Since the House of Representatives signed the ‘NotTooYoungToRun Bill’, many youths have taken to the social media to announce ambitions for various elective offices. With lack of political structures, grassroots appeal and deep pockets, it is left to be seen how these young Nigerians can turn global success stories to local realities. HANNAH OJO reports.
How are the mighty fallen? This statement best describes the recent election in Kenya where a 24 and 23- year- old who ran as independent candidates defeated experienced politicians with established political structures to win seats in the Kenyan parliament. In Nigeria where the Not too young to run bill was recently signed by the senate; the success story of these Kenyan youths have generated a new whirl of excitement as some upwardly mobile young people, including celebrities have joined the ilk of people seeking political offices.
Aimed at increasing youth participation in the political process, the #NotTooYoungToRun bill seeks to reduce the constitutional age requirement for running elective office in Nigeria. The bill with gazette number HB 544 seeks to alter sections 65, 106, 131, 177 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) to reduce the age qualification for the office of the president from 40 years to 30 years; Governor from 35 to 30, Senate 35 to 30, House of Representatives 30 to 25 and State House of Assembly 30 to 25. Another tangible change sought by the bill is the mainstreaming of Independent Candidacy, which would be used to curtail the imposition and substitution of candidates by political parties.
Hon. Tony Nwulu, a PDP member representing Oshodi/Isolo Federal Constituency II, Lagos state is the sponsor of the bill in the House of Representatives while the Senator representing Adamawa Central, Abdul-Aziz Murtala Nyako of the APC sponsored the bill in the senate. Although signed by the green chamber, the bill has suffered delay in the House of Reps where it has been stalled by allegations of money exchanging hands and assumption of threat to the educational attainment of northern youths.
For the amendment to become law; 24 state houses of assembly must also approve the bill and the President must assent to it.
A slew of campaigners without political structure
Before Miss Cynthia Muge and Paul Nwirigi of Kenya turned into an inspiration for Nigerian youths seeking public office, there had been Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada and Emmanuel Macron, the 39 year old president of France whose win as a young, independent candidate threw the Nigerian youth community into a joyous mood. These victories invigorated the #NotTooYoungToRun campaigners and the effort seems set sailed even as the green chamber has endorsed it. However, it appears Nigerians youths may have lots of obstacles to deal with. Many of the young people who have indicated interest in electoral offices lack political structure, money and grass roots loyalty.
Emphasizing on the importance of grass root connections to political aspirations, Fisayo Soyombo, a public analyst and investigative journalist wrote in a recent op-ed that the Kenya duo won because they had integrated themselves into their communities and also have a deep connection to the grassroots.
“Here in Nigeria, politically conscious youth cannot lay claim to a physical connection to the grassroots. The leading lights are all Twitter superstars and “social-media influencers”. Unfortunately, Twitter superstardom won’t deliver votes.
“Kenya proved that already with the defeat of its Twitter god, Boniface Mwangi, at the polls. Mwangi, a popular activist, currently has 738,000 followers on Twitter but he had only secured 11,714 votes as of the time he conceded defeat, while a candidate had double his votes and another had almost quadruple”, Soyombo further intoned.
Also, Chude Jideonwo, a media entrepreneur in a recent essay written as part of the Office of the Citizen series alluded to the question of grassroots connection when he said;
“How many young people, who are highly educated, deeply competent and globally aware, are members of political parties, are strategists taken seriously within these political parties, and are eligible to be part of crucial decision making in these political parties?” The response to his question hovers judging by current happenstances in Nigeria’s political scene.
In a chat with The Nation, Oluwaloseyi Babaeko, who recently declared his ambition to represent Kabba/Bunu constituency in the Kogi State House of Assembly in the forthcoming elections under the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) umbrella, believes that ideological positions and consistent commitment to the welfare of the people can fill in the gap for a lack of political structure.
“We are mobilizing people using the political structure and the social media which is quite impressive because thousands of people have registered with us at the party secretariat in Kabba. The political process in Nigeria cost money no doubt but we are putting in efforts in place to conscientise the electorates and raise their awareness on the dangers of selling their future for peanuts”, added the aspirant who recently completed a Master’s in Conflict, Development and Security at the School of Politics and International Studies at the University of Leeds, UK.
“The issue with older generation has never been their biology. It has been about ideas. Do we have ideas and frameworks that will change Nigeria? Leadership is not about age. It is about vision. What vision do we have other than disgust with the other generation?” Onikoyi queried.
Reporting done as part of BudgIT media fellowship.