Nigeria has the third-largest youth population in the world and a median age standing at about 18 years. The nation’s political echelons, though, are dominated by older, over-50 politicians. This under-representation of a prominent section of the society lead to the campaign #NotTooYoungToRun.
This under-representation of a prominent section of the society lead to the campaign #NotTooYoungToRun.
In May 2016, YIAGA AFRICA, a youth-based NGO which focuses on democratic governance, human rights and the participation of youth in politics conceived The Age Reduction Bill, a.k.a ‘Not Too Young To Run Bill’, which sought constitutional amendments to lower the age limit to run for elected office in Nigeria. On 31st May 2018, Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari signed the bill into law which effectively reduced the age qualification for the office of the President from 40 years to 30 years; Governor 35 to 30, Senate 35 to 30, House of Representatives 30 to 25 and State House of Assembly 30 to 25.
The bill also seeks to support the rise of independent candidacy into Nigeria’s electoral process and this is prominent considering that it allows previously under-represented sections of the society like the women - who currently occupy only 27 of 469 parliamentary seats - in addition to the youth, can now hope to garner support.
The newly-changed law is especially crucial considering that the nation will hold polls in February 2019 to elect its President and here’s an interview with Eunice Atuejide (39), Adamu Garba (36) and Emmanuel Etim (38), all of whom are presidential-hopefuls:
1. In 2017, you founded the National Interest Party (NIP). How are you hoping to differentiate your party from those which will be contesting in the presidential elections in 2019?
We are fundamentally different in that we are youth-organised and technology-driven. All our candidates also undergo extensive screening processes to ensure they are people of integrity without criminal and/or financially irresponsible pasts. The calibre of our candidates will surely set us apart from the regular occurrence in Nigeria till date.
2. More than half of Nigeria's population is comprised of those who are under-30 but there isn't much youth-representation in politics. Now, with the signing of the ‘Not Too Young To Run' bill into law, how do you think youth-dynamics will have an impact on the 2019 presidential race?
It is already very impactful because people like me at 39 and Adamu Garba at 36 can now vie for the Presidency unhindered. A lot of the other aspirants under NIP are just over 25, which would have been impossible but for the ‘Not Too Young To Run’ law. To my mind, we will see a lot of young Nigerians on the polls next year, and many more young Nigerians will step out to support us with their votes
3. How are you and the party you are associated with using social media to connect to the nation's youth and the larger population which closely follows the news via social media?
We use a lot of social media tools to sell ourselves both as a political party and as aspirants. In fact, we rely 80% on social media to get our message across due to lack of funding.
We rely 80% on social media to get our message across due to lack of funding.
4. In Nigeria, only about 6% of the seats in the parliament are currently held by women. What do you think is the reason for this under-representation of half the population of the nation?
I believe it is the patriarchal system promoted by the political parties of the day. They offer women free nomination forms, however screen or vote them out at the primaries level, thereby denying them any real opportunity to actually take part in the races. And they achieve this by using the delegate system of selecting aspirants. we at NIP got rid of this by allowing the direct primaries procedure for picking our aspirants.
I believe it is the patriarchal system promoted by the political parties of the day. They offer women free nomination forms, however screen or vote them out at the primaries level.
5. How are you hoping to bring more women into the political echelons of the nation?
I already reach out to our women through various media channels and tailored events which promote female participation in politics. We also ensure women know that at NIP, gender and pocket size does not determine who gets the ticket to represent the party at the polls. Your integrity, patriotism, and focus are the primary factors we take into consideration in passing applicants through to the next level of actually participating in the political arena in Nigeria.
1. You are seeking to get the nomination of the ruling All Progressives Congress and so you will be running against the current president. What are the issues you are hoping to throw a light on that would differentiate your platform from that of President Buhari?
Our plans is to redefine the system of governance of the country from the current supplier-nation, rentier-state and patronage-driven economy to a productive, industrialized, free market economy that liberalizes our current state-owned institutions, frees our trading borders, opens our country to business investments and connects Nigeria to global supply chain networks as a market of value.
We intend to deregulate our NNPC [Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation], commercialize it and list it on global stock exchange markets so that we can attract more dollar investments to power our $1.5 trillion infrastructure deficit.
We intend to grant complete autonomy to our Central Bank, the Central Bank of Nigeria, with a single target of bringing our inflation to 6% [and to] invest in improving our GDP to grow at 6%.
We also hope to open our borders to trade in exchange for skills development and create policies conformable to WTO standards. We believe that when we industrialize, we will have more jobs created for the teeming youths. Most of our complete 24 policy proposals are available on www.adamugarba.org.
2. With the signing of the ‘Not Too Young To Run' bill into law, how do you think youth-dynamics will have an impact on the 2019 presidential race?
I personally believe the 2019 Presidential election will be determined by the youth of the country. As we run up to 2019, massive youth awareness has been generated - much of it due to joblessness and confusion within the polity - and the youth are politically conscious of who will continue to lead them. They understand that the right leadership will shape the greater destiny of nations and its citizens. They are much more willing to participate in the way they are governed. They also understood that throwing blames at the senior citizens will not guarantee them the needed result but active participation in shaping the country to work for them and their future is what works. So I am sure there will be massive youth involvement in politics in the coming 2019 election. After all, I, a 36-year-old Nigerian young entrepreneur, is now aspiring to be the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria come 2019. This clearly shows how reawakened Nigerian Youth are to participate in politics for the coming 2019 election.
As we run up to 2019, massive youth awareness has been generated - much of it due to joblessness and confusion within the polity - and the youth are politically conscious of who will continue to lead them.
3. A dominant issue concerning the youth in Nigeria is unemployment. How are you hoping to tackle this?
Almost all our policies are geared towards creating employment opportunities. On our trade policies, we will go with import substitution. We will trade with nations in exchange for skills. Our entire foreign policy machine is going to be shaped by our trade value with other foreign countries and we will do so in exchange for skills for our youth, especially on commodities we patronize the most.
We will create strong relationships with countries like Bangladesh and India to boost our garment processing industries, so that branded materials can be produced by our rural Nigerian women.
Our tax policy will also incentivize enterprises creating more employment opportunities. We have come up with a concept of “Free Enterprise” similar to Free Zones… those industries, especially mining and exploration that employ less labour and have a high turnover will have a higher tax to turn over ratio. Simply put, the more you hire, the less tax your company will pay. Meaning more jobs for the economy. Our infrastructure rejuvenation plans will also stimulate a lot of activities that will create more jobs. So our plan is ‘jobs jobs jobs all the way’ and we believe this is the only solution to the current security crisis in the country.
1. What impact did the #NotTooYoungToRun campaign have on your decision to contest in the presidential polls?
I made up my mind to run for presidency about 20years ago with the resolve that those of us who can make choices about our lives must become selfless enough to create opportunities in helping others have the same opportunities, if not better. But without the law, I would have had to wait probably a couple of more years to qualify to contest for the Office of the President. But because of the campaign and awareness that was there about getting the law passed, I am able to begin that journey to change the governance of this country and put it back in the hands of the people that deserve to have it - the young people. So the #NotTooYoungToRun campaign is one of the best things to have happened to our democratic experience.
The #NotTooYoungToRun campaign is one of the best things to have happened to our democratic experience.
2. You are running as the presidential candidate of Change Nigeria Party (CNP). In your campaigns, to what extent do you rely on social media tools like Twitter and Facebook to spread awareness about CNP’s message to its electorate?
A lot. We have social media campaigns and strategies which have been deployed to get the electorate to be more aware of the mandate of the presidential candidate and the party's mandate. We also have Facebook and WhatsApp groups with lots of active grassroots representatives across more than 25 states in the country.
3. How do you and your party members hope to provide a platform to address issues like education and jobs which are currently plaguing the youth population of the nation?
We will have meetings with students, young entrepreneurs and small business owners and set up question and answer sessions using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google Hangouts platforms where these issues will be addressed and they will be informed of the plans we have. If we are elected into the office of the President, we will establish a $300million impact investment finance fund for youth owned enterprises in the creative, manufacturing and export industries who have experiences of less than 2 years in business operations, we will introduce student aids, scholarships, tuition reform and university autonomy and roll out 12 youth employment centres in the 6 geopolitical zones in the country in the first 100days in office.
We will have meetings with students, young entrepreneurs and small business owners and set up question and answer sessions using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google Hangouts platforms where these issues will be addressed and they will be informed of the plans we have.
The #NotTooYoungToRun campaign, therefore, provided the impetus to harness new ideas and bring them to the forefront of national-level elections. The support the campaign received online and the extent to which social media helped garner wide-spread support is a testament to the fact that the sentiments which led to the campaign resonated with the youth all over the nation. And all of this is especially important considering the fact that the youth makeup a sizeable portion of the nation’s population and are plagued by issues considering education and employment.
Now that the constitutional amendment has finally paved the way for the youth to take part in the presidential elections, here’s hoping the state of Nigeria, including its youth population, gets disrupted enough to allow for new ideas to take over.
All of this is especially important considering the fact that the youth makeup a sizeable portion of the nation’s population and are plagued by issues considering education and employment.