In the 2023 general elections in Nigeria, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will conduct elections in 176,846 polling units for elections into the office of the President, Governors, National Assembly and State House of Assembly seats. Eighteen political parties nominated a total of 15,336 candidates for the one Presidential, 28 governorship elections, 469 legislative seats in the National Assembly and 993 legislative seats in the State Houses of Assembly. According to the African Youth Charter, youths are classified as persons between the ages of 18 – 35years.
The National Youth Policy defines 15 – 29 as the youth age bracket for Nigeria. However, institutions like INEC maintain 18 – 35 years as the youth age classification for election engagement. While this age category represents 60% of Nigeria’s population, the level of youth representation in low. Youth representation in elective positions at the state level is relatively high compared to the national level positions. Following the 2019 elections, 0.6 of seats in the National Assembly were occupied by youth. Available data shows 6% youth representation in thirty-four State Houses of Assembly and 29.7% at the local government level.
According to the Constitution, there are four basic constitutional qualifications for contesting elections into the various elective offices recognized by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as altered), which are: citizenship qualification, age qualification, educational qualification and sponsorship by a political party. Prior to the signing into law of the age reduction amendment, popularly known as the Not Too Young To Run Bill, the Constitution stipulated that for a person to be qualified for election, s/ he must be a Nigerian citizen, educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent and must be sponsored by a political party of which s/he is a member. With the signing of the Not Too Young To Run bill, the age requirements for some offices were reduced to promote youth inclusion in politics.
Presently, the Constitution in Sections131(b), provides that aspirants for the office of President must have attained the age of 35 years, while, by Section 65 (1)(a) an aspirant to the Senate must have attained the age of 35 years. Similarly, Sections 65(1)(b) and 106(b) provide that those aspiring to the House of Representatives and a House of Assembly must have attained the age of 25 years. Similarly, by Sections 177(b), aspirants for the office of Governor must have attained the age of 35 years. As a result of the reduction of the age of limitation, there was a massive increase in the interest of youth who ran for various positions across board in the 2019 General Elections.