The signing of the Not Too Young to Run Bill into law by former President Muhammad Buhari on May 31st, 2018, opened the space for the inclusion of young people in politics. By lowering the age limits for contesting elections, this law enabled young people to begin their political journey early.
However, despite the law’s existence, there are still questions around the opportunities young people get and level of support they can get to not just win elections but also provide quality representation in political office. This is because it is not enough for young people to be able to run – there is need for efforts to ensure that they emerge as candidates, win elections and most importantly, deliver responsible and responsive leadership.
As part of its support for young people who are contesting for legislative purposes, Yiaga Africa has consistently organised conferences, meetings, workshops, and experience-sharing sessions to increase the chances of success for these young candidates. One of such conferences was held in February 2023 tagged ‘Ready to Run’ with the support of the European Union and aimed at equipping young legislative candidates with the skills and tactics for running effective electoral campaigns.
The Ready to Run Conference provided a platform for over 150 young candidates for federal and state legislatures to learn on key areas of political campaigns, including effective communication, fundraising, and running an issues-based campaign. Importantly, it also provided an opportunity to network with fellow candidates from across the country and learn from their peers.
In the aftermath of the 2023 general election, Yiaga Africa in collaboration with the Young Parliamentarians’ Forum of the National Assembly and with the support of the European Union organised ‘The Convergence 5.0’ in July 2023. With the theme, ‘Leadership – Power – Politics’, the conference was the biggest gathering of young legislators in the country, with many of those in attendance beneficiaries of the Ready to Run Conference in February and prepared the young legislators for the business of legislative work through interactive sessions with experienced legislators.
The support for these young legislators does not end here but will continue throughout the next four years. This is especially as some of them have already emerged as principal officers of their respective legislatures, which increases the pressure on them to prove their capacity for leadership:
Yiaga Africa will continue to provide support to young federal legislators through the Young Parliamentarians Forum of the National Assembly through capacity building. It will also support young speakers of state houses of assembly by working with them to develop their legislative agendas. These are a continuation of its support to young legislators which commenced in 2019 after the first beneficiaries of the Not Too Young to Run Bill emerged.
Finally, Yiaga Africa has instituted an award for the best performing young legislator, the #NotTooYoungToRun Leadership Prize for Legislative Performance, to encourage young legislators serving at the federal and state levels to excel in their legislative functions, and to stand out among the peers. The prize includes a month-long leadership fellowship, a cash reward of $20,000, and remarkable opportunities to speak on international platforms. The primary objective of the Prize is to showcase exemplary young legislators as models of public leadership while inspiring lawmakers to consistently provide outstanding legislative guidance and uphold the highest standards of representation.
With these different forms of support for young legislators, we can look forward to seeing quality representation from young legislators at the National Assembly and the state houses of assembly. Through such responsive, accountable and innovative leadership, Nigeria’s democracy will be deepened, and we will make advances in our quest for development.
David Mkpume is a Media Assistant at Yiaga Africa, a non-governmental organization committed to improving democratic governance, civic engagement, and human rights in Nigeria and around Africa.