* Saraki, PDP react
The promoters of the Not Too Young To Run Bill and many youths in the country on Thursday were full of joy as President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the Bill in the presence of the initiators of the bill.
The President, who was flanked by the youths while signing the bill into law at the Aso Rock Council Chamber at the presidential Villa Abuja, jokingly appealed to the youths to postpone their campaigns till after 2019 in order not to unseat him in the coming 2019 general elections.
While he congratulated the youths on the feat, which he described as a “formidable legacy,” Buhari said, “I am confident each one of you will transform Nigeria in your own way – whether through media, agricultural enterprise, economists, engineers, or as lawmakers in your States or at Federal levels, or as State Governors – and even someday, as President. Why not?
“But please, can I ask you to postpone your campaigns till after the 2019 elections”.
He, however, urged the youths not to relent in their efforts to impact the nation in whatever way possible.
President Buhari noted that the signing of the bill was only a starting point which presents them with an opportunity to make their marks on the nation’s political space.
He said, “You may all know that the Bill I just assented now becomes an Act of the National Assembly. These efforts have resulted in the heroic task of enshrining in law, a reduction of the minimum ages for elective office in Nigeria.
“Thus, it may be tempting for you to think of this as the end of the journey. However, it is only the beginning; there is still a lot of work ahead, towards ensuring that young people take full advantage of the opportunities provided not only by this constitutional amendment but also through Nigeria’s boundless prospects.”
With the passage of the new bill, the age limit for running for Presidency will now be reduced from 40-35 and 30-25 for the House of Representatives as well as the State Houses of Assembly.
The age limits for Senators and Governors were, however, not reduced – a development which the president said would have to be addressed in the future.
“Eligible age for aspirants for members of the State Houses of Assembly will be reduced from 30 to 25 years; eligible age for aspirants for members of the Federal House of Representatives will be reduced from 30 to 25 years; and eligible age for aspirants for Office of the President, will be lowered from 40 to 35 years.
“Surprisingly, the age limits for Senators and Governors was not reduced, as originally proposed by the sponsors of this Bill.
This is an issue that may need to be addressed going forward. Nevertheless, your focus and contributions have now successfully increased the quality and maturity of Nigerian democracy and expanded the playing field for youth participation in politics.
“You, the young people of Nigeria, are now set to leave your mark on the political space, just as you have done over the decades in entrepreneurship, sports, art, media entertainment, technology, and several other fields.
“You are undoubtedly Nigeria’s most important resource – not oil, not agriculture, not solid minerals – but you and all of us. Your energy, intelligence and talent are what will drive and develop Nigeria, long after we are all gone.
“This is an opportunity for me to affirm that this Administration will continue to do everything in its power to make Nigeria work for you.”
Meanwhile, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has reacted to the signing of the NotTooYoungToRun Bill by President Buhari, describing the occurrence as a historic moment that young people will look back on someday while the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) claimed it was its initiative.
In a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu and made available on Thursday, Saraki said: “More than half of our over 180 million population is made up of people under the age of 30. Today’s signing of the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill represents many years of hard work and signals a new era of youth inclusion and participation in our governance.
“Now more than ever, as young people across the country bask in the moment and celebrate the signing of this Bill, they must not see this as the final destination. It is one thing to be able to run, but, it is another thing entirely to be able to serve.
“This is why, it is incumbent on our youths to register, get their PVCs and move on to the next phase of this journey — which is getting their peers elected in legislative and executive positions. You must all take part, to take charge.
“Nigeria needs the energy and innovation of our young people. On this note, I congratulate the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA), and all other groups that championed this cause for more youth inclusion.
I also commend my colleagues in both the Senate and the House for making sure that this Bill passed its first milestone during the Constitution Review Process.”
Reacting to the APC government taking glory for the passage of the bill, the PDP also lampooned President Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) for attempting to parade themselves as the architects of the ‘Not Too Young to Run Act.
The party, in a statement by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the bill was sponsored and pursued by the PDP members in the National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly.
The PDP claimed that President Buhari had no input whatsoever in the bill; never showed any support or enthusiasm towards the initiative but had no option than to perform a mandatory statutory duty of assenting to the bill, given that it had already passed through the constitutionally required approval of two-thirds of states in the federation.
“This development is indeed a democratic victory for the Nigerian youths over forces, particularly, the APC, that had hitherto disdained and disregarded them as lazy and inconsequential but had to succumbed to the dictates of the law and pressure by the youths and the PDP.
The party commended the sponsor of the bill, Hon. Tony Nwulu (PDP, Lagos) and the resilience of the Nigerians youths in getting the initiative through, in line with the vision of the PDP to allow younger Nigerians to actively participate in elective positions in governance at all levels.
The party said, “In preparation for the passage of the bill, the PDP had since launched our ‘Generation Next Movement’, which has already put younger Nigerians at vantage positions to participate in elective positions ahead of the 2019 general elections.
“In line with the ‘Generation Next Movement’, the rebranded PDP among other pro-youth incentives has since approved certain critical clauses and waivers so that the young people will actively vie for positions in the 2019 general elections.
“In line with our dream of providing enabling environment for youths participation in elections and governance, the PDP, after winning in 2019, will further lower the age qualification to entrench our vision that ‘whoever can vote can be voted for’, which is a global standard”.
The PDP, therefore, urged the Nigerian youths to immediately take advantage of the Generation Next platform and incentives already established by the repositioned PDP and actively participate in the collective quest to rescue the nation from the APC.