In the aftermath of the primaries conducted by political parties, young Nigerians that wanted to contest for elective offices have been shut out, Daily Trust on Sunday can report.
This came despite the passage of the ‘Not Too Young to Run Bill’ by the National Assembly and its subsequent signing into law by President Muhammadu Buhari in May this year.
The development was also against the backdrop of calls by many Nigerians, especially the youth, through several youth organisations and movements, for young people to be given the opportunity to contest for political offices.
Our correspondents report that the two major political parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) appeared to be the major culprits.
It was gathered that out of governorship, senatorial and House of Reps candidates that emerged from the two political parties, no young person was given the opportunity.
For example, in the entire states where governorship elections are to take place next February, none of the candidates of the two parties is below the age of 40, while the same obtains for senatorial contest.
The Not Too Young to Run movement, championed by several civil society groups, had, following the primaries, tendered its position on the way young Nigerians were schemed out by various political parties.
On May 31, President Buhari assented to the bill that would allow young Nigerians to contest, after giving several assurances that the bill would be signed into law.
But shortly after signing the bill, Buhari told the youth representatives that witnessed the event that: “You can aspire to be president, but please postpone your campaign till after the 2019 elections.”
The bill, as passed by both chambers of the National Assembly, was to amend Sections 65, 106, 131, 177 of the constitution.
The amendment sought to reduce the age requirement for president from 40 to 30; that of governor from 35 to 30, while that of senator from 35 to 30.
For the House of Reps and state House of Assembly, the amendment brought down the age requirement from 30 to 25
In the bill transmitted to the president, which he assented to, the age requirement for governors and senators was left at not less than 35.
The bill also sought to mainstream independent candidacy into Nigeria’s electoral process.
What we’re doing for young Nigerians – Parties
The national chairman of the Mega Party of Nigeria (MPN), Mallam Hamisu Santuraki, said his party, with consolidated understanding of both the National Working Committee (NWC) and the National Executive Council (NEC), pledged to give motivation to Nigerian youths between age 25 and 40 who are to contest for different elective offices in the 2019 general elections.
“In our tender to encourage the inclusion of more Nigerian youths in political leadership, we are fielding many youths in the 2019 general elections for governorship, Senate, House of Representatives, state Houses of Assembly and the Presidency respectively.
“More so, we make sure the leadership composition and decision making processes of the MPN accommodate more positions for the Nigerian youth. We shall continue to provide room for more proximity and flexible policies to keep accommodating youth participation in politics,” Santuraki said.
The national chairman of the Peoples’ Party of Nigeria (PPN), Eyiowuawi Razak, also said the first priority of their party after security was the provision of massive employment for the teaming youth.
“The youth will serve as the bedrock of our administration. As clearly known, our presidential candidate, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, had the opportunity to serve this nation at a very young age.
“He, therefore, knows the importance of allowing our great youth take their rightful position and lead this country out of this mess,” he said.
He said the party was fielding many youths for the 2019 elections.
Young presidential candidates
Also, there are few young presidential candidates for the 2019 general elections, who were forced to form their own parties, where they were chairmen respectively and later became presidential candidates. These young candidates are Eunice Atuejide, 39, of the National Interest Party (NIP); Fela Durotoye, 47, Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), and Omoyele Sowore, 47, the publisher of Sahara Reporters, African Action Congress (AAC)
Not Too Young to Run Movement protests
The Not Too Young to Run Movement said it was surprised that the young Nigerians that contested under the various political parties were manipulated and shut out of the contest.
The movement said it “observed with disappointment the high cost of nomination fees imposed by most of the political parties, with the APC and PDP taking the lead as the parties with the most exorbitant fees required from aspirants for their nomination to contest the primary election.
“This remains worrisome as the supposed party in government and the major opposition party, regardless of the advocacy and engagement by the movement for the parties to promote youth candidacy, closed their political space by imposing fees that invariably excluded young people and women.
“It is important to note that the high cost of nomination forms was not limited to the APC and PDP as we saw other parties follow suit without due consideration to nomination fees that are reasonable and justifiable within our economic context.”
The movement noted that the trend of undemocratic primaries was worrisome “as more parties brazenly flout the guidelines on the conduct of primaries designed to ensure transparency and fairness.”
One of the methods used in scheming out the youths, the movement said, was the imposition and substitution of candidates.
“The decision by some party leaders to impose or substitute candidates who successfully won primary elections and exclude aspirants from contesting is undemocratic and a grave injustice to the electorate.’’
It was also said that young aspirants were denied nomination forms, and in some cases, their names were omitted after they duly purchased forms.
“The Movement observed with dismay, the blatant inducement of delegates and party members with money by some of the candidates during the primaries to manipulate the process and influence votes.
“This is a worrisome trend as it poses a major threat to the development of our democracy and undoubtedly worked at a disadvantage to credible and competent youths and women who contested the primaries.”
The Movement demanded that the appeal committees of various political parties should ensure that the grievances of young aspirants during the primaries were, as a matter of urgency, heard and addressed immediately to ensure justice.
They stated: “That political parties support youth candidates to ensure that they emerge victorious in the election; that the courts treat as urgent, preelection matters and expediently hear and give their decision on cases before the court.
“That the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) makes public the report from the monitoring of the party primaries, clearly highlighting the votes of each aspirant from the primaries.
“That young men and women candidates who successfully emerged from the primaries remain vigilant to ensure that they are not substituted at the point of transmission of candidates lists to the INEC;
“That voters should be guided by their conscience and do not vote for parties that do not represent youth interest; that voters remain objective in voting for young women and young men with character, competence and capacity regardless of their party affiliation.
“Any attempt to further substitute names of young candidates who have secured their party nomination will attract political consequences.”
Also, the executive director of the Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said a number of factors were responsible for the poor outing of some young aspirants during the primaries.
“Some of the major problems are the commercialisation of political parties forms with high amounts; predetermination and imposition of some candidates by some governors and party leaders; weak mobilisation and poor strategy by some young people.”
Other factors, he said, were political violence, which forced some non-violent young people to stay away, and some political parties did not believe in creating space for young people to contest.
In the buildup to the primaries, the Not Too Young to Run Movement, in July, called on the Nigerian youth not to vote for parties that do not have tickets for young Nigerians.
The Movement also made some demands with regard to the number of slots the Nigerian youth and women should be given during the primaries.
One of the strategy team members of the Movement, Ms Cynthia Mbamalu, said: “There should be 298 tickets for youths in the state Houses of Assembly from the six geopolitical zones.
“The South-West, which has 176 constituencies, should reserve 53 for youths, while the South-East with 129 constituencies should reserve 39 for youths and South-South, with 160 constituencies should reserve 48 for youths.
“The North-West with 216 should reserve 65 tickets for the youths, while the North-East with 156 constituencies should reserve 57 for youths, and North-Central with 153 constituencies should reserve 46 for youths.’’
The Movement said that out of the 360 slots for the House of Reps,109 tickets should be reserved for the youths from the six geopolitical zones.
“The South-West with 71 constituencies should reserve 21 tickets for the youth, while South-East with 43 should reserve 13 tickets for the youths. Out of the 55 constituencies for the South-South, 17 seats should be reserved for the youth, while the North-West with 92 should reserve 28 tickets for the youths.
“The North-East that has 48 constituencies should reserve 15 for the youth, while the North-Central with 49 should reserve 15 tickets for the youth.
“2019 is going to be a show of numbers, so if the youths are not carried along, we will mobilise our numbers to take action against such parties,” the Movement said.
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