Many Nigerian youths are still hungover from the celebrations of the signing of the #NotTooYoungToRun bill by President Muhammadu Buhari last Thursday but it is only fair to note that while the President gave his assent to the historical bill, it was the Nigerian Senate, led by Dr Bukola Saraki, The Senate President who took the historical bold step for Nigerian youths by passing it into law 10 months ago.
The landmark victory is indeed for Nigeria’s democracy and another milestone for the 8th National Assembly which has continued to exceed expectations and excel previous National Assemblies.
It is indeed fair to note that the much-celebrated and agitated #NotTooYoungToRun Bill wouldn’t have made it to the National Assembly if not for the leadership of the Senate.
The #NotTooYoungtoRun bill is the most followed public bill in Nigeria since the country returned to democratic government in 1999. No law passed or bill has had this high level of impression and received so much attention as this bill and no Senate has been more effective, public-concerned and efficient like the present Bukola Saraki-led Senate.
Senator Bukola Saraki is one person whose adventure into politics began during his youth ages, which is not a surprise that the Nigerian Senate has been more focused on the Nigerian youth. You would recall that only a few weeks ago, the Nigerian Senate passed the Companies and Allied Matters Act which largely exterminates the constraints of registering companies and encourages Start ups, another height of the Saraki-led Senate.
It is without doubt that the #NotTooYoungtoRun bill directly affects the majority of the populace, the youths who make up about 60% of the total population of the nation.
The Bill is an amendment of Section 65 (1), 106(b), 131 (b), 177 (b) of the constitution. Prior to the amendment, the Constitution required that anyone vying for a seat at the National Assembly must attain the age of 35 years for Senate and 30 years for House of Representatives; section 106 (b) stipulated that a candidate must attain the age of 30 years before contesting for a seat at the state House of Assembly; Section 131 (b) pegged the age of 40 years for candidates vying for the office of the President; while Section 177(b) pegged age of governorship candidates for 35 years.
From the above, it is visibly obvious that the Nigerian constitution was deliberately configured to disenfranchise the majority of the population, who are the youths from age 18 to 28 years from seeking political office at their prime, which is why many youths resorted to only playing background and errand roles in politics.
With this new amendment, passage and signing into law, age of a Presidential aspirant has been reduced from 40 years to 30 years; Governors have been reduced from 35 years to 30 years; Senate from 35 years to 30 years; House of Representatives from 30 years to 25 years; and House of Assembly which was hitherto at 30 years has been reduced to 25 years.
Without holding back words, accolades must be accorded the present Senate under the leadership of Senator Bukola Saraki for taking the bull by the horn and listening to the voice of reasoning to lift the barrier that has cut off a majority of young people with intellect, vigour and passion to advance the course of the nation through public elective office as widely practiced in more advanced democracies.
It is important to note that the Senate’s passage of the Bill gave it the public energy it needed to move forward and see the light of the day. Without Saraki’s leadership, it could have been killed on arrival at the Senate if the Senate was not interested in seeing youths compete for elective political offices.
The Nigerian Senate under Bukola Saraki demonstrated a high level of responsibility and commitment to the inclusion of a very crucial segment of the nation’s population in democratic governance and not the popular use as political thugs, social media influencers and attack dogs.
The success of the #NotTooYoungtoRun bill is a huge indication that the present Senate led by Saraki is truly committed to youth development and empowerment. From the ease of owning and registering businesses to political participation, Saraki-led Senate has prioritized youth development in Nigeria.
The Senate President has also said that the passage and assent to the Bill, is just the first phase in the journey for more youth inclusion in politics. He applauded the energies the youths have applied to advocate for the #NotTooYoungtoRun bill to advocate for free and fair elections. In his own words “When you have the voice, you have the numbers”
The #NotTooYoungtoRun bill successfully removes the major barrier of age which has obstructed several youths from elective office and it is no wonder that Bukola Saraki and the entire National Assembly continue to receive accolades. The opportunity is now available for young people to take advantage of and decide the political future of Nigeria.
* Amadi writes from Port-Harcourt.