By Rinsola Abiola
Emmanuel Macron made global headlines when he was elected the President of France as his emergence further legitimized the call for a generational shift in leadership and increased youth involvement in most parts of the world, Nigeria inclusive.
The election process which gave him victory and his immediate actions upon assuming office helped to clarify, particularly in the case of Nigeria’s Not Too Young To Run campaign, the often held misconceptions around the call for youth inclusion in governance and leadership.
While the faceoff between Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron during the election phase was deemed a battle between the old and the new, and the latter’s victory a conquest over the old, it was actually a correct portrayal of representative democracy and equity – a crux of the Not Too Young To Run campaign.
Macron, a 39 year old man, and Marine Le Pen, a 49 year old woman, both mirror France accurately as the country is presently largely populated by men and women aged 25 – 54. The fact that members of this age group, who account for the most people in the country, vied for its top job shows clearly that their democracy is functional and has achieved the goals of representation that its founders had in mind.
Furthermore, appointments into Emmanuel Macron’s cabinet after his victory at the polls showed that no ‘conquest’ took place. Citing the top positions, Jean-Yves Le Drian, a 69 year old man, was appointed the Europe and Foreign Minister, Sylvie Goulard, 53, was appointed Armed Forces minister and Jacques Mézard at age 69 was appointed Agriculture minister. Just as Macron managed to secure victory at the polls, these individuals, irrespective of their ages, got appointed on the strength of their ideas, competence, track-record and expected contribution to the government.
More than anything else, this indicates that the call for youth inclusion is not an advocacy for older folks to relinquish, completely and permanently, politics for members of the younger generation. Rather, it is an advocacy for social justice; a situation where we work together to proffer solutions to the problems of our country and chart a course for the future of our nation as is the case in France where a young and vibrant Macron, aided by an experienced cabinet, is rallying the country to emerge as the new leader of the free world.
It is an advocacy for growth and development made possible by inter-generational balance like in the United Arab Emirates where 68 year old Prime Minister, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is aided by young ministers such as 27 year old Omar bin Sultan Al Olama who is presently leading the country’s charge into Artificial Intelligence.
It is a call for young people, who account for the greatest numbers in Nigeria, to be acknowledged as stakeholders and allowed as active participants when and where the country’s present and future fate is being decided.
Last year, I was appointed as a member of the committee of my party, the All Progressives Congress, on True Federalism. The committee, which was chaired by the governor of Kaduna state, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, was made up of other governors, lawmakers, professors and experienced politicians. With their combined wealth of knowledge and experience, I and other young members of the committee did not only work effectively in a healthy environment filled with mutual respect, but also gained meaningful insight into the workings of the country. This experience and the success recorded have strengthened my belief in the importance of youth inclusion and the immense potential of a political system with inter-generational balance, where young and old work together to achieve set goals and stimulate national growth and development.
Ideas are products of thinking and knowledge, both of which are not consigned to any particular age group or demography. The Not Too Young To Run Bill acknowledges this and seeks to end discrimination on account of age, especially to people who are deemed good enough to vote, and serve in different capacities in the corridors of power.
While we have worked to attain a level of inclusion, it is imperative that discriminatory provisions in the Constitution which effectively prohibit a large majority of young people from aspiring to elective office are done away with. This is not a campaign based on a sense of entitlement but on an ardent desire to entrench equity, for without justice, all other espoused values amount to naught.
The National Assembly has demonstrated its support for youth inclusion by giving wings to this discussion and advocacy by passing the bill, and it is key to encourage states that are yet to assent to it to do so in the best interest of the country. After getting the required number of states, presidential assent will be required, and there will be no better way to show appreciation for the young people who worked relentlessly for change in 2015, than to support the campaign for equity.
All stakeholders should be reminded that while we all admire the leadership of Emmanuel Macron and the compelling nature of his ideas, a Nigerian his age, with similar ideas or even better, is assumed inadequate by the Constitution to run for the country’s top job simply because he/she is not 40.
Rinsola is Ag. President of the APC Young Women Forum, board member of the Young Women in Politics Forum and a Member of the Board of Trustees of the governing party, APC. She is also a Special Assistant to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara and tweets via @Bint_Moshood.