…As Nwodo insists without restructuring, 2023 election may face boycott
Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Umara Zulum has questioned the rationale for fixing the age of those qualified to run for the office of the president of the country at the age of 40, arguing that pegging the age limit at 40 has shut out the greater number of citizens from such position, and that such is against the current global realities.
Speaking as one of the guest speakers at the 17th Gani Fawehinmi’s lecture organised by the Ikeja branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), in Lagos at the weekend, on the topic, “Constitutional History of Nigeria’s Dysfunction: Any Pathway to Indivisibility and Common Progress?”, Zulum noted that fixing the age limit for those qualified for the office of the President at 40 was in a way shutting out the younger generation from aspiring to the position, despite being competent and ready.
He therefore called on members of the National Assembly to work on amending the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended to further open up the space to allow younger people access to the number one seat.
According to the governor, the provision of section 13 A of the constitution which stipulates among other things a person aspiring for the office of the president of Nigeria must have attained the age of 40, “must be reviewed to meet the current realities of nations, to provide greater access to the greater number of our citizens.”
“Let me state here that I have a grouse with the age limit, because whatever the logic behind it is difficult to comprehend with contemporary times, because we have various examples from across the world of certain leaders who got to power while under the age of 40.”
He listed countries like Australia that have had a 34 year old President, Sweden that has had a 35 year old as leader, El-Savaldor that has had 37 year old President, Costa Rica that has had a 38 year old leader, France that has a 39 year old president and Malta that has had a 39 year old leader among many other countries with even younger presidents, wondering what Nigeria was trying to achieve by setting such age limit for the nation’s number one seat.
Governor Zulum who also spoke about why he believes the presidency should be allowed to go round all major ethnic nationalities of the country for equity and fairness, noted however that though power comes from God, the people must learn to negotiate for it by building bridges across the various divides of the nation to seek support.
He also noted that though he also shares the belief that the nation’s constitution has many flaws, but that if the operators of the constitution will operate it with a good heart for all, the negatives inherent in the law will not be so visible.
Speaking earlier, immediate past President General of Ohanaeze Indigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, who was the first guest speaker, painted a picture of a nation fast retrogressing with policies of the current government, arguing that the present crop of leaders of the nation needs to put on their thinking cap if they hope to guide the nation out of the woods, where he said it presently is.
Comparing the level of progress the nation is making now with what obtained in the First Republic, Nwodo who also spoke on the topic, “Constitutional History of Nigeria’s Dysfunction: Any Pathway to Indivisibility and Common Progress?”, argues that things worked better then than now.
“There was one reason why things worked so well then. We had a regional system of government that allowed regions to enjoy sovereignty over their resources whilst paying royalties and taxes to the Federal Government.”
Lamenting the various flaws that are inherent in the current constitution and its mode of operation, Nwodo said, “Nigeria must restructure and give its component units sovereignty over its natural resources provided they pay royalty or some form of taxation to the Federal Government.
“The secularity of the Nigeria state must be respected; these irreducible minimum conditions are not negotiable. If it does not happen, we will have no alternative but to go our separate ways.
“Processes to begin our restructuring as a nation must be concluded before the 2023 elections so as to avert a situation where sections of the country may boycott the elections and present the country with a constitutional force majeure.”