YES, BECAUSE IT’S A CHANGE IN ITSELF.


“The delight of opening a new pursuit, or a new course of reading, imparts the vivacity and novelty of youth even to old age.” – Benjamin Disraeli.

In July 2017, both chambers of the national assembly passed the Not Too Young to Run Bill, after which it was sent to the state assemblies. The Bill was sponsored by Tony Nwulu, the lawmaker representing Oshodi-Isolo II Federal Constituency, at the house of representatives, and YIAGA — Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement. This is not all the information you need to know about the Age Reduction Bill.

The bill seeks to reduce the age qualification for the office of the president from 40 to 30 years; age for the office of a state governor from 35 to 30; senate from 35 to 30; House of representatives, from 30 to 25; and state house of assembly, from 30 to 25, thereby, altering the sections 65, 106, 131, 177 of the Constitution of Nigeria. Your Honour, this exordium shows that it is certain that the new bill would change something: younger people can now run – something that never was before.

Asides opening the track for more young people to run, that it has been passed is indeed a signal to the fact that political apathy among them would be checked. This is to say even if they hadn’t had the willpower to run prior to this time, the singular fact that it is now law that persons of the said age bracket can be voted for opens the eyes of the youths to what they now have in their control. So, another thing passing of the Bill will change is political apathy among young Nigerians.

While it may be said that that the youths can now run does not mean the youths will run; this is very correct. But the crux here is not when they will run. Rather, what concerns us here is whether or not they ever will run. Or do we still think they won’t run? We need not look too far Mr Temitope Ishola, 25, is already tightening his bootlace to run for a representative seat for Ibadan North Constituency II in the Oyo State House of Assembly. So, let’s be guided.

Your Honour, what makes us even ever think that nothing would change? Have we forgotten the power in number? A little above half, 51%, of the world’s population is above 30 years – the highest the world has ever recorded. In fact, in Nigeria, the same age bracket has its figure stands at 70.7%. This tells us one thing: with this number, we can say, while the minority may have a say the majority can always have both their way and say! For me, to think otherwise is a misthought!

Let me quickly rebuff any such claim that there is possibility of the old blocking the way for the young folks to thrive in the political arena. In other word, the ruling class may not give room for the youths to run. It is good to pre-empt. And if my co-counsel mentions this I’ll gladly clap him. But I’ll also remind him that one does not forego sleeping because of the possibility of nightmares.

Martin Chungong, IPU Secretary-General, was correct when he said “if the young people are not too young to get married, to serve in the military or to choose the parliamentarians who will represent them, they are not too young to run.” But the only thing he didn’t add is that to clear the track for the youths to run is to change the political makeup of the country. Because if we fight we might win, but if we don’t we have lost. Therefore, passing of the Bill would change something – it will boost the chances of having a youthful leadership and more vibrant political gymnastics.

NO, IT WON’T CHANGE NADA

The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which – George Orwell (Animal Farm)

The most fascinating work I read over the weekend was the investigative story done by Mr ‘Fisayo Soyombo of International Centre for Investigative Reporting. The story encapsulates the deliberate journey of the journalist to evidentially expose the ills perpetrated by security officers on Federal roads. He sets out from Abuja to Lagos in an equivalent of a stolen car, passing through over 90 checkpoints, and varying security officers ranging from the police to customs on the federal roads, without being apprehended by any of them for not having any of the car’s particulars with him. Although this journey had few hiccups, they were all put to bed with a token of N46, 000 proportionately spent at the right places. My lords, as funny as it may sound, this is not some scripted Nollywood movie. This is Nigeria – a country where security officers have turned road users into automated teller machines, a country where corruption has become a culture.

My lords, I am not here to tell us a super story or a crack in the wall. I have come today to say that which we already know; that Nigeria is in a continually dilapidating state of existence. Corruption, bad governance, cronyism, terrorism, among others; these are the problems Nigeria battles with on a daily basis. And as much as these problems could be largely tackled by good governance, the passage of the NTYTR into law has no bearing here. However, before I delve into this ocean of arguments, I would like to point out that when we use the word anything in today’s discourse, we do not mean anything at all, as a reasonable man would not sail his ship of thinking towards that coast. What we mean here is anything substantially reasonable, and to this, I strongly say No. the Not Too Young to Run Bill is too small to make a difference.

What the NTYTR bill mainly advocates for is that there should be a reduction in the age of contestants for legislative houses and the president. They advocate for these on the altar of marginalization. Thus, since the bill has become a law, this means that persons of age 25 years can now contest for state legislative houses while age 30 can similarly run for presidency. It should, however, be noted that there is a radical difference between being able to contest and actual winning of the said post. All the bill provides is an equal avenue to be voted as well. And since not too young to run does not translate to too old to rule, these set of young individuals would still be contesting alongside, and against calibres of the older generation.

Let us not be fooled. The politics that obtains in Nigeria is not one of manifestos and intellectual engagement. Rather, it is one of “who has what”, and “who spends what”, it is that of god-fathers and god-sons, it is that of money – an instrument of the rich. However, it does not take an Einstein to see that when it comes to money, young Nigerians do not fall into that category. The ones who do are busy clubbing and balling. Thus, they may only contest; it is the rich old ones that would win primary elections, and advance further. What would still play out is a repetition of what currently obtains, just with an addition of few more posters around.

In fact, it would not be surprising that the so called youth would not vote their age group candidate. This is because an average Nigerian youth is not informed enough to know what posterity is. They would rather dance to the tune of whoever has money in their lyrics, thereby validating what Mark Twain said when he remarked that the lack of money is the root of all evil.

In conclusion, my opposing counsel may say that such passage of the bill into law is a step in the right direction. But, I dare ask, is it? We seem to have invested so much integrity in the said youth that intend to contest. What gives us the validation that they would not dine with the old ones and turn against the very persons that voted them in? What? You see? Nothing! As such, there is in fact no guarantee that involving them in governmental process would solve, and not compound the problems. They may just, like the creatures outside in Animal Farm, make us look from young to old, and from old to young, and from young to old again, without being able to say which is which.

CONCLUSION: This column is about you, it presents the two sides of a case courtesy of two writers from different schools of thought. “Audi alteram partem” means hear the other side before passing your judgment. Take the gavel, make your decision and slam because you are the judge in this courtroom. You can also vote for the scribe whose argument you adjudge better by using the poll option on the website: www.courtroomng.org
WOULD PASSING OF THE NOT TOO YOUNG TO RUN BILL CHANGE ANYTHING?
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