Can Young Candidates Make a Difference in Nigeria’s Political Landscape?
The true potential of youth inclusivity.
Young people make up 70% of Nigeria’s population yet they have been systematically marginalized and excluded from contesting and occupying political offices by the dominant, older, and more experienced political elites.
However, some progress has been made since President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Not Too Young To Run bill into law in 2018. Some young politicians who were formerly ineligible for political office, contested and emerged winners in the 2019 State House of Assembly elections.
Now as election day is drawing nearer, it is easy to wonder if history will repeat itself or if Nigerians will give new and younger hands a chance at steering the country in a different direction.
The bill that changed the political scene
The Not To Young To Run bill also known as the Age Reduction bill is an act of the Nigerian parliament to reduce the age limit for running for political offices. The act is a constitutional amendment movement that was initiated and driven by young Nigerians and different civil society groups such as YIAGA Africa. Through the law, young people below the ages of 30 and 40 became eligible to contest for political offices and some emerged winners to occupy the political offices they ran for.
Samson Itodo who led the group behind the movement and currently serves as the Executive Director, of Yiaga Africa, said:
“The landmark law not only made it possible for young people to contest for offices they hitherto could not on account of their ages, but it also injected vigor and competition into the 2019 elections with the increase in youth aspirants and candidates. Importantly, it put youth candidacy and the need for more young people in governance and decision-making as a central issue in that election cycle.”
The problem we cannot ignore
Due to corruption and political apathy, the same old ineffective leaders have been recycled with little or no records of success and accountability. Many of them turn political offices into money-making schemes and retirement plans, completely abandoning the people they were elected to serve.
Currently, the national assembly has 14 former governors serving as senators. And in the coming 2023 elections, 28 former and current governors are contesting to enter the senate, which would make them a quarter of the national assembly. This should cause some worry in one’s mind considering the amount of power these politicians will be able to wield despite many of them being unsuccessful, corrupt, and ineffective as governors.
According to a preliminary report by YIAGA Africa, “Public perception of youth leadership affects the emergence of youth candidates in elections. Young people are perceived as inexperienced and ill-prepared for public leadership hence the limits placed on youth participation in politics, “
A new wave of young competent leaders
Fortunately, after the Not Too Young To Run bill was signed into law in 2018, a number of young competent, and credible candidates ran for office in the 2019 elections and through the law, there are 20 current members of the State Houses of Assembly between the ages of 25 and 30.
As the 2023 general elections are approaching, another wave of young Nigerians is taking on the political space. Candidates who understand the problems of the people at the grass root level and how to serve them effectively. These youth leaders are instrumental to the transformation Nigeria needs and the economic and democratic future of the country lies in their hands
Time To Give Them a Chance
However, due to the long political exclusion of the youth in politics, many young candidates lack the leverage the old leaders have in terms of experience, finance, and resources. But one leverage the young generation has today is the media.
Thanks to technology and social media everyone has a voice of their own and this is an opportunity for the young leaders in Nigeria to connect with the electorates in the country and convince them that they were worth voting for.
Here at the baseline, we have partnered with Yiaga Africa to advance their #RunToWin project, where these young candidates are given the spotlight to share their stories and communicate their competence and plans of action if elected into office. We will be publishing a series of articles on them. We hope that through it you can decide if they are worth your vote and support in the forthcoming elections.