By Longtong Ibrahim
Kaduna (Nigeria) – Stakeholders present at a public debate organized by the League Of Democratic Women (a Non Governmental Organization) in collaboration with action aid Nigeria, have called on the public especially the youths to support the amendment and passage into law, a bill to alter provisions of section 65, 106, 131, 177 of the 1999 Nigerian constitution.
The proposed bill cited as constitution (Alteration) Bill, 2016, seeks for a reduction in age qualification for the office of the President, Governor, Membership of the senate, House of Representatives and the State house of Assembly to 25 and 30 against the status quo of 35 and 40 provided in the constitution. The bill also seeks to include a mainstream independent candidacy into Nigeria’s electoral process.
Executive Director of Aid foundation, Emmanuel Bonet, while buttressing the need for age reduction during the debate tagged ‘not too young to run’ in Kaduna, stated that, it’s high time young people are given a chance to showcase their capabilities, because over time, they have proven to be productive and leaders especially in the economic sector.
He said, “It is the young people that are now seen as the engine room and at the forefront of a section of the country’s economic sector. A lot of them are under the age of 35 and have become business managers; so if they can excel in those fields, there is nothing that can stop them from being leaders.”
According to him, young people are full of energy, zeal, and innovations that can turn around things in the country.
Coordinator of Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) Ibrahim Faruk, while making his remarks said the ‘not too young to run’ campaign seeks to open up a space to promote inclusion and participation of young people in electoral processes.
He said, youths participating as party agents, observers, electoral officers or voters is not just enough but their resourcefulness and creativity can qualify them to be voted for.
According to him, “One major area young people are really excluded and shut down in the electoral processes is their ability to contest. This is because the constitution states that you must get to a certain age before you can contest, but when that is reduce, space would be open for more young people to contest and showcase their ability and also learn the political process early among the older people.
Faruk also noted that, since an individual is allow to vote at the age of 18, that young person can equally be given a chance to stand and be voted for if the country can place it huge burden on him/her.
While expressing confidence on the bill pass into law, he said, the bill has passed through the first and second reading in the House of Representatives and is currently before the constitution review committee.
“The campaign is push by a group of youth organizations led by YAIGA, and we shall continue with our advocacy activities like public debates and reaching out to young people across communities to get them to support the campaign,” he added.
Speaking earlier, coordinator of League of Democratic Women, Mrs. Rebecca Sako John, in her welcoming address noted that the campaign is aim at stimulating the youths to participate in politics and contest for elective positions.
She said, as part of the organization’s activities in Strengthening Civic Engagement in Electoral Process (SCEEP), it engages in series of activities and intervention to get people involved themselves actively in electoral processes especially women, youths, and the physically challenged persons.
She explained that, League of Democratic Women joined the ‘Not too young to run’ campaign initiative in order to see that space is open for youths engagement in public offices – through engaging with the legislatures and the public to support a review and passage of the bill.
Mrs. John also pointed out that, “We know it is going to be a long run battle so we need more support and to bring many also on board; what we are doing is to sensitize people about the initiative and getting them to buy in and take ownership of the process not just passing it into law because they are the ones affected by the process.”
She also urged young Nigerians to join community associations, political parties and be in the mainstream not just at the youth wing level that does logistics but also contest for positions.