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Not too young to run: Nigerian Senate’s golden gift


The Senate during a plenary

Sir: The Nigerian Senate gets a lot of flak from young Nigerians, especially in the social media space. Interestingly, on Twitter, there is a Qatari businessman called Nasser Al-Saadi whose handle is @NASS, who is regularly at the receiving end of frank, unsavoury and angry opinions from Nigerians who have mistaken him for the National Assembly. Luckily, he is very good natured about it all and his responses have provided much needed comic relief at the height of some scandals in the past.

As such, it was welcome news during the course of the year when both houses of the National Assembly passed the constitutional amendment bill colloquially referred to as the ‘Not Too Young to Run Bill.’ The Not Too Young to Run bill reduces the age of eligibility for legislative and executive offices, as currently prescribed by the constitution. The bill still needs to be ratified by at least 24 State Houses of Assembly and assented to by the President to become law, but it is nonetheless an important step in widening the pool from which we select our leaders and representatives from.

Theoretically, this is because age is just one of the many subsets in the Venn diagram of political selection in Nigeria. The theory of it all is why many watchers were surprised that the bill did not die on the floor of either house. A substantial part of the advocacy for the bill focused on the unsatisfactoriness of the choices available to the electorate during the election season. Some have described the current order as “sexagenarians who only seem focused on perpetuating 19th-century leadership in a 21st-century world.”

Beyond the nominal trappings of sloganeering – electricity, good roads, potable water, basic education and healthcare – which have defined our elections in the last three decades, Nigeria needs leaders who can wrap their heads around new world issues – artificial intelligence, cryptocurrencies, the internet of things. There is an imperative to usher in a new and virile breed that are competent in speaking to concepts that revolve around innovation, coordination, green, openness and sharing as they impact Nigeria and the wider world in the coming years. To attempt to bridge this massive gap and turn ourselves into a competitive economy requires a lot more vision and strategic thinking than our beret and glove wearing administrators have demonstrated over time. This is where my generation has so much to offer and I do honestly think that we can do much better.

In all of this, we are not too idealistic. We realise, like has been famously said, that power is never served a la carte. And there are indeed a few governors and senators in their forties that perhaps lend themselves to the argument that youth can lead just as poorly as age – the Wisdom of Solomon, the Age of Methuselah, Strength of Samson having nothing to do with each other and all that. Clearly, there are many other factors such as intellectual capacity, wealth, zoning and so on that prevent the pool of contestants from being much richer than it currently is.

This is why it is imperative that once the constitution has officially been amended to allow younger people to run for office, advocacy must resume immediately to push new bills. We need new bills such as the Not Too Poor to Run, Not Too Smart to Run and Not Too Other to Run bills. The National Assembly can surely open more doors and break more glass ceilings in a bid to fast track Nigeria’s race to the top while leveraging her greatest assets, its huge youth demography. To be less facetious, one must commend the Nigerian Senate for engaging on this issue and helping to move the needle to ensure that Nigerian youth have a foot in the door to being the leaders of today and tomorrow.

•Adeagbo is a young professional who works in the creative industry and an aspiring politician resident in Lagos.

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