President Muhammadu Buhari on the 31st of May 2018, surprised Nigerians when he signed the Not-Too-Young-To-Run bill aimed at reducing the age qualification that hitherto prevented young Nigerians from occupying certain categories of offices in the country. The bill was passed by the National Assembly in July 2017 with the aim of altering Sections 65, 106, 131, and 177 of the 1999 constitution (as amended).
The new law is also aimed at relaxing some of the stringent and discriminatory provisions of the constitution. President Buhari who pre-informed Nigerians about his decision to sign into law the “Not Too Young To Run” bill on the 29th of May 2018, in an elated mood also told Nigerians that he would be joined by many promising young Nigerians to sign into law the said bill.
He, however, in a brief remark after signing the bill into law, told the young Nigerians drawn from across the 36 states of the federation and Abuja that they could aspire for the position of the president but added, humorously, that they should postpone such ambition until after the 2019 election to enable him to complete his second term of office.
The bill under review had drastically reduced the age qualification for the position of president from 40 to 30, governor from 35 to 30, senator from 35 to 30, House of Representatives membership from 30 to 25 and State House of Assembly membership from 30 to 25. But the president explained, however, that there was no reduction in the age requirement for the office of senators and governors in the bill presented to him for assent, adding that he hoped it will be looked into eventually.
The passage of the bill has, however, strengthened the zeal for the inclusion/consideration of young Nigerians in regard to various top elective/appointive positions, and also saddle them with important roles of leadership and development at the different tiers of government.
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State who had since his entry in government carved a niche for himself as an agent of peace and good governance has staunchly taken the lead in youth development and inclusion in leadership by fully implementing the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Law in the state. He has, as well, relentlessly created an enabling environment for the youths to secure nomination/election by the People’s Democratic Party during their primary elections in the state from 2019 general elections to date.
Ahead of the 2019 general elections, Gov. Ugwuanyi promised the youths that he will galvanise support for the “Not Too Young To Run” Law to be thoroughly implemented during the PDP primary elections preceding the 2019 general elections. And true to his word, that promise was effectively implemented. He went on to reaffirm this position at the Micheal Okpara Square during his second term inauguration, declaring that his second tenure will factor in “youth o’clock” in his administration’s programmes and activities.
Enugu State House Assembly which is made up 24 members, has about ten members of the House who are between the ages of 25 and 40 which is nearly 50 per cent of the entire House as it is presently constituted. The deputy speaker of Enugu State House of Assembly is also a young man who falls within this age bracket or a little bit above it.
The Enugu State Executive Council as it is presently constituted also has over 15 exco members between ages 30 and 45. This implies that the youth constituency has a reasonable share among the members of the State Executive Council.
Also, among the lists of those appointed as Senior Special Assistants and Special Assistants to the Governor, about 85 per cent of them are within the ages of 25 and 40 years. Same applies to those who emerged as flagbearers of the People’s Democratic Party in the forthcoming local government elections billed to hold on the 29th of February in the state. This commitment has received wide applause and speaks volumes about a leader with a vision and mission to sustain good governance. Among those pouring encomiums on this selfless gesture of democracy in action is Comrade Chidi Ilogebe, Vice-President, National Association of Nigerian Students (National Affairs).
For Comrade Ilogebe, the youth-friendly governor has lived beyond his promises both to students and youths from the state. Accordingly, he added that the: “Information at our disposal reveals that His Excellency in his magnanimity was able to persuade, convince, and follow up to the letter on the need for party stakeholders and delegates to support and allocate positions to the youth.
“Over 50 per cent of the local government chairmanship and vice-chairmanship slots within his political party, the PDP, had been allocated to youths in the forthcoming local government elections. This is aside from other political appointments given to the youth in his cabinet, a feat we consider second to none and first of its kind in Nigeria.”
It is pertinent to state that Governor Ugwuanyi is known for matching his words with actions. He walks his talk and has given the youth strong platforms for mentorship in the right direction, creating room for a seamless takeover of the baton of leadership. Ugwuanyi’s administration is undoubtedly the best in terms of youth empowerment in the country but still requires support and prayers for sustained performance by his administration.
The governor has evidently imbibed the immortal quotes of the American author and educator, Mary Mcleod Bethune, who posited thus: “We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends.” This clearly shows that the windows of opportunity he regularly makes available to the youths are no grandstanding, but entirely driven by conviction and belief in the potential inherent in youthfulness. Such a mind-set is highly commendable and should inspire the youth constituency to show capacity by taking on tasks they had been assigned remarkably.
The benefits of this development by Ugwuanyi cannot be overemphasised. It is a pointer to the fact that the youth constituency in Enugu State under the leadership of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, is truly undergoing leadership training preparatory to taking over the reins of leadership in the nearest future. This would ensure seamless continuity of good governance, growth and development.
Delivering on their different assigned leadership responsibilities will also justify the relentless efforts by a coalition of more than 40 youth-based initiatives across the country who championed the advocacy for a wider constitutional amendment to be carried out by the National Assembly to eliminate all hurdles, to enable the youth to occupy sensitive leadership positions and thus opening a pathway for the introduction of innovation, speed and courage to confront the many challenges associated with leadership in Nigeria and Africa at large.
Emmanuel Ikechukwu-Jonathan, JP, writes from Alor-Agu in Igbo-Eze South LGA