By Happiness Galadima
Since its passage in July 2017 by the National Assembly and the signing of the bill by President Muhammadu Buhari in May, 2018, many young Nigerians had hinged their political hope on the Not Too Young Run law which gives them equal opportunities at political office.
The Not Too Young to Run Act is an amendment of Section 65 (1), 106(b), 131 (b), 177 (b) of the constitution. Prior to the amendment, the constitution required that anyone vying for a seat at the National Assembly must attain the age of 35 years for Senate and 30 years for House of Representatives; section 106 (b) stipulated that a candidate must attain the age of 30yrs before contesting for a seat at the state House of Assembly; Section 131 (b) pegged the age of 40 years for candidates vying for the office of the President; while Section 177(b) pegged Age of Governorship candidates as for 35 years.
President Muhammadu Buhari in signing the bill into law in May, had told the youths that they can aspire for the position of President, but they should postpone their campaign till after 2019 election.
Buhari had also said under the new law, there was no reduction in the age requirement for the office of Senators and Governors, stating that age would still be left at 35. He said he hoped it will be looked after eventually.
But while some youths actually fell for the bill, many seasoned ones among them took the passage of the bill with a pinch of salt. They believed the older generations who initiated the bill, did it to placate the youths who are actually in the majority, more importantly as the general elections was just around the corner.
And they were proved right when presidential hopefuls like Omoyele Sowore, Fela Durotoye and several others below the age of fifty were prevented from making any meaningful impact in the last general election.
For instance, Sowore who is publisher of Sahara Reporters, an online news platform, a youth by Nigerian standard contested for the highest office in the land under his party, the African Action Congress, but failed to make the top ten out of 73 contestants.
Nigeria’s mainstream politics was still dominated by the old brigade politicians within the age bracket of 65 -80. Incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari was already 77 when he got reelected, while his main contender was 73 during the election.
This whole drama doesn’t just happen at the national level, it is from the grassroots to the top, maybe worse at the grassroots where politicians handpick people and put them wherever they want.
With the culture of violence that has becomes the new normal in Nigeria, these older generation recruit youths as thugs to intimidate their political opponents, arming them with dangerous weapons.
In fact, the robbery incident at Offa in 2018 that led to the death of over 30 innocent people, including a pregnant woman, was committed by political thugs with alleged connection to the former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
Also take the case of Kehinde Okeowo, a brilliant youth by all standard and political activist. He used to be one of the leaders of Stand Up Against Corrupt Politicians (SACP), a Youth Movement founded by a group of passionate Nigerian youths ready to initiate and maintain change in the political terrain of the country.
Banking on the new bill, he contested for the position of Vice Chairman of Agboyi Ketu Local Council Development Area under the platform of Alliance for Democracy. Although popular, but he was denied victory by the older generation politicians who preferred the status quo to remain.
Being an activist, he must have stepped on some toes, and in Nigeria, accusing politicians of corruption can get you into a lot of trouble in a terrain like ours where the whole motivation and fight for political office is wrapped around corruption.
Hon. Kehinde Okeowo who had to abandon his house when he got a tip that political thugs were sponsored to attack him and terminate his life, was however lucky, unlike the case of Salome Abuh, the PDP women leader who was burnt alive in her house in Kogi State by alleged APC thugs.
If Okeowo had not taken the necessary steps on the 2nd of August, 2017, he wouldn’t be alive today to tell the story. His house was burnt down completely, all in the name of fighting for justice.
Abuh was allegedly killed because of her party affiliation during the 2019 governorship election in Kogi state where the APC candidate, Yahaya Bello was declared the winner. Ironically, Bello himself is youth who is below the 50 years age bracket.
According to the PDP Wada/Aro Campaign Council spokesman, Faruk Adejoh-Audu, the attack and eventually murder of the woman was like a scene from a horror movie.
That’s simply the level of which Nigeria’s politics is at the moment and has always been. Young people don’t have the money to hire thugs, they have no access to state security to protect them, and often have to deal with hostile older generation who have loyalist who would cause mayhem and kill to protect their paymasters.
In fact this present administration has targeted youths for political activism and criticism of the government on social media. A sitting senator is promoting a bill that would sent social media users to jail and death sentence for those who promotes what they term “hate speech” on social media, with the full backing of the Buhari’s government.
Last year they clamped down on the anchor of Kaakaki Social, Ohimai Godwin Amaize, shutting down a whole television station and threatening the anchor who later fled the country.
A young critic of this administration on social media, popularly known as Dadiyata, has since disappeared. Many believe he was abducted by the State’s secret police (DSS) and he is still in their custody.
Activist like Deji Adeyanju and his group, who were protesting the incarceration of Omoleye Sowore despite court orders to release him and demanding that government obey the rule of law, were attacked by pro-government protesters.
The pro-government protesters carried out the attack in the full glare of policemen. The activists had gathered at the National Human Rights Commission headquarters in Maitama, Abuja, to present a letter to the Executive Secretary of the commission when they were attacked by the hoodlums who were carrying a large banner with the inscription, ‘Support Buhari, say no to saboteurs.’ Few weeks before then Deji Adeyanju had accused the DSS of trying to bribe him with N1 million. The DSS has still not disputed it.
Politicians have mastered the arts of using thugs to attack their opponents, those in power also use the state security apparatuses to attack opponents. This culture of violence is why it’s discouraging to many to get involved.
Journalist Agba Jalingo is being charged for treason and has been in prison for about a year now in Cross Rivers State for exposing corruption. Mr. Jalingo published an article in which he exposed how N500 million was diverted by the state government for a different purpose than what it was meant for.
The older generation of politicians, moneybags who have stolen so much from the state, have made the state unbearable for young people to thrive in the political terrain, except for youths that they endorse.
They have an army ready to do whatever to get their ways in a clime where youth unemployment is constantly rising, and anyone with cash can exploit it to cause mayhem.