by Tola Sarumi
So, let me start off by saying that I do not agree with the call for #30PercentOrNothing. I think it’s an ill thought out ideology backed by a scant mission statement that relies on emotion and sentiment. I am of the opinion that there needs to be more youth participation in politics for sure but one’s youth is not an entitlement.
Now, the proponents of the movement need to convince us that it is worthwhile, from all indications, the offices that they have in mind are on the national stage, which begs the question, on the national issues concerning young people, where have they been?
The National Immigration Disaster happened and there was radio silence from these people at best and at worse, they blamed the victims. Why? Because most of the people clamouring for this quota happen to belong or be affiliated with the ruling party. If there is to be cooperation in reworking this #30Percent idea, the spirit of bipartisanship need to exist for real and not just cursorily.
So, let’s not do things in a half baked manner, let’s stop calling for a waiver of entry form fees for 18 – 40 years, if it is wrong for some, it is wrong for all. The astronomical fees are a deterrent to 99.9 percent of Nigerians, age irrespective, what we need to call for is a level playing field, for young and not so young people with ideas and a proven track record in order that they may have genuine chances at winning the nomination of their respective parties.
We are asking older people to willingly vacate a system that that been profitable to them, a system designed to deliberately stifle youthful vigour. I mean, what we ought to be fighting for is the removal of the clause banning independent candidacy, here is our biggest chance of getting that which we want.
Nigerian youths certainly need to be galvanised, we’re a largely dormant majority and from all indications, this is not the movement to do that. The logistics of achieving the aims of the thirty percenters are on the face of it, improbable right now. How do they propose to go about convincing the youth as a bloc to make it happen? Did they sensitise young people the importance of joining a political party, irrespective of their political leanings? Have they identified under-performing incumbents that can be replaced with vibrant young people? What exactly are we young people bringing to the table to make the political powers that be listen to us?
We are asking older people to willingly vacate a system that that been profitable to them, a system designed to deliberately stifle youthful vigour. I mean, what we ought to be fighting for is the removal of the clause banning independent candidacy, here is our biggest chance of getting that which we want. It’s not enough to write stirring, emotion laden articles that say nothing other than ‘it’s our turn’. We shouldn’t want to participate in an obviously broken system without seeking to reform it: To me, the surest way to make that happen is for young people to join these parties en masse, that way, we can affect party primaries and cause either the scrapping or the severe reduction of the nomination fee requirements. This would also allow us the necessary bargaining chip to force the selection panels to look at younger candidates, we need strength in numbers where it matters.
Things will not be handed to us because we are younger than our parents, it has never worked that way, those young Nigerians that are frequently cited as having being at helm of affairs took it by force and whilst I am not advocating anarchy, it is clear to me that this beggy-beggy approach is not going to work because it shows if nothing else, that we are not ready.
Just out of curiosity, I decided to compare the Constitutionally Mandated Minimum ages (CMMA) in Nigeria with that in the US.
* = The same mandatory minimum age is required to be governor and local government chairman in Nigeria.
** = This is also the mandatory age required to be a councillor according to the Electoral Act 2010
For further clarity, the youngest member of Congress right now is Patrick Murphy at 31, he was elected at the of age of 29 after seeing an opening to displace the incumbent, he launched a self starter campaign before securing the backing of Florida’s Democratic Party Chapter.
Even with a 5 year earlier entry allowance, looking at the composition of the U.S Congress, only two serving member were elected under the age of 30. The median age for election is 57 to the Congress and 63 to the Senate, with 10 years being the average length of stay in office, though a sizeable number have occupied their seats for more than a generation*. The average age of British MPs is 50, though the CMMA is 18 and the average length of service is 13 years.
What sets the US apart from Nigeria (sans the rather obvious), is the lack of ideas, and a Nigerian system that has no fund raising culture, thus, is heavily reliant on patronage. If young people had strength in numbers in these parties, hands could be forced, elected officials that have failed to support policies favourable could be targeted for unseating but, right now, we’ve no such thing.
The goal of electing more young people into public offices is a noble one but we need to prepare the path and stop asking for electoral handouts and or favours. Let’s put in the work, so when the time comes, we won’t be found asking for permission to step to the plate.
All the above being said, here’s a chance for us to stand up and be counted, the Youth Ministry, under which the National Youth Service Corp falls, needs to be pressured to scrap the recently introduced call-up letter fees. This chance for us to speak us seems to have come at a most opportune time, let’s test our strength by speaking in concert for its immediate removal, if we can achieve that, it’ll go along way to showing the powers that be that we’re more ready than they perhaps thought.
Tola Sarumi tweets from @AfroVII.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.