Despite the enactment of the Not Too Young To Run Act, the percentage of the youth who sought elective positions and eventually won in the 2023 general elections is abysmally low; TOPE SUNDAY writes.
The 2023 general elections witnessed a rise in the youth’s participation in the electioneering processes but largely as supporters and influencers. However, the number of the youth who sought elective positions despite the Not Too Young To Run Act is fewer, and ditto for those who won at the polls.
In May 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the not-too-young-to-run bill into law, a constitutional amendment pushed by young Nigerians which led to a reduction in the age requirement of running for elective positions in the House of Assembly and House of Representatives from 30 to 25 years, Senate and Governorship from 35 to 30 years and office of the President from 40 to 30 years and independent candidates in Nigeria.
In the presidential election, the top four candidates are above age 50, while in the state governorship election, Mr. Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour of the Lagos chapter of the Labour Party was the only visible youth who sought to govern his state. Many youths, Blueprint Weekend, can reliably report were supporters and served as social media influencers before, during, and after the elections.
The Act, the 2023 presidential election
The Not Too Young To Run Act, which was passed by President Buhari in 2018 seeks to encourage the participation of young Nigerians in politics.
According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), a total of 93.5 million voters were projected to participate in the 2023 elections, with young people between the ages of 18 and 34 making up the highest percentage (39.65 per cent) of all registered voters.
However, during the presidential election, the major candidates and their running mates did not fall below 50 years, a development, which many observers said was a setback for the aspiration of the youth to contest the presidential election.
During the parties’ primaries, the emergence of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), who is now the president-elect; Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Peter Obi, of the Labour Party and Engr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) narrowed the presidential election contest among the four of them. Also, the results of the election were confirmed the same as postulated.
Also, Tinubu will be 71- year-old next week having been born on March 29, 1952; Atiku was born on November 25, 1946; Obi was born on July 17, 1961; while Kwankwaso was born on October 21, 1956.
Though at the governorship and senatorial elections, the impact of the Act could be resoundingly felt as none of the governors-elect is below 50 years, while senators-elect also fall within the latter’s age bracket. But the youth made an in-road though the number is lower, in the House of Representatives and the State Houses of Assembly.
According to reports, a total of three youths who fall into the Not-Too-Youth-To-Rule Act provision won their seats in the Ogun, Kwara, and Nasarawa state Houses of Assembly. Also, another beneficiary, the 27-year-old Ibrahim Bello Muhammed is now an elected member representing Birnin Kebbi, Kalgo, and Bunza Federal Constituency in Kebbi state.
Analyzing the reports, in Ogun state, the 26-year-old Rasheed Kashamu, the son of the late Senator Buruji Kashamu, who is of the PDP, will represent Ijebu North Constituency in the Ogun state House of Assembly; another 26-year-old Rukayat Shittu, from Owode-Onire district in Asa local government area of Kwara state, would be the youngest member of the House of Assembly. Also, 26-year-old Muhammed Adamu Oyanki emerged as the member-elect Nasarawa state House of Assembly.
However, the likes of Umar Yusuf of the PDP, 37, is now a Reps-elect, Yabo/Shagari Federal Constituency, while the 34-year-old Lawan Musa defeated the Yobe State Speaker, Alhaji Ahmed Lawan to clinch the Nguru 11 state constituency seat in the State House of Assembly.
A Youth Rights advocate, Comrade Akin Adejoro, told this medium that the Act has good intentions, but raised concerns about the nomination fees which he said are too bogus for some youths to obtain.
He said: “The bill is one of the most wonderful bills that have happened to this country. We strongly believe that it has given opportunities to young people to be actively involved in politics. The age barrier that if you are not up to 30 0r 35 years you cannot run for elections has been removed. But the major challenge that we are agitating for, is that the bill on its own cannot effectively implement the desires of the young people.
“There must be an amendment or addition to the Act to make some of all these challenges to accommodate the young people. For instance, selling the nomination form of political parties, let’s say the biggest political parties, APC or PDP is too bogus. How will a young person that is just coming up cope under this circumstance?
“You may have the energy to test the water; you may have intelligence, but what about finances? If you go out, that has been a barrier. So, the second thing is that we need to migrate the youth into policies. We should not allow them to be cut short somewhere.”
A political scientist, Mr. Femi Fayomi, told this reporter that for the Act to achieve its desired results, free nomination forms should be freely given to the willing youths to contest the election, adding that the country’s electoral system is capital intensive which he said is beyond the financial ability of some of them.
Fayomi, of the Federal University Oye-Ekiti, said: “The Not Too Young to Run Act is a significant act in the life of this administration. The act provides a platform for youths to seek public elective offices. However, the conduct of elections in Nigeria goes beyond the mere wish to seek elective office, it requires a huge war chest which is not available for the youth.
“When the nomination forms of the major political parties run into millions of naira, many youths cannot afford this. The capital-intensive nature of Nigeria’s election was a major impediment to the low involvement of the youth in the just concluded 2023 general elections.
“The political party should consider giving nomination forms freely to any willing youth in the subsequent elections. The political parties should also mandate that the party structure fund the electioneering campaign of any youth candidate to ensure victory in the election. It is instructive to note that despite the low youth involvement, the last elections produced a 26-year-old female House Assembly member-elect in Kwara state.”
NYC president’s view
On his part, the president of the Nigeria Youth Congress (NYC), Comrade Blessing Akinlosotu, said the Act has provided a better platform for the youth to seek elective positions, and advocated their motivation into politics. This, he said, should be done through the appointment of the youth into the cabinet.
Akinlosotu, who spoke with Blueprint Weekend in Abuja, also made a case for the reduction of nomination form fees for the youth and renewed his call for the implementation of 35 per cent of the youth into the government cabinet.
He said: “The Not- too-young- to- rule act has given a great opportunity for the younger people. Yes, we have not seen most of the younger people take leadership positions in the presidential election, but we have rightly seen some of the younger generations being represented in the Houses of Assembly and House of Representatives. Now, with the Act, we have a 26-year-old House of Assembly member-elect in Kwara state. In my state, Ondo state, half of the members-elect of the House of Assembly are less than 35 years.
“We are also asking for the 35% affirmative action as given to women in politics. We are asking the incoming president to implement 35% affirmative action for the youth to be appointed into his government. Also, it should be a law that 35% of young people must form their cabinet.
“From there, we would start from somewhere. We strongly believe that youths should be singled out for motivation. What do I mean? Like they (political parties) will sell the form to the women and tell them to pay 50% of the cost of the nomination form. Also, the youth should get a 50% slash of whatever nomination form has been agreed upon. This is one of the ways that youths can be motivated into politics.”