The 2019 elections just got (potentially) a little more exciting. After many protests and rallies, the 'Not Too Young To Run' campaign, an open campaign sponsored by a coalition youth advocacy groups to reduce the required age for elective offices in the country, got its first victory.
Yesterday, the senate voted to pass a bill, nicknamed the 'Not Too Young To Run' bill, to lower the age limit for contesting for elections in Nigeria. The bill reduces the age limit for candidates for president from 40 to 35 and, for governorship positions, from 35 to 30.
The bill also stipulates that 25-year-old people, can now legislate in the National and State Assemblies across the country. After an electronic vote, 86 Senators showed their support, while 10 were against it (give us their names!). One lawmaker abstained (NAMES!).
This vote is particularly important because the population dynamics are shifting. Half of the global population is under 30, and yet 73% of countries (including Nigeria) restrict young people from running for office, even though they can vote. And while Nigeria has a median age of 18, at 53, Goodluck Jonathan was Nigeria’s youngest president at time of taking office since democratic rule started in 1999.
The current situation around 74-year-old President Buhari's health status also serves as a reminder of the downsides of electing older presidents, and probably raises the need for a 'Too Old To Run' bill. Nigeria retires its civil servants at 60 and judges at 65, but for some reason we do not draw the line at electing geriatrics into office. That makes no logical sense.
The Senate also voted to allow independent candidates to run for office, nullifying the compulsory need for political parties. But to take effect, the 'Not Too Young To Run' bill and all its addendums still require endorsement by 24 of Nigeria’s 35 state assemblies as well as the president’s assent. And honestly, that could go either way, so let's keep our fingers crossed.