Over the past 5 years, youth inclusion in democratic processes has gained global attention, buoyed largely by the emergence of young leaders across the world. In Nigeria, the Not Too Young To Run Movement addressed a major impediment to youth inclusion in the electoral process with the passage of the Not Too Young To Run (age reduction) bill. This historic piece of legislation was a positive action towards closing the representation gap and signaled a shift towards inclusive politics. As a result of the reduction of age limits, Nigeria witnessed a new wave of competent and credible young women and men who aspired to run for office in 2019 Elections. For the first time in Nigeria’s post-independence history, young people between the ages of 25-30 are legally empowered to contest for seats in the House of Representatives and State Houses of Assembly.
The direct and indirect impact of the age reduction bill is evident in how youth fared in the 2019 Elections. Across the 991 seats in 36 State Houses of Assembly, 68 members are between the ages of 31 and 35. While this represents only 6.08% of the members of the State Houses of Assembly, it is an improvement from the levels of youth inclusion in 2015. More importantly, there are 22 direct beneficiaries of the Not Too Young To Run Act in the State Houses of Assembly between the ages of 25 – 30. This is directly as a result of the age reduction legislation that was passed by the National Assembly and assented to by the President on May 31, 2018.
The emergence of Rt. Hon. Saliu Yakubu Danladi, Rt. Hon. Abok Nuhu Ayuba, Rt. Hon. Adebo Ogundoyin and Rt. Hon. Nasiru Magarya Speakers of the Kwara, Plateau, Oyo and Zamfara State Houses of Assembly respectively, who are all under the age of 35, also represents an improvement in the level of youth inclusion across state legislatures. Young legislators also occupy principal positions in various state legislatures following the passage of the age reduction bill.
The age decrease enactment goes past lessening the age for pursuing elective positions to likewise diminishing the age for representative positions in the government and state cupboards. The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as corrected) states that ‘No individual will be named as a Minister of the Government of the Federation except if he/she is equipped for decision as an individual from the House of Representatives’ and that ‘No individual will be selected a Commissioner of the Government of a state except if he/she is equipped for race as an individual from the House of Assembly’ among different capabilities planned for guaranteeing equivalent portrayal in the Federal bureau, which has additionally been copied crosswise over state official gatherings.
In 2015, youngsters were essentially named as exceptional consultants on new media. In states like Kaduna, Abia, Cross River and Anambra, youngsters were likewise selected to unmistakable portfolios like Commissioners of fund, Budget and Planning, Youth and Sports Development. Nonetheless, it took President Muhammadu Buhari a half year to swear-in a bureau after the 2015 race and a comparable circumstance is by all accounts occurring after the 2019 Elections (Senegal’s Macky Sall and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa both delegated serves inside long stretches of being confirmed for this present year). An examination of the arrangement of the President’s bureau in 2015 did pretty much nothing or nothing to advance youth incorporation in basic leadership spaces.
In President Buhari’s remarks at the signing of the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Bill in Abuja on May 31, 2018, he said to Nigerian youths represented at the State House, ‘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.” It is left to be seen if the energy, intelligence and talent will determine who the Presidents men and women would be when the list of ministerial nominees is sent to the Senate for confirmation.
While attention seems to be focused on the announcement of ministerial nominees, the state executive council provides more opportunity to increase the level of youth inclusion in decision-making spaces. It is important to sound a note of caution that beyond the tokenistic appointments of youth as special advisers on new media or to the ministry of youth development but as President Buhari noted, ‘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.
The Not Too Young To Run law has provided an opportunity for the emergence of competent young officials to with competence, character and content to contribute their quota to national development in appointive positions in the federal and state cabinets. All eyes are now on President Buhari and the state governors, as they constitute their cabinets.
•Faruk is Senior Program Officer, YIAGA AFRICA’s Youth Program and member, Leadership and Strategy Team of Not Too Young To Run Movement.