Recent reports reaching the #NotTooYoungToRun campaign indicate that the Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives Constitution review has conveniently excluded the ‘Not Too Young To Run’ Bill (NTYTR) from the ongoing constitution review process. NTYTR is the only proposed constitutional amendment that promotes youth political participation in political process through the removal of age limits for running for office. The Not Too Young ToRun Bill sponsored by Senator Abdul Aziz Nyako and Honorable Tony Nwulu in the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively, has an overall objective of promoting inclusive governance in Nigeria’s democratization process. These proposals are an affirmation and reinforcement of Nigeria’s youth and citizens’ quest for participatory democracy.
Having passed the first and second reading in both Houses in fulfilment of the constitution amendment procedure, the #NotTooYoungRun Bill boosted Nigeria’s image at the international level with the United Nations subsequently adopting the #NotTooYoungToRun campaign as a global campaign with several countries implementing the campaign. Nigeria became a reference point recognised for promoting youth-friendly legislations following the passage of the bill at 1st and 2nd reading by the National Assembly. The 8th Assembly rode on the popularity and recognition of the Bill by constantly making reference to the Bill and identifying the bill as one of its achievements in the assessment of its second legislative year. Interestingly, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) also selected Nigeria as the host of the 2017 African Youth Conference for Young Parliamentarians scheduled to hold in September 2017.
It has become obvious that the National Assembly only utilized the platform as a subterfuge to achieve its own agenda. Their arguments against the Not Too Young To Run bill are an affirmation that most of our lawmakers are not committed to youth empowerment, intergenerational dialogue and civic participation. The arguments include the fact that there’s palpable fear that most legislators in the 8th Assembly will be unseated in the 2019 elections by young people if the bill is passed. Secondly, there is no place for young people in Nigerian politics and lastly, governance is the domain of the elderly.
The recent actions by the constitution review committee undermines the interests of one hundred and two million (102 million) Nigerian youths out of a population of One Hundred and Seventy million. In retrospect, we should have expected less from a National Assembly with 0.06 percent youth representation out of 469 legislators. More worrisome is the fact that the interest and aspiration of majority of young Nigerians to contribute actively to Nigeria’s growth and development is truncated by only 46 members of the Constitution review committee in the Senate and 49 in the House of Representatives.
While this is a call to action for citizens especially Nigerian youths, we will also seize the opportunity of this press conference to take Nigerians back to memory lane. We cannot as a country collectively forget our history, in particular, the struggle for independence, enthronement of democracy and even the deepening of this democracy we enjoy today.
The Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM) led by nationalists in their 20s and mid 30s pushed for independence; Eyo Ita Esua (30 years), Ernest Ikoli (35 years), Hezekiah Oladipo Davis (29 years), Samuel Akinsanya (35 years), just to mention a few. Anthony Enahoro was 30 years old when he moved the first motion for self-rule at the Federal House in 1953. And our great fathers, Obafemi Awolowo and Nnamdi Azikiwe were 25 and 30 years old respectively when they galvanized regional forces to trump the British colonialists. It was the purposive energy and intellect of these young men that birthed the independence of Nigeria in 1960.
It was youth that fought assiduously to terminate military rule in Nigeria. The likes of Chima Ubani, Bamidele Aturu, Olisa Agbakoba, Ayo Obe, Innocent Chukwuma, Clement Nwankwo, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, YZ Yau, Zik Ibrahim, Lanre Suraj, Wale Okunniyi, Kayode Fayemi, Julius Ihonvbere, Mma Odi, Jibo Ibrahim, Chidi Odinkalu, Ezenwa Nwagwu, Emma Ezazu, Lanre Arogundade, Yele Sowore, Segun Maiyegun, and a host of others.
Since the return to democracy in 1999, Nigerian youth have been pushing boundaries, youth have been involved in promoting transparency and accountability, they have been promoting free and fair elections and constitute the bulk of staff utilized for the elections held since 2011. They have contributed in no small measure to the economy of the country, from Nollywood, Kannywood, the entertainment industry, technology and entrepreneurship, creating an enviable startup ecosystem that is fast spreading across the country. Nigerian youth are contributing immensely to the GDP of this country. Youth have also joined the fight against Boko Haram in the North East, leading several social programs both in rehabilitation and remediation of the effects of the insurgency. The widely acclaimed elections that saw the ceding of power from the then ruling party Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC) was largely serviced by the youth who worked as electoral officials, either from the ranks of National Youth Service Corps(NYSC) or adhoc staff engaged in managing elections. At the same time, the youth in the several political parties canvassed for votes and even used social media for public engagement, peace messaging and election monitoring.
With the aforementioned trajectory, the Not Too Young ToRun bill if passed into law is not a gift but a right for Nigerian youths. All over the world, spaces are being ceded for young people. We are all witnesses to the emergence of a 39 year old as the President of France, one of the world’s most powerful democracy. Even our own continental body, the African Union has designated 2017 as the Year of “Harnessing the Demographic Dividends through Investment in Youth with a focus on youth political inclusion. The non-inclusion of this bill in the proposed set of amendments is a major setback in quest for inclusive democracy.
