May 19, 2019

Young Nigerians fight to create space in closed political system

ABUJA —  Ndi Kato, a 28-year-old from northwestern Nigeria’s Kaduna state, strongly believes that she can help her people by running for office to represent her constituency in the local assembly.

“I’ve worked so hard over the past four years to build a very good political career because of what I want to achieve for my people,” she says.

There is a stumbling block ahead of her political journey, though. She says  it is “problematic”  to push for change without the democratic legitimacy or financial resources that come with holding a top position in government.

Until last year, young Nigerians like Kato who are not up to 30 years of age could not contest for key positions during elections because they didn’t  meet the age requirements set by  the constitution, which was drafted just before the end of military rule in 1999.

Citizens must be up to 40 years old to run for president, 35 for senators and state governors, 30 for members of the House of Representatives (the lower chamber in the parliament) and state houses of assembly.

This is exactly what a coalition of over 100 youth and civil society organisations led by the Abuja-based non-profit Youth Initiative For Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) are fighting to change.

“A democracy is about inclusion and participation, everyone should be allowed to participate fully whether you are old or young,” says Ibrahim Faruk, senior programme officer at YIAGA.

Using the hashtag #NotTooYoungToRun, the campaigners want to reduce age limits from 40 to 30 for the president, 35 to 30 for state governor and the Senate, then from 30 to 25 for the House of Representatives and  state houses of assembly.

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