Strong indications have emerged that the National Assembly may be tactically delaying the transmission of the Age Reduction Bill popularly known as the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill alongside other constitutional amendments to the Presidency in a bid to prevent Nigerian youths from running for political office in 2019. The Bill which seeks to reduce the constitutionally required age of running for political office has been with the National Assembly and awaiting transmission to the Presidency since March 2018, having been passed by at least 34 State Houses of Assembly in Nigeria. With the 2019 elections fast approaching, it is expected that, the National Assembly; an arm of government which has continuously reiterated its commitment to the enactment of youth friendly legislations would immediately transmit the bill to the Presidency for assent.
It is increasingly becoming an issue of serious concern that, since over three months after the National Assembly had received the consolidated constitution amendment Bills, including the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill from the State Houses of Assembly, it is yet to transmit to the President for assent. Various youth-led and political organizations have continued to register their displeasure as the delay portends danger for aspiring young people ready to leverage on the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill in the forthcoming 2019 general elections. Despite series of calls to the National Assembly via letters, press statement and social media campaign to transmit the Bill to the President by over 50 youth-led/youth-focused organizations, the Age reduction Bill continue to suffer what can now be described as a tactical delay by the National Assembly.
According to a press statement released by the movement, Nigerian youths are ready to resist any attempt by any arm of government to prevent the passage of the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill into law. The urgency of the need to transmit the Bill to the Presidency cannot be overemphasized.
Nigerian youth are ready to run and must be part of the 2019 elections not just as voters but as candidates themselves. It is pertinent to remind the 8th National Assembly that history is on their side having passed the Bill in the first try. Thus, it is only logical that they transmit the Bill without further delay except if there are hidden motives as Nigerian youths are currently made to believe and ready to resist.
There is also the need to stress that, governance best practices as encapsulated in the African Union and Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS) normative instruments dictate that all amendments to the constitution must be concluded at least 12 months before the elections. The delay in the passage of these constitutional amendment Bills raises challenges to the integrity of the electoral process.
In a press statement released few days ago, Deputy Senate President; Senator Ike Ekweremadu charged Nigerian youths to step out and take their rightful place in governance and national development as well as to remain focused in realizing their goals and never lose self-confidence. He reiterated that, the National Assembly passed the Age Reduction Bill to pave the way for Nigerian youths to participate in the decision-making process of the country.
The Deputy Senate President’s call is ironic, because being a principal officer of the National Assembly, he should know that delay in transmitting the Bill to the President for assent pose a danger to Nigerian youths’ participation in the forthcoming 2019 general elections as candidates and ultimately from taking their rightful place in the decision-making process of the country.
Nigerian youths have continually shown determination, resilience and readiness to be part of the decision-making process by taking proactive actions even as the Age Reduction Bill awaits Presidential assent. Recall that, young people across Nigeria on March 15th, 2018 converged at the Unity Fountain, Abuja for a peaceful march to the Presidential Villa to demand assent to the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill by the President as soon as it is being transmitted. This was no doubt done with the belief that the National Assembly will be equally proactive by also transmitting the Bill as soon as it arrived from the State Houses of Assembly.
Additionally, the leadership of the movement paid a courtesy visit to the Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo to further press for assent to the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill on April 19th, 2018. During the visit, Osinbajo challenged Nigerian youths to brace up for political leadership of the country in the years ahead. He stated that, youths need to build their capacity and be ready for political offices they intend to occupy while pointing out that leadership positions were not automatic.
Similarly, the Vice President during an engagement with young Nigerians at the One-on-One Mentorship Series 1.0 program held in April stated that he is yet to see anyone in the Muhammadu Buhari administration that is opposed to the Age Reduction Bill. This is no doubt an indication that the Presidency is ready to fulfill their promise of youth inclusion in politics albeit IF and only IF the National Assembly transmit the bill along with other constitutional amendment to the Presidency for assent.
Media Officer, YIAGA Africa
Twitter : @moshoodpm