It is over a month since the #NotTooYoungToRun bill was signed into law, the product of the iconic youth movement to reduce the constitutional age requirements for running for political office in order to expand youth participation in Nigeria’s elective politics.
This act has earned Nigeria, the movement and the country’s political leadership including President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly worldwide accolades for making our democracy more inclusive through increasing youth participation.
While we have not been surprised to see various individuals and organizations claim to have been instrumental to the success of the campaign – after all, ‘success has many relatives’ – it was amusing to see the ruling All Progressives’ Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) both claim glory for the signing of the bill into law as part of their commitment to youth political participation.
Indeed, while there are many members of the #NotTooYoungToRun movement who are card-carrying members of these political parties and the bill was sponsored in the Senate by an APC member (Senator Abdulaziz Nyako – Adamawa North) and in the House of Representatives by a PDP member (Hon. Tony Nwulu – Oshodi/Isolo Federal Constituency), it will be a reach for either of the parties to claim that the law is a direct product of their efforts.
But now that the bill has become law, it is time for these political parties to put their money where their mouths are: commit to having young people on at least half their tickets against the 2019 General Elections.
We are aware of the fact that despite this constitutional amendment, young people in political parties still face a lot of uphill battles to becoming candidates – from ageism to the exorbitant costs of nomination forms. It was with this knowledge that besides the reduction of ages of eligibility for political candidates, there was an accompanying bill to amend the constitution to allow for independent candidacy, which sadly did not pass.
However, political parties such as the APC and the PDP can demonstrate their commitment to increasing youth political participation on their platforms by setting a quota of at least half their candidates to be young people. They can also start by waiving all fees for young candidates in recognition of the fact that these fees disenfranchise young people predominantly.
But this challenge is not just to these two parties, but also to the other 66 political parties in Nigeria: as the elections approach and they seek to increase their prominence and relevance in Nigeria’s politics, what better way is there to do it than by capturing the hearts and minds of young people and winning an entire generation to itself?
Implementing this quota, and even going beyond it will give fillip to the teeming youth population who are desirous of going into participatory and elective politics but feel that the odds are stacked against them within political parties and who do not want to once again be told to ‘wait until it is their time’.
Our time is now, and we believe it is also the time for Nigerian political parties to become more proactive about increasing youth political participation within their parties beyond tokenisms of having youth leader positions among their executives: reserve 50% of your tickets to young people within your parties.
This will be the Nigerian political equivalent of “Let a thousand flowers bloom, a hundred schools of thought contend”. With young people, these flowers shall bloom and not fade, and your parties in particular and Nigeria in general will benefit from the vibrancy and influx of new ideas – the type that has been seen from the #NotTooYoungToRun campaign.
The ball is now in the court of our political parties.