In the past year, youths across the country have spoken with one voice about this one thing that unifies us, one shared value, one shared goal, that we are #NOTTOOYOUNGTORUN. From different parts of the country, Nigerians spoke with one voice, #NOTTOOYOUNGTORUN. Our legislators can’t claim to be true representatives of the people if they vote against our collective interest.
On this note, we make the following demand as citizens of this Republic;
- That the leadership of the Constitution Review Committee in the Senate and House of Representatives within 48 hours give a Public Account on the status of the #NOTTOOYOUNGTORUN bill;
- The National Assembly fulfil its promise to Nigerian youth and the international community by ensuring the inclusion of Not Too Young To Run in the report of the constitution review committee and its passage at plenary;
That if the leadership of the Constitution Review Committees fails to give an account in the next 48 hours, we shall commence series of actions against them. These include picketing of the national assembly; commencement of recall processes in their various constituencies; petitioning the IPU to relocate the venue of the forthcoming regional conference scheduled for September 2017 away from Nigeria and finally a one-million-person march in Abuja and across the federation.
We would like the seize this opportunity to appreciate legislators who have advocated, defended and supported this bill in the National Assembly. We thank you for standing with your constituents and staying true to the promise of enshrining a truly inclusive democracy.
History beckons on the 8th Assembly to restructure our political system by removing age limits for running for office. This is an opportunity to write your names in gold and leave a lasting legacy that generations will celebrate. We urge you to tow the path of honor and answer this call of history by removing age limits for political candidacy in the constitution. We believe you can do it.
We call on Nigerian youth to take leadership in holding our lawmakers accountable to us. Give your representatives a call, write to them, pay them a visit and demand the passage of the Not Too Young To Run bill. Our right to advocate must be exercised with a high sense of responsibility and decorum.
As a campaign, we shall not be cowed. We remain resolute in our demand and stay committed to mobilizing youth and fellow citizens to make our voices heard beyond the din of politics to pursue the passage of the Not Too Young To Run bill into law. This we shall do within the ambit of the law.
We thank all our supporters especially the media both local and international, civil society and the international community for the solidarity and support. We urge them not to relent in their quest for a truly inclusive and participatory system of governance.
We have declared Tuesday, 25 July 2017 as National Day of Action on Not Too Young To Run.
One Shared Value, One Shared Goal, #NOTTOOYOUNGTORUN
Our Shared Value, Our Shared Goal, #NOTTOOYOUNGTORUN
- Abuja Global Shapers
- African Youth Initiative on Population, Health & Development (AfrYPod)
- Connected Development [CODE],
- The Election Network,
- League of Progressive Ambassadors of Nigeria (LEPAN),
- Mind Capital,
- The Nigerian Youth Parliament,
- Project Pink Blue,
- Social Good Nigeria
- TechHer NG
- The YALI Network,
- Youngstars Foundation,
- Youth Hub Africa,
- Youth Initiative Advocacy Growth & Advancement (YIAGA),
- Amplified Radio
- Media Insight
- Vision Alive Foundation, Abia
- Youth Initiative for Better Change, Adamawa
- Young Activists Initiative Nigeria, Akwa Ibom
- Integrity Youth Development Initiative, Anambra
- Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development, Bayelsa
- The Bridge Youth Development Foundation, Benue
- Exit Lanes, Borno
- After School Centre for Career Development, Cross River
- DIG Foundation, Ebonyi
- Connected Advocacy, Edo
- Inspiration Care Centre, Ekiti
- New Century Initiative, Enugu
- Dandalin Matasa Initiative for Rapid Development, Gombe
- Development Dynamics, Imo
- Centre for Environmental Research and Development, Jigawa
- One Project Afrika. Kaduna
- Centre for Advocacy in Gender and Social Inclusion, Kano
- Youth Entrepreneurship Support Hub, Katsina
- Youth Consensus Forum, Kebbi
- Youth Emancipation for the Society (ProjectYES), Kogi
- Brain Builders International, Kwara
- Grassroots Mobilization Initiative, Nasarawa
- Nigerian Young Professionals Forum, Niger
- Youth Future Savers Initiatives, Ogun
- Youth Aglow Initiative, Ondo
- Kimpact Development Initiative, Osun
- Young Care Initiative, Oyo
- Centre for Youth Participation Advocacy, Plateau
- Golden Star Development Initiative, Sokoto
- Rural Integrated Development Initiative, Taraba
- North East Youth Initiative Forum, Yobe
- Golden Stars Development Initiative, Zamfara
- Modaville Centre for Development, Lagos
- National Organization for Citizens Orientation (NOCO), Rivers State.
- Nigerian Youth Action (NYA), Rivers State, Nigeria
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