President Muhammadu Buhari Thursday in Abuja signed the “Not Too Young to Run Bill” into law with a charge to the youths to utilise the opportunity provided by the new law to leave their mark on the political space.
Taking advantage of the presence of youths at the ceremony, the president who was probably conscious of the large population of the youths and the influence they could weigh in 2019 polls particularly at the presidential poll should they throw their hats into the ring, jocularly urged them to defer their ambitions till after the 2019 polls.
Breaking from his speech, the president jokingly turned to his audience including youths and said: “But please, can I ask you to postpone your campaigns till after the 2019 elections,” the president stated and thus prompting the entire hall to burst into laughter.
The bill was signed in the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa in the presence of young men and ladies from various states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
After signing the bill, the president said with the bill becoming law, its proponents had secured a platform to change the country if only they could organise themselves and work hard to achieve it.
He listed components of the Act to include the reduction of the age of eligibility for election into the House of Assembly and House of Representatives from 30 to 25 years and from hitherto 40 to 35 years as the eligible age to seek election into the office of the president.
However, the president expressed surprise that the Act retains 35 years of age for eligibility for election into offices of governors and senators, expressing hope that the provision would be revisited in future.
The president, who reasoned that neither agriculture nor oil nor solid minerals constitutes Nigeria’s resources, was quick to state that the Nigerian youth is actually the country’s greatest resource.
According to him, it is the intelligence, talents and energy of the youth that will develop the country after the transition of the current leaders.
Advising the youths to take advantage of provisions of the bill, Buhari challenged them not to wait for paid employment but to be innovative enough to engage themselves, saying he was confident that the youngsters would transform the country through their respective skills.
He said: “Surprisingly, the age limits for senators and governors was not reduced, as originally proposed by the sponsors of this Bill. This is an issue that may need to be addressed going forward. Nevertheless, your focus and contributions have now successfully increased the quality and maturity of Nigerian democracy and expanded the playing field for youth participation in politics.
“You, the young people of Nigeria, are now set to leave your mark on the political space, just as you have done over the decades in entrepreneurship, sports, art, media, entertainment, technology, and several other fields. You are undoubtedly Nigeria’s most important resource – not oil, not agriculture, not solid minerals – but you and all of us. Your energy, intelligence and talent are what will drive and develop Nigeria, long after we are all gone…
“Thus, it may be tempting for you to think of this as the end of the journey. However, it is only the beginning; there is still a lot of work ahead, towards ensuring that young people take full advantage of the opportunities provided not only by this constitutional amendment but also through Nigeria’s boundless prospects.
“You should inculcate the spirit of self-help. Those who complete their training should not just sit down and wait for government or private sector to employ them. You should be innovative and turn your hands to any legitimate work that will enable you to sustain yourself.”
Earlier, the Coordinator of Not Too Young To Run Movement, Samson Itodo, thanked the president for signing the bill into law, saying by doing so, he had given hope to young Nigerian men and women and made a bold statement that democracy had come to stay in Nigeria.
He disclosed that of the 36 states of the federation, only Kano, Lagos and Zamfara failed to support the bill and consequently lost the opportunity to write their names in gold, adding that with the president’s assent to the bill, another journey to rebuild the country had begun.
He implored the president to entrench credible, transparent election and internal democracy in the political system, and also ensure the reduction of the cost of obtaining tickets to run for elections.
Beginning for Youth Inclusion, Says Saraki
Reacting to the president’s assent to the bill, President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, described the development as a historic moment that young people will look back on someday.
In a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, Saraki said: “More than half of our over 180 million population is made up of people under the age of 30. Today’s signing of the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill represents many years of hard work and signals a new era of youth inclusion and participation in our governance.
“Now more than ever, as young people across the country bask at the moment and celebrate the signing of this Bill, they must not see this as the final destination. It is one thing to be able to run, but, it is another thing entirely to be able to serve.
“This is why, it is incumbent on our youths to register, get their PVCs and move on to the next phase of this journey — which is getting their peers elected in legislative and executive positions. You must all take part, to take charge.
“Nigeria needs the energy and innovation of our young people. On this note, I congratulate the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA), and all other groups that championed this cause for more youth inclusion. I also commend my colleagues in both the Senate and the House for making sure that this Bill passed its first milestone during the Constitution Review Process.”
Ekweremadu Hails Colleagues
In his own contribution, the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, commended the president for assenting to the Bill for an Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution to reduce the age qualification for some political offices, saying that the National Assembly had delivered on its promise.
Ekweremadu, who is also the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, said the new amendment to the Constitution would open up the political space for the Nigerian youth, urging them to capitalise on it to take their proper place in the scheme of things.
He, however, urged President Buhari to also attend to other Constitution Amendment Bills awaiting his assent, describing them as critical to the good governance of the nation.
He said: “I am happy for the Nigerian youth and congratulate them on this new vista of political relevance and attainments.
“We have delivered on our promise and it is my hope that the youth will capitalise on it to take their rightful place in the governance of the country. As I have always maintained, today, not tomorrow, belongs to the youth. It is theirs to organise and mobilise to take it.
“I commend President Muhammadu Buhari for assenting to the Bill to motivate our youth to start preparations for the 2019 elections. However, I equally urge him to assent to the remaining Bills already transmitted to him, including the Bill seeking financial autonomy for state Houses of Assembly”
Ekweremadu assured the youths that the National Assembly would continue to make laws that would deepen the nation’s democracy and promote good governance.
‘Not Too Young to Run is PDP Initiative’
But the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had harsh words for the president and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), for taking credit for a bill that was initiated by the PDP and attempting to parade themselves as the architects of the ‘Not Too Young to Run Act’, which was sponsored and pursued by the PDP members in the National Assembly and state houses of assembly.
In a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary Kola Ologbondiyan in reaction to the signing of the bill by President Buhari, PDP said the president and party “had no input whatsoever in the bill; never showed any support or enthusiasm towards the initiative and had no option than to perform a mandatory constitutional duty of assenting to the bill, as a clear reflection of the mood of the nation, given that the bill had already found an easy passage to the crucibles of the required approval of two-thirds of states in the federation”.
“This development is indeed a democratic victory for the Nigerian youths over forces, particularly, the APC, that had hitherto disdained and disregarded them as lazy and inconsequential, but had to succumb to the dictates of the law and pressure by the youths and the PDP,” it said.
The party commended the sponsor of the bill, Hon. Tony Nwulu (PDP, Lagos), other legislators who supported the process and the resilience of the Nigerian youths in getting the initiative through in line with the vision of the PDP to allow younger Nigerians to actively participate in elective positions in governance at all levels.
It said that in preparation for the passage of the bill, the PDP had since launched our ‘Generation Next Movement’, which has already put younger Nigerians at vantage positions to participate in elective positions ahead of the 2019 general election.
“In line with the ‘Generation Next Movement’, the rebranded PDP among other pro-youth incentives, has since approved certain critical clauses and waivers so that the young people will actively vie for positions in the 2019 general election.
“In line with our dream of providing enabling environment for youths participation in elections and governance, the PDP, after winning in 2019, will further lower the age qualification to entrench our vision that ‘whoever can vote can be voted for’, which is a global standard,” it said.
The PDP urged the Nigerian youths to immediately take advantage of the Generation Next platform and incentives already established by the repositioned PDP and actively participate in the collective quest to rescue our nation from the misrule of the APC.