From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Member of the House of Representatives (Aboh/Mbaise / Ngor Okpala Federal Constituency of Imo State), Bede Eke, has said unless there is a maximum age limit for elective offices, majority of youths will remain excluded from elective positions.
Eke, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP), is championing the enactment of a legislation to place a maximum age limit for aspirants into the office of President, governor, National and state assemblies.
In this interview, he said there must be concerted efforts to carry the younger generation along in the governance of the country.
Recently, you step down your bill seeking to place a maximum age limit for aspirants to the Presidency and other elective offices in the country. What are you seeking to achieve with the proposed legislation and why did you step it down?
In the bill, I proposed 70 years as maximum age limit for contesting for the office of President and Vice President; for the Senate and the House of Representatives,65 years; I proposed for governorship,65. The state House of Assembly,50 years.
But the mood of the House (on the day, it was debated) showed me, that if I allowed that bill, they were going to kill it. And it will not give us another opportunity to present that bill. So, when I saw the line of debate, I quickly moved in to save the bill s, that I can do more consultation; so that I can convince my colleagues.
The bill is not targeted at anybody. It is not meant to witch-hunt anybody. I looked at the situation of things in the country, the way it is now; coming out from the EndSARS protests, looking at the demands of these youths, I said for once, let’s give them an opportunity.
People will say- like some of my colleagues canvassed- you have the Not Too Young To Run Act, which brought down the age for them to contest. I do not agree. It is incomplete, if you do not place a limit to some of these positions. In the first place, it is like giving the youth a television, but you have the remote control. That is the way I see it.
For me, it is not complete. Nature made it so; that you get to a certain level, where they are certain things, you cannot do as a person. Some of them said, “age is not maturity” . I agree.
But for somebody, who is 70 years and above, there are limits to what you can do. Some people said you have Biden, Trump of America and I say these people have strong institutions. Ours are not as strong as that.
I had thought my colleagues would have seen this bill as a patriotic one. This bill will give the youth hope that we want to carry them along.
One would think that one of the reasons you are championing this bill is that the senior citizens have more economic power to run for office, but the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2020 is seeking to limit campaign expenditure, are those proposals realistic?
Let the Electoral Act Amendment bill be passed into law. If we are able to control the expenditure, lovely, the proposal is fantastic. But how many of the youth have N70million to fund elections into the House of Representatives. And I suggest that if you want to give the youth opportunity, give it to them. You brought down the age for elective offices; but the other angle, you left it open. For me, it is incomplete. If we want to give them an opportunity, give them the platform for them to go and compete among themselves.
But a school of thought believes that youths have always had chances in this country. Gowon and some of the past leaders were youth, when they were in charge of the country. This school of thought argues that most of the problems, we have in the country was caused by youths, as they did not manage the country well, when they had the opportunity.
If you look at those chances, they are limited. If you go into the House of Representatives Chamber and count the ratio of youth to the older ones, the older ones are higher in number. That was why I said give them opportunities. That you have many of them, who are young that are not given what is expected, does not mean that is the representation of the youths.
Sometimes, it could be that they are intimidated; finding it difficult to speak when you are before your elders. But if you also watch, we have very young, vibrant Nigerians. Why do we say the “ youths are leaders of tomorrow”? Before you were born, it was said, now that you are getting old, it is still being said. At what point do we make them leaders. Now is an opportunity to actualise that age long saying that “youths are leaders of tomorrow .”
It is said that for you to win any election, once you have the youth and women, you win your elections. These are people you use in winning elections, why is that when it comes to giving them opportunity, it is difficult?
The President was supposed to appear before the House, last December, over the spate of insecurity in the country; he did not come. And there was no official communication to explain his absence; the House, including the opposition, is seemly not saying anything about it.
For the invitation, it would be wrong to say the opposition did not say anything. I know I read the statement by the deputy minority leader condemning the advice of the attorney general. And for us, the constitution said the National Assembly can summon anybody without exception. But the majority party wants to protect the President. But they also know that that is not the position of the law.
In January, 2020, the PD, lost the Imo State governorship seat, what is the impact of that loss for your party?
Imo is PDP. Go and check the result of the last election. PDP won the majority of the House of Assembly seats. Even where the governor came from, PDP won that election. You begin to imagine, two elections took place the same time, the same day, PDP took the House of Assembly. Even when you look at the reason for upturning that election, I don’t want to talk about it. It is a legal thing .But people know it is not good for our democracy. But even as it is, Imo is PDP.
What is happening in the state today is also making us very popular. The teachers are crying. The pensioners are crying. Civil servants are crying. The roads are terribly bad.
All these things before the exit of PDP- led administration of Emeka Ihedioha, had taken off. Everyone was celebrating road construction everywhere. Pensioners started receiving their money monthly. Civil servants, suddenly, we went back to square one.