The Nigerian government made what could be a huge step forward in the continued growth of its democracy recently by passing the ‘not too young to run bill.’ After being passed by the Nigerian Senate on July 26, 2017, the bill then narrowly passed in the Nigerian House of Representatives on July 28. As a result, more young people will now be able to run for office and thus ensure that Nigeria’s youth have more of an active voice and role in the country’s governance.
The #NotTooYoungToRun movement was primarily the work of a Nigerian youth-based NGO, the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA). The group has long sought to promote youth advocacy in hopes of getting the country’s huge numbers of young people more involved in the democratic process. Thanks to the passage of the ‘not too young to run’ bill, it seems that YIAGA is finally set to get its wish.
The new bill lowers the age limit for those wanting to run for office. With the passage of the ‘not too young to run’ bill, the Nigerian Constitution will now be amended. Under the bill, the age limit for running for President is reduced from 40 to 30, the age for Governor and Senate from 35 to 30 and the age limit for House of Representatives or State House of Assembly is reduced from 30 to 25.
Increasing African Youth Participation in Politics
Like many other developing parts of the world, Africa is currently experiencing a huge surge in youth populations. Statistics show that approximately 70 percent of the population of Africa is under the age of 30. The problem with this youth bulge is that it equates to the vast majority of the population being unable to represent their interests in politics. This lack of representation has already sparked massive youth protests across the continent in countries like Tunisia, Senegal, Burkina Faso, and South Africa.
Nigeria’s youth have already been taking a much more active interest in politics due to the widespread use of social media. The internet has led to a huge rise in youth-driven initiatives calling for more government transparency and accountability, but up until now, they were still mostly limited to watching from the sidelines. The #NotTooYoungToRun bill is set to change Nigeria tremendously by ensuring that young people finally have a voice in how the country is run. Although some of the country’s leaders are worried that young people in northern Nigeria will now pursue public office instead of finishing university, this problem still seems fairly minor compared to the fact that the majority of the population was unable to represent themselves in politics. In this sense, the #NotTooYoungToRun bill is a huge step forward for Nigeria’s youth, and it wouldn’t be surprising if we start to see similar movements gaining momentum across the African continent.