The “Not too Young to Run” Bill was passed into law a few weeks ago amidst fanfare, handshakes and a lot of chatter. YIAGA, the youth platform and the founder Samson Itodo, that unrelentlessly fought and kept pushing until it was realized must be commended for their work of advocacy. Hon. Tony Nwulu the initiator of the bill in the House of Representatives must also be commended for his vision and drive. It has become a reality in our day that such monumental achievement can be possible with the support and push by young people who refused to give up or give in even when it seems like the light at the end of the tunnel was dim.
This law now ensures that the age barrier for the offices of the President, Governors, House of Representatives and state houses of assembly has been removed to allow young, vibrant, visionary, patriotic, experienced and willing Nigerians to run and be elected into these offices to contribute their quota to the development of the motherland. We can’t gain say the fact that it is indeed a new dawn for the young people of Nigeria.
While the whole fanfare and excitement generated by the passage of this bill into law is not out of place, we must ensure we don’t lose sight of the issues. First, we must agree that the passage of this bill is just the beginning, a step in the right direction but, more crucial steps must follow. It is not OK to leave it at that, we all know that politics in Nigeria goes beyond age; it goes beyond passing a bill against age restrictions. There are more fundamental issues that discourage most people from vying for elective positions. One of such issue is the shameful and baseless cost of our politics: the dirty money politics that have disenfranchised the good, conscientious and decent young people from running for political offices.
We cannot turn a blind eye to the issue of dirty money in our politics; it remains the single most daunting factor. The nomination and expression of interest forms that most parties sell is in millions and way beyond the reach of most people who want to seek elective office. How do you begin to contest against dirty money politicians, whom though are mostly bereft of ideas but public office as investment schemes rather than a call to service. Most of whom have truck loads of money from very questionable and corrupt sources. Unfortunately too, the society celebrates such people instead of scrutinising. How do you convince delegates in your party who are used to being treated as must have brides during party primaries for rigged outcome? These issues do not encourage true participatory democracy and emergence of very credible leaders. We must address these problems for national development.
The political parties must as a matter of urgency must not add anymore to the cost of forms imposed by INEC for any office, and must take steps to subsidised to the barest affordable minimum to allow people with passion for leadership, service and good ideas to participate. Our political parties should ensure certain offices within the party are the exclusive reserve of young people for grooming and mentorship or exposure to leadership for sustainability of purposeful leadership. Parties must ensure that young people are a part of the decision making organs of their party so as to understand the dynamics of political organising and governance, add their voices to policy directions in the party.
The delegate system for party primaries must be scrapped. Delegate system is another phrase for institutionalized, party-encouraged corruption. Any wonder why people would do anything for the devil, just to become delegates during primaries. They know that the dirty money politicians are willing and able to buy their votes; therefore they are ready to sell to the highest bidder. In fact, most of these delegates collect money from each aspirant who throws money at them. if you are in doubt please check the just concluded Ekiti gubernatorial primaries) The delegate system should be replaced with the party member system. This system ensures that each card carrying member of the party is allowed to vote during primaries that affect him or her. This way, it is practically impossible to bribe thousands of party men for your nomination and the process is more democratic.
The earlier these suggestions are implemented the better else, the Not too Young to Run law will continue to be a nice and tantalising fruit beyond the reach of good and ordinary citizens deserving to political leaders in Nigeria.