The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara has shown support for the #NotTooYoungRun Bill, saying that anyone who speaks against the bill is wasting his or her time.
The Speaker made the pronouncement during the second reading of the Bill for an Act to alter Section 65, 106, 131, 177 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) to reduce the age qualification for the running for elective office, as well as mainstream independent candidacy into Nigeria’s electoral process, otherwise known as the #NotTooYoungToRun bill.
The Bill is sponsored by Hon. Tony Nwulu, member representing Oshodi/Isolo Federal Constituency II of Lagos State.
During the debate on the floor of the House on Wednesday, June 8, 2016, Hon. Nwulu said that the vitality of democracy is hinged on the level and quality of citizens’ participation in the process. To this end, democratic processes or systems must be open and easily accessible for citizens to participate.
According to him, “political alienation and marginalization are not only anti-democratic but recipes for political instability”.
“About 10 million young Africa youth arrive each year on the labor market. Nigeria contributes a large percentage to the continent’s youth population with its robust and productive youth population. Despite this huge demography, youths are subjected to varying degrees of marginalization and alienation from the political process”, he said.
Hon. Nwulu, who is also one of the young legislators under YIAGA’s Young Legislators Accountability Project- #YLAPNG- stressed the historical contributions of youths to promoting democratic development and nation building.
“Nigeria’s pre-independence struggle was championed by young nationalists like Dr. Herbert Macauley, Ernest Ikoli, Chief H.O. Davies, J.C. Vaughan, Oba Samuel Akinsanya, Dr. Nnmadi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, among others”.
“After several years of military dictatorship, young people were visibly active in the struggle for the return to democracy. The sustenance of democracy has also received tremendous youth contributions especially in the areas of election management, democratic accountability, peace, and security”, he said.
The 37-year old legislator also provided global case studies to cement his argument that youths are taking center stage in public governance globally.
He argued that with a population of 54M and a voting population of over 34M, the South African Constitution aligns voting age with eligibility age of 18years.
He also said that Ghana has a voting age of 18 years with a population of over 24M, and a voting population of 13M. However, the age requirement for running for a seat in Parliament is 21 years.
The United States, he said, has a voting population of over 318M. However, the highest age requirement for Governors across the 50 states is 30 years, while state legislature ranges between 15 to 21 years.
Hon. Nwulu, therefore, called for a quick passage of the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill to address the legal challenges posed to young people seeking to run in elections.
He also said that the bill if passed, will not only create a level-playing field for young people but will also enhance the competitiveness of electoral politics in Nigeria.
The #NotTooYoungToRun Bill passed second reading and has been referred to the House Committee on Constitution Amendment for further legislative deliberations.