On Democracy Day, May 29, 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari promised to sign the Not-Too-Young-To-Run bill into law once the document lands on his desk.
“In few days to come, I will be joined by many promising young Nigerians to sign into law the “Not Too Young to Run” Bill 36”, Buhari said in a nationwide broadcastto commemorate Nigeria’s unbroken spell of civilian rule.
Who started the ‘not too young to run’ movement?
The ‘not too young to run’ movement was spearheaded by a coalition of more than 40 youth-based organisations across the country.
The clamour for young Nigerians to be constitutionally allowed to be voted for, gained traction in early 2017 as civil society groups and NGOs lobbied legislators to amend the constitution to reflect a lowering of the age limit for elective positions.
The coalitions spearheading the ‘not too young to run’ bill took their advocacy to social media and cajoled young Nigerians to sign up to the movement with the I Support #NotTooYoungToRun hashtag.
As the movement picked up momentum, the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth initiated a global campaign for young inclusion in politics, inspired by the Nigerian example.
The UN Secretary General’s envoy partnered with UNDP, OHCHR,IPU, YIAGA and the European Youth Forum “in order to convene existing efforts into a global movement and provide young people with a central platform through which to advocate”.
According to the website: nottooyoungtorun.org: “Around the world, campaigns are underway to promote the rights of young people running for public office by seeking to lower the legal age of candidacy, and bring it into line with the age at which you can vote.
“We believe that young people deserve the same rights to run for office and that age discrimination is a hindrance to full participation and democracy”.
A few public hearings and meetings with legislators after, and it was beginning to look feasible.
When did the national assembly pass the 'Not Too Young To Run' bill?
In March of 2017, about 25 states, representing more than two-thirds of the country’s 36 states, adopted the bill.
Caving in to relentless pressure from the coalitions of mostly young Nigerians, the national assembly passed the 'Not Too Young To Run' bill in July of 2017, by amending Sections 65, 106, 131, 177 of the Nigerian Constitution.
These amendments sought to reduce the age qualification for president from 40 to 30; governor from 35 to 30; senator from 35 to 30; House of Representatives membership from 30 to 25 and State House of Assembly membership from 30 to 25.
The pressure continues
After the national assembly passed the bill to lower the age barrier for seeking elective offices, the coalitions piled on more pressure on the executive and legislative arms of government.
On March 14, 2018, young people under the aegis of Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth, and Advancement (YIAGA)were led to the Aso Rock gates by Samson Itodo.
They had one mission in mind--pile the pressure on Buhari to sign the piece of legislation.
The group was received by two of President Buhari’s aides in Lauretta Onochie and a Special Assistant on youth; as other cabinet members were attending the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting.
Displeased, the youths said they would rather a cabinet member addressed them.
Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, would later emerge to meet the youths after they had waited for three hours at the entrance to the Villa.
Sirika assured them that the president will assent to the bill, adding that "he is a democrat and will always listen to young people."
On May 14, 2018, the Not Too Young To Run movement issued President Buhari an 8-day ultimatum to assent to the bill.
In the words of the movement: “the movement requested the president to bequeath to Nigerian youths a memorable democracy gift by assenting to the Not Too Young To Run bill.
“Similarly, the leadership of the movement met with the President of the Senate, on May 28, 2018 to request for accelerated gazetting of the bill once presidential assent is secured, to fast track the process of its implementation”.
The Senate President duly assured the movement that the bill will be gazetted as soon as the signed bill is received from the presidency.
Victory at long last
On the morning of May 29, 2018, Buhari made the announcement that will henceforth make it possible to purchase a presidential form if you are 30 years of age, a governorship form if you are 30 years of age, a House of Rep form if you are 25 years old, a senatorial form if you are 30 and State House of Assembly form if you are 25.
Essentially, 30 has become the new 50 in Nigerian politics.
Presidency sources told Pulse that Aso Rock had little choice but to sign off on the bill, coming on the heels of Buhari's comment which took a dig at young Nigerians and painted them as lazy.
"It was important to get young Nigerians on our side ahead of a crucial election contest, by agreeing to sign the bill", one Villa source who craved anonymity for this story, told Pulse.
Agreeing to sign the bill was some sort of damage control for Buhari and a way of pacifying young Nigerians who constitute more than 50 percent of the voting population; and who had been angered by the 'lazy youth' remarks, Villa sources disclosed.