat in the State House of Assembly, House of Representatives and can also contest for Chairmanship of Local councils. The age limit for running for Governor/Senator was pegged at 30 while for President, 35 respectively. Ordinarily, the opening of the political space to youths is commendable but we must look beyond only age if we are serious about youth inclusiveness in politics.
Electioneering from the lowest level in Nigeria is capital intensive and our system is such that candidates contribute the bulk of the financing or is sponsored by a manipulative godfather. Apart from the fact that few youths at 25 or even 30 can afford the millions needed to run for House of Reps for instance, there must be a cap on campaign spending at all levels if youths are to stand a chance. No matter the credibility and manifesto of a brilliant young Nigerian, a mediocre or totally clueless old horse with a deep pocket can unhorse him.
There is also need for youths to advocate for the reduction of the usually astronomical nomination fees charged by political parties. This is imperative so as to make the process attractive to the upwardly mobile youths that are mostly middle-class. If this is not done, we risk bastardising #NotTooYoungToRUN as children of money-bags and corrupt politicians will take advantage of it, run and grab power. This might breed a new set of young politicians whose only motivation for office will be primitive acquisition and that would have defeated the vision behind #NotTooYoungToRun which is to give dynamic and visionary youths the opportunity to redefine governance in the country.
It is expected that as we get closer to make 2019, youths of all hues and shades will jostle to run for office. Scrutinizing the antecedents and credentials of aspiring youths is essential to separate the wheat from the chaff. A youth whose only achievement is the obnoxious display of ill-gotten wealth with no experience in public or private practice should be shown the way out. Those that should get the support of Nigerians are those that have favourably acquitted themselves in previous assignments and are above board in character. We must ensure that youths that are deficient in integrity do not come near the reins of power.
After identifying those that deserve their support,young Nigerians and indeed Nigerians should take ownership of the campaign through crowd-funding and volunteer services. Campaign expenses for National Assembly and State assembly elections run into millions, not to talk of the gubernatorial. If young people are to stand a chance, they will need the support of their constituency,the youths. They will need to pull their strengths together both financial and otherwise if they are to challenge the status quo and alter it.
The journey of a thousand mile they say begins with one step. That first step in the passage of the #NotTooYoungToRun bill in the National Assembly. We must sustain pressure to ensure that the bill is passed by at least 24 State assemblies across the country. In the words of Asiwaju Tinubu, “Power is not served a la carte” – it is not surrendered willingly, you take it! We hope young Nigerians are girding their loins to take power from 2019.
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