- Mr. Somina Johnbull (Secretary, Nigeria Bar Association, Yenagoa branch)
The assent by the President to the bill which reduces the age requirement to contest elections in Nigeria is commendable. We should not fail to commend the young men and women behind the now popular “not too young to run”. However, the exemption of the offices of governor and members of the Senate cannot be justified. Recall that in the early 1960s, most governors were in their early twenties. In Rivers State, the first military Governor, Alfred Diete-Spiff, reputed to be the best till date, assumed office at the age of 24. General Yakubu Gowon led Nigeria from the throes of the civil war as a 31-year-old officer. It is, therefore, indefensible to argue that if 50 years ago, people in their twenties, could steer the ship of our nation, young men of that age cannot be entrusted to lead the country in this age. As a contemporary practice, young men in their 30s have been elected as Presidents. The Nigerian youth is no less endowed.
- Sen. Ben Obi (ex-lawmaker)
Well, there are other offices that are open for our young ones. When I started my politics at the national level, I was the youngest in this country between 1978 and 1983 and I know the responsibilities that were on my shoulders. And I also want to call on the young ones who seek political office to see this as a very serious issue. It calls for absolute seriousness; it is not just people getting up to say that they want to run for office. They must be seen in all aspects of human endeavour as serious-minded people and that is the only way they can encourage themselves as young ones. They should go and aspire to the offices whose age limits have been reduced to 30 years. We run a democracy that is not cast in stone. We can always evolve and fine-tune our democracy in the best interest of our country and our people. We fought so hard to bring about this democracy and we must guard it jealously. Actions were made or taken by some members of this government that are quite disturbing. That is why we feel, as an opposition party that has been in government for 16 years out of the 19 years of our democracy, it behoves on us to put a close watch on the activities of this government and to caution it when we find it derailing. In many cases in recent times, it has derailed and it is not in the interest of our democracy.
- Oluwafemi Adewale (Ado-Ekiti-based public servant)
It is not a straight answer for one to decide whether the age limit for senators and governors should be reduced. President Muhammadu Buhari just signed the ‘Not too young to run bill’ into law. The import of this is that the Federal Government seeks an amendment in the ages of aspirant for elective offices. I do not think the problem with Nigeria is age limit to seek elective offices. The major challenge is that you cannot contest in an election if you don’t have finances to run your campaign. So it is immaterial if you are young. It is often said that wisdom comes with age but where is the elders’ wisdom in all of this? The clamour for change in age limit began because we have been having recycled politicians ruling us since the post civil war era. The age limit would present another challenge, godfatherism and desperation of youths. People should be able to aspire for any political office they seek irrespective of their age. The ingredient that is needed is for people’s vote to count. People should have the free will to choose between the young and the old for leadership roles. Even in America an old man is the President. This is a clear departure from when they had the young Barack Obama. There are several old men in the Senate of America using their wealth of experience to provide guidance. It is not the age of the occupant that matters but the capacity, integrity and state of health.
- Abimbola Oyarinu (PhD student, University of Lagos)
I think youths are justified to ask for a reduction in the age limits for senators and governors. It is only fair having reduced the age limits for President and House of Assembly. For the Senate, I think the youths haven’t had good representation there and therefore, laws that are pro-youth have not been passed in a very long time. It is just like the way pro-women laws have not been passed because women have had a very low representation at the federal legislative level. Women actually know where the shoe pinches. This logic can also be applied to the youths. When your group is not represented in the legislature, your interest will hardly be represented. I would also like to talk about forward-looking bills. I believe youths are even needed more in the Senate than in executive positions in the state because the Senate is the highest law-making body in the country. Contemporary issues like homosexuality, rape, child marriage and others would be better handled by the youths because they see things from a global perspective. They are more in tune with these issues. They can also make laws that border on artificial intelligence, technology and other contemporary germane issues like global warming. So, I feel it is important for the senators to reduce the age limit. Already, the Senate is seen as a retirement home for former governors. However, I doubt if the Not-too-young-to-run law will solve that problem immediately. It will take at least two or three election cycles to have more youths in the Senate even if the law is amended today. Even President Buhari said while signing the bill into law that youths should wait till after 2019 before contesting against him. It is clear that youths would need to build a structure around youth candidacy and the political culture would need to change for the youths to have a place in Nigerian politics. Overall, I think the law is a good one and needs to be amended. It can change the future of this country. It will be interesting to see a Senate that has a large youth population. However, there is no guarantee that all youths voted into power will be competent.
- Saheed Afolabi (former Deputy Coordinator, National Association of Nigerian Students, South-West)
Reducing the age limit to contest governorship and senatorial elections is okay because this will encourage participation of more youths in politics. The youths constitute about 60 per cent of the population and lowering the age limit will give the youths a sense of belonging. It will encourage a large percentage of youths to participate in politics and enable them to contribute their quota to the development of the nation. Even countries like the United Kingdom and United States have reduced the age limits to contest in elective offices and this should also be done in Nigeria. I believe once somebody is qualified to vote, they should also be eligible to be voted for. The signing of the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Bill is okay but I believe that the age limit can even still be lowered to 18 or 20 for Houses of Assembly and House of Representatives while for senators and governors, 25 years of age should be okay. With this done, you will discover that many youths will be interested in contesting and it is good for us because there are too many old people holding elective and appointive offices in Nigeria and you will be wondering that, are there no youths qualified for these offices? President Muhammadu Buhari even said that youths should not contest against him in 2019 but we need the vibrancy of the youths to move this nation forward. The enormity of the task of governance will surely overwhelm the aged and that is why your people are needed to be in the driving seat in order to move the nation forward. Nigeria doesn’t need old people as governors and senators because that is why most of them especially the senators are not present at plenary sessions and they dose off in no time when they are present.
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