There have been so much frenzy in the polity about the Not Too Young To Run law, which was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari recently. As young people celebrated the new law, which to them is the best thing that have happened since the inception of the current democratic dispensation, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were busy fighting over who should take the credit for the legislation.
The law, which was enacted by the National Assembly in the just concluded review of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) lowers the age limit for contesting elections into various positions in the country. Henceforth the minimum age for seeking election into the office of President would now be 35 years, while the age limit for contesting elections into the House of Representatives and state houses of assembly is now 25 years.
Not a few persons have hailed the new law as an antidote to our leadership quagmire, as it would pave way for the participation of young people at all levels of government. The argument is that the leadership of the country is dominated by old men and women, without much room for young persons to participate.
However, contrary to the arguement by champions of the the Not Too Young To Run law, youths have always been part of governance in this country, since the country’s independence in 1960.
Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello, and other pre and post independence leaders, started piloting the affairs of the country in their 30s. Late Mathew Mbu and Tony Enahoro were ministers in their 20s.
During the military rule, most of the Heads of State and military governors were very young men. General Yakubu Gowon (rtd) for instance, was just 33 years old, when he became the Head of State. At the inception of the current democratic dispensation in 1999, a lot of the governors were in their 30s.The likes of former Minister of Information, Chukwuemeka Chikelu and his counterpart in the education ministry, Oby Ezekwesili were ministers in their 30s too, to mention but a few. Whether these young persons performed better than the old people is another issue altogether.
The problem is not that youths are not involved in the governance of the country. In my view, the main challenge is that when people get into politics, they refuse to quit. They sit tight until death do them part. Today, we have leaders who have used up their own time, their children’s time and are now using their grand children’s time. That is the tragedy of our nation.
Therefore, what is needed in the country at the moment is a Too Old To Run Bill, which will stipulate an age from which our politicians would no longer be eligible to stand for elections. There must be a retirement age in politics, at least in terms of seeking elective office(s).
It beats logic that in the judiciary, academia, civil service, military and paramilitary organisations, retirement age ranges from 60 to 70 years; while in politics, people , who at these ages have retired from their various endeavours, would be seeking to hold elective offices. That is why the Senate and most of the Government Houses are becoming retirement homes for tired brains.
We must come up with a legislation that sets an age limit at which politicians must quit the stage for the younger ones, so that as a deliberate policy, we keep having young men and women with fresh ideas in the governance of our nation, otherwise the Not Too Young To Run Act would be barren. This is because these youths who would ride to power on the crest of the new law, would, like their political forebears, also most likely overstay their welcome on the political scene ; after all, the youth of today will definitely become elders tomorrow.
Budget padding: Is Jibrin having the last laugh?
Former Chairman, House Committee on Appropriations, Abdulmumini Jibrin must be in a jubilant mood. Recently , he secured two major victories against the leadership of the House of Representatives.
In June 2016, Jibrin stirred the hornet’s nest, when he accused the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara and other principal officers of the House of padding the 2016 Appropriation Bill to confer undue advantages on themselves. The scandal that followed that “afront” by the Kano State born lawmaker earned him a suspension for 180 legislative days. He was also barred from holding any office in the current Assembly.
However, a Federal High Court, Abuja in a judgment nullified the suspension of Jibrin by the House and ordered the House to pay him all his entitlements for the period he was on suspension. The judge said the actions of Mr Jibrin were in conformity with his constitutional responsibilities as a member of the House. The trial judge, Justice John Tsoho, ruled that Mr Jibrin’s application was meritorious and that his suspension amounted to a nullity.“The suspension was an interruption of his earnings which will be automatically restored especially when it has been decided that the action was a nullity by virtue of granting prayers 1 and 3 of the originating summons,” he said.
He added, “There is no better conclusion that the plaintiff was carrying out the mandate imposed on members by Chapter 7 (7.5) of the Code of Conduct for Honourable Members adopted on November 4, 2004. “They ought to have disqualified themselves to ensure some degree of neutrality or delegate their powers. But they were actively involved. This failure to recuse themselves easily create an impression that they were Judges in their own case, which violates the principles of fair hearing.
As the lawmaker was still savouring his victory at the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, he secured another victory against the House, albeit indirectly, as a Federal High Court in Lagos ordered the prosecution of the principal officers of the National Assembly implicated in the 2016 budget padding saga.
Giving judgement in a suit by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project,(SERAP),Justice Mohammed Idris, ordered President Muhammadu Buhari to instruct the anti-graft agencies which investigated the alleged budget padding to submit the report to him. SERAP had gone to court to seek an order of mandamus to compel the AGF to prosecute principal members of the National Assembly who allegedly padded the 2016 budget. The court also ordered the President to “direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (Abubakar Malami (SAN) and/or appropriate anti-corruption agencies to, without delay, commence prosecution of indicted lawmakers.”
Already, the Presidency through the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media, Mallam Shehu Garba has said the government would comply with the judgment. The implication is that we are likely going to see those implicated in the budget padding saga docked soon. If that happens, Jibrin would have secured a total victory against the House leadership. But as he relishes his victory, the Kano-born lawmaker would most likely be doing so with some form of regret that he threw the towel too quickly in his case against the House, by apologising to the Green chamber, before the court quashed his suspension.