Nige­ria fi­nally low­ers the min­i­mum ages for o∞ce

The East African - - OUTLOOK -

NIGE­RIA LOW­ERED the min­i­mum ages for po­lit­i­cal of­fices on Thurs­day, when Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari signed a new Bill into law in a vic­tory for a cam­paign that has sought a greater voice for young peo­ple.

Nige­ria’s me­dian age is just 18, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions, and many youth see Nige­ria’s age­ing lead­ers as out of touch. Buhari, 75, is the old­est per­son to helm Nige­ria since the tran­si­tion to civil­ian gov­ern­ment in 1999.

The law re­duces the min­i­mum age of the pres­i­dent to 35 from 40. For members of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and states’ houses of assem­bly, the min­i­mum was low­ered to 25 from 30. The change comes as Nige­ria is gear­ing up for elec­tions in Fe­bru­ary 2019.

The ef­fort to lower age re­stric­tions was backed by a cam­paign with the slo­gan “Not Too Young to Run”.

“This is just the be­gin­ning, now we fo­cus on get­ting cred­i­ble and com­pe­tent young peo­ple into gov­ern­ment!” wrote Cyn­thia Mba­malu, one of the cam­paign’s members, on Twit­ter.

Nige­rian pol­i­tics is dom­i­nated by older politi­cians, in a cul­ture where age is of­ten ven­er­ated. For­mer vice pres­i­dent Atiku Abubakar, 71, also plans to run for pres­i­dent next year, cam­paign­ing in part on a plat­form of youth em­pow­er­ment.

“You, the young peo­ple of Nige­ria, are now set to leave your mark on the po­lit­i­cal space,” Buhari told cam­paign or­gan­is­ers at the sign­ing cer­e­mony, adding that he was con­fi­dent they would make their mark as politi­cians or even pres­i­dent.

“But please, can I ask you to post­pone your cam­paigns till af­ter the 2019 elec­tions!” he joked.

Yet the Bill is not a total vic­tory for cam­paign­ers - the orig­i­nal ver­sion had aimed to lower the pres­i­den­tial can­di­dacy age even fur­ther, to 30, and also re­duce Se­nate and state gover­nor age re­quire­ments from to 30 from 35.

Pic­ture: File

Nige­rian pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari.

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