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“I am young, I can vote, I must run”

April 18th, 2017

Bryan ObajiYoung people in Nigeria today are the change drivers, and investing in them will be of huge benefit to the country, writes Bryan Obaji, 26, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Calabar in Nigeria, who urges support for legislative change that will allow younger citizens to hold office.

A country of more than 182 million people with those under 30 constituting more than 50 per cent of its population should as a matter of fact and urgency give the youth a participatory role in governance. A nation where more than half of its population is not above 30 years has a lot to tell about its youths.

I make bold to say the youth have contributed in no small measure in developmental ideas that have seen the world advance in every sphere. Boosting the morale of the so-called “leaders of tomorrow” should be top the agenda of every government. Their ideas should not only be tapped into; young people should equally be given active roles to play in governance, thereby making them an integral part of developmental processes from an idea’s birth to its execution.

Nigeria’s population of more than 51 million people in 1966 had its youngest ever leader on the 1st of August that year. Although such history was occasioned by a military coup, it gave way to a 31-year-old Yakubu Gowon, who handled the enormous affairs of a relatively newly-independent nation for almost nine years.

Retrospectively, the elite might refer to such a scenario as an ‘accident of history’. But a closer look at the achievements of Mr. Gowon calls to mind the belief and conviction that he was the best man and had the required composure and maturity for the job, irrespective of his age at the time.

Nigeria is filled with dogged, determined, passionate, idea-driven, vibrant and result-oriented young minds that can be relied on at any point in time. This fact exists against the backdrop of unverified claims by individuals who question their state of preparedness.

If young individuals can amass millions of die-hard followers who are willing to queue behind them based on their innovations, achievements and projections that have resulted in a positive 21st century revolution, why can’t there be an amendment in the constitution that reduces the age limit of candidates seeking elected office to accommodate young people, who can effect the change we solely desire and at a rocket pace?

Not long ago, millions of young people in Nigeria and beyond watched with great joy while many others drummed in support of a bill sponsored by two parliamentarians: Hon. Tony Nwulu and Senator Abdul Aziz Nyako, with rooting from Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth, and Advancement (YIAGA).

The #NotTooYoungToRun Bill seeks to alter the Sections of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution to reduce 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 mainstream independent candidacy into Nigeria’s electoral process.

Interestingly, the bill has enjoyed much support from groups and organisations in and out of Nigeria, as it’s seen as a right step that fosters inclusion of young people who are willing and ready to make policies that affect the nation.

I refuse to categorically backlash the older generation for not being able to achieve the Nigeria of our dreams, because I see the growth of any country as a collective responsibility of every individual regardless of religious ties, age, sex, tribe, economic or political awareness and party affiliation.

I am proud of the yesterday and excited about the tomorrow of our nation. An all-inclusive governance will deliberately provoke and energise the intentions of young people in managing the affairs of a dynamic nation, which will bring about rapid change at no detrimental cost.

I urge everyone to support this bill with relentless passion, and we all will indeed arrive at our intended destination.

photo credit: John Englart (Takver) Victoria Senate and House of Reps Ballot papers #Ausvotes via photopin (license)

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About me: I am Jetem Bryan Obaji, a trained accountant. Presently, I work for a not-for-profit organisation, sensitising the public on the need for basic education.

In the coming years I hope to channel my efforts and resources towards ensuring a better quality of life for people. Reading, writing and playing fun games are my interests.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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About the author

Bryan Obaji

Jetem Bryan Obaji is a Nigerian-based correspondent for YourCommonwealth, a youth initiative of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. He has reported on politics, society and development and was named correspondent of the month of April 2017. Follow him on Twitter @Bryanobaji

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