SPECIAL EDITORIAL: The federal affirmation of the Not Too Young To Run Bill is history in the making

This is a rare win for us.

Yesterday, our Nigerian Senate in spite of itself, passed the historic Not Too Young To Run Bill with 86 lawmakers voting in favour of enacting a law that will reduce the age for running for the office of the President 40 to 35; Governor 35 to 30; House of Representatives 30 to 25; and State of house of assembly 30 to 25.

Today, the House of Representatives followed suit with 21 more representatives voting in favour that was expected.

The fight may have been hard won – youth groups across the nation had to threaten the lawmakers with a showdown and mass actions last week when rumours spread that the bill had been removed from the list of those to be considered during the ongoing Constitutional review and that’s not counting the months we’ve all had to wait to see if they were even going to ever take the bill seriously at all. Still, it is a win for us all.

It’s a win for all the young people in Nigeria who have had to sit back and watch men (and a few women) with ancient ideologies (whenever they had any) lead us in a one-step-forward-and-ten-steps-backwards dance for the past 18 years.

It is a win for all the even younger people whose destinies will be shaped by the decisions made by Nigerian leaders at the crucial point in our history.

It is even a win for all the much older Nigerians with enough good will to wish that through this bill, Nigeria can join the ranks of nations whose pools of human capital for leadership aren’t limited to the same old people year-in-year-out.

It is a win for an 8th Assembly whose score sheet has been in the reds for much longer than would have been redeemable, were it not for their passing of this bill.

And finally, it is a complete win for social advocacy in Nigeria. For all youth groups across the country, especially the #NotToYoungToRunMovement who kept the hope alive even when it seemed impossible. It is because of them that Nigerian politics has a chance of being injected with fresh, young and innovative ideas that are so important in today’s world.

For not thinking that they were too young to take on the establishment; for making sure that their voices were heard loud and clear without reducing the nobility of their claims by resorting to violence; and for doing one of the most clichéd yet difficult things in the world by standing up for what they think is the right thing – these are the real winners.

But this, people, isn’t the promised land. This bill still has to travel round 36 states with the sole purpose of winning over a diverse group of State legislators who may or may not yet understand how important this is for the future of our country. The gospel needs to reach a majority in (at the very least) 24 of these States as the Constitution requires not only majority support in the National Assembly but also a two-thirds majority support from all State Assemblies in the country for an amendment of this nature to take effect.

So in a sense, the work has just begun. Those youth groups who promised mass action against federal legislators last week need to consolidate their efforts and not rest on their oars now. Nigerians at grass root levels need to be made to understand how important this is for their futures. Their progeny. This is no longer just for the city kids. It’s as much the business of a farmer in Ebonyi as it is the business of the herdsmen in Sokoto. That’s what the mass action looks like now.

This is important so that State legislators from the East to the North East feel the pressure that their federal counterparts felt until they resolved to pass this.

This is the time to truly effect the Hall of Shame that will expose those Senators and Representatives who voted against or absented from voting all together so that they can serve as deterrents for those at State level.

And even when (yes, when) the amendment eventually becomes a reality, we must remember that that is when the real work begins. The work of ensuring that all 25 and older electable Nigerians understand that too whom much is given, much more is truly expected.

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