Feelers from the just concluded retreat of the joint committee of the National Assembly on the review of the 1999 Constitution, which held weekend in Lagos, suggest that the current leadership of the Federal legislature might have willfully and deliberately thrown aside the clamour for a representation of younger Nigerians in positions of authority.
Sources familiar with the development, lending weight to widespread concerns, claim that the proposed amendment to reduce the constitutionally stipulated ages for electoral offices had been excluded from the final report.
Speaking primarily from what may have transpired at the lower house, a source held that a sub-committee of the chamber had actually opposed the bill making it difficult to advance the agenda at the joint committee of the National Assembly.
Though no official confirmation or denial has been made concerning this reported worrying outcome of the Lagos retreat, analysts contend that in the event it is proven true, the motive of the members in jettisoning the bill will be more unpatriotic than selfless.
The disposition of the much-maligned 8th Assembly comes as a rude shock, especially as it serves as a dampener on a rising global trend that has witnessed the enthronement of a younger generation of leaders in Europe, the Americas, Asia and even Southern Africa, where in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Canada, Australia, Denmark, the Philippines, Turkey, and South Africa, candidates as young as 18 can vie for public office.
The agenda to seek the reduction of the approved ages for electoral offices forms the core of the Not Too Young To Run campaign launched by the UN in November of 2016 and January 2017 at offices in Geneva and New York respectively, and approved for launch by the African Union in Addis Ababa.
In Nigeria, the campaign has enjoyed massive support across the different sections of the country, with young people in their thousands organizing and advocating for the full adoption of the proposed amendments by the National Assembly. The campaign received the endorsement of both the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives leading to commencement of the process in both chambers after it was sponsored by Senator Abdulaziz Nyako in the Senate and Hon. Tony Nwulu in the House, attracting commendation from the United Nations and African Union for what they considered taking the leadership role in the continent of Africa on such a significant matter.
Specifically, the bill seeks to reduce the age criteria for the offices of the President, Governor, Senate, House of Representatives, and State House of Assembly. If the amendment scales through, age criteria for the office of the President will be 30 years as against the current age of 40, that of the Governor will be 30 as against the current age of 35, Senatorial office will also be 30 as against the current age of 35, while House of Representatives and State House of Assembly offices will each be 25 years each as against the current age of 30.
When the bill, whose ultimate objective is to promote youth inclusion in politics towards greater contribution to development, passed 1st and 2nd readings in both chambers of the National Assembly and was subsequently committed to the Senate and House committee on constitution review, palpable satisfaction was evident among advocates who became convinced that Nigeria was primed to join other advanced political systems in the important step of broadening access to political leadership and deepening the roots of the democratic culture.
For the amendment to become finalized however, the joint committee must incorporate it into its report before laying it at plenary for vote. The fate of the bill becomes dire if the committee fails to include it as part of the proposed amendments in the final report. This is why news of the omission of the age criteria amendment from the final report of the joint committee of the just concluded retreat is being received with great shock and apprehension.
It is feared that this latest development, largely seen as an attempt to disregard the will of the majority of young people in the country, will amount to rank retrogression, expose our acute unwillingness to advance with the comity of developed nations, and will ultimately be counter-productive.
While Nigerians await official confirmation or denial of this development, many political watchers contend, that if found to be true, it will amount to deceit and betrayal on the part of the leadership of the National Assembly and members who have gladly received commendations from far and wide for their supposed commitment to progressive political change, and who had maintained all through that they had unflinching support for the campaign.
Others add, that they would be acting as the direct reactionary forces against the very change they promised to advance!
The world watches to see whether Nigerian legislators will fold at the threshold of political history, or whether they would do the needful to lead the continent of Africa in redefining the political system for the benefit of not only its most populous and productive demographic—the youth— but of entire nations.
RipplesNigeria ….without borders, without fears