General elections in Nigeria are still underway though much attention has been given to the presidential ballots where president Muhammadu Buhari defeated his main rival Atiku Abubakar to secure reelection in February.
This weekend, elections for gubernatorial and state parliamentary positions will be held across the country. But there’s some thing different with some of the contesting candidates. The “Not Too Young To Run” bill signed into law in 2018 now allows for 35 year olds to run for president and 30 year olds to run for parliament and governorship positions.
A young Nigerian entrepreneur is taking advantage of this. “It is important to have bills like this being passed, and yearly for youths, this could reduce the rate of crime and jobless youths out there and also undergraduates still job hunting; So its a good opportunity”. Tolu Olarenwaju, PDP candidate for Ekiti state House of Assembly candidate says.
For Babajide Balogun, another young Nigerian running for office, inclusion of youth is a priority. “I will include the youths” he says. “There are a lot of unemployed youths out there roaming around the street and there are young people out of schools roaming around and hawking for their parents so that they can survive. There are ways we can bring these people back into school and train them”. Balogun who is contesting for a seat under the opposition Peoples Democratic Party at the Lagos House of Assembly explains.
Nigeria has an estimated youth population of around 65 per cent. Though there’s optimism with the law enabling young persons to run for office, money is still a huge factor in Nigerian politics. Party leaders such Dr Boniface Aniebonam of the New Nigeria People’s Party paints the grim picture. “The idea as far as I am concerned is to create a political space for the young ones to grow the ladder. But if you are a young man that doesn’t have the capacity how would you do this? Dr. Aniebonam asks. But he is quick to provide the answer. “Except you have a godfather that would push you and if he pushes you sometimes you are not given the capacity to carry out your plans when in office?” he adds.
Some of the electorate in Nigeria’s general elections are those who have only known democracy all their lives since the country returned to civilian rule in 1999. For them it is time for a generational shift to young leaders that can identify with and tackle the issues confronting them